Hamburg, one of Germany’s largest and most important cities, is beautiful. Any new arrival can tell you that as soon as he/she steps off a plane or train (or bus, in my case, from Berlin). The heart of the city is made for walking, with pedestrian-only streets, wide walkways along the canals and lakes, and plenty of cute shops and cafes to beckon. But the highlight of a walk through Hamburg is its architecture.
Today, we are going to talk about some of Hamburg’s architectural highlights. Please note that this is by no means a complete list; I had only a couple days to explore – and not even that as it rained both afternoons. So, if I miss a building that you consider important or one of your favorites, I apologize and welcome you to add it in the comments. Then we can all experience even more!
I’m going to divide these buildings into three categories: cool brick constructions, things with towers, and modern facades. Why? Because it makes it much easier to sort my thoughts.
Cool Brick Buildings
Any trip to Hamburg has to include the city’s warehouse district. For one thing, it includes my favorite sight, Miniatur Wunderland (click here to read about it). For another, the brick facades of the old warehouses are incredible. Called the Speicherstadt, it was built from 1833 to 1927. Many of the facades have stunning adornments, some in gold, and lots depicting nautical themes, which makes sense as this was the main point for shipping from Germany.
About half of the Speicherstadt was destroyed during World War Two bombing, and much has been rebuilt, and also repurposed. Today, the district has restaurants, hotels, and even apartments.
While bridges and walkways extend throughout the district, you can have an amazing view just walking along B. den Muhren, which fronts the “first” canal one will reach from the old parts of the city. There is an elevated walkway/bikeway with several photo spots jutting out. You can also get a wonderful view while crossing a bridge within Miniatur Wunderland.
If brick buildings are a love of yours, make sure to also pass by (or under) Chilehaus. Built in 1924, it was made to apparently resemble a brick ship, although I don’t see that as much. It is a huge building, and has some awesome angles to check out from all sides.
Things With Towers
Hamburg is full of things with towers. Like many European cities, most are churches, but not all of them, hence the category being a bit more general. Let’s begin with the central train station, since there is every chance you’ll arrive here. (And if you don’t, its central location means you’ll certainly pass by.) Built in 1906, it replaced four stations within the city. It is fronted by two clock towers, one of which was destroyed by allied bombing during World War Two. Plans are underway to expand the station, but I hope it keeps the historic facade.
Gothic churches are all over Hamburg, each with a central tower that helps to define the city’s skyline. I missed St. Michael’s apparently, which is supposedly one of the landmarks of the city, but I fell in love with the facade of St. Peter’s church. It dates back to the 12th century, although it was a couple hundred years later for its current form to appear.
Of all the churches in Hamburg, St. Nikolai is the most unique. While many of Hamburg’s churches were destroyed during allied bombing campaigns in World War Two, St. Nikolai was not rebuilt. Rather, its ruins and burned-out tower stand as a memorial to those who perished in the bombing, and to war in general. It is a haunting place. The church is free to enter, but the museum and tower have an admission fee.
Of all the things with towers in Hamburg, the Rathaus, or city hall, is the most impressive. This heavily embellished building opened in 1897. The tower, which is visible from all over the old part of the city, measures at 367 feet. The building is large, with nearly as many rooms (647) as Buckingham Palace. There is currently a lot of construction going on around the Rathaus, but make sure to walk at least one long and one short facade for different views.
The interior of the Rathaus is also apparently impressive, but either it wasn’t open when I was there or I missed a public entrance.
The tallest building in Hamburg is the 916 foot tall Tele-Michel, known more recently as the Heinrich Hertz Tower. This television tower looks like two UFOs over the city. It was built in 1968, and has an observation tower inside. For the best views, walk along Hamburg’s Aussenalster, the large lake in the middle of the city, which has wide paths and great views of boats and the impressive tower.
Finally, the last architectural gem of Hamburg that I want to profile is the Elbphilharmonie, known locally as Elphi. It is among the largest philharmonic halls in the world, and was built in 2017 at a cost of nearly €900 million. It is meant to resemble a sail from the outside, continuing the nautical theme Hamburg is known for.
The hall holds 2,100 spectators, and the building also includes a hotel, luxury apartments, and several other music venues.
Hamburg is a gorgeous city, and there are countless buildings that deserve profiling, from solid white facades of hotels along the lake to nautical adornments on random office buildings. This list barely scratches the surface. However, I hope it inspires you to explore this beautiful city!
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