Hamburg, Germany is located on the River Elbe 68 miles (110km) from the North Sea, yet it’s the country’s largest port and the third busiest port in Europe. It’s an amusing city for everyone of all ages with everything from world-class children’s attractions to a lively nightlife scene near its infamous red light district. Here are some fun facts about the entertaining city of Hamburg.
There are around 2,300 bridges inside Hamburg. That’s more than London, Venice and Amsterdam combined! Not surprising since practically the whole city is surrounded by water. Two large lakes sit upon the Alster River on each side of the city, and the River Elbe flows directly into the North Sea. All of this water means lots of streams, canals, and bridges. You’ll find old bridges, new bridges, and bridges made of steel, stone, and brick in all sorts of construction types and archeological styles. Among the most notable are the Brooksbrücke, Krugkoppelbrücke, and Kibbelsteg bridges.
The city has an endearing way to welcome every ship coming into its harbor. The Willkomm-Höf or “welcome point” down the river from Hamburg welcomes each ship with the national anthem of the country it’s registered to. For the return journey home, the Hamburg flag is dipped, and the international flag symbol for “bon voyage” is hoisted. The captains in charge of the greetings have more than 150 national anthems to welcome ships from around the world.
On July 5, 2015, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee met in the German city of Bonn to declare the Speicherstadt and Kontorhausviertel in Hamburg to declare them as World Heritage Sites. They justified the decision by saying that the sites were “a unique symbol of the rapid international growth of trade in the late 19th and early 20th century.” Built between 1885 and 1927, the Speicherstadt is considered to be the world’s largest uniform collection of warehouses. The Kontorhausviertel claims to be the first office-only district in Europe and features office buildings from the early 20th century.
As lively and festive as Oktoberfest in Munich, the Hamburger Dom is North Germany’s biggest festival. Unlike Oktoberfest, the festival lasts for a month and is held three times a year. It’s one of the country’s biggest and best-known festivals and features carousels, roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, beer tents, and of course plenty of German food.
The festival’s roots date all the way back to 1329 when craftsmen, merchants, and jugglers gathered outside the Marien-Dom Cathedral to hold a Christmas Market. The event grew very popular over the years and reconvened every spring, summer, and fall. In modern times, the festival is held every March, July, and November. The spring event features a witches’ village and a medieval fort. In the summer fair-goers enjoy a Wild West town. The festivals run from midafternoon until late at night. The three festivals attract more than nine million visitors each year.
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) and Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), two of the greatest classical music composers of all time were both born in Hamburg. But their lives were very different. Brahms, the son of a poor musician, had to contribute to the family’s income by playing the piano in pubs and other seedy establishments. Mendelssohn was the son of a banker and grew up in more prosperous circumstances.
Brahms composed his early work in the city including the famous Piano Sonata No. 1 in 1853. After gaining fame, he moved to Vienna. Upon his death, he was made an honorary citizen of Hamburg, and today, there is a museum near his birthplace.
Mendelssohn, famous for composing “Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream,” moved to Berlin when he was two years old. His sister Fanny was also a composer and born in Hamburg as well.
Hamburg is home to one of the world’s largest red light districts, the Reeperbahn. It surpasses Amsterdam as a stag night destination but is a little less touristy. It’s nicknamed die sündigste Meile which translates to “the most sinful mile” in English. The Herbertstraße, the most notorious street in the district, is closed off by a gate, and the police monitor it to keep out minors. Female tourists are not generally welcome. It’s located in the rebellious district of St. Pauli among dive bars, strip clubs, and cabarets as well as elegant cocktails and an underground music scene located along the district’s many side streets.
It’s no stretch to say that the Beatles, the mop-headed foursome from Liverpool, UK were the most famous pop group of all time. On Aug. 17, 1960, Pete Best, John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Stuart Sutcliffe performed at the Indra Club near the Reeperbahn red-light district under the stage name “Silver Beatles.” The engagement was very welcome since they weren’t getting very many gigs in their hometown of Liverpool. Their performance in Hamburg opened up the door for gigs at other places in town, and their stellar performances landed them their first record deal. Pete and Stuart were later replaced by Ringo Starr, the word “silver” was removed from the band’s name, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Most zoos in the modern world have evolved from animals locked in cramped cages to keeping them in large open enclosures surrounded by moats to keep visitors safe. The first step toward animal welfare for zoo animals was taken by Hamburg’s Carl Hagenbeck Jr. in 1907 when he founded Tierpark Hagenbeck. His zoo resembled the architecture of today’s zoos, paving the way for the more humane treatment of zoo animals by displaying them in their natural environments.
In 2002, Hamburg’s twin brothers Gerrit and Frederik Braun had a vision of creating the world’s largest miniature railway. They were successful, and one year later, Minatur Wunderland was a reality. The museum is a much-loved attraction for children and adults alike. It features more than 50,000 feet of train track, 1,000 fitted trains, and a miniature airport with tiny model airplanes that simulate take-offs and landings. The brothers are constantly expanding their project and working to break their own Guinness World Records.
Yes, it’s true, residents of the city of Hamburg are called Hamburgers, just like residents of Luxembourg are called Luxembourgers. But it doesn’t sound as weird to Germans as it does to those in English-speaking countries. As for the “all-beef patty on a sesame seed bun,” the sandwich known around the planet as a hamburger, it sort of got its name from the German port city. Ships leaving from Hamburg carried minced meat patties across the Atlantic. The addition of buns and condiments made it an American invention.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.