Old Meets New in HAMBURG

Hamburg never gets old – it is a feast for lovers of vintage and contemporary architecture, music, and everything maritime. This Hanseatic city continues to renew itself with the development of new quarters like HafenCity making it an exciting stop-over on any European tour.

Hamburg

Retired clipper at the ferry landing in Hamburg | Photo: Michael Webb

Heroic is the adjective that best describes Hamburg, Germany’s leading port city. Its historic brick buildings are so strongly built that many survived the firestorm which resulted from a British bombing raid in 1943. And, as the port was relocated further down the Elbe to accommodate container ships, the former docklands have been redeveloped as Hafencity. Considered the largest building site in Europe, this unique quarter of urban renewal is now coming to life. The crown jewel in this waterfront development is the Elbphilharmonie, a shimmering complex of concert halls, apartments and a Westin Hotel that rise from a six-story warehouse. It has become the new icon of the city: a frozen wave of glass that seems to fly over the water, like the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg | Photo: Michael Webb

Winters in Hamburg are bleak, so I decided not to wait for the January opening, but to preview the building on the last fine days of September. The Westin hadn’t opened, so I stayed in the centrally located Park Hyatt, at a third the price I would have paid in London or New York. Despite its prosperity, Germany is still a bargain for travelers. On a previous trip, I stayed at the venerable Atlantic overlooking Lake Alster, and next time I’ll try the Side, a crisp new design hotel that’s also near the lake.

Hotel Atlantic, Hamburg

Hotel Atlantic, Hamburg

Whenever you go, make the Elbphilharmonie your first stop. An escalator rises through the old warehouse to a covered public plaza that opens onto balconies overlooking the river on one side and the city skyline on the other. And try to catch a concert in the main hall, a masterpiece of design and crystal clear acoustics. Public ferries ply up and down the Elbe and from the deck of #72 you can appreciate the shape-shifting complexity of the building, which seems to change color as the undulating glass panels reflect the light. Ferry 62 heads downstream, taking you past the riverfront villas of Altona and the massive cranes of the new port.

speicherstadt

Speicherstadt | Photo: Stefan Muller

Hafencity is still a work in progress, a scatter of new office and apartment towers, including the Unilever offices with their soaring public atrium, and the Marco Polo tower with its wavy balconies. Head inland and you discover an engaging mix of old and new, notably the handsome brick warehouse that is now the Maritime Museum, and the wildly exuberant neo-Renaissance Rathaus. Hamburg boasts two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Speicherstadt is a complex of bonded warehouses astride a canal, which are now being converted into apartments and studios. Chilehaus is a masterpiece of Expressionist brickwork, with a sharp prow that evokes the clipper ships of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, to give its full title.

Chilehaus | Photo: Simon

A forty-minute train ride to the east is Lübeck, which was an even more important member of the medieval Hanseatic trading league and has a new museum that dramatizes its history. A walled city that escaped devastation in the war, it’s an exuberant mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, full of gables, pinnacles and cobbled squares. You can walk from one end to the other in half an hour but it’s better to take a day, lingering over a glass of wine in the Markt to admire the wonderfully eclectic Rathaus. A brick facade with copper spires rises above a white stone Renaissance facade, with a street-level arcade and alternation of pedimented windows and gables, Ionic pilasters and caryatids, heraldry and strap work. Be sure to see the spectacular Gothic interior of the twin-spired Marienkirche next door before adjourning for dinner at Die Zimberei, a fine Italian restaurant in a handsome classical block with a garden terrace.

Lübeck | Photo: Michael Webb

GOOD EATS
Fishereinhafen, a storied establishment, eating the freshest shellfish on the waterfront terrace and watching the freighters glide by. (Grosse Elbstrasse 143; 040 381 816)

Tchebull is an Austrian restaurant where specialties include sweetbreads and Wiener schnitzel (Monkebergstrasse 7; 040 3296 4796)
Altes Mädchen is a complex of restaurant, cafe and craft brewery housed in the former abbatoir (Lagerstrasse 28B; 040 8000 77750)

Carl’s Brasserie is a gutsy lunch place very close to the Elbephilharmonie, which has several restaurants of its own (Am Kaiserkai 69; 040 3003 22400)

Michael Webb

Michael Webb

Michael grew up in London and now lives in a classic modern apartment in Los Angeles. His twin passions are architecture and travel, and he indulges both as often as he can, exploring over 60 countries in search of material and inspiration. He is the author of 28 books, most recently Venice CA: Art + Architecture in a Maverick Community, Building Community and Architects' Houses. He has written on travel and design for The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Virtuoso Life, Monocle, Architectural Digest and other publications around the world.
Michael Webb

Latest posts by Michael Webb

Leave a Comment





SUBSCRIBE

Enter your email address to subscribe to our newsletter and get the best travel advice straight to your inbox!

Join 4 other subscribers

TAGS
INSTAGRAM
FACEBOOK

wandermelon

The ultimate traveling companion, wandermelon.com is an informative, entertaining and unbiased resource that combines the latest travel news, inspired articles and visual content all in one easy-to-navigate online destination. Sourcing what you need to know before you go, wandermelon gives avid travelers like you savvy shortcuts to the world’s best experiences and destinations.

wandermelon

wandermelonSunday, August 6th, 2017 at 10:23pm

Hamburg is totally happening! Check out some of Michael Webb's architectural favorites up on the melon this week as he explores HafenCity. #Hamburg #Germany #HafenCity

wandermelon

wandermelon added 4 new photos.Monday, July 10th, 2017 at 7:28pm

Wondering what's big in Japan for kids? Check out Kristina Foster's latest story on the melon: http://www.wandermelon.com/big-and-little-in-japan-why-tokyo-is-good-for-kids/ #japan #tokyoforkids #tokyo

wandermelon

wandermelon shared Art Of Extraordinary Travel's video.Friday, July 7th, 2017 at 8:52pm

Definitely putting this on my bucket list! 👍

wandermelon

Art Of Extraordinary Travel

This restaurant has one of the best views in the world.
wandermelon

wandermelonSunday, June 25th, 2017 at 3:03pm

Sadly there is a dark side to travel and in Bali the cruel dog meat trade is alive and well, PLEASE SIGN & SHARE and do what you can to end this hideous practice. Knowledge is power and tourism dollars matter a great deal to many of the countries that engage in animal cruelty so don't be fooled by many of the zoos and temples that use animals to lure you in and as a result suffer miserable lives... or worst, as below. Thank you! :(

wandermelon

wandermelonMonday, June 12th, 2017 at 12:22pm

Mexico City is as modern and cool as it gets with great food to boot. Check out Michael Webb's latest story on the melon: http://www.wandermelon.com/mexico-city-urban-vitality/ #MexicoCity #modernarchitecture

wandermelon

wandermelonSaturday, June 10th, 2017 at 12:30pm

Street art in George Town, the capital of the #Malaysian island of #Penang. Photo by Eugene Choy / Revelation Productions. Read more here http://www.wandermelon.com/georgetown-penang-heritage-hotel-capital/

TWITTER

 

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest