Hamburg’s commercial and shopping districts are on the southernmost shores of the Alster (the lake at the city center) and in the Altstadt (Old City), around the Rathaus (City Hall). Don’t look for a lot of historic charm—there certainly is some, though World War II laid waste to much of it. Notable survivors include the city’s distinctive red-brick warehouses that line canals near the waterfront, and some noble landmarks, such as St. Petri Church with its skyline-piercing dome. St. Georg, an inner city neighborhood running alongside the lake just north of the Hauptbanhof, is one of many old quarters that have been gentrified in recent years. Parts are still a bit dodgy, but leafy streets near the lake, especially the Langhe Reihe, are lined with cafes and restaurants, some catering to gays, and some of the city’s most character-filled hotels are in this old neighborhood.
The Port of Hamburg is the world’s fifth-largest harbor, stretching for nearly 40km (25 miles) along the Elbe River. Hamburg has been one of the busiest centers of trade on the Continent for almost ten centuries and is, largely as a consequence of this maritime trade, one of Germany’s wealthiest cities. HafenCity, Europe’s largest inner-city urban development project extends for 3km (2 miles) along the Elbe River. The emerging district is expected to double the population of central Hamburg with thousands of waterfront apartments, and includes a concert hall, bars, and slick office buildings.
Hamburg’s infamous nightlife and red-light district centers on the Reeperbahn, neon-lit and garrish and offering all sorts of pleasures—cafes, sex shows, bars, dance clubs, and music halls. This maritime quarter is a lot less raucous than it once was and these days many habitues are more intent on drinking and dancing than paying for companionship.
Once populated mainly by Jews and Portuguese, this western district is the scene of some great dining and nightlife. Those in search of more traditional pursuits can wake at the crack of dawn on Sunday to check out what’s happening in the stalls of the historic Altona Fischmarkt.
Around the Lake
Many villas dating from the 1800s and some stunning Jugendstil buildings line the streets of tree-filled residential districts around the Aussenalster. A particularly attractive lakeside enclave is Harveststude, since the 19th-century home to Hamburg’s wealthy burghers and whose villas are now occupied by many foreign consulates.
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