Hamburg - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Hamburg


Hamburg is a watery city, geographically, historically and atmospherically. It is Germany's second largest city and lies on the Elbe River, for centuries a major port and trading centre for central Europe. The city has a network of canals that rival those of Venice (it is said to have more bridges than Venice) and is centred on two artificial lakes that take up eight percent of its total area. Probably because of all the water, Hamburg is also known as Germany's 'green city', sporting 1,400 parks and gardens. Modern buildings sit cheek by jowl with historic Baroque and Renaissance architecture, and by night the neon lights dazzle all-night revellers, particularly in the city's notorious red light district, the Reeperbahn.

Hamburg was founded in 810 by Charlemagne and earned its place in history by becoming the most strategic port in the Hanseatic League of North German cities which controlled trade in the Baltic and North Seas between the 13th and 15th centuries. A great fire destroyed much of the city in 1842, and a century later World War II bombing raids again laid it waste, but Hamburg bounced back with style, thanks to the wealth garnered from its position as a trading centre. The city's tourist board claims that Hamburg is now home to more millionaires per capita than any other city in Europe.

Most of the sights of interest to tourists in the city are centred on its maritime traditions, particularly in the harbour area, where the warehouse district (Alster Arkaden) has been transformed into an entertaining destination offering a variety of shops, cafes and restaurants. Hamburg also has a number of lovely gardens and pretty churches and cathedrals, though there is little old architecture left in the old town. There are also a number of museums dedicated to history, art, communications, ethnology, and even spices. Further afield, Hamburg is the gateway to the seaside and spa resorts of the Baltic and North Sea coastline.

Information & Facts


Hamburg is a fairly wet and windy city, prevailing westerly winds blowing in moist air from the North Sea. Summers are warm but rainy, with occasional brief dry, sunny spells. Winters are cold, sometimes chilling to 28ºF (-2ºC) or below in January, the coldest month, when the Elbe and lakes in the city centre have been known to freeze enough for ice-skating. Snowfall is usually light, starting in early December, with icy sleet being the more common form of winter precipitation. Spring is very pleasant in Hamburg when the city's thousands of trees come into bloom with a new cloak of green, and days start to warm up after the dreary winter.

Getting Around

Hamburg's extensive public transport system consists of the U-Bahn (subway), the S-Bahn (suburban train), buses and harbour ferries, and makes getting around without a car pleasurable. The U-Bahn is excellent and serves the whole city centre; it connects with the S-Bahn that services the suburbs, and this train network is the fastest way to get around the city. Buses are also convenient and night buses operate in the downtown area. The Hamburg Card allows unlimited travel for a day on all public transport as well as discounted rates or free admission to museums, on city tours and lake cruises. Taxis are less expensive than other German cities and are available at all hours.

German is the official language. English is also widely spoken and understood.

The unit of currency is the Euro (EUR), divided into 100 cents. ATMs and exchange bureaux are widely available. The major credit cards are becoming more widely accepted in many large shops, hotels and restaurants, although Germans themselves prefer to carry cash. Travellers cheques are best cashed at exchange bureaux, as banks often won't change them. The quickest and most convenient way to change money is to obtain cash from one of the ATM machines that are ubiquitous features on all German streets. Banks are closed on weekends, but exchange bureaux at airports and main railway stations are open daily from 6am to 10pm.

GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October).

It may be billed as a fish market, but there is just about anything and everything on sale at this lively, colourful Hamburg market that takes place early on Sunday mornings, and has done continuously since 1703. There is a restaurant in the historic Fish Auction Hall, along with some live musical entertainment, to rejuvenate tired shoppers.

This quaint town on the steep Elbe hillside was once a fishing village favoured by retired ship captains. Today it has become popular with locals as a weekend excursion from Hamburg, and visitors also throng the narrow alleys and stairways between picturesque houses packed together on the cliffside. The village offers an abundance of cafes and restaurants where patrons can relax and watch ships steaming in and out of the harbour, and there are more than half a dozen pretty parks in which to spend a few hours on a nice day.There is a ferry service to Blankenese from St Pauli-Landungsbrucken in Hamburg's Free Port.

The world's oldest warehouse complex, built of red brick with gables and turrets, is a century old and still in use for storing exotic goods from around the world. Known as the Speicherstadt in German, this historic section of the Free Port between the Deichtorhallen and Baumwall has been turned into a tourist attraction by the addition of an open air theatre, spice museum, miniature exhibition and an old Russian submarine open for exploration. Another attraction is the 'Hamburg Dungeon', an interactive experience showcasing the more unpleasant and gory aspects of the city's history. The Speicherstadt is illuminated at night, creating an enchanting spectacle, particularly viewed from a boat on a harbour night tour.

Hamburg's premier art gallery offers the chance to view works across the time spectrum from the Middle Ages through to the present day. The Kunsthalle's main aim is to educate about art, rather than showcase particular art treasures, and exhibitions are constantly changing to introduce new forms of art. There are several cafes in the gallery, including a bistro with a nice view of the Binnenalster.

Hameln, the famous town of the Pied Piper tale told to children around the world, is a popular tourist destination in Lower Saxony, northern Germany, lying beside the River Weser. The old town centre has been reconstructed with several Renaissance buildings, and some wood-frame historic buildings, all adding to the fairytale atmosphere that brings alive the legend of the piper who offered to rid the town of rats, and ended up stealing all the children. A short musical version of the story is performed each Wednesday in the old town between May and September at 4:30pm, and the Pied Piper himself conducts tours around the town! Most of the tourist attractions in Hameln are close together, so it's easy to see everything on foot, then enjoy a meal at one of the town's cafes and beergardens. Hameln also hosts a popular Christmas market from late November through December.

Lübeck lies 41 miles (66km) north east of Hamburg, close to the Baltic coast. Not only is this historic town the home of a couple of noted Nobel Prize winners, but as a living monument to the wealthy Hanseatic merchants of the 13th century, it sports some architectural treasures that have ensured its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town's famous sons were Willy Brandt, the West German chancellor who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971, and Thomas Mann, whose novel Buddenbrookswon the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929. As far as the architecture goes, the town is known for its steeples and spires, high-gabled houses, strong towers and massive gates. The town is also billed as the world capital of marzipan, having been the spot where this delightful confection was first devised (there is a legend attached, of course). Samples of marzipan are freely available in Lübeck, along with tastes of wine from the region.

Train enthusiasts will love Miniature Wonderland in Hamburg. With over 4,000 square metres of floorspace, there is much to see with tiny models of various regions, both local and international. The largest of its kind, there are 900 trains with 12,000 carriages; 300,000 lights, 200,000 trees and 200,000 human figures. Sections include Southern Germany and the Austrian Alps, Hamburg and the Coast, America, Scandinavia, and Switzerland. Construction has begun on an expansion that will add five new sections, including France, Italy and the UK, by 2014.

The Hamburg Museum gives a detailed description of the city of Hamburg from the 8th through to the 20th centuries. Scale models have been used to illustrate the changing shape of the city's famous harbour. Exhibits also include reconstructions of various typical rooms, such as the hall of a 17th-century merchant's home to an air raid shelter from World War II.

In the middle of Hamburg is an oasis of green lawns and trees, with colourful flowers and fountains providing a lovely backdrop to relax in. You can stroll around the Japanese garden and enjoy the tropical flower collections and teahouse, and children will enjoy the range of attractions including playgrounds, pony rides, miniature golf, and a roller rink and ice skating rink. There are also concerts and theatrical performances on a regular basis.

Hamburg's notorious red light district to the east of the city centre in the St Pauli zone has become its second-greatest tourist attraction, according to the city management. The Reeperbahn (Rope Street) is where rope used to be produced for the ships in the harbour. It is now a half-mile long street which, along with its cross-streets, is filled with bright lights and flirtatious prostitutes, crammed with bars and establishments offering erotic entertainment. The Reeperbahn became the neighbourhood where sailors of old were encouraged to seek entertainment after they were banned from invading the city's more respectable areas in the 19th century. The district also boasts an Erotic Art Museum (at Nobistor 10A), which is privately owned and restricted to persons over 16.

St. Michaelis began as a humble church, which was extended in 1600. In 1647 construction began on the grand building that stands today. Like many important buildings in Germany, the church suffered major damage in World War II. Michaeliskircheoffers tours of the 270-foot (82m) tower; the crypt, which contains the bodies of Johann Mattheson and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach; and there is also an interesting presentation on the history of Hamburg.

The island of Sylt is Germany's most northern point, lying off the northwestern coast in the North Sea. The island boasts some lovely sandy beaches and stunning views, and its main town, Westerland, has become a popular seaside resort. The island also has miles of bicycle paths meandering through pine forests. The island offers plenty of entertainment for tourists, including shops, spas and exclusive restaurants. Trains arrive several times a day from Hamburg. The island is connected to the mainland by the six-mile (10km) long Hindenburgdamm bridge.

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