Text Ilona Marx Photos Gulliver Theis Illustration Roman Klonek
Water, water, everywhere: Germany’s largest harbour has a surface area of 7400 hectares. That makes it the second largest in Europe, after Rotterdam. So it’s no wonder that this has had such a pronounced impact on life in Hamburg: centuries of tradition, a multicultural population, merchant wealth, yes, even the hedonistic Reeperbahn – so much of what makes this Hanseatic city unique is down to its status as a port ...
... a port whose history is still in the making: with what is possibly the largest site of urban regeneration in Europe, and is already attracting droves of tourists in the process: work is currently being carried out on an ambitious new city quarter that will set benchmarks in Germany. Not just the 500-millioneuro project of the Elbe Philharmonic Hall, but also a large number of new homes, some of which will boast spectacular architecture, will add yet another facet to Hamburg’s persona.
But the 1.7 million city is incredibly diverse as it is: there are the elegant villas in Blankenese that have very little in common with the so-called sinful mile of the city’s St. Pauli district – despite the fact that the rental prices in the central location next to the infamous entertainment hub are rocketing, thanks to the many newly renovated flats in the area. No wonder that The Guardian recently named St. Pauli amongst its top five picks for best places to live in the world. And elsewhere the city’s image is pretty stellar too: the once alternative Schanze (a district mainly in the Old Town) has long since succumbed to becoming trendy with the requisite collection of record shops, boutiques and bars. Hamburg’s oldest district, St. Georg, located behind the railway station, is increasingly moving away from its “problem area” reputation and turning into a hotspot for artists and creatives. The more peaceful Ottensen area has the highest density of young families and cafés, and Altona, offering up the first pedestrian zone in Germany in the 60s (the Grosse Bergstrasse) is now characterised by small multicultural shops and independent gastronomy – not forgetting the shores of the Elbe in the south of the city.
A wander through the neo-gothic Speicherstadt (warehouse district), a romantic canoeing tour on the Alster canals in Winterhude or a quick visit to the port to watch one of the ocean-bound giants being loaded up with cargo? Visitors to Hamburg are spoilt for choice. And that goes for the evening entertainment too. No matter where you go, music is omnipresent: from the Star Club where the Beatles played in 1962, to establishments like Grosse Freiheit 36 and Uebel & Gefährlich. There’s definitely a lot going on as far as the local music scene is concerned too – starting with the former protagonists of the so-called Hamburger Schule (or Hamburg School – a German musical movement popular during the early 1990s) to hip hop stars like Jan Delay down to the “man with the hat”, German rock musician Udo Lindenberg.
But editor-in-chief Ilona Marx is used to having a lot going on – in fact one could say she thrives on it. Together with Hamburg photographer Gulliver Theis she biked her way through autumnal Hamburg, discovering to her relief that the water between the Alster and Elbe rivers doesn’t come mainly from above as is generally thought: whereas Munich gets 970 litres of rain per m² a year, Hamburg only gets a modest 770.
PLUS CHECK THESE OUT
Rudolf Beaufays The best vintage store in town. Men only! www.rudolf-beaufays.de
FKK Despite the name (which means "nudism" in German!), they definitely sell clothes here! www.fkk-fashion.de
Bob Understated Men's Fashion www.bob-men.de
Strandperle The institution on the beach at Övelgönne. www.strandperle-hamburg.de
The beach at St. Pauli The city equivalent. www.strandpauli.de
Henningsen Nice knitwear, made in Germany. www.birte-henningsen.de
Café Knuth The classic – this is where Ottensen's locals meet! www.cafeknuth.com
Café Reh Alpine romance in Altona. www.rehbar.de
Hej Papa Lovingly designed café with Scandinavian flair. www.hejpapa.de
Bullerei Trendy restaurant owned by Tim Mälzer (German celebrity chef). www.bullerei.com
Oberhafenkantine Very unusual bar – only for those who are steady on their feet! www.oberhafenkantine-hamburg.de
Feinkunst Krüger Cool indie gallery. www.feinkunst-krueger.de
Senator Watrin Curiosity shop on Marktstrasse. www.senatorwatrin.de
Gorilla Grill Nice interior, good food. www.gorillagrill.de