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Hamburg travel guide

Hamburg Local time

Although it’s several more miles before the mighty Elbe empties itself into the North Sea, Hamburg has all the atmosphere and attributes of a busy harbour town.

Hamburg’s status as a heaving international port has seen it labelled as the so-called “gateway to the world”, and the description certainly sits well with somewhere constantly awhirl with different cultural flavours.

Hamburg is the second largest metropolis in Germany and has every ounce of the grit and character that this would suggest.

Aesthetically, it’s less like Berlin and Munich and more akin to northern European capitals such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen. All are cities set on water (Hamburg in fact has more bridges than Amsterdam or Venice), and many of its buildings stand along quaysides and canals. It’s also Germany’s greenest city, with a full two thirds of its area dedicated to parkland or lakes.

Away from the greenery though, Hamburg can change at the turn of a corner. This was where the Beatles nurtured their talents in the early 1960s, playing the dingy clubs of the notorious Reeperbahn red-light district. The area still draws visitors in large numbers – Hamburg’s nightlife and live music scene are both renowned today. Elsewhere, you’ll find moneyed waterside neighbourhoods, colourful fish markets and a handsome spread of period buildings. This is, after all, somewhere that was declared a Free Imperial City more than 500 years ago.

Today, the city’s most popular visitor attractions form an appropriately diverse collection. They range from the impressive concert hall Elbphilharmonie which is already Hamburg's new landmark, the Miniatur Wunderland, a colossal model railway that continues to be expanded, to Hamburg Zoo, open since 1863 and notable for using moats in place of barred cages. Elsewhere, theatres, museums and lakeside walks all add to the city’s all-round appeal.

It’s a fantastic place to eat and a great place to cycle - a city where street art meets summer beaches and electronic music meets edgy architecture. To say Hamburg is rarely boring is something of an understatement.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.