Hamburg is Germany's second largest city, while its port is the third biggest in Europe. With over 1400 parks, squares and gardens, it is also one of the greenest cities in Europe. This year, Hamburg is basking in its status as a European Green Capital for 2011.
Furthermore, Hamburg is the site of Europe's biggest inner-city coastal development, a 21st century city within a city - HafenCity.
Occupying 157 hectares, it will eventually increase Hamburg's dimensions by 40%. Although construction work is still very much underway, Herzog & de Meuron's magnificent Philharmonic Hall, to be opened next year, has already become the city's new symbol and main talking point.
Hamburg is Germany's main media and industry centre, home to both the Spiegel publishing house and Airbus production headquarters. The composers Brahms and Mendelssohn were both born in the city, and the Beatles experienced their career's first baptism of fire here. Last year, the city celebrated the 50th anniversary of the group's first concert by unveiling the Beatlemania Museum, which is located on the notorious 'sinful mile', the Reeperbahn; in its heyday a popular hangout among sailors and now, with its strip clubs shining under neon lights, one of Hamburg's main tourist attractions.
Among other things, Hamburg boasts one of Europe's most unique zoos, which will amaze not just with its range of inhabitants - around 2500, but also with its architecture. In 1909, dinosaur sculptures exhibited here became a sensation of their time, while the gates through which visitors once entered (from the Hagenbackallee direction) are a true Art Nouveau gem. Although the city's main shopping strip, the Neuer Wall, is a classic display of global luxury brands, so-called specialist shops also still survive here. The cigar-maker Otto Hatje (Konigstrasse 5), for example, has been based here since 1922. Even now, shoes can also be made to order in Hamburg, and the shelves of the Benjamin Klemann Schumacherei (Poolstrasse 9) workshop still hold the lasts of many of their most famous clients. Walter Eisenberg (Steinstrasse 21), for its part, has been specializing in sailors' caps since 1892.
One distinguishing feature of Hamburg is the feeling of being in about five cities at once, instead of having arrived in just one. Hamburg has seven boroughs that are further divided into autonomous quarters, each living its own diverse life. Besides, the city can be enjoyed on either land or water. For example, one can take a trip through Hamburg's canals on a boat, a canoe or even a gondola (yes, Hamburg does offer this attraction). Osterbekkanal, Goldbekkkanal, Isebekkanal and Uhlenhorsterkanal, these once major routes of city transportation are now peaceful havens drenched in urban romanticism, surrounded by overhanging trees and park-encircled villas.
The fishing port neighbourhood, however, holds the greatest concentration of Hamburg's best fish restaurants, where offers of the day vary according to the morning's haul. This is a real gourmet's paradise and an oasis of industrial romanticism, especially if you choose a table at the water's edge and watch the cargo ships sliding by, loaded to the very brim.
Keywords: Hamburg, Germany