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. There’s cultural diversity, conspicuous, hedonistic consumption, immigrant workers from Portugal and Turkey, and a large student faculty, all rubbing shoulders within Germany’s largest port, which continues to thrive despite global trends, thanks to booming trade with Eastern Europe.
Aesthetically, Germany’s second largest city is less like Berlin and Munich, its national economic rivals, and feels more akin to northern European capitals such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen. All are cities borne on water (Hamburg in fact has more bridges than Amsterdam or Venice), where cutting-edge contemporary architecture and historic buildings stand side by side along quaysides and canals. Hamburg can also happily boast being Germany’s greenest city, with a full two thirds of the area here dedicated to parks and green land, or occupied by beautiful lakes.
Away from the greenery though, the colour and flavour of 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 notorious red-light district, the Reeperbahn. A slice of history which in many ways encapsulates much of Hamburg, a city like Amsterdam, where a polite, modest and liberal populace proudly display every facet of their hometown, including its salacious side, and celebrate a more recent heritage built on two ever-popular pastimes: sex and music.