Hamburg/Elbe: ''Jungfernstieg'', boat trips on the Inner Alster

Visit Hamburg's busy inner harbor on the Alster river.

Hamburg/Elbe: bistro in Hamburg's port, ship on the river Elbe

Enjoy the bistro's of Hamburg's port.

Hamburg/Elbe: Inner Alster, "Jungfernstieg", town hall

A beautiful view of Hamburg's town hall.

Hamburg/Elbe: Gänsemarkt square with Lessing statue and tax office

Enjoy a visit to Hamburg's Gänsemarkt square.

hamburg theater

One of Hamburg's many theaters near the harbour.

A City Well Done

Think of Hamburg the way people like their burgers cooked – some like it juicy, others a bit more cooked. Hamburg tempts visitors with a taste of both.

With a population only exceeded by Berlin, Hamburgers have been, well – burnt, for much of its 1000+ year history. Nearly destroyed during World War II, the city has come back better than before. With 1400 parks and gardens and surrounded by water, the city has gone from almost gone to green. One of the best ways to discover this recovery is by boat. Cruise the River Alster, gliding past enchanting gardens and canal-side mansions. See what's caught in the waters at the open-air Altona fish market on Sundays, which dates back to 1703. Get there early – like, 5:30 am – and prepare to bargain with vendors.

This is also a real "working" city. At the Speicherstadt, you'll find the largest timber-pile warehouse district in the world within the HafenCity quarter of Hamburg. Lying directly on the city's port, the warehouses are still in use, and handles one-third of the world's carpet production. Interestingly enough, there is an Afghan Museum on the premises as well, which seeks to bring the authenic and traditional aspects of the culture to life (including, rugs.) Also on site, Minatur-Wunderland, a model railway attraction and the largest of its kind anywhere. We're talking over 35,000 feet of track.

And now, for the juicy bits. For some, it's a grim taste of reality, for others, it's a walk down the Sinful Mile. The Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli district is Germany's answer to the "Red Light District." The street is lined with night clubs, bars and restaurants. As well as a landmark called Davidwache, a police station located on the south side of the street at the cross street Davidstraße.

There's still a family atmosphere to be had in Hamburg. The Tierpark Hagenbeck is a zoo in the quarter of Stellingen. The collection began in 1863 with animals that belonged to Carl Hagenbeck Sr., a fishmonger who became an amateur animal collector. It is known for being the first zoo to use open enclosures surrounded by moats, rather than barred cages, to better simulate the animals' natural habitats.

Hamburg holds a tradition three times a year – a fair called DOM. Filled with fun, adventure and nostalgia, there's a fair in March, July and November, each lasting four weeks. Find rollercoasters, ferris wheels, waffle makers and fried sausages on a stick. This is classic fun you'd find in Any Town, USA. But it's much cooler to have a burger in the food's namsake town.

Getting here is easy thanks to the high-speed (up to 170mph) ICE train. Hamburg has three centrally located train stations. Take your German Rail Pass and be in Berlin in just 90 minutes, or even discover Copenhagen, Denmark in 4 hours, 30 minutes with a Denmark-Germany Pass. Take a day trip to the island of Sylt, with its pristine, clothing-optional beaches.

Buy a German Rail Pass and make Hamburg one of your many wonderful stops where you come as a guest and leave as a friend.

Contributed by: Nicola, a travel consultant in the call center, who is from Germany and has been traveling the trains in Europe since childhood.

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