24 October 2014
the gate to all desires…
Although it might be less famous than its neighbour Berlin, Hamburg is a city that still appeals to many due to its continuous development, modernity and cool attitude.
Whilst Berlin is known as a ‘poor but sexy’ city, in the words of its own mayor, Hamburg is a very, very rich town. As Germany’s economic capital, Hamburg is Europe’s second biggest power port and houses almost the entirety of Germany’s communication and press industries. And let’s not forget the latest technologies that flourish there, such as Google whose headquarters have been established in the city. The result: a young and cool population rubs shoulders with boho families who enjoy clarifying that Greenpeace also chose to establish its headquarters here…
The new HafenCity area is the stomping ground for architects, who invent a city of the future. And popular quarters such as Schanze and Sankt Pauli continue to appeal to even more night owls and foodies. You could go as far to say that many journey from Berlin to let loose in Hamburg.
Whilst there may be fewer marines enjoying themselves than in the past, Hamburg attracts new visitors enticed by its living art and upbeat personality.
The HafenCity district already offers a futuristic vision of Hamburg. Former warehouses that link the port to the city are gradually converted into offices and housing. And new buildings, each more designer than the last sprout from the ground around the Elbe canals. This ultra-bobo area welcomes families as well as a multitude of online businesses, media and communication compagnies. You shall find cute little shops like ‘the optimistic project’ and hip hotels such as ’25 hours’ (see below). But the centrepiece of HafenCity is the Elbe Philharmonic Hall: a gigantic structure erected in the place of former cocoa warehouses at the entrance to the old port, said to have become one of the city’s major icons. Unfortunately, the construction site is constantly behind schedule. Celebrated Swiss architectural firm Herzog & Meuron have had their fair share of challenges to overcome: for instance, the concert hall should offer an acoustic atmosphere that block out the foghorns of colossal cruise liners that come in and out of the port! The inauguration of the building has already been pushed back almost a dozen times. As for the budget, it is rumoured that the initial 67 million euros shall be transformed into almost 700 million, creating the most beautiful (and without a doubt the most expensive!) concert hall in the world. End date scheduled for 2017…
Streets buzzing with cafes and boutiques, buildings covered in graffiti, interior courtyards and true insights into communal living may make you feel like you are in a bohemian area of Berlin. A ‘bobo, ecolo, trendy vibe governs the Schanze and Karoviertel districts, as it does in Berlin. The former is the better known of the two, with the likes of the Nil restaurant, which welcomes clued-up but cool gastronomes. The latter is still developing and is more popular for wandering around: on Saturdays, the big flea market is an Aladdin’s cave, whilst the Marketstrasse brims with hidden addresses, giving a taste of the studios of designers, including the suits of Herr von Eden or the Hanseplatte boutique, which exclusively gathers Hamburg labels or music groups. On the restaurant side of things, Bullerei offers makeshift décor. Further along, towards Elbe, the Sankt Pauli district offers a different side to the city…with lots more tourists. Bars and clubs overflow with a cheerful crowd of people from all over Germany who come to party all year round. It is here that Hamburg is still at the centre of the entertainment industry, for gallivanting marines and fleeting travellers alike!
They are recognised by their true fans but may be missed by many: it is in Hamburg that the ‘Fab 4’ came into being! In 1960, when John, Paul and George first landed here, accompanied by Stuart Sutcliffe, the ‘5th Beatle’ who passed away prematurely aged 22 in Hamburg, the boys were nothing more than a bunch of teenagers without much talent. They disembarked at this port, populated by marines on stopovers, for their first professional engagement. Here, they performed almost 300 concerts until their departure in 1962. It was a record for their career, playing more gigs here than any other city in the world, even their dear Liverpool. It is here that they met Ringo and defined their own personal style. Stefanie Hempel offers a formidable tour that traces the Beatles history through the streets of Sankt Pauli. Ukulele in hand, she guides die-hard fans through strip clubs where the foursome started out and places where they lived, often in a very precarious, rock’n’roll fashion! But above all, this walk allows you to learn how the group evolved. When they first landed in Hamburg, the Beatles worn black leather jackets, boots and an Elvis grin! They performed standard rock tunes by their 1950s idols. In short, they were closer to a popular dance group! But in Hamburg, they rubbed shoulders with the likes of the Existentialists. Astrid Kircherr is one of these figures who encouraged the lads to writes their own songs and seek out their own style. ‘You should wear your hair long at the front and classic suits’, Astrid suggested one day, instantly defining their unique look. Roaming the streets and following in their footsteps takes you back to an exciting time.
In the historic centre of Hamburg and a stone’s throw from the central station, the Henri Hotel is the darling of Mad Men amateurs! A 1950s ‘working men’ ambiance is wonderfully recreated in this former office building, converted into a hotel a year ago. 65 comfortable and designer studios are perfect for a holiday in Hamburg. But the real bonus of this hotel is its vast communal ‘living room’, giving the feel of a flat share! The kitchen is open 24/7, offering beers and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the fridge, like being at home! The vintage ‘feel good’ vibe is incredible and already has a reputation throughout Germany.
Another new, fun and boho hotel is 25 Hours HafenCity. The theme of 25 Hours (a small German chain of super original hotels) is clearly linked to the sea and cargo voyages. In the hall, there is an orange container, which acts as a boardroom. Elsewhere, the roof houses a sauna. Bargain-hunt trinkets are scattered throughout and the hotel’s own boutique deserves a visit. The rooms make you feel as if you are sleeping in a cabin in the middle of the ocean, with wallpaper mimicking a marine’s tattoos… a hotel with fun on every floor!