Naughty nightlife, a unique hangover cure, a new downtown quarter, and culture at 20 paces … Sunday morning coming down in Hamburg
As G20 leaders gather this weekend for their 2017 summit, all eyes are on the port city of Hamburg, home to the new landmark Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall, expected to boost annual visitations of two million to the city by some 400,000.
With more than 1.7m inhabitants, Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany. It’s the birthplace of Brahms, Mendelssohn, Karl Lagerfeld and Angela Merkel. Cultured? You bet. It has museums and institutions dedicated to the arts, photography, ethnology, cars, design, urban planning, all things maritime – and even tropical viruses.
At the other end of the scale, the Reeperbahn. In Ron Howard’s documentary on the Beatles, Eight Days A Week, George Harrison recalls the Moptops’ formative years playing at the Star-Club on the Reeperbahn. “There I was in the naughtiest city in the world. And I was 17. It was exciting.”
And obviously visitors still think that. The strip’s nightclubs and bars attract 30 million visitors a year.
Here’s our Lazy Sunday, what the morning after could look like …
Hamburg Fish Market
If this Sunday market has a party atmosphere at 5am when it opens in the summer months (7am in winter), it’s probably because most people are on their way home from partying a few blocks over on the Reeperbahn. The Altona Fish Auction Hall is the centerpiece. See the fish mongers pile up their catch until a bidder is happy to take the lot for 10 euros. Fish sandwiches, prawns or marinated herrings should cure the hangover while you watch the fun. And there’s not just fish. This Hamburg institution also sells fruit, flowers, fashion and mementos.
Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall
Hamburg’s new concert hall beside the Elbe River is the most unlikely marriage of a 1960s warehouse that stored tea, cocoa and tobacco, and a glittering glass-panelled, sequin-topped wave of a “lid”, soaring 110 metres above sea level. The Elbphilharmonie is now the city’s shout-it-out landmark, housing a hotel, 45 apartments and the pièces de resistance: a Grand Concert Hall (seating 2100) , with all manner of acoustic wizardry courtesy of an inner skin of 10,000 gypsum fibre panels, and its Recital Hall sibling with walls of burnished rippled oak. The two parts of the building, which opened officially in January, are separated by the public Plaza (you don’t have to have tickets to a concert to be there), reached via an 82m long escalator in a tube whose sides are lined with 8000 large glass discs.
Hamburg’s city centre has a web of shopping arcades – there are more than 20 – displaying a wealth of architectural profiles, including two with Venetian leanings: Alsterarkaden (built just after the Great Fire of 1842) and the Mellin Passage, which connects the Alsterarkaden with the luxury shopping street Neuer Wall and boasts beautiful painted ceilings. The renovated Kaufmannshaus is a standout example of the city’s historic merchants’ houses, while the Galleria is dressed in art Deco marble, chrome and glass.
Red bus reconnaissance
The hop-on-hop-off buses are a real value-add here, offering a glimpse of a Hamburg you might otherwise miss. Travel down upmarket villa-lined streets where Karl Lagerfeld has been overseeing the interiors of luxury apartments. Pass Hotel Atlantic Kempinski, built in 1909 on Lake Alster, and the accommodation choice of actors, opera singers, politicians, sports stars and royalty. In 1997, parts of Tomorrow Never Dies, which starred Pierce Brosnan, were filmed around the hotel’s roof dome. Check out the Art Nouveau beauty of the Dammtor railway station and the old-world romance of the Brahms Concert Hall. Stop for a while at the eccentric Miniature Wonderland, which boasts the world’s largest model railway, a functioning replica airport and many thousands of figurines. Its right near the Speicherstadt, a maze of heritage listed 19th-century warehouses and narrow canals.
Melbourne, Macau and Barcelona are all notable for how they pushed their city limits. Now Hamburg has become king of the cranes as HafenCity, a mammoth urban development project, a new Downtown, continues its push to expand the area of Hamburg City by 40 percent. Soaking up 157 hectares of both port and industrial land, construction began in 2001 and won’t be completed until 2030. But already HafenCity is a thriving amalgamation of retail, restaurants and bars, apartments and offices, with a new cruise terminal in the offing. The Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall is its ambassador; there’s the Internationales Maritimes Museum, a converted warehouse containing a private collection of some 40,000 items and more than one million photographs; and the IF Design Awards Exhibition, a space opened in March to showcase the winners and finalists in the annual International Forum (iF) Design Awards.
25 Hours Hotel
25 Hours Hotel, located at Überseeallee 5, is a groovy port in a storm as HafenCity shapes up around it. Like a sailors’ dorm, it has anchor motifs, buckets with ropes for waste paper baskets, masses of edgy print publications (who said print is dead?), lots of flotsam and jetsam art, vintage games, cool rooms, and furniture with a below-deck ambience. The foyer is cosy, secure, homely, like a shared household with a clutch of leather lounges and coffee tables, and travellers chatting, emailing and waiting. There’s even a canvas tote in the room to use while you’re in residence. The restaurant does double duty as a pumping music venue at the weekend. Rooms from $162 per night.
Photos: Susan Skelly