Vis­it­ing Ham­burg: Choco­late, cof­fee and trade, then and now

The Hamilton Spectator - - TRAVEL - FRANK JOR­DANS

HAM­BURG — For cen­turies, the port city of Ham­burg was a pow­er­house in mar­itime trade. These days, Ger­many’s sec­ond-largest city is still the coun­try’s main entry point for ex­otic goods. But it’s also a mag­net for food­ies, fans of the arts and folks who pre­fer to wan­der rather than pow­er­walk their way around a new des­ti­na­tion.

Feast your eyes, tickle your taste­buds

Maybe you want to start small. Re­ally small. In Ham­burg’s old ware­house district an in­door model rail­way called the Miniatur Wun­der­land stretches across two floors and takes vis­i­tors on a hu­mor­ous jour­ney around the world. Book tick­ets in ad­vance: miniatur-wun­der­land.com/visit/ticket.

The ware­house district, or Spe­ich­er­stadt, was once a free port. Its dis­tinc­tive red brick build­ings on tim­ber foun­da­tions helped the area gain UNESCO World Her­itage sta­tus in 2015. It’s hardly a mu­seum, though. The ware­houses are still used to store goods from around the globe and, with a lit­tle pa­tience, vis­i­tors can watch Per­sian car­pets and sacks of spices be­ing loaded and un­loaded us­ing old-fash­ioned pul­ley hoist sys­tems.

Ham­burg has a long tra­di­tion of ap­pre­ci­at­ing cof­fee. En­joy a good brew at one of sev­eral cof­fee roast­ers around town, in­clud­ing Nord Coast Cof­fee Roast­ery, http:// bit.ly/2eWC4uo.

At Ham­burg’s choco­late mu­seum, Cho­cov­er­sum, learn about the ori­gins of choco­late and try your hand at cre­at­ing a unique bar of your own. Tours dur­ing the week are in Ger­man, but English-lan­guage tours are avail­able week­ends. Book in ad­vance via www.cho­cov­er­sum.de/en.

A day on the wa­ter

Start ex­plor­ing mankind’s com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship with the sea on dry land at the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Mu­seum in the ware­house district. It fea­tures repli­cas of an­cient ships, in­clud­ing a Phoeni­cian gal­ley and a Vik­ing dragon boat, www.imm-ham­burg.de/in­ter­na­tional/en.

Once you’re ready to set sail — so to speak — walk or take a sub­way to the Lan­dungs­bruecken. Dur­ing the week these piers are used by com­muters trav­el­ling into Ham­burg on pub­lic boats. For a mod­est fare, hop on the No. 62 for a ride down the river Elbe, pass­ing some of Ham­burg’s im­pres­sive mar­itime in­dus­try and not a few tow­er­ing cargo ships along the way.

Step off at Neu­muehlen and head down­river past the charm­ing old sail­boats to the Oevel­goenne beach for pizza and a hoppy beer, or cof­fee and cake, at a river­side café or bar.

A night on the town

The Reeper­bahn is Ham­burg’s no­to­ri­ous red light district. At night it trans­forms from a quiet street into a gaudy, neon-light af­fair filled with bars, live mu­sic venues and seedy en­ter­tain­ment. Near the Reeper­bahn light rail stop is a square ded­i­cated to the Bea­tles, who spent their jour­ney­man years in Ham­burg, english.ham­burg.de/vis­i­tors/294386/reeper­bahn-ham­burgst-pauli-night­club-english.

For a less touristy and more fam­ily friendly evening, head to the Schanzen­vier­tel, a for­mer work­ing class district that be­came hip a few years ago. There’s cheap food aplenty and a thriv­ing bar cul­ture. Stern­schanze is the clos­est S-Bahn stop.

From there, walk to one of Ham­burg’s best-known clubs at Feld­strasse 66. Don’t worry, you can’t miss it. Known to the Nazis as Flak­turm IV, this mas­sive over­ground bunker was too dif­fi­cult to de­stroy after the Sec­ond World War and so it was left stand­ing. Nowa­days it’s home to me­dia com­pa­nies and the club Uebel und Ge­faehrlich — which roughly trans­lates as Nasty and Dan­ger­ous. ue­belundge­faehrlich.com. If you’re out all night, greet the day at Ham­burg’s Al­tona fish mar­ket. Busi­ness starts at 5 a.m. April to Oc­to­ber, in win­ter the mar­ket opens at 7 a.m. Don’t ar­rive too late as stalls shut­ter around 9:30 a.m.

Grand burgers and high cul­ture

For cen­turies, Ham­burg was dom­i­nated by a tight-knit rul­ing class known as the First Fam­i­lies, whose mem­bers had ac­quired a su­pe­rior form of cit­i­zen­ship that made them Gross­buerger — ‘grand burgers.’ With the ti­tle came lu­cra­tive eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal rights that they used to amass great for­tunes and shape the city in ways that can still be seen in Ham­burg’s cen­tre with its Venice-like ar­cades and bridges, fancy shop­ping streets and lake­side prom­e­nade. From the un­der­ground stop Rathaus, take a stroll past the im­pos­ing town hall to­ward the Bin­nenal­ster, or In­ner Al­ster, a reser­voir inside the old city perime­ters.

For a bit of high art, head to the un­der­ground stop Jungfern­stieg and take the U1 two stops to Ste­in­strasse. From there it’s a short walk to one of Europe’s largest con­tem­po­rary arts cen­tres. The De­ich­torhallen, sit­u­ated in two for­mer mar­ket halls built in late art nou­veau style, host sev­eral si­mul­ta­ne­ous art and photography ex­hi­bi­tions. de­ich­torhallen.de/in­dex.php?id=33 & L=1.

For a grand fi­nale, end your trip at the Elbphil­har­monie con­cert hall. Com­pleted six years be­hind sched­ule and at 10 times the orig­i­nal price, this bil­lion-dol­lar venue is due to start host­ing con­certs be­gin­ning Jan. 11. If you can’t nab tick­ets it’s worth vis­it­ing for the ar­chi­tec­ture, which fea­tures a wave­shaped roof, stun­ning glass fa­cades and a panoramic view of the har­bour. english.ham­burg.de/el­bephil­har­monic-hall.

FRANK BRUENDEL, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Tall ships pass by the bil­lion-dol­lar Elbphil­har­monie con­cert hall, an ar­chi­tec­tural gem in the Ham­burg har­bour.

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