Oh, Hamburg! Classic and contemporary Germany collide
This year I've visited Hamburg four times. In fact, I'm kind of addicted to the industrious northern German city.
Living in the northern-Denmark town of Aarhus, I'm often positioned with the weekend option of heading to the clean, sophisticated Danish capital of Copenhagen or crossing the border to experience the colour and personality of Hamburg, Germany. Both trips are three hours away by car, but that's where the similarities between the two cities end.
Recently, I've started choosing Hamburg. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, as an Australian, the concept of hopping in the car and driving into another country still gets me childishly excited. Secondly, there's an economic benefit. It's significantly cheaper to get into Germany than it is to pay the storebælt toll fee to cross into the Danish capital, and once you get to Germany, the cost of living (think dining, beer, wine and coffee) is essentially halved. And thirdly, I love you Copenhagen, but wienerschnitzel just ain't your thing.
Among its best offerings, Hamburg offers a delightful cafe culture, with Milch, Less Political and Cafe Johanna leading the way. Less Political, in particular, is known for roasting some of the finest beans in northern Europe and comes highly recommended. Don't be fooled by its position in the industrial-side of town - the cafe offers some of the best fare in the country.
Hamburg's harbour is simply outstanding, with freestanding walkways providing thoroughfare where the river canal meets the ocean. To truly experience the harbour, go for a wander around sunset in the warmer months - with a clear sky, the canal blasts with colour and the natural hues are simply stunning. For dinner, wander into nearby restaurant VLET in der Speicherstadt for splendid wine and beef tartare prepared at your table.
The city is well suited for active travellers, and has excellent infrastructure for cyclists and nice walking tracks for those who choose to tackle the city on foot. For those with a little more time up their sleeve, it's worth setting aside an afternoon just for wandering along the esplanade. The best sights include the magnificent Elbe tunnel, which stretches underneath the river, and the Beach Club, which presents the best spot to rest your legs on a warm summer day.
Overall, it's just an outright awesome city, and it's one of about half a dozen cities I've visited where I've instantly thought, 'Yep, I could live here'. If you're planning a trip to Germany, make sure Hamburg is on the agenda.