Travelling around Hamburg in a wheelchair
If you think exploring a city in a wheelchair is more hassle than it’s worth, think again! Here, in what is probably the most beautiful city in the world, there are so many interesting and delightful sites for all to enjoy. To make sure you don’t waste a second of your holiday at the Alster and Elbe, I’ve summarised some of my favourites for you right here.
Let’s start in the Speicherstadt, because what could be more representative of Hamburg than the imposing, historic brick buildings interspersed by canals and bridges? Once there, we can take a quick detour and head to Miniatur Wunderland to enjoy a birds-eye view of Hamburg. Every four to eight weeks, there are special evenings for wheelchair users, allowing them to enjoy unhindered access to the exhibition. From Miniatur Wunderland, it’s just a stone’s throw to the Elbphilharmonie (Elbe Philharmonic Hall). This impressive building can, of course, be seen from a distance thanks to its imposing size and unique architectural design. From the top, you can enjoy a spectacular view of Hamburg and your eyes can also already wander over to our next destination: the HafenCity.
Since planning began in 1997, the HafenCity has developed at a steady pace and, in addition to focusing on the urban areas and sustainable planning, the district has been designed with access in mind, allowing wheelchair users to enjoy exploring the HafenCity without hesitation. Before we take a quick break, I have to show you the Sustainability Pavilion. Here, you can not only find out more about the aspects of sustainable city development, but also take part in the free tours through the “green” HafenCity.
Art and culture
Now we’ve really earned a break! There are many great restaurants and cafés to choose from in the HafenCity and some have toilets that are accessible for wheelchair users. I can definitely recommend the charming and quaint "Alte Liebe" (German for "old love") café on Kaispeicher B. Their waffles with plum compote are simply irresistible! Besides, if you’re looking for something a little heartier, you’ll be sure to find the best "Catch of the Day" at the restaurant of the same name, located right next door! The building is also home to the International Maritime Museum, which you should definitely visit to appreciate the attractively arranged exhibits and most inviting design. They also have a toilet that is accessible to wheelchair users.
About: Anouk Kapfer
Anouk Kapfer, 27, is a psychology student, blogger and author from Gießen and uses a wheelchair in her everyday life. She is a massive fan of Hamburg and really enjoys exploring the city.
The weather in Hamburg is unpredictable at the best of times, but you shouldn’t just wait for the rainy days to visit one of the Hanseatic city’s many interesting museums. Our first trip takes us to the Hamburger Kunsthalle, where you can marvel at significant art collections, ranging from the middle ages right through to contemporary works, and enjoy a wide range of guided tours. As we’re still in museum mode, let’s go straight on to the Deichtorhallen, which is home to many interesting modern art and photography exhibits. It’s a nice contrast to the Kunsthalle and yet another location where everything is completely accessible. You can also find the complete programme in easy-to-understand language on their website.
The Kontorhaus District
Just around the corner, in the Kontorhaus District, lies the Chilehaus, which is worth visiting, even from an architectural point of view. I hardly dare suggest another museum as I’ve shown you a fair few already... but I promise this one is not like any of the others! If you like chocolate, you’ll LOVE the Chocoversum by Hachez as it’s every chocoholic’s dream! Here, you don’t have to snack in secret – you’re actually encouraged to enjoy this delicious treat as part of the 90-minute tour, where you can create your own chocolate in a workshop and take it home with you.
At the port
Now that we are totally full up from all of the yummy chocolate, it’s time to get moving again! Let’s head to the Landungsbrücken piers for a short trip through the Old Elbe Tunnel. The 426-metre long tunnel, which was opened in 1911, is now closed off to cars. Many cyclists and pedestrians use it as a link between St. Pauli and Steinwerder, or as an exciting photo location.
To finish off this exciting and eventful day, I recommend either going to see one of the city’s many musicals which are of course all accessible, or visiting one of Hamburg’s popular theatres or concert halls. At Kampnagel, a former crane factory, wheelchair users get to sit in the front row, so they can enjoy an unrestricted view of the stage. Fantastic!
As I still want to show you a bit more outdoors, let’s start the day with an early morning visit to Hamburg's famous fish market. A must see on Sunday mornings since 1793, the Fischmarkt is rather touristy but it certainly has its charm, with sellers loudly touting their products while you treat yourself to a fish roll for breakfast. The ground is quite difficult to traverse due to the cobblestone paving, though.
Partying at the Reeperbahn
Not far from the fish market is the Reeperbahn, which is arguably the most famous street in the city. The neon lights from its countless theatres, pubs and clubs have the power to draw you in from afar and anyone wishing to dance until dawn is sure to feel right at home!
Harbour boat trips
Let’s wander back to Landungsbrücken and finally tick off what every visitor to Hamburg should have on their agenda: a harbour boat trip. Numerous companies run tours of the port and many of the vessels are accessible for wheelchair users. But today, we’re taking a ferry on the Elbe with the HVV. A big advantage is that the harbour ferries are part of the public transport network. Therefore, anyone who can travel for free, due to their disability, can also do so on the ferries. If you are a wheelchair user, you should find out the water level of the Elbe before you travel, as the Landungsbrücken piers are considerably easier to board from at high tide, when there is less of an incline.
Harbour ferry number 62 takes us past the docklands (fishing port) to Neumühlen/Övelgönne. Those who would rather not travel by boat can easily take a bus to reach this destination instead. From this stop, we begin our walk along the Övelgönne pathway, going past cafés and restaurants, right up to the Elbstrand, Hamburg’s very own beach, which is just a few minutes away. The beach itself is not accessible for wheelchairs, but the view from the roadside more than makes up for it and gives everyone that special holiday feeling. Trees rustle in the gentle breeze on the right and, to the left the waves of the Elbe lap softly on the Elbstrand’s sandy shore. Children and dogs let off steam as they run along the beach, young people barbeque and listen to music and, when you close your eyes you don’t feel like you are in Germany’s second largest city, rather somewhere far, far away, enjoying the salty sea air on your face.
Altstadt and Neustadt – where old meets new
But, because I want to show you a bit more of the city, I’m afraid I have to interrupt your daydreams for a moment. I haven’t told you yet how wonderful it is to explore Hamburg by bicycle. In addition to the bicycle routes that criss-cross the city in the shape of a star, Hamburg also has lots of other cycle paths. My favourite route is around the Outer Alster lake. It’s eight kilometres long and is not just for suitable for regular cyclists and hand cyclists – it is also hugely accessible for those travelling with towing equipment.
From the Alster, we can cycle one kilometre to Planten un Blomen park, steeped in local tradition and located on the site of the city’s old ramparts. This park has various themed gardens that invite you to stroll and relax, as well as daily water and light concerts from May through to September, a particular highlight being the colourful light organs in the water. Entrance is free and there are accessible toilets in the north and south of the park.
Before our tour comes to an end, let’s take a quick look at the Hamburg Rathaus (Town Hall). This stunning building is the seat of the senate and citizenry and, architecturally speaking, is particularly impressive with its incredible sandstone and granite construction. The town hall foyer and the chambers of commerce’s beautiful inner courtyard are almost always open to the public.
Finally, our expedition through Hamburg takes us to the very symbol of this Hanseatic city, the Michel (St. Michael’s Church). We enter the white church nave through the accessible entrance at door number 10, and can either listen to the daily midday prayers with organ music at 12pm, or take advantage of our wheelchair user status and visit the crypt ─ without having to duck our heads!
To round up our visit, we make our way to the St. Nikolai Memorial observation tower, where we take the glass lift up the highest church tower in Hamburg to enjoy an impressive panorama of the city. From a height of 76 metres, the Elbphilharmonie still looks as imposing as ever, while the view in the other direction out towards the Alster is also beautiful. Our discovery tour has flown by – who’d have thought that travelling around Hamburg in a wheelchair would be this easy and enjoyable?