The Old Town and New Town are true jewels of Hamburg. The historic centre of the old town is characterised by many traditional buildings such as the Hamburg Town Hall and the Chamber of Commerce, as well as alleys and bridges that extend as far as HafenCity. In the Neustadt between Laeiszhalle and Jungfernstieg you will find elegant promenades with famous fashion designers and gallery owners - with a view of the Alster.
The two districts of Hamburg-Altstadt und Hamburg-Neustadt are like two siblings with a strong character. On the one side, you have the historic core of the Altstadt (German for Old Town) district with the Hamburg city hall and the chamber of commerce, the alleyways and bridges which stretch out all the way to the HafenCity district. On the other side, you have the sophisticated Neustadt (German for New Town) district between Laeiszhalle and Jungfernstieg with elegant promenades, fashion stores and gallery owners and an increasing number of people that not only work or shop in the district but actually live here as well. This is even more so in the Neustadt than it is in the Altstadt. Hamburg has a diverse city centre that combines various landmarks within a tight space. I am Frank Engelbrecht and I have been living and working for many years as a pastor in the parish of St. Catherine. From here, I invite you to join me on my tour through Hamburg’s city centre.
The Hamburg city hall has 647 rooms - more than the Buckingham Palace.
IN THE MORNING
Let’s start from my home – the rectory of St. Catherine's church opposite to the Speicherstadt. It is one of the oldest standing buildings in Hamburg-Altstadt, much of which was destroyed during the great fire of Hamburg in 1842 and in World War II. Therefore, a walk through the Altstadt is full of contrasts. You can quickly get a feel for it once you cross the multilane Willy-Brandt-Straße towards Hamburg city hall. If you look around, you can see a mix of old, restored brick buildings, high-rise buildings and glass building blocks from the 1970s. Walking over the Trostbrücke, you will pass by the statues of Count Adolf III and Saint Ansgar, who brought Christianity to the city of Hamburg. These represent the connection of the episcopal Altstadt with the secular Neustadt. From the bridge, you can also see the ruins of the church of St. Nicholas (Willy-Brandt-Straße 60), which was destroyed during the war. Right after the war, it was further demolished to make way for the Ost-West-Straße. Today, only remains of the church walls and the 150-metre-high tower are left. The church currently serves as a memorial in remembrance of what the war tore, with an impressive exhibit on the subject in the basement vaults of the church. A visit to the preserved 150-metre-high church tower is strongly recommended. You can take the elevator up to a 75-metre-high platform. The view from there is great, and you can see far beyond the district. A visit to Mutterland Cölln’s (Brodschrangen 1-5) is also a must. Here, you can eat in small, listed private spaces decorated with beautiful hand-painted tiles. After I stop here for a coffee, I continue my tour. On the Kleine Johannisstraße, I pass by small shops and restaurants as well as the well-stocked gentlemen's outfitter Anton Meyer (Kleine Johannisstraße 7) and the La Tavola Calda (Kleine Johannisstraße 15), with its authentic Italian cuisine.
If there is anything like a centre that connects Hamburg-Altstadt and Hamburg-Neustadt, it has to be the Rathausmarkt. This is also where the shopping street Mönckebergstraße begins. It doesn't get any more central than this. Anyone standing on this vast square is first and foremost impressed by the city hall and its magnificent facade. You can get to know the history of the seat of government of the Hanseatic city and its many grand halls by going on a guided tour. Close by, you can find the Bucerius Kunst Forum (Rathausmarkt 2), which stages three to four interesting exhibitions a year with topics spanning from ancient times to the present. Hamburg’s Dolce Vita begins right behind the exhibition centre. The archways and terraces along the Alster canals exude the spirit of Italy. Here it becomes clear why Hamburg is called the Venice of the north. Just in case you are up for some shopping: between Jungfernstieg, Neuer Wall and Große Bleichen, you can find superb fashion shops as well as traditional ones like Ladage & Oelke (Neuer Wall 11) with a timelessly elegant assortment. If you are more into books, you should visit the bookshop Marissall on the corner of Rathausmarkt/Herrmannstraße. It is a picture-perfect location with a large assortment, wonderful customer service and a divine children's book corner. I unlock a shared bike right next to the chamber of commerce (Adolphsplatz 1) and ride a few hundred metres down to the Fleetinsel at the Steigenberger Hotel (Heiligengeistbrücke 4). Here, you can find some nice restaurants in-between canals and bridges, like the Marinehof (Admiralitätsstraße 77) or the Erste Liebe Bar on Michaelisbrücke 1.
IN THE EVENING
From the Fleetinsel, it is not far to the Michel (Englische Planke 1), Hamburg’s most famous church building. From the viewing platform of the 132-metre-high tower, you can grasp a breath-taking view over the Portuguese quarter and to the port of Hamburg. From here, you can also see the Elbphilharmonie and the HafenCity borough with the historic Speicherstadt. I continue my tour and ride into the Neustadt to the Großneumarkt, a picturesque market square with beautiful old buildings. Every Wednesday, there is a market here with many food stalls that invite you to try some local delicacies. Next, I turn towards the Wexstraße. Here, you will find designer stores, crafts and a lot of art. For example in gallery Kulturreich (Wexstraße 28), which exhibits objects by young artists at affordable prices. Feinkunst Krüger (Kohlhöfen 8) is also close by, where you can find a mix of works by experimental and renowned artists. From the Neustadt, I return to the Altstadt and visit the Katharinen-Viertel, named after the homonymous saint. On my way, I cross one of Hamburg’s most beautiful streets, the Deichstraße. It is full of historic buildings with baroque facades. I walk past traditional restaurants such as the Alt Hamburger Aalspeicher (Deichstraße 43), the Deichgraf (Deichstraße 23) or the Ti Breizh Haus der Bretagne with the Boutique de la Mer restaurant (Deichstraße 39), where you can buy exclusive fashion from Brittany. Whether French or Italian cuisine, fish or burgers: In this quarter opposite the Speicherstadt, you have a choice between fine tablecloth and rustic wooden tables. In the evening, I meet some friends for dinner at Trattoria Bella Italia (Brandstwiete 58), which is small and cosy and serves delicious homemade pasta. If this place is too busy, I walk back towards the city hall and dine at Café Paris (Rathausstraße 4). This is one of my favourite restaurants. Here, you can always find tasty food or just relax over a late-night glass of wine. If you are still in the mood for a cocktail afterwards, you should check out the Le Lion bar (Rathausstraße 3) across the street, where you will experience the bartenders executing their fine skills.
Die Altstadt und Neustadt sind das Herz Hamburgs. Dieses unvergleichbare Flair der ehrwürdigen Hansestadt können sie nicht nur am Rathaus oder an der St. Michaelis Kirche spüren sondern auch in die vielen Restaurants, Cafés und Geschäften.
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