Tuesday 10 June 2014

Hamburg – The City of hidden treasures.

By Judy Griffiths

I never hear travellers say 'I really want to visit Hamburg!'. It's all about Berlin or Munich or Frankfurt, and so Hamburg remains rather allusive to many tourists, which is pretty damn shocking really considering the beauty and diversity of Germany's second largest city.

Hamburg is often referred to as the 'Gateway to the world', in the days of marine travel you could get almost anywhere from Hamburg's port, which today is the second largest in Europe. After the time I have spent in Hamburg however, I think 'City of Hidden Treasures' would be a much more fitting slogan for this great Hanseatic city. Once you've delved into the fiery heart of Hamburg, you might never want to leave... so screw this gateway to the world business.

Hamburg's famous harbour at sunset

There are so many reasons to visit Hamburg. Firstly, there's the major tourist sites such as the grand Rathaus Town Hall, the beautiful old warehouse district Speicherstadt and the impressive St. Michaelis church. Then there's the water; lakes, canals, the river and the harbour. In the centre of the city sit two stunning lakes that people flock to when the weather smiles, while a series of canals (unbelievably, more than Amsterdam and Venice combined!) thread throughout the city from the River Elbe that houses the Port of Hamburg. Oh, and did I mention there is even a beach? At Strandperle you can dig your toes into the sandy shores of the Elbe and watch the big ships and tiny sailboats coming in and out of Hamburg.

Strandperle Beach on the River Elbe
Hamburg is also home to one of the world's most famous red light districts, the Reeperbahn. This famous strip, often referred to as 'the sinful mile', is bursting at the seams with restaurants, bars, clubs, music venues, strip bars, sex shops and brothels; illuminated at night by the cliché glow of bright neon signs. The Beatles spent two years in Hamburg, playing various Reeperbahn venues before they were famous, and John Lennon famously said "I might have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg". And the music scene in Hamburg today is still as lively as ever with endless international artists visiting on European tours, and countless venues that host live music every night of the week.

So that's all the traditional sightseeing ticked off the list. Now what about these hidden treasures you ask?

Well, you'd have to be a rookie pirate to leave your treasure in the busy city centres for all to see now wouldn't you? So of course, to find Hamburg's hidden treasures, you must farewell the beaten track and dig deep into the bohemian quarters of the city. But lucky for you, you've now got the best treasure hunters in the world on your side.

This year, we are proud to announce the launch of Alternative Hamburg, the love child of Alternative London and Alternative Berlin.  We have come to help guide you on your treasure hunt, so you too can discover the incredibly unique and colourful charms of Hamburg's St Pauli district.

Outside Hamburg's most famous squat, the Rote Flora

Before I moved to St Pauli, I had never before experienced such a truly unique and passionate community. The people of this district come from all walks of life and ethnical backgrounds, and yet together form the most unified neighbourhood I have ever visited. Once you start to discover the local actions, public projects and community spirit of St Pauli, you will begin to realise that it is the residents that are the primary influences of this special area. Their strength and passions often overpower the local councils, developers and urban planners resulting in a lively and colourful kiez, teaming with diversity and creativity.

There is much to discover in St Pauli; paintings and drawings smother every bare surface of the district's façades, flags and fairy lights colour the landscape, people laugh and chat and dine in the al fresco cafes and bars that line the streets while saxophone players busk in the sunshine. There's park parties and picnics, infamous buildings and famous squats, quirky bars and raving nightclubs, social demonstrations and a strong left-wing political stance, and did I mention the array of shops selling all sorts of curiosities, clothes and crafts? It's rare to see a suit here, instead the streets are home to an eccentric mix of hippies, punks, social activists, artists, beatniks, rockers, hipsters, the homeless and of course, the ever increasing yuppies.

Alternative Hamburg Tours offer tourists a local's insight into the hidden treasures of St Pauli; the incredible stories, urban legends, buildings, street art, people and cultural events that have shaped this district into the fascinating and truly unique place that it is today. There are many important social, political, economic and environmental topics unfolding in these areas that have relevance to all modern cities, so we also want to share these with visitors to spread knowledge and information in the hope of forming a more sustainable, creative and colourful future for everyone world-wide.

Alternative Hamburg Tour group

Of course, as always, our Alternative Tours are run on a pay-what-you-want basis to keep them accessible to everyone, so that all visitors can afford to have the opportunity to discover and learn about alternative city cultures that they may not get a chance to experience otherwise.

Thank you all for your continued support of our Alternative tours, and hopefully we will see you in Hamburg soon – searching for your very own pot of cultural gold.

Judy Griffiths fell in love with Hamburg at first wander, together with Alternative Hamburg they created the tours to ensure every tourist visiting this great city can discover the true and authentic side of Hamburg's alternative districts.

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