Germany’s second-largest city is in the north of the country, where the River Elbe joins the North Sea. Its position makes it famous as the ‘gateway to Germany’, because much of the city’s history revolves around its role as a major port. Travelling by rail, visitors can get to Hamburg from Berlin in 3h07mins, on average, and a train from Frankfurt takes 3h43mins. Inter-City trains link Hamburg to Berlin, Hanover and beyond. The first thing visitors will notice when they step off the train in Hamburg is how the city revolves around anything to do with water and the sea. The Alster Lakes are located just north of the main train station, culminating a journey where watery surroundings and river tributaries are the main features of the landscape.
A 10-minute walk west from the main station brings visitors to the impressive facade of the Rathaus (City Hall), an ornately-decorated building that was completed in the late 19th century. A 5-minute walk south brings visitors to the cobbled streets of the Speicherstadt district. Here, 19th-century warehouses tell of the nautical and import history of the city. Just a few steps further south, Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg can be found, with its massive collection of model ships, maritime art, and historical photographs, housed in Hamburg's oldest preserved warehouse. However, there is more than past history in this buzzing city. It’s a place that nurtured the Beatles in their early days, and it still has a thriving contemporary music scene around its many harbour-side venues.
When it comes time to grab a bite to eat, there is a whole plethora of world cuisine options to be found in this international and multicultural metropolis. But, for visitors who fancy tasting German food that’s typical to the region, the port district is a good bet. It’s part of the Old Town, and this is where world food is rivalled by traditional favourites, such as Finkenwerder Scholle (pan-fried plaice) or Aalsuppe (a free-for-all soup that might include the fish of the day, multiple vegetables or almost anything in season). Moreover, visitors arriving in Hamburg absolutely have to try the regional after-dinner pastry, Franzbrötchen, which is flavoured with cinnamon and raisins, for the full Hamburg experience!