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Hamburg is, first and foremost, a city surrounded by water. The destination’s beautiful Elbe River and many tree-lined canals have created an affluent port city with one of Europe’s busiest harbors. Though steeped in history and known for its natural beauty, modern Hamburg is booming. Many locals head out at night to the alternative Schanzenviertel area, and the next-hottest neighborhood, HafenCity, has an array of new shops, restaurants and sights to explore.
EatDon’t be fooled — though the cheesecake at Herr Max bakery might look like the slices you can get at home, the flavor will heal all traveling aches and pains. For a midday meal, try Polokantine, a tiny takeout lunch spot easily overlooked but not to be missed, featuring fresh seasonal ingredients and a slow food style. Both eateries are found in Schanzenviertel, called “Schanze” by the locals. This bohemian neighborhood is full of bright murals and young people laughing it up at cafes. Some of the best bars and hole-in-the-wall eateries make it easy to find new friends and morph dinner into a vibrant nightlife.
SleepWith tranquil gardens, fluffy blankets and a library full of signed first edition books, Hotel Wedina provides an atmosphere perfect for recharging. The property is spread across five uniquely designed houses and offers a range of room styles, from cozy spaces measuring about 180 to 200 square feet to two-level apartments with kitchens. In the Blue House, every room is its own library; guests can curl up with a book of their choice (including children’s books). The Green House features open architecture and a view into the alpine Zen garden. Breakfast, made with artisanal and regional produce, can be munched in the winter or summer garden. But be warned: The fluffy blankets found in the guestrooms do not make rising early for breakfast easy.
Located in the St. Georg district, Hotel Wedina is an eight-minute walk to the main Hamburg Hauptbahnhof railway station and close to the Alster lakes. The hotel has bikes for rent and a secure garage. Many famous authors visit the property, and there are occasional readings in the library.
PlayHafenCity is currently Europe’s largest urban development project, and locals are excited. Hamburg is repurposing its old port warehouses into shops, a concert hall and chic housing. Visitors to this historical warehouse district will feel as if they’re traveling with one foot in history and the other in the trendy present.
Those who feel like playing with history should visit the nearby Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway, which also includes dioramas representing social conditions and various time periods in German history. The project, started by twin brothers Frederik and Gerrit Braun in 2000, includes about 930 miniature trains. The Brauns are currently puffing, honking and whistling to finish a diorama of the world’s contemporary train system by 2020. Most of the Western world’s train system is already on exhibition.
Clients can travel to or from HafenCity via one of the boats connected with the public transportation system on the Elbe — a great way to get a panoramic view of Hamburg.