Hamburg is connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River, which is also crossed by hundreds of canals. The city is famous for its harbour area and close to its centre the Inner Alster Lake is lined with boats and surrounded by lots of cafés. The city’s main boulevard connects the Neustadt or New Town with the Altstadt or Old Town. The focal point of Hamburg's inner city area, are the Inner Alster (Binnenalster) and Outer Alster (Aussenalster), two artificial lakes connected to the River Alster and the Elbe. It has some of the most picturesque city squares and historic avenues including the Jungfernstieg. Another popular area is the Pöseldorf with its galleries, boutiques and cafés, along with the canals.
The 18th Century St. Michael's Church is the most famous in the city with its 132 metre tower, known locally as Michel. The tower is accessible by both stairs and a lift allowing for some stunning panoramic views over the city and port from its viewing platforms. Look out for the bronze statue of the Archangel Michael killing the devil, a fascinating piece of artwork that can be seen over the entrance. Another nearby Church is the 14th Century Hauptkirche St. Jacobi, a superb building housing medieval altars and an Arp Schnitger organ.
The Port of Hamburg, also known as HafenCity, incorporates 100 square kilometres of tidal harbour. You will find most of the city’s tourist attractions in this area and there is a pretty pedestrian trail that takes in the Old 19th Century Warehouse District of the Speicherstadt with its continuous lines of tall brick buildings once used to store tobacco, coffee, dried fruit, and spices. Built between 1883-1927 it is classified as the world’s largest warehouse district and in 2015 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Elbphilharmonie Philharmonic Hall, known locally as Elphi is one of the main attractions of the revitalised Port. This can be reached by the Köhlbrandbrücke, a 3.9 kilometre bridge that spans the harbour. The adjacent Traditionsschiffhafen and Sandtorhafen Harbours line the peninsula and it makes for a great place to see vintage tall ships at their docks. The Miniatur Wunderland is the world’s largest model railway and boasts more than 15,400 metres of track and 1040 trains and is situated in the Speicherstadt warehouse district. It is great fun for the whole family.
Some of the museums to visit in Hamburg include the Museum of Art and Design, known as the MKG displays German, European and Asian applied art. The Hamburg Museum might also be of interest with the museum housing a large collection of artefacts of the city’s history. The Hamburger Kunsthalle (Art Hall) occupies several connected buildings on the Glockengießerwall. It is one of Germany's top art galleries housing numerous Dutch masterpieces from the 16th and 17th Centuries as well as a fine collection of 19th Century German and French paintings. For those interested in Hamburg’s rich maritime history head to the IMMH the International Maritime Museum where you will find all things sea related.
In the centre of Hamburg's Rathausmarkt stands the regal Hamburg Rathaus (City Hall). This large, elaborately decorated Neo-Renaissance building sits adjacent to the Stock Exchange (Börse). The interior has more of a historicist design with at last count 647 rooms. A new room was discovered in the tower in 1971. From the Rathaus, the wide Mönckebergstraße, Hamburg's principal shopping and business area, heads past the 14th Century St. Peter's Church with a brick Hansa architecture and 133 metre bell tower.
In the suburb of St. Stellingen, the Tierpark Hagenbeck, the city's zoo, was established in 1907 to house a collection of exotic animals owned by a local fishmonger turned exotic animal trader. Other family friendly attractions include a visit to the Planetarium Hamburg, which is located in an old water tower and the Chocoversum Chocolate Museum, a fun interactive museum with displays focusing on chocolate making.
Just 23 kilometers northeast of Hamburg is the town of Ahrensburg, famous for its old mansion, Schloss Ahrensburg (Palace). Now a museum, the 1595 Castle has many of its original interiors and furnishings providing a fascinating insight into the life of country nobility.