Once a grim industrial town, Germany's largest seaport has evolved into a 21st-century urban star. The vibrant waterfront blends an incredible array of architecture from medieval to ultra-modern, while copious parks, nightlife, and cultural institutions make Hamburg one of Europe's most well-rounded cities. Multiple cruise docks can accommodate larger ships, and are either a walk or short public transportation ride from downtown Hamburg.
What We Love
Hamburg Ballet: American-born Director John Neumeier's celebrated dance performances feature a nonconformist blend of ballet, larger-than-life stage sets, circuslike acrobatics, and orchestral fireworks.
BallinStadt Emigration Museum: This fascinating museum is devoted to the millions of Germans, Poles, Russians, and others who migrated to New York, Buenos Aires, and elsewhere through the port of Hamburg between 1850 and 1939.
Best Known For
The Reeperbahn: The Beatles are just one of the early rock 'n' roll acts that cut their teeth in the clubs around this famous nightlife thoroughfare in the St. Pauli district.
HafenCity: Europe's largest inner-city redevelopment project — and the heart of Hamburg's renaissance — includes numerous museums, shops, restaurants, and the remarkable Elbe Philharmonic Hall.
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Who It's Best For
Urban Explorers: The interwoven mosaic of old and new Hamburg makes for interesting urban exploration, especially for those who love to wander on foot through a city they've never explored.
Music Fans: From Bach, Brahms, and Josephine Baker to the Beatles, Bill Haley & His Comets, and the Swing Kids, Hamburg has a long and surprisingly rich musical heritage.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Respect the Reeperbahn: Hamburg's nightlife district may looks all warm and fuzzy, but it's still a seedy seaport social area with all of the vices that entails.
Don't Swim in the Elbe: The sandy beaches along Hamburg's waterfront are more for summer sunbathing and outdoor games than swimming in a very busy urban river.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.