Many European port cities have changed in later years. Formerly seedy districts have undergone urban renewal, sometimes veritable metamorphoses. Architects have been given seemingly free reign, often with spectacular results, such as in Rotterdam.

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I'm strangely intrigued by this building

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Der Spiegel HQ – Hamburg is Germany’s publishing and media hub

On a recent InterRail journey, a quick stop in Hamburg was on the agenda. I was curious to see if the same had happened here.

Last time I was in Hamburg was in the 80s. I remembered a rough port city and all that comes with it. Had this nitty, gritty north German city been transformed, too?

Hamburg is large, with more than 5 million people living in the metropolitan area. It’s also quite a prosperous city, ranking high on livability indexes. I was here for an afternoon and a night, and only saw bits and pieces of the city. But what I did see – well, Hamburg has changed, but perhaps less ostentationsly.

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Hamburg street art… sort of

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Who needs Coca-Cola when there’s fritz-kola (a small Hamburg operation, emphasising all-natural, vegan ingredients and sustainable production)

Parts of the port is still a bit rough around the edges, whereas other parts, such as Speicherstadt – the world’s largest warehouse complex and a future world heritage site – is elegant. And curious. The 19th century warehouses look Gothic with their odd little turrets and towers and gables. Canals weave through. Next time, I’d like to explore this area further, especially at night, from the water. It must be very atmospheric.


I was also intrigued to hear about Dialog in Dunkeln (also in Speicherstadt), and would like to have a closer look. Although, look isn’t the right word. In the completely dark rooms, the seeing become blind, depending entirely on guides which are blind. It’s also possible to have dinner in the dark or brunch in silence – all about using our senses differently.

At dusk, we stopped for a drink in the Karolinenviertel neighbourhood, with leafy little lawns, curious shops and hip cafes (a beer at Yoko Mono, anyone?), and a renovated meatpacking district nearby. Bonita, a Dutch writer and our InterRail guide, was keen to show us Bullerei, where they served the best and freshest burrata outside of Puglia. A burrata, if you’re not familiar with it (I wasn’t) is a large, silky soft mozzarella filled with stracciatella and cream. Delicious!

So, that’s a quick peek at Hamburg. Adding it to the must-return list.

Disclosure: In Hamburg, I was a guest of InterRail. All opinions are entirely my own, as ever.