We spent four days in Hamburg following a cruise in August and we absolutely loved this city. We stayed near the Kennedy Bridge on the AussenAlsterSee in The Atlantic Kempenski Hotel. This placed us near the Hauptbahnhof (if you wanted to zip over to Berlin or elsewhere), and within a few minutes walk of the Rathausmarkt. This is a great square in front of the Rathaus (which is in itself a beautiful building and worthwhile attraction. All around the markt are little stalls where you can buy Wursts or pretzels or ice cream, beer or wine and so on. The weather was beautiful and it seemed as if all of downtown Hamburg was milling about, sitting and drinking or eating The energy there is upbeat, and I just enjoyed walking around with everyone else walking around. Every day we walked there. There is a little fast food place just off the Platz (market) which has the best ice cream ever, made in house. All the main stores are there. And just walking around the area looking at the stores was fun. German design is modern and special and fun to look at. The architecture is interesting, old juxtaposed against new. There are beautiful old brick churches and the two Sees, the InnenAlster and AussenAlster. The inner one is mainly for walking around and enjoying. The outer is full of white sails lounging and darting about the water.
These two bodies of water make Hamburg special. The Molj is a good place to get your hair cut.
It's a block from The Atlantic. If you like good shoes, German shoes are beautifully made and styled nicely, but for real feet that really walk. The energy of the people seemed upbeat but not frenetic. There are loads of places to sit outside and eat or have a beer or wine. There are loads of people with their dogs (but you don't see poop or pooper scoopers) and so the town seems people friendly. There is a darker side to Hamburg--homeless under the Kennedy Bridge and a little tent city in a square downtown (like the Wall Street squatters). St. Pauli is not a part of town i liked at all. But I don't know when I've enjoyed a city as much as Hamburg. It is filled with canals and the two artificial Sees (or lakes) made by widening the river. It has more bridges because of the canals than does Venice. It's a special atmosphere, and the RathausMarkt Platz seemed to us to be the center. All the things I've mentioned are walkable from their and it makes a good central point for your Hamburg walkabout adventures.
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