Established in 1877, the Ohlsdorf Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Europe, and the largest park cemetery in the world. Its 400ha (1,000 acres) encompass around 280,000 fascinating burial sites and mausoleums, including the graves of soldiers from over 20 nations, along with 12 chapels and several museums. While of interest for the many famous citizens of Hamburg who are buried here, the cemetery is also a cultural site and a gorgeous nature area, filled with tranquil scenery, ancient trees, ponds and streams, and dotted with beautiful sculptures. The grounds become especially picturesque when the rhododendron plants are in bloom.
In the port of Hamburg, next to the St Pauli Landungsbrücken, stands an easily noticeable, copper-domed building. Inside, four large lifts await to transport cars and people underground, where two tunnels lead to the southern bank of the Elbe. When the Old Elbe Tunnel was opened back in 1911, it was a technological masterpiece – the first river tunnel in Continental Europe. While still used by cars, the tunnel is also beloved by pedestrians and cyclists who adore its tiled, beautifully decorated arcs, and appreciate the quick route to gorgeous views across the port.
The Hamburg harbour, dubbed ‘the gateway to the world‘, has also been the port of emigration for over five million Europeans. Between 1850 and 1939, they passed the Emigration Halls on the Elbe island of Veddel in search for better life in the new world. Their stories are the foundation of the BallinStadt Emigration Museum. In the museum’s three halls, visitors can immerse themselves in the difficult and dangerous emigration journey, and even do some genealogical research with the help of the museum’s experts.
Built in 1878, the monumental Kaispeicher B predates the rest of the warehouses in the historic Speicherstadt district by a decade. The 10-storey red-brick building was accessible to boats from two sides, streamlining the unloading of ships and barges on one side and the further transport of goods by smaller boats on the other. The Kaispeicher underwent complete reconstruction in 2006, and is now home to the International Maritime Museum. Furthermore, it serves as a symbolic connection point between the old warehouse district and the newly built HafenCity.
The Miniatur Wunderland museum in Hamburg’s Speicherstadt district can without a doubt be counted among the most unusual museums in the world. Its uniqueness is certainly appreciated by the public: in 2016, the world’s largest miniature railway was visited by 1.3 million guests. The museum’s nine miniature worlds are inhabited by 260,000 figurines, and the train tracks that connect them are used by more than 1,000 trains, with over 10,000 wagons. Miniatur Wunderland combines modern technology with art and incredible attention to detail.
When the beautiful new water tower in Hamburg’s city park opened in 1916, little did anyone know that it wouldn’t fulfil its original function for very long. In 1930, it became a planetarium, and its domed hall now serves as a background for projections of the skies above. Thanks to the latest round of restorations completed in February 2017, the Hamburg planetarium is among the most modern in the world. Its custom-designed hi-tech equipment conjures vibrant stars and galaxies, the magic of children’s fairytales and captivating 3D and laser shows.
Near the sandy Elbe beach lies the charming Museumshafen Oevelgönne – home to over 20 vintage ships. It was founded in 1976 by a non-profit, volunteer association that seeks out old or run-down ships and restores them according to historical records. Here you can find steamboats and sailing boats of all shapes and sizes, dating from between the late 19th century and the 1960s. All of the ships are faithfully restored and fully functional, and several open their doors to visitors.
Built in the 1830s on the high banks of the river Elbe, the Jenisch Haus is among the most picturesque historic buildings in the city. Inside the classical-style manor house, museum visitors can view opulent rooms, halls and saloons of the 19th-century upper classes. The upstairs rooms host special exhibitions on the city’s history and culture. Outside, there’s a vast park in an English garden-style design, which offers a gorgeous backdrop for leisurely strolls and views across the river.
When the magnificent Gothic Revival church of St Nicholas was completed in 1874, it was the tallest building in the world. Today, only the tower remains, and the ruins of the once-beautiful church are a memorial site. The church was destroyed in air raids during World War II, and now serves as a place for remembering the victims of war and tyranny. A museum in the church cellar explains the air raids and wartime destruction, whereas the 76m- (249 ft.) high viewing platform offers glorious views across the rebuilt city.
Finally, a list of Hamburg’s proudest cultural sites would be incomplete without mentioning the Elbphilharmonie, if only for the patience the people of Hamburg demonstrated during its construction process, which took three times longer and cost 10 times more than originally planned. Now complete, the spectacular building has set out to conquer the world and establish its fame among the world’s best concert halls. Only time will tell if these lofty goals will come to fruition.