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No part of Hamburg tells visitors more about the city’s past, present and future than the district of Speicherstadt and HafenCity. Whether it’s exploring the historical warehouses, taking a peek inside art galleries or admiring stunning examples of modern architecture, discover what there is to do in the neighborhood where old meets new.
Built over a century ago, the Speicherstadt is the largest contiguous warehouse complex in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wandering between the historic red brick warehouses and crossing bridges over the narrow canals, it’s easy to picture the district as it was decades ago, with workers hauling up precious goods from barges. Today, some of the warehouses still import products such as fabrics, exotic spices, and coffee. At nightfall, the lights from the neo-gothic buildings reflect onto the waters below, creating a mesmerising scene.
Just a few minutes’ walk from Speicherstadt is HafenCity, Hamburg’s up-and-coming district, which is home to incredible examples of modern architecture. Scheduled to be completed between 2025 and 2030, HafenCity continues to expand and encompasses 10 neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm. With various green spaces, and intersected with canals and small ports, the district demonstrates the beauty of sustainable waterside living in the 21st century.
Located at the heart of the HafenCity is the Elbphilharmonie concert hall. Since its grand opening in early 2017, the Elbphilharmonie has become one of Hamburg’s most recognizable landmarks and is well on its way to establishing itself among the best concert halls in the world. Performances here book out fast, so if you want to enjoy an unforgettable concert in the dazzling Grand Hall, book well ahead of time, or keep your fingers crossed and stop by the ticket shop a few hours before a concert to see if there are any last-minute seats.
A walk along HafenCity’s Am Sandtorpark and Am Dalmannkai streets is a must if you’re looking to go gallery hopping. Here you’ll find the Metropolitan Gallery and the neighboring Greg’s Gallery. Further along the road, the Glasgalerie Stölting exhibits glass art by Czech artists and, just around the corner, Nissis Kunstkantine offers tasty meals alongside beautiful artworks.
Making your way further into HafenCity via the Elbtorpromenade, you’ll come across the iF Design Exhibition, which showcases the work of outstanding designers from around the world. From household items and computers to jewelry and vehicles, the interactive space covers a multitude of categories, and admission is free of charge.
Across from the iF Design Exhibition lies one of the most noteworthy historic red brick buildings of the district—the Kaispeicher B, Hamburg’s oldest and biggest fully preserved warehouse. Home to the International Maritime Museum, which spans 3,000 years of seafaring history, its sister building, the Kaispeicher A, serves as the base of the Elbphilharmonie.
Across a few canals and back in the Speicherstadt, a unique museum invites members of the public to experience the world a little differently. The Dialoghaus Hamburg is comprised of two exhibitions: Dialogue in the Dark and Dialogue in Silence, with a third, Dialogue with Time, opening on May 25. The first immerses you in complete darkness, the second will deprive you of hearing, and the third—once open—will invite you to view the world from the perspective of a senior citizen. With the help of the staff—many of whom are blind, deaf or elderly—you’ll get to experience what life is like from a different point of view.
Making your way back to the city center, stop and explore the Kunsthalle Hamburg, one of Germany’s most important and largest art museums. Its vast permanent collection is divided into four galleries that together reflect over 700 years of internationally unique art, focusing on European works in particular. The Kunsthalle hosts numerous special exhibitions every year, providing something new to look forward to no matter how many times you visit.