Living in Sonderborg is great. However, every so often, I feel the need to escape to a bigger city, to get that “big city life” hit that I crave. Luckily for us, we can easily do this. Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city, is a mere 2 hr drive away. Surprisingly, we hadn’t made the trip into town, although we have regularly travelled through Hamburg’s airport and train station. So when we had an unexpected free weekend, we could think of no better way of using it than to finally visit Hamburg.
Getting to Hamburg from Sonderborg is easy. We chose to drive there. Unfortunately, due to road works on the Elbe bridge (and critical mass in Hamburg), what should have been an easy 2 hr ride turned into a 3.5 hr drive. Hopefully, with the works on the bridge scheduled to be finished by mid-November, there will be less traffic build up on the motorway.
Alternatively, you could opt for public transport. Trains go there directly from Copenhagen to Hamburg. We typically opt to take a bus to Flensburg and grab the train there, rather than taking the train from Sonderborg, due to the unfortunate train timings connecting the Sonderborg-Copenhagen and Copenhagen-Hamburg trains. If you opt for public transport and you are in a group, don’t forget the Schleswig-Holstein train ticket, giving you discounts for groups up to 5. This is especially valuable if you are going for a day trip, as the ticket can be used in both directions, making travel very cheap.
What to do
Having asked people for suggestions of what to do in Hamburg, the answer invariably came back as ‘shopping’ and ‘harbour tour’. However, that doesn’t fill in a weekend (though it can fill in a day). This is what we did and what we would recommend:
- Museum of Hamburg: We typically enjoy visiting one museum in every town we visit. Our choice fell on this museum, as we always tend to find the ‘city museums’ a special gem that tend to be overlooked. This museums didn’t disappoint. We spent a happy 3 hrs in the museums. We found the audio guide particularly helpful, as it meant that we didn’t have to read, but could focus on looking. Oh – and don’t miss the train display, which is put into action most hours on the hour. Cost: 8 €.
- Harbour tour: There are plenty of harbour tours on offer, mostly leaving from Landungsbrucken. Unfortunately, most do not appear to be in English, though we did discover that most have an English version at 12:00. Instead, we bought a day Hamburg transport ticket (10.40€ for groups up to 5) and took public transport ferry line 62 out around the harbour and back. We will be back, and we will take a tour next time, but this was a good alternative.
- Elbe Tunnel: This tunnel, close to Landungsbrucken, was built in 1911. Amazingly, it is still in use, by both pedestrains and cars! Pedestrains can opt to take the stairs or the lift up and down, but the cars have only one option: lifts! They are put on a lift, around 3 at a time, at the top, transported down, they then drive across, and are put on a lift back up at the other end. At the moment, the tunnel is being renovated, so only one side is open. Since there is only space for one car to pass, the problem has been solved by cars being able to go in one direction in the morning and the opposite in the evening. At less than 500 m, the tunnel is well worth a visit, walk across, and a pop up on the other side to see Hamburg from the opposite bank of the river Elbe.
- Altona Fischmarkt: Every Sunday, early in the morning, a market is set up at the Altona Fish auction hall. Well worth a visit for the atmosphere, or to grab a bargain. The brunch inside the auction hall, overlooking the hall floor, was also mentioned to us as something to check out. Unfortunately we were too full from the previous day’s dinner, so opted for food from the stalls outside.
Of course, there are plenty of other things to do. Walking around is a pleasure: Check out the lakes in the centre, and the garden Planten un Blomen, to the west of the city centre, as well as the historic sites like the Rathaus. And as most Danes will remind you: don’t forget shopping!
Where to stay
There are plenty of hotels in Hamburg. Unfortunately, more than 65% (according to booking.com) were fully booked when we wanted to go, having decided on the Tuesday for the coming weekend. This meant that we had only a limited selection to choose from. So if price is an issue, do plan ahead. On the basis of recommendations by friends, we selected a hotel close to the lake. This meant that we could walk most anywhere in the centre, and we did do so.