Hamburg’s position as one of Northern Europe’s largest ports made it the last continental stop for more than five million Europeans who emigrated to North and South America between 1850 and 1934 in search of freedom from political and religious persecution and for economic opportunity. For descendents of these immigrants, a visit to BallinStadt is a unique opportunity to peak into the lives of your ancestors – the countries they fled, the perils of the journey, and what the New World looked like to them when they arrived. You can even search for ancestors and relatives at computer terminals with access to the world’s largest genealogical database.
Hamburg’s rich history as a centre of seafaring trade for Northern Europe is reflected in the care and attention it has given to preserving the relics of its maritime tradition. A handful of ships docked at the St. Pauli Landungsbrücken offer a peak into the seaman’s life. A must is the SS Rickmer Rickmers Museum Ship, a more than 100-year-old tall ship that has been open to the public for more than 20 years. On-board exhibits illustrate the ship’s history, around-the-world trade routes, the technical aspects of sea-faring by wind power alone, and the harsh life of merchant sailors.
The Cap San Diego is another peek into the world of naval shipping, aboard a still-seaworthy museum freighter. Nearly every aspect of the ship is open for public viewing, from the captain’s quarters to the engine rooms.
The U-434 was a top secret Russian espionage submarine and the acme of stealth naval surveillance until 2002 when it was decommissioned and turned into the floating U-Boat Museum. The guided tour takes guests into the thrilling world of naval spying and the sacrifices made by U-Boat crew. Learn how this Russian sub evaded western detection for more than 25 years.
The infamous Reeperbahn is the center of Hamburg’s nightlife and home to one of Europe’s largest red-light districts. Strip clubs, brothels, and live sex shows can all be found alongside musical theaters, restaurants, nightclubs, bars, and dance clubs. Many tourists find a walk through the Davidstrasse, where street prostitution is legal, and the Herbertstrasse, where prostitutes call for customers behind glass windows, an eye-opening experience – just remember that you’re not visiting a zoo and treat the people you find there with respect. You’ll know where you are by the large black screens that block the view into the Davidstrasse from adjacent streets.
On the north side, you’ll find the Grosse Freiheit, a cross street with bars, clubs, brothels, and at least one still-operating live sex theatre.
For the more culturally minded, the Reeperbahn is also home to a large concentration of musical theatres and swanky live music clubs. Beatles fans will not want to miss an opportunity to check out the Indra Club, Kaiserkeller, Top Ten Club, and the Star-Club, where the Fab Four enjoyed residencies from 1960-62, before their recordings had made them stars.
Hamburg’s St. Pauli neighborhood is home to some of the city’s best nightlife and restaurants, as well as the spectacular Hamburg Harbor. The Landungsbrücken are a major transit hub and tourist attraction, with spectacular views across the Elbe River and access to the technically marvelous Old Elbe tunnel. The original piers, along with much of industrial Hamburg, were destroyed during World War II, the current piers date from the mid 1950s. The piers also offer visitors plenty of historical and cultural distractions.