Hamburg's historic label, "The Gateway to the World," might be a bold claim, but Germany’s second-largest city and biggest port have never been shy. Hamburg became a leading light in the Hanseatic League in the Middle Ages. Hamburg became a center of international trade, a legacy that continues today: it remains one of Germany's wealthiest cities, and Hamburg’s maritime spirit still infuses the entire city.
It's the sort of city where echoes of the city's port and history are everywhere, from the incessant cry of gulls overhead to the vibrant neighborhoods awash with multicultural eateries, seaward-facing architecture, and the gloriously seedy Reeperbahn red-light district. The Elbphilharmonie is an extraordinary structure, dominating the skyline and capturing in glass and brick the essence of Hamburg's polyglot soul.
This striking icon of the city has elevated architecture to the center of public debate and awareness, and it's just the most famous of a rather exciting collection. Office towers that appear as if they are dancing and buildings that from afar look like ocean liners share the streets with half-timbered relics of the medieval city. And only in Hamburg would they think of preserving a former WWII bunker and turning it into a nightclub.
The good people of Hamburg really know how to live. For a start, they've mastered the ingredients of culinary diversity: elevating your local specialties to the level of obsession and cherishing them even as you remain open to all manner of gastronomic trends. The result is culinary excellence on multiple fronts. So, too, for nightlife: Hamburg is filled to bursting with classy cocktail bars, dance-all-night clubs, and neighborhood bars and pubs that both reflect each neighborhood's identity and define it.
So successful are they that it's almost impossible to come to Hamburg and not have a really good time.