Getting Oriented

The second-largest city in Germany after Berlin, Hamburg sits on northern Germany's fertile lowlands, within easy reach of the North and Baltic seas. A city-state of 1.8 million inhabitants, Hamburg covers an area of 755 square km (291 square miles), making it one of the least densely populated cities to have more than a million inhabitants. Taking up much of that space are its many parks and trees; it's also centered on two major bodies of water. The Elbe River is the site of the city’s busy port, and it's near some of its most colorful quarters. The inner and outer Alster lakes, meanwhile, are encircled by Hamburg’s downtown, and a cluster of upscale neighborhoods. It’s here, somewhere between the commerce of the river and the tranquility of the lakes, that visitors to the city tend to spend most of their time.

  • Altstadt and Neustadt. Together, the "Old Town" and "New Town" make up the Innenstadt, or inner city. Humming with locals and tourists on Saturday afternoons and public holidays, the center of town is the place to come for shopping, culture, and snaps in front of the Inner Alster lake and town hall.
  • St.Pauli and Schanzenviertel. An entertainment district since the 17th century, St. Pauli continues to draw fun seekers and night owls to its massive red-light and party district. Just down the road, the Schanzenviertel is filled with little shops and chilled-out cafés.
  • St. Georg. The center of Hamburg’s gay and lesbian scene and also home to a large Turkish community, St. Georg is an intriguing mix of affluence, relaxed attitudes, and cultures. It's also full of many nice little shops and cafés.
  • Speicherstadt and HafenCity. The old and the new are both part of Hamburg’s inner city port, with formidable 19th-century redbrick warehouses at the UNESCO-listed Speicherstadt and state-of-the-art riverside apartment and office complexes at HafenCity.
  • Altona and Ottensen. These former working-class areas are now particularly desirable places to live and visit. Many of the old buildings and factories have been refurbished to accommodate fancy restaurants, art-house movie theaters, and design hotels.
  • Blankenese and Beyond. Many of Hamburg’s outlying suburbs have their own distinct atmosphere and feel—none more so than the elegant riverside neighborhood of Blankenese, which some locals compare to the French and Italian rivieras.

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