Hamburg’s HafenCity - where you can see the city growing before your very eyes
Open spaces right on the waterfront, veritable forests of construction cranes, huge, undeveloped stretches of wasteland: This is the picture Europe’s largest urban construction project presently offers visitors. Wandering through Hamburg’s HafenCity, you get to see how this controversial and spectacular neighborhood is gradually taking shape - and at the same time form your own opinion about it
Back to the overview
Old meets new
HafenCity is growing from west to east and from north to south, so the first building phases effectively become a direct continuation of the existing city center and the historical warehouse district. The western section of the HafenCity development is largely complete. Several thousand people live and work here today and a number of the area’s many bars, cafés, restaurants and shops have already been attracting custom for years.
Historical warehouse district:
When it was built in the late 19th century, Hamburg’s warehouse district was considered to be the most progressive port and warehouse complex anywhere in the world. These days, the conservation-listed buildings house popular tourist attractions such as Hamburg Dungeon, a chamber of horrors-cum-live history museum, and the world’s largest model railway exhibition, Miniaturwunderland. The architects and urban planners responsible for the adjacent HafenCity development were inspired by the warehouse milieu and emulated its red-brick facades.
Hamburg Dungeon: Kehrwieder 2, +49-(0)40/36 00 55 20. Opening times: daily 10am-6pm, Jul/Aug -7pm (expect long waiting times). Admission: €15.95-19.95. www.the-dungeons.de
Miniaturwunderland: Kehrwieder 2-4 Block D, +49-(0)40/300 68 00. Opening times: Mon, Wed, Thu 9.30am-6pm, Tue 9.30am-9pm, Fri 9.30am-7pm, Sat 8am-9pm, Sun 8.30am-8pm. Admission: €6-12. www.miniatur-wunderland.de
Space! The HafenCity development has given Hamburg some big, new piazzas and waterside promenades. Thousands of people already flock to the many attractive locations in the western sector, where they can stroll to their heart’s content. The first square to be completed, back in 2005, was Magellan Terraces. Today it is regularly used as an event venue, for example by the Hamburg tango scene, which stages an open-air milonga there once a month in the summer.
Tradition, Philharmonia & cruise liners
Traditional ship harbor:
HafenCity offers places to stroll and explore not only on dry land, but also on the water thanks to the lovingly restored historical steamers and sailing ships tied up at the wide sweep of pontoons extending into the Sandtor harbor basin, which are open to the public. If you’re lucky - or plan your visit well - you might even secure yourself a place on one of the occasional sailing trips.
Conceived as a spectacular new landmark both for Hamburg and the HafenCity district, the Elbphilharmonie has for years been famous chiefly for the ferocious criticism it has attracted. Instead of being completed in 2010 and costing 77 million euros, the concert hall designed by renowned architects Herzog & de Meuron will open no earlier than 2013 and is ultimately expected to cost the city at least 400 million euros. Derisive parallels have been drawn to the now world-famous Sydney Opera House, which took 14 years to build and cost 14 times its original budget.
Elbphilharmonie information pavilion on Magellan Terraces: Nov-Mar, Thu-Sun 10am-5pm, Apr-Oct Tue-Sun 10am-5pm.www.stiftung-elbphilharmonie.de/pavillon.html
Site tours: Sun 11am-4pm on the hour, every hour starting at the information pavilion. Tours must be booked at least half an hour before.
Cruise terminal/Queen Mary 2:
Hamburg was governed for centuries not by crowned monarchs but as a “Free and Hanseatic City” by its own proud citizens. But whenever Queen Mary 2 calls into port, the people of Hamburg pay her a royal tribute, lining the riverbanks to watch the exclusive cruise liner travel up river to her berth in HafenCity. Hamburg is currently experiencing an amazing boom as a cruise destination, not least thanks to the (still provisional) Cruise Center terminal in HafenCity. Small wonder. After all, where else can such oceangoing giants tie up at the heart of a metropolis?
Information & the future of the HafenCity
International Maritime Museum, Hamburg:
Also not without controversy, but certainly impressively large: This museum displays “nautiquities” from media manager Peter Tamm’s collection on ten “decks” inside Kaispeicher B, Hamburg’s oldest warehouse building. Tamm’s complete collection numbers 37 000 model ships, plus thousands of maritime paintings, diagrams, photos, books and atlases.
Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg: Koreastraße 1, +49-(0)40/ 30 09 23 00. Opening times: Tue, Wed, Fri-Sun, 10am-6pm, Thu 10am-8pm. Admission: €8,50-12. www.internationales-maritimes-museum.de
HafenCity is set to continue growing through the early 2020s. Although the master plan is complete, the construction workers are only just moving in. A stroll through the still wasteland or industrial areas of the eastern section gives you an idea of how the completed western section of HafenCity looked just a decade ago.
HafenCity information center, Kesselhaus:
Brochures, construction plans, scale models: Kesselhaus, the warehouse district’s former boiler house, today houses the HafenCity InfoCenter, where visitors can get all the background information on Hamburg’s new neighborhood plus coffee and cake. Tours - often free of charge - providing on-the-spot, in-depth information about the HafenCity project start regularly from the information center.
Information center at Kesselhaus: Am Sandtorkai 30, +49-(0)40/36 90 17 99. Opening times: Tue-Sun 10am-6pm, May-Sep Thu10am-8pm.
Pictures: Elbe & Flut/ Herzog & de Meuron/ D Reipka/ T. Kraus/ Hafencity Hamburg GmbH