As you may have realised by now, Amy and I quite like travelling, so naturally we had flown countless times before. This time, things were a little different. Even the usual misery that is flying via Luton airport – our departure point this time around – felt somehow less arduous than before. Maybe it was the knowledge that for the second time in our travelling lives, we were getting a one way flight. We’d eventually, reluctantly returned last time though. No, this was something more – we were moving to Hamburg, somewhere we utterly adore and which is very definitely our favourite German city.
We were also technically homeless, although as we hastily repacked in the airport’s check in area to comply with the ironically named ‘Easy’jet’s draconian baggage regulations, this wasn’t really a thought that entered either of our heads. The obvious nerves associated with uprooting your entire life and shifting it to another country aside, to say we were excited would be a colossal understatement.
Why were we so excited? Well, we were both realising a long held dream; to move abroad from the UK after the idea of it dominating both of our thoughts for literally years. Germany was always our goal, and we were finally moving there. But not just anywhere – Hamburg, a place we had both fallen in love with in a spectacular way when we’d visited a mere 10 weeks earlier. It had been something of a whirlwind romance, sure, but when you know, you know.
Why is Hamburg our favourite German city?
The answer here is a simple one. For us, Hamburg represents everything we have ever wanted in a home. It’s also probably the second best German city for expats after Berlin, although for us that isn’t all that important.
Moving to Hamburg was hard, but is the biggest achievement of our lives so far. It’s a truly cosmopolitan city that’s both bursting with life and tranquil at the same time and in equal measures, with a seemingly endless supply of beautiful buildings, culture, art and great people. There are incredible places to eat everywhere you turn, and it’s packed with great routes to walk on or cycle along. Or if something less strenuous suits you better, you’re not stuck for places to while away a lazy Sunday afternoon with a cup of coffee.
A walk around any of the Hamburg’s main areas reveals the true diversity and sheer scale of the city. There’s the unapologetic urban cool of St Georg or Sternschanze, the materialistic chaos that is Mönckebergstrasse (the main shopping area) or the neon-drenched sensory overload of St Pauli, specifically the Reeperbahn, and much more besides. What unifies each and every street, park and neighbourhood though is simply that Hamburg is an achingly beautiful place.
Faceless corporate offices mingle seamlessly with explosions of colourful graffiti in the urban leftist communes around Karoviertel and Gängeviertel, and a three minute walk away is an enormous area (known as Heiligengeistfeld or ‘Holy Ghost Field’ in English) that four times a year hosts the Hamburger DOM; the largest fair in Europe.
Sound like chaos? No problem. Pay a visit to the city’s gardens, Planten un Blomen, or plonked right in the centre of the city is the breathtaking Alster, an enormous man-made lake perfect for a lazy Sunday saunter to one of several lakeside cafes, where you can grab a beverage of your choice and watch the sun set over Hamburg’s stunning skyline.
Moving to Hamburg was stressful, but life here isn’t
Even during our morning commutes, the pace of life here rarely climbs beyond relaxed. Stress is something rarely experienced; a far cry from our time in London, where a 9am lecture seemed a lifetime away and a trip through Bank station became a palpitation-inducing experience. Unlike where we’re from, things just seem to work here, too. Even the public transport here is superb, reasonably priced and – crucially – reliable, with the occasional exception of the S Bahn, which seems to put itself on random when it’s in the mood when venturing further west of Altona. Which you will want to do, if just to check out Treppenviertel in Blankenese; it’s a gorgeous place, particularly on a summer’s day.
If you’ll excuse the cliché, Hamburg really does have something for everybody. The list of things to do in Hamburg just keeps going and going, and we’re never, ever bored.
Art lover? Head to the Museum Mile near the Hauptbahnhof. Then get yourself over to the Rathaus for a look at one of the cities’ most beautiful, awe inspiring buildings. They don’t have town halls like it in England, that’s for sure.
Like loud music? The Reeperbahn is the place to go; there are plenty of places that have live music on every single night. Hungry? You can’t go more than 30 feet without encountering a kebab shop (these come with the added bonus that they’re actually edible here, not to mention reasonably healthy), bakery or coffee shop. Love exploring independent boutiques? Head to Sternschanze, there are hundreds of them. It’s paradise for music lovers too as the city is peppered with independent record shops. Afterwards, go and grab a bite to eat at one of the area’s countless eateries that cater for every conceivable palete.
I could go on, but I think you can probably understand why we now live here. If you have never visited, we definitely recommend a trip.
All images © Two Wild Wanderers