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Living in the south of Germany, Hamburg is nearly as far away as Italy for us. But it is definitely worth a trip, because Hamburg has so much to offer that you could easily spend an entire summer holiday there.
We (2 adults, 2 boys aged 12 and 15) were in Hamburg in winter at the MEININGER Hotel Hamburg City Center and saw and experienced many different things as a family. Here are our personal tips for Hamburg:
Many people are sure to be familiar with the Miniaturwunderland from television. But standing amidst the enormous set-up itself is a very different thing altogether. There is so much to see and marvel at, you could easily spend the whole day here.
Our personal tip: Book a tour behind the scenes. The guides tell you lots of facts and interesting details and you see things that you would not otherwise have seen. For example, you can meet staff members who steer the ships along the waterways, see how the numerous trucks are charged with environmentally-friendly electricity and admire the staging yards. This is where the trains stand to cool down before being placed back onto the set. It is also possible to take a look at the airport technology and you can even meet two nuns at the edge of the world.
Even without a tour, strolling through the various countries and regions at different times of day is highly recommended. The numerous tiny details are as remarkable as the scale models of familiar buildings and structures. And how many people can claim to have seen the Elbphilharmonie from the inside?
It is a good idea to order tickets in advance and starting your visit and tour early in the morning means that you do not have to stand at the back of the displays and wait for the chance to move up to the front. We also thought it was great that you could see so many things moving and that you were constantly discovering new features. Another important aspect for families: the restaurant area is spacious and really good value for money! Our favourite: Currywurst!
A visit to the Chocoversum is essential for all chocoholics. The informative, entertaining tour through the premises of chocolate producer Hachez is sweetened by the opportunity to make your own chocolate and taste numerous creations. For example, we found out what cocoa beans straight from the tree taste like (not recommended) and how they are gradually transformed into deliciously tender chocolate. We really liked the fact that you could taste everything and we could finally visualise the difference between milk chocolate and white chocolate. The sweetest scales in the world are also located here, where else is weight measured in chocolate bars?
U-Boot 434 museum
Whilst the big museum ships Rickmer Rickmers and Cap San Diego are visible from afar, U-Boot 434 can only be distinguished at second glance on an overcast day. Big and grey, it sits at its berth at the St. Pauli fish market, displaying the technology of the not-so-distant past.
A spy submarine, U-434 (Russian designation B-515) was employed on special tasks, secret espionage missions off the east coast of the USA and long patrols through the sovereign waters of the Soviet Union. The submarine was in service for 26 years and a glimpse of life on board such a vessel is highly interesting. Anyone who has seen the film “Das Boot” can experience firsthand just how cramped and rudimentary it was. Life was certainly not easy and we were glad to be breathing fresh air again.
Visitors with an interest in history should not miss this opportunity to take an excursion into the world of customs and taxes. At the Deutsches Zollmuseum in the Speicherstadt we learned how taxation used to work in the past, what customs officers had to learn and how smugglers’ hiding places were discovered using unconventional methods. For example, women had to jump repeatedly from a stool, as the male customers officers were not permitted to do body searches. So anyone carrying their smuggled goods loosely under their coat was out of luck.
We found the exhibition on “counterfeits and the import of protected items” highly informative and our questions were answered in great detail.
St. Michaelis and Kramer-Witwen-Wohnung (Grocers’ Apartments)
Along with a trip around the harbour, a stroll along the Alster and other attractions, a visit to the top of the Michel is an absolute must. St. Michaelis, known locally as Michel, offers fantastic panoramic views across the city and its port. But it is not just at the top that the church is interesting. The interior is also well worth a visit, with the crypt offering numerous interesting background details on the varying fortunes of the church.
Nearby are the Kramer-Witwen-Wohnung, and as we were there at the weekend we had the opportunity to see the little museum in the last remaining 17th century housing unit once typical of Hamburg. This insight into the lives of the widows of the members of the grocers’ association was highly informative.
Whilst spur-of-the-moment visits to the above attractions are possible, our last tip can only be booked in advance:
The Fluchtweg Hamburg (escape route Hamburg) team offers two so-called live escape games: after a brief welcome we find ourselves locked inside a room. According to the game, this belongs to a decrepit gambling den, where we have lost heavily. Anyone caught cheating can expect a punishment and our task is to free ourselves from the room within 60 minutes, after which the building above us will be demolished.
Solving the riddles and combining the clues was very enjoyable and we recommend everyone to try this. All family members were able to apply their own personal strengths: whilst the boys were better at solving the riddles, I was more successful at discovering clues.
So-called exit games can be found in many towns and can also be easily combined with a stay at a MEININGER HOTEL.
And how do you get to all of the museums?
The best thing is to buy a Hamburg Card. This is valid for all public transport in Hamburg (including the harbour ferries) and also offers a discount for many attractions. We bought the tickets from the reception desk at the Meininger Hotel. The reception also offered personal tips and information material for these and many other sights, museums, theatres etc.