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Hamburg with children
Grown-ups love city breaks – a little culture, some history and, naturally, lots of of shopping and going out for delicious meals. Children see this slightly differently. They would rather not visit art museums nor walk the length of shopping streets and definitely not remain sitting quietly in fine dining restaurants. Therefore, those who are dreaming of a city break where the whole family will have a good time should absolutely go to Hamburg. This is because, in this Hanseatic city, there are all kinds of experiences to be had that grown-ups and children can enjoy in equal measure.
The starting point for any Hamburg trip is the MEININGER Hotel in Altona. Here, not only is a family-friendly stay a top priority but some of the loveliest spots in Hamburg are right on the hotel’s doorstep, too. Moreover, from here on public transport, you’ll also be able to get to the city’s other exciting areas in next to no time.
Altona is an incredibly vibrant and colorful district. A lot of families with children live in the small neighbourhood of Ottensen, in particular. Consequently, here, families will be able to find everything that they could wish for: many playgrounds, children’s shops (such as, for example, Vergissmeinnicht or Doppelpünktchen, (both stock enchanting children’s clothes and cute toys) and ice cream parlours (Mmhh: Eiscafé Schmidt or Eisliebe – the best ice cream shop around that, among other things, has exciting and varying flavours such as rice pudding, pine or liquorice).
Added to this, there are plenty of cafés, restaurants and small boutiques. Here, you’ll also be able to stock up on everything that you need to take along with you for your days out in Hamburg. You can get the most delectable croissants at Die Pâtisserie, the daintiest cupcakes at Liebes Bisschen the loveliest sweets – with a view of the sweet making kitchen where the little delicacies are made directly in-store – in the Bonscheladen. When you’ve got everything that you need then you can set off.
In a few minutes walk from the hotel you can get to the Altonaer Balkon (The Altona Balcony). While you enjoy the impressive view over the Elbe, the harbour and the Köhlbrand Bridge, the children will be able to explore the playground that is located here. Then off you go down to the Elbe. If you keep going in a westerly direction, first of all, you’ll come past a row of pretty restaurants with stunning summer terraces and then you’ll be standing on the Elbstrand (Elbe Beach) – Hamburg’s biggest sand pit. If you now walk a little further along the water then you’ll come to the Strandperle. This little snack bar actually only comprises a serving station and a terrace. Nevertheless, for decades it has enjoyed cult status and, when the weather is good, the beach here attracts a strikingly high number of visitors all year round. By now, at the latest, that holiday feeling will arise. With your feet on the sand and, depending on the season, a cold or a warming drink in your hands. Mummy and Daddy can enjoy a view of the Elbe and the passing ships while the younger generation digs in the sand. Those wanting to know more about the enormous container ships that enter the Port of Hamburg, on the opposite side from this perspective, can download an app, such as “Marine Traffic“, on to their smartphones. This will allow you to retrieve information very quickly on all matters relating to the ships.
Discover Hamburg aboard a ship
Those who’ve been watching so many ships will also want to set sail themselves at some point. That’s not a problem because, in Hamburg, there are harbour ferries, which form part of the public transport service, that for a low price allow you to float along the Elbe. The next stop is really close to where you are now. To get there, simply walk back to the “Neumühlen“ ferry dock. Ferry number 61 or 62 goes to the floating dock (called the “Landungsbrücken”). Naturally, you’ll take a seat on the open upper deck from where you’ll have the best view… …of the riverbank, of the dry docks of the Blohm + Voss shipyard – where perhaps just then there’ll be a large cruise ship in for repairs – and of the sides of the big ships that sometimes chug past thrillingly close to the ferries. Once you arrive at the “Landungsbrücken” you then have a choice. If the children have found their sea legs then you could set off on one of the many harbour tours, which start directly from here and are offered by various operators. We recommend that you select a small launch and that way you’ll also be able to see the narrow canals of the harbour and the historical warehouse district (“Speicherstadt”).
Those who do not wish to immerse themselves further in the harbour should board ferry number 72 towards the Elbphilharmonie.
HafenCity (Harbour City)
Your boat trip will end right in front of the Elbphilharmonie – Hamburg’s new concert hall and landmark. A visit to the viewing platform, the plaza, will be fun for the children, too. To get you up there is Europe’s longest escalator. Once you arrive at the top you’ll have a breathtaking all-round view of the city and the harbour from 37 metres high up in the air. It’s best to pre-order tickets online, otherwise you can expect long waiting times (booking fee of Euro 2 per ticket).
From the Elbphilharmonie it’s just a stone’s throw to Hamburg’s prettiest playground, the “Schatzinsel” in the Grasbrook Park. The way there takes you through a part of the HafenCity, Hamburg’s newest district. The planning for this was done on a drawing board and this district is often criticised for being sterile. Nevertheless, it provides exciting architecture and unbeatable proximity to the water and, of course, the “Schatzinsel” (treasure island). At the weekends, Hamburg’s residents have been known to travel from the other end of the city to get here. The highlights of this playground are the large pirate ship that can be climbed from top to bottom, the artificial palms and, naturally, a mud play area. In this case, at the latest, it would be worthwhile having a change of trousers/ mud playing trousers with you for the little ones. While the children climb and throw mud, the parents can sit down on a picnic bench and secretly try the sweets that they purchased in the “Bonscheladen”.
The world in miniature
Once the children have let off steam you can go on to the next programme point. Undoubtedly, someone or other will now whine: “I can’t go on any longer. I’m not taking another step.” However, the prospect of what’s to come should pep up any children who are flagging and will also be great fun for grown-ups – the Miniaturwunderland is the largest miniature railway in the world. With great attention to detail, the makers created a magnificent setting – spanning the Swiss mountains, going across Italy and right up to an airport – where there is a vast number of trains, vehicles, buildings and people waiting to be discovered. In many places it is possible to set the figures in motion by pressing a button. At the chocolate factory (“Schokoladenfabrik“) you’ll even be rewarded with a mini bar of chocolate. In the Miniaturwunderland night falls at regular intervals so that the many small lights sparkle more brilliantly and the numerous blue lights flash even more charmingly for all the little friends of the police and the fire brigade.
Eating out as if you were in Italy
All that’s missing now to round off your day perfectly is a delicious dinner. Dining out with small children is indeed a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you don’t have to cook for yourself and you can indulge in delectable dishes. On the other hand, you could feel stressed because the children are too loud, make too much of a mess, overturn glasses and, you assume, generally get on the nerves of all the other people there. However, relaxation beckons when your hosts can credibly convey to you that children are very welcome, too – as is the case at the Italian Restaurant Vito in Hamburg-Ottensen. Here, children are so obviously included and so warmly welcomed by the friendly staff that you feel you’re at the home of an Italian family. The menu with pizza, pasta, carne and pesce is very Italian and molto yummy. Smaller portions for the children are readily available and special requests are gladly accepted, too. In summer you can sit outside in the very lovely forecourt and, over a glass of wine, recall your wonderful day while, as an exception, the children eat their third ice-cream of the day.
Rain, rain, rain
Some mischievous people maintain that it always rains in Hamburg. The weather people have indeed confirmed that, in the loveliest city in the world, water does comes down from above comparatively frequently, although Hamburg’s residents don’t like to admit this. In any case, it doesn’t matter because even if the weather is lousy this Hanseatic city has plenty on offer for families.
Starting with the Altonaer Museum, which is close to the hotel. Once you’ve looked through the maritime collection with its faithfully reconstructed model ships and dioramas, giant anchors and figureheads you should head to the top floor which is completely dedicated to the smallest visitors. Here awaiting you are a large ship climbing frame, distorting mirrors, shadow shows and changing exhibitions suitable for children.
Furthermore, for all water rats we recommend the Festland swimming pool, known as the “Dino pool”, which is also in Altona. The extensive children’s area is populated with numerous dinosaurs and there are also grottos, slides and, to the delight of all the little visitors, now and then water repeatedly comes down from above.
Those who like fauna should not miss the tropical aquarium in the Hagenbeck zoo. More than 14,000 mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects Iive in this spacious roofed enclosure. The design of the individual areas is very authentic and, frequently, allows you to get incredibly close to the animals. The absolute highlight is the enormous aquarium with a panorama viewing panel behind which sharks, rays and groupers cavort. The zoo next to the aquarium, with its pretty park and numerous animals is also worth visiting. Thanks to the many roofed enclosures and compounds even a downpour could not spoil an excursion here.