HafenCity, Europe’s most extensive inner city development project, has refocused attention on waterfront life in Germany’s second-biggest city and largest port: Hamburg. A significant section of this ongoing development has already been completed, with new buildings springing up beside converted warehouses. It will eventually increase central Hamburg by 40%, providing thousands of new homes and offices and enlarging the attractions and performance spaces in a city that already has one of Europe’s most comprehensive cultural programs.
The International Maritime Museum is a flagship development, housed in a 10-storey building which was previously the city’s oldest warehouse. This is the ideal place to understand the huge harbor and long seafaring tradition that define Hamburg, with themed exhibits covering everything from the spice trade to pirates. An oyster bar with seating right over the water offers a more literal taste of the sea.
The prosperity, openness and sophistication that shipping and trading have brought are symbolized in the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall taking shape at the other end of HafenCity. It juts out in the harbor like the prow of a ship, its soaring sails piggy-backing another converted warehouse. It won’t be finished until at least 2012, but a series of open air concerts in the building site in September offered a taste of things to come.
Between these two points, the model waterfront development of HafenCity is a rewarding destination in itself, with atmospheric reminders of the city’s past, impressive contemporary architecture and an ever-expanding roster of shopping and dining opportunities.