Hamburg is a city without sights. Or should I write, “sights,” for there’s a lot to see in Germany’s bustling second-biggest city. There just aren’t a lot of landmarks for the tourist. Which makes it simultaneously challenging and rewarding: while there’s a lot to do in this fun and liberal city, from great museums and fabulous dining to strolls along the many bodies of water that run through town, there isn’t a conveniently charming old town, a castle from which to anchor your ramblings, or a series of world-heritage monuments for your “must do” list.
Instead, you get this sort of crescent with the two gayest areas, St. Georg and St. Pauli, at either tip, and a lot of amazement in-between. Just start walking: there are about a million fascinating streets to stroll down, lined with the galleries and boutiques by young designers, fabulous restaurants, and, most importantly, a sense of life, an open-mindedness and welcoming air that comes from being a great shipping city and always open to the world. A member of the Hanseatic League of merchants, Hamburg was always in a position to thrive. It’s a wealthy city, and this is reflected in its lifestyle, devoted to enjoyment. It’s also one of Europe’s greenest cities, and the River Elbe and Alster Lake add to its livability. It’s the same size as Singapore but has one-third the population. It has the same number of people as Vienna, but twice the area. You get the point.