10 things you might not know about Hamburg (even if you live there)

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Lucinda Watts - [email protected]
10 things you might not know about Hamburg (even if you live there)
Photo: DPA

Germany's second largest city is famous for being a centre for industry, music and media, but here are some things you might not know about Hamburg, even if you live there.


1. Every ship receives a special greeting when it comes into port

The Willkomm-Höft. Photo: DPA

Downriver from Hamburg lies the “Willkomm-Höft” or “welcome point” which welcomes and says goodbye to every ship coming in and out of Hamburg harbour. Each ship is welcomed with the national anthem of the country it is registered to and bid farewell on its return journey by dipping the Hamburg flag and hoisting the international flag signal for “bon voyage”. The captains at the point, known as "greetings-captains", have over 150 national anthems to welcome ships from all over the world.

2. It has the most bridges of any city in the world

Lombardsbrücke. Photo: DPA

When it comes to cities with lots of bridges, places like Venice and Amsterdam spring to mind, but surprisingly, Hamburg takes the top spot. The city has well over 2,500 bridges, which is more than Amsterdam and Venice combined. These bridges range from road and railway bridges to bridges across the Elbe and the city’s many canals.

3. The first modern zoo was founded here

Claus Hagenbeck, a descendant of Carl Hagenbeck Jr. at the Hagenbeck Zoo. Photo: DPA

In 1907 Carl Hagenbeck Jr. took a big step for animal welfare by founding Tierpark Hagenbeck. This zoo much more closely resembled the architecture of zoos we visit nowadays, where animals are kept in large open enclosures separated from the public by moats. At the time zoo animals were generally kept in small cages to allow visitors to get up close and personal, but this was eventually agreed to be cruel and the trend changed to favour a more natural environment for the animals.

4.There’s still a street that’s barred to women unless they’re prostitutes

Herbertstraße. Photo: Wikipedia

Herbertstraße in the red light district is not a good place to be for women unless you're of a certain profession. A popular stag night destination and hub for prostitution, women have been known to be chased away by prostitutes if they dare to venture into this notorious part of town. Not surprising given that Hamburg has one of the largest red light districts in the world, surpassing even Amsterdam.

5. The Beatles actually began their music career in Hamburg

Statues at Beatlesplatz. Photo: DPA

Contrary to popular belief, the Beatles got their start in Hamburg and not Liverpool. The iconic band played an estimated 273 shows in the city from 1960-1962 where they honed their skills and developed their distinctive sound which helped them achieve their iconic status. John Lennon reportedly even said “I might have been born in Liverpool - but I grew up in Hamburg”.

6. Hamburg has the oldest Opera House in Germany

A ballet performed in the Staatsoper Hamburg in 2013. Photo: DPA.

Hamburg's first State Opera House opened in 1678 and continues to be used today, making it Germany's oldest opera house. Over the years it has hosted classical artists such as George Frederick Handel and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and modern day artists such as Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo.

The Japanese garden in Planten un Blomen park. Photo: Travelling Europe

Right in the heart of Planten un Blomen park sits the biggest Japanese garden in Europe. It was completed in 1990 by the Japanese landscape designer Yoshikuni Araki and features a traditional tea house sitting on the edge of a small lake filled with koi fish.

8. Hamburg’s Rathaus has over 640 rooms

The Hamburg Rathaus. Photo: Wikipedia

The grand Town Hall building was designed to show off the wealth and prosperity of the port city and does not disappoint when it comes to rooms. The 112m tall building has a floor space of around 7800qm which contains a whopping 647 rooms. There is, however, a common misconception that the Rathaus has more rooms than Buckingham Palace. Sadly this is not the case as the British palace beats the Rathaus' total by over 100.

9. Hamburg is home to the world’s largest mini railway

Miniatur Wunderland. Photo: DPA

In 2000, twin brothers Frederik and Gerrit Braun set about making their dream of creating the largest miniature railway in the world a reality. One year later, Miniatur Wunderland opened its doors. Miniatur Wunderland has over 50,000 feet of train track, more than 1,000 trains fitted and even a miniature airport which simulates take offs and landings with model airplanes. The brothers are always expanding and consistently break their own Guinness World Records.

10. Inflatable armbands were invented in Hamburg

Boy with armbands. Photo: DPA

In 1956 Bernhard Markwitz came up with the idea of inflatable arm bands after his daughter fell into a fish pond in their garden. He wanted people to enjoy water rather than see it as dangerous and so set out to create a device to help young children learn to swim. In 1964 he presented his daughter with his float design and she called the armbands angel wings, leading to their German name “Schwimmflügel”, meaning “swimming wings”.


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