Germany’s Largest and Most Northern Cities Each Offer Distinct Urban Feel, Summer Festivals, Relaxing Outdoor Spaces, and Great Dining.
Only ninety minutes apart by high-speed train, Hamburg and Berlin can conveniently be combined in one trip. With their distinctly different yet complementing identities they make for a perfect city pair for anyone looking for unique urban summer experiences.
Whereas creative and energetic Berlin is defined by its recent history and the opportunities of reunification, Hamburg is more established, with classy maritime flair, and the internationality of a city whose livelihood has for centuries been connected with sea commerce.
In late summer Hamburg and Berlin are at their best: the crowds are smaller, the temperatures are perfect and the to-do list is long.
Here are some top reasons to visit Hamburg and Berlin this summer:
Green, Cool and on Water’s Edge
Every Hamburg experience includes a harbor cruise past docks, tug boats, ocean liners and the world’s largest historic warehouse district. Harbor City, Hamburg’s newest development area is extending the maritime experience at this former dock area turned urban hotspot. The pristine inner city Alster lake is the epicenter of outdoor summer activity, such as strolling along its banks, or renting a paddle- or small sail boat.
In 2011, the European Commission awarded it the title of European Green Capital.
Berlin has over 100 miles of waterways and can comfortably be explored by boat. Tours cruise past sights such as Museum Island and the Reichstag, or take you to the outer city lakes. Berlin is a leader in alternative energy development and Germany’s greenest city – 27 percent of its area consist of parks and woods. In 2010, the 600+ acre expanse of Tempelhof airport was converted into a public space with large meadows where kite surfing and skating on the former runways is now all the rage.
Special “Creative Sustainability” and “Green Design” tours show guests everything from eco-hip markets, to green art, and urban gardens. (GoArt Berlin, ID22).
Hamburg and Berlin each boast more bridges than Venice. In the summer, locals catch rays along the cities’ rivers and lakes. Urban beaches are hugely popular in both metropolises; they are ideal places to soak in the local vibe on long summer evenings.
The most popular beach bars in Hamburg are Strand Pauli and the eclectic Strandperle Elbe beach. In Berlin, the Strandbar Mitte and the ultra-trendy Arena Badeschiff are the places to be.
Join the Party: Late Summer Festivals
Late summer events are plentiful in both Berlin and Hamburg. A late-summer selection are:
Alster Amusement “Alstervergnügen”
The Alster-Vergnügen festival has been a Hamburg summer highlight for over 30 years. The four-day inner city event features water/air/land acrobatics, concerts, gourmet stands as well as romantic moon-lit nights and fireworks on the Alster lake (September 1-4).
The annual Reeperbahn Festival is a must for music fans. After all, Hamburg is the city where the Beatles were discovered. Featuring new and established names of popular music, the festival’s impressive line-up is complemented by exhibitions, street art events, and screenings. (September 22-24).
15th Berlin International Beer Festival
Prost! During the 155h annual Berlin International Beer Festival, Karl-Marx-Allee will turn into the world’s longest beer garden and bar, with 300 breweries from 86 countries and some 2,000 brands of the world’s finest brews (August 5-7).
6th Berlin Festival
Around 15,000 music fans are expected to attend two days of live music at the historic Tempelhof Airport. The 2011 line-up of this unique urban rock event will be posted soon at (September 9/10, Berlin Festival).
New Restaurants, Regional Cuisine and Signature Drinks
Berlin and Hamburg are the two German cities with the most Michelin Stars. Culinary experiences are often a modern and creative interpretation of traditional recipes.
Close to two oceans, Hamburg is the city of seafood, and dishes range from a traditional on-the-go Matjes Herring (salt mild herring) sandwich to Asian-inspired haute cuisine.
Fresh seafood and classical northern German dishes are served at Fischereihafen Restaurant. Much talked-about new restaurants are Goldene Gans featuring an outstanding veal with plums and the city’s best chocolate soufflé, and Vier Rosen, where former punk musician turned chef Marcus Schröpfer serves Francophile delicacies.
Berlin’s cuisine is redefining itself just like the rest of the city. Organic farms in the surrounding Brandenburg region supply meats, traditional herbs, and fresh seasonal produce. Berlin is currently experiencing a comeback of traditional German fare, often with a Mediterranean or Asian twist. At the new – and immediately star-rated –Tim Raue, chef Raue serves Asian inspired dishes that provide energy and vitality . Also new and known for high quality homemade dishes are Chipps No 1 and No 2. The famous Curry Wurst and the Turkish Doener are the pillars of Berlin’s street food scene.
Both Hamburg and Berlin serve their own unique summer beer drink: the Alster Wasser (a mix of blond beer and lemon soda) and the Berliner Weisse (special beer with a shot of raspberry or woodruff syrup).
One of a Kind Markets
Hamburg’s Fish Market is well worth getting up for before 5 am on a Sunday morning. Dating back to 1703, Hamburg’s oldest, most traditional open-air market sells all items imaginable. If that’s not enough to wake you up, breakfast and live music will do the trick.
In Berlin, the flea market Trödelmarkt Boxhagener Platz is one the most popular of the city’s roughly 50 flea markets. Some 100 booths sell anything from old records to porcelain, second-hand fashion to antiques and furniture. (Boxhagener Platz 1, Sundays 10 am to 6 pm).
Train tickets between Hamburg and Berlin can be booked online. Check for specials. For local transportation, the Berlin Welcome Card and Hamburg Card offer free public transportation and discounts. Visitor information, events, packages, and bookings at visitBerlin and Hamburg Tourismus.
Source: German National Tourist Office – www.cometogermany.com