Hamburg, Germany

Living in Hamburg

Iyna Bort Caruso

Hamburg is a harborpolis that sits on the river Elbe at its confluence with the Alster and Bille. The city is defined by it maritime history.  

It was part of the Hanseatic League, a powerful association of northern European strongholds that dominated commercial trade in the North and Baltic seas centuries ago. Today, Germany’s second largest city is one of Europe’s largest ports.

Hamburg is also an affluent city, the business hub for finance, publishing, media and high tech sectors as well as a cultural nexus for art and music. This is the birthplace of Johannes Brahms and the launching pad for the Beatles.

It’s a city that spans rather than soars. There are few skyscrapers but more bridges than Venice. Some 2,400 bridges cross Hamburg’s rivers and canals.

At the heart is Hamburg-Mitt, one of seven boroughs that make up the city. It is Hamburg’s busiest area and commercial center, dense with museums, historic buildings and pedestrian squares. Altona is the city’s westernmost borough. Within its borders, 19th century factories have been converted into hotels, offices and theaters. The Altona quarter of Ottensen by the river Elbe is a former Danish village which has transformed into an in-demand neighborhood for the well-heeled. Blankenese is another prestigious area of impressive mansions, many with river views.

Hamburg has a sizable expat community with international buyers hailing from the U.S., Britain, France and Japan. The streets feature an eclectic mix of architecture, incorporating Art Nouveau mansions of stone and marble, neoclassical villas and stately residences along riverfront thoroughfares that ooze charm. Hamburg is noted for its fine Brick Expressionism, an architectural movement from the 1920s and ‘30s that integrated the distinct dark red bricks of North Germany into its facades. The Chilehaus is an example, an office building designed to be reminiscent of a passenger ship. It was completed in 1924 by architect Fritz Höger and is one of Hamburg’s most distinguished landmarks.

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