Lay of the Land
Hamburg is a river town with a center that's crisscrossed by canals. In addition to the River Elbe, which includes a massive port complex, there's also Lake Alster (broken into northern and southern parts), located smack in the middle of town. The Neustadt (New Town), is on the western side of the canals that connect Lake Alster with the Elbe River, and the Altstadt (Old Town) is to the east. Most sights, shopping, and nightlife are concentrated in the city's central and southern regions, including the Jungfernstieg along southern Lake Alster. The St. Pauli district, including the Reeperbahn, is on the Neustadt riverfront; the Schanze district, north of St. Pauli, is home to much of Hamburg's new dining and nightlife.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit Hamburg is in late spring or early summer, when flowers are in bloom and the weather can be surprisingly mild.
HOW TO GET THERE
The nearest airport is Hamburg, which is five miles north of the city (49-40-507-50; www.ham.airport.de). Continental flies direct from Newark (800-231-0856; www.continental.com), while Emirates offers a direct service from JFK (800-777-3999; www.emirates.com). Lübeck airport is 34 miles northeast of Hamburg and is a good alternative if you’re planning to connect in another European city (49-45-158-301-0; www.flughafen-luebeck.de).
Hamburg airport is linked by a regular express bus to the S-Bahn (railway) and U-Bahn (subway) station of Ohlsdorf. The main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, is near Lake Alster and is close to most sights. Hamburger Verkehrsverbund (HVV) is responsible for most public transport (49-40-194-49; www.hvv.de).
The following car hire companies have desks at Hamburg Airport: Hertz (49-40-593-513-67 or 800-654-3001; www.hertz.com); Sixt (49-180-52-525-25; www.e-sixt.com); and Avis (49-40-507-523-14; www.avis.com).
The small office at the Hauptbahnhof's Kirchenallee exit and the branch at St. Pauli Harbor, between piers four and five, are open daily (49-40-300-513-00; www.hamburg-tourism.de). Both offices stock the Hamburger, a free monthly information guide, and both sell the Hamburg Card, which grants free or discounted admission to many museums and free use of public transport.View Germany Factsheet