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Although Berlin is Germany's official capital, the city of Hamburg considers itself "the gateway to the world." It's a bold claim, but one befitting the confidence of Germany's second-largest city and one of the world's largest ports. This seaport infuses Hamburg with a maritime spirit and multicultural attitude that shouldn’t be missed by seasoned travelers or casual vacationers.
All of Hamburg's seven boroughs have their own personality. The city's heart is Mitte, a region home to Hamburg's business district and bustling shopping strip. Mitte is also Hamburg's cultural center, with theaters, museums, and opera halls. Hamburg's steamier side is celebrated in Mitte's red-light district.
Hipsters tend to give Mitte a wide berth, though, and instead they head to trendy Altona, in Hamburg's northwest. It boasts cooler-than-cool restaurants, fashion retailers, and nightspots, as well as the ritzy riverside Blankenese.
Art nouveau architecture, hip eateries, and trendy boutiques all characterize Eimsbüttel. Much of Nord has a similar feel, although other parts feature newer apartment complexes built in the wake of World War II. There are more apartments in Wandsbek's center, although these give way to smaller, single-family homes at its northern outskirts.
Finally, there are the smallest boroughs of Harburg and Bergedorf. These have industrial areas close to the river Elbe and quieter residential dwellings away from the water's edge. Wilhemsburg, in Harburg, is also tipped to be Hamburg's next haven’t-you-heard destination. Hamburg's historic harbor is both a functional seaport and tourist hotspot. The 800-year-old waterfront is a beautiful spot for strolling, taking boat tours, or enjoying dinner.
Next to the harbor, you'll find Hamburg's historic warehouse district, the world's largest warehouse complex. Stalls selling textiles like silks and oriental carpets are ideal for souvenir hunters. When night falls, light projections make the district feel magical.
Gentlemen's clubs and saucy museums sit alongside happening bars and restaurants in Hamburg's legendary red-light district, The Reeperbahn. The Beatles famously resided here at the beginning of their careers, and Hamburg's club scene was a launchpad for the band's subsequent success.
Hamburg's cultural side is on show at Hamburger Kunsthalle, three architectural marvels housing Germany's most impressive art collection. Works from masters like Rembrandt, Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, and Edvard Munch are all represented.
Hamburg's central location and reputation as a seaport combine to endow the city's cuisine with a distinctly multicultural vibe. Global influences evidence themselves in Michelin starred restaurants that represent regional flavors from France and Asia to the Middle East.
Hamburg's central location sees it experiencing all four seasons without any great weather extremes, especially during fall and spring. Summers are generally comfortable, with average temperatures hovering around the high 70s and low 80s. However, locals know they should always bring a poncho and sweater with them as summer days can be unpredictable. Winter temperatures generally stay around freezing, but they rarely dip too far below 0.
The warm weather between May and September is the most pleasant for exploring Hamburg. The conditions are perfect for celebrating, so it's unsurprising to note Hamburg is busiest during this time. Locals and guests ring in the harbor's birthday with Hafengeburtstag in early May, Schlemmersommer, or Gourmet Summer, from June to August, and the annual Alstervergnügen festival in August or September. The sunny weather and celebrations also bring an influx of travelers. But if you're looking for bargain flights and other deals, you're probably best braving the brisker weather of fall.
Hamburg might be the gateway to the world, but spend some time in this lovely German city and you might find yourself wanting to see more of Hamburg and less of what lies beyond.