Hamburg’s Harbor

By Viator, April 2014

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More than anything else, the harbor has shaped Hamburg into the city it is today. Although port facilities in Hamburg can be traced back as far as the 9th century, the port's official birth was in 1189. This is when Emperor Frederick Barbarossa granted market rights to the town and customs-free travel along the Elbe River. Hamburg joined the Hanseatic League, a medieval trade association, in 1321 and became an important link between cities on the Baltic and North Seas. Centuries later Hamburg is still proud of its Hanseatic heritage. The official name of the city is Hansestadt Hamburg.

Today you can explore the harbor's history in many ways. Several boats offer tours of the harbor and the various canals. You can find them by going to Landungsbrücken, which is the pier. Even if you're not interested in taking a boat tour, the pier offers plenty of restaurants and cafes where you can watch the ships and enjoy fresh seafood.

Moored at the pier you will also find the ship museum Rickmer Rickmers. It was one of the last cargo sailing ships, and it was once used to transport goods to East Asia and other parts of Europe. Today you can explore the ship and learn about life at sea.

Due to the size and importance of the Port of Hamburg, in the late 1800s a huge warehouse complex called Speicherstadt was built. Even today it remains the largest single warehouse complex in the world. Wander through the cobblestone streets and over bridges that cross the canals or take a boat trip through the canals. Some of the buildings now house museums.

Another way to learn about the history and importance of the harbor is to visit the International Maritime Museum. It is said to be the world's largest private collection of maritime items, including 26,000 model ships, 1.5 million photographs, and much more.

Although shipping is the main focus of the harbor, easy access to the sea also means you will find lots of fresh seafood in Hamburg. Spend an early Sunday morning at the famous fish market where you can get fish straight off the boat or just watch the activity going on around you.

No matter how you choose to explore the harbor, it's an important part of experiencing Hamburg and its history.

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