What You Need To Know
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and the eighth largest city in the European Union. It is the second smallest German state by area. The city is situated on the river Elbe. Hamburg is a transport hub, being the 2nd largest port in Europe, and is an affluent city in Europe. It has become a media and industrial centre, with plants and facilities belonging to Airbus, Blohm + Voss and Aurubis. The city is a notable tourist destination for both domestic and overseas visitors; it ranked 16th in the world for livability in 2015.
Hamburg is connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River. It’s crossed by hundreds of canals, and also contains large areas of parkland. It’s central Jungfernstieg Boulevard connects the Altstadt (old town) and the Neustadt, passing Binnenalster Lake, dotted with boats and surrounded by cafes and restaurants. Oysters and traditional Aalsuppe (soup) are local specialties.
Area: 291.5 mi²
Population: 1.734 million (2013)
Currency of Hamburg. The euro (EUR) replaced the German Deutsche Mark (DEM) in 2002 as with many other European nations. Euros come in denominations of: €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10, and €5. Note. Credit cards are another safe way to carry money. They also provide a convenient record of all your expenses, and they generally offer relatively good exchange rates. You can withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs but high fees make credit card cash advances a pricey way to get cash.
Hamburg has an oceanic climate (Cfb), influenced by its proximity to the coast and marine air masses that originate over the Atlantic Ocean. Nearby wetlands also enjoy a maritime temperate climate. Snowfall differs a lot in the past decades: While in the late 1970s and early 1980s, heavy snowfall occurred, the winters of recent years have been less cold, with snowfall on several days per year.
The warmest months are June, July, and August, with high temperatures of 20.1 to 22.5 °C (68.2 to 72.5 °F). The coldest are December, January, and February, with low temperatures of −0.3 to 1.0 °C (31.5 to 33.8 °F).
Standard German is spoken in Hamburg, but as typical for northern Germany, the original language of Hamburg is Low German, usually referred to as Hamborger Platt (German Hamburger Platt) or Hamborgsch.
Hamburg is generally a safe city. Watch out for pickpockets, especially in the area around the Mönckebergstrasse, Central Station, on the Reeperbahn, in buses and trains, but also on crowded escalators and any other crowded places. If you’re not used to be confronted by prostitutes, beware when walking along Reeperbahn after dark. They sometimes walk in groups and might try to pickpocket you while trying to get away from them.
Strong underwater swirls going down as deep as 10-15 m and even close to the beach may pull the strongest swimmers under water. When relaxing on one of the beaches along the riverside, keep several metres away from the water’s edge and keep an eye on children playing in or near the water. Container ships passing by sometimes create surprisingly large waves that won’t just get your feet wet on the beach, but may also drag you into the Elbe.
Tap water is very clean and you can drink it without any exception, even use it to provide baby food. Hamburg’s hospitals cover all medical indications and operate according to German quality criteria. They are highly specialized in dealing with complex diseases and treatments. Many hospitals boast an excellent reputation, their senior physicians being experts in international demand. Due to the high level of demand, most Hamburg hospitals provide care for international patients.
- Make jokes involving “German” stereotypes. Germany is a diverse place, and many Hamburgers simply don’t relate to Schnitzel-eating, Lederhosen-wearing mountaineers. Feel free to make jokes about Bavarians.
- Run a red traffic light. Whether driving, biking or walking: Red means stop, and it is not okay to ignore the traffic lights. At least mind the children!
- Spit on the ground. This is considered very rude and should be avoided at all times.
- Make noise on Sundays. By German law, Sunday is considered a “Ruhetag” or “quiet day”. The absence of loud disturbances is taken quite seriously, so it’s best to refrain from drilling holes in the wall, and check with your landlord before throwing a garden party on a Sunday.
- Make eye contact and politely smile to your waiter if you need them. Unlike in some other countries, it’s considered good manners in Germany to leave customers in peace while eating.
- Take out cash at an ATM: many shops, restaurants and bars don’t take debit and credit cards.
- Greet and thank cashiers, waiters and cleaning staff. Late in the afternoon, a courteous “schönen Feierabend” (wishing people an enjoyable time-off) is appreciated.
Hamburg has a well-developed public transport system. Buses go around the clock. At night, a special “Nachtbus” (night bus) service connects the outlying districts and the city center. The buses depart and arrive at “Rathausmarkt”, near the town hall and operate all through the night. Vending machines in the rail stations (and at some bus stops) sell short distance, single ride, and day tickets. Group tickets are also available. On the buses, the driver will sell you what you need. To buy week or longer tickets, go to Hauptbanhof or Bahnof Altona, get passport photos in the automated photo booth, and buy your pass in the information office. Hamburg’s public transit operates on a proof-of-payment system. Officials in red waistcoats make spot checks, but aside from that, you simply get on and off as you wish with no turnstiles or gates.
By taxi: There is a good supply of taxis in Hamburg 24 hours a day, both at taxi stands and in the streets. You can identify a taxi rank by a green box on a post somewhat like an over-sized parking meter or alarm post. You will have to wait there or phone one of the numbers below, since the boxes cannot be used to call a cab. Almost all vehicles are still in the traditional ivory white colour, but even if not, a yellow and black sign on the roof reading “Taxi” indicates a licensed cab.
By rail: Hamburg has six S-Bahn (commuter railway) lines and four U-Bahn (subway) lines, including the line U4. This line has been introduced in 2012 and it links the Jungfernstieg and Main Station (the city centre) with the new developments in the Hafencity. All lines run partly over and underground, in the city, and in the outskirts. The only difference is that these are two companies, but there is a unified fare system. All train platforms have signs showing the next train, where it is headed, and how many minutes until it arrives. Trains are described by a number and the final station.