Hamburg, is Germany’s second largest city after Berlin, and serves an important link between the sea and Germany's network of inland waterways, as well as numerous islands such as Scharhörn and Neuwerk at the estuary mouth of the River Elbe.
In addition to being a major transportation hub with a free port allowing the shipment of goods without duties, Hamburg is an important cultural, commercial and tourist destination with many attractions such as splendid art galleries, canal side restaurants and picturesque parks.
A perfect attraction for all the family to enjoy is Miniatur Wonderland. This impressive set up is the world's largest model railway, represented by almost 900 model trains chugging through themed zones (including German cities of course, Switzerland, the Austrian Alps, USA and Scandinavia). You’ll be impressed by life in miniature with the bright lights of Las Vegas, skiers in the Austrian Alps and a miniature airport complete with taxiing aircraft.
Take artistic notes at Kunsthalle Hamburg, one of Germany's top art galleries. Spread across three separate but connected buildings on the Glockengiesserwall, the entire exhibition space is wheelchair-friendly so all tourists can admire exhibitions such as fine collections of Dutch, German and French paintings from the 14th to 19th century as well as examples of contemporary art to liven things up. Browse the beautiful books in the bookstore, then enjoy a meal at the onsite caféteria with a terrace facing the lake.
Hamburg has many green areas, but you have to visit the Wallringpark. Comprised of 4 different parks (Great Wallanlagen Park, the Small Wallanlagen Park, the Plantgen and Blomen flower garden and the Alter Botanical Garden), these well maintained parks offer greenhouses, lakes for ice-skating, playgrounds and the largest Japanese garden in Europe. Jump on board the miniature train that connects the parks and in summer (June-August) be sure to take a picnic blanket to the Planten und Blomen where they stage free nightly concerts.
Grab some comfy footwear and ramble your way around the Hamburger Hafen (Port of Hamburg). Covering 100 square kilometers you won’t cover the entire area but you can sightsee by boat, or get walking on the pleasant pedestrian trail that encompasses the old Warehouse District with traditional brick storehouses.
Soak up the atmosphere surrounding the Inner Alster (Binnenalster) and Outer Alster (Aussenalster), two artificial lakes lined by parks and gardens connected to the Rivers Alster and the Elbe. Centrally located, you’ll enjoy exploring Hamburg’s famous passagens (pedestrian areas). Find a caféteria to while away some time in Jungfernstieg or go shopping in the boutiques in the Pöseldorf area. If you're visiting Hamburg in September, don’t miss the annual Alstervergnügen street fair that hosts fun entertainment around the lakes.
Drive 30 minutes from Hamburg to Schloss Ahrensburg (Ahrensburg Castle), a beautiful 14th century Renaissance castle-cum-mansion. Surrounded by a small moat and parkland, it’s a lovely place for a short excursion from Hamburg and they often hold summer opera concerts and themed days with costumed actors.
Just 40 kilometers from Hamburg begins the unique landscape of Lüneburg Heath Nature Park. Hike through woodlands or across moors covered in purple heather during autumn months, or visit the ancient Seven Stone Houses - 5 megalithic tombs dating to around 2500 B.C. The area is best explored by private car as it covers a huge region, and if the natural attractions don’t impress you there are plenty of family-friendly theme parks such as the bird park in Walsrode, Serengeti Park in Hodenhagen or the Heide Park amusement park in Soltau.