Speicherstadt is located in the free-port area of Hamburg, and is the largest warehouse district in the world. Here the old buildings are a deep red brick, with intricate wrought iron windows and doors, quirky turrets, and a lot of shiny window panes that reflect the light beautifully on the canals that run alongside each block.
It’s quite a peaceful area, or it was in February, and I did enjoy wandering around them to the office early each morning.
The district dates all the way back to the 1800’s. but it wasn’t until the early 1990’s that it was given it’s protected UNESCO heritage status. The canals flowing silently around the area are known as fleets, and the water levels of them are controlled depending on the tides. They’re frequently sailed by barges, but if the tide is right bigger boats and ships can pass through too.
Tourists can take a barge tour around the warehouse district, which provide a much more in depth history of the area. They set sail from landing platforms in the St Pauli area. I didn’t do this myself, but if I was going to I’d definitely do it in the evening.
The area glitters in reflection of itself as the sun goes down and all the lights turn on, dancing across the water. People wander among the buildings and over the bridges in silence, enjoying the views of the sunsets.
Hamburg has more bridges than any other city in the world. It even has more than Amsterdam and Venice put together. The bridges of the Speicherstadt area cross the canals connecting the warehouse blocks to each other, cutting down the commute time for many locals walking through.
One of the busiest bridges at nightfall is the Poggenmuhlen-Brucke, from which you will get Hamburg’s most famous and recognisable view..
Wasserschloss, translated as water castle, sits at the end of Hollandischer Brook. At the time of its construction in the very early 1900’s, it was the only building in the whole of the warehouse district that was residential.
This was largely due to the fact that the warehouses are built on oak poles, and at their time of construction in the middle of the Elbe river, they weren’t entirely protected from flooding. That and with all the commercial trade coming in and out of the warehouses, it was thought that including residential houses would increase the risk of contraband and unaccounted for trading.
I walked home from the office one evening to try and find it, and it wasn’t hard. The bridge was full of people and photographers trying to catch it at sunset, when the lights all come on.
I did this most evenings, as in a city that didn’t really come across all that attractive to me, especially visiting alone, the Speicherstadt was my favourite spot. Today this lovely little water castle is a restaurant, open daily and with its own private tea room.
As well as wandering around and seeing all the old warehouse blocks from the outside, many of them have been converted into public spaces and activities too. Being a popular spot for visitors of Hamburg, it’s not surprising that various museums and attractions find their home inside the warehouses.
Miniatur Wunderland, the largest model railway in the world is located in one of them, as is the Hamburg dungeon. Other museums include the International Maritime Museum, noticeable by the giant propeller outside, and the Automuseum Prototype, displaying the history of automobiles from the past 70 years.
If you need a coffee break, the Kaffeerösterei should be your go to spot. Previously a coffee warehouse you can even take part in a coffee tasting with freshly-brewed beans from all over the world.
Or as an alternative the very pretty Café Fleetschlösschen located in the area is also a good for a coffee. It was a former customs booth which explains it’s small size and popularity among photographers.
Accepting that I didn’t see much of Hamburg, and that there’s undoubtedly a lot more to it than what I experienced, the Speicherstadt area was one of the more attractive parts of the city.
It hinted back to a past time, rather than a post war concrete built up, port. It should be one of the first areas of the city you go to see if you’re ever in Hamburg.
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