Hamburg Sightseeing: The Speicherstadt

This post was last updated on January 28th, 2019

We just got back from a week-long trip to Hamburg, and since I already mentioned Hamburg’s Speicherstadt (literally: “warehouse city”) in my top six things to see and do in Hamburg, I would like to go into a little bit more detail. As the Speicherstadt was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2015 and is certainly one of the most beautiful and impressive sights in Hamburg let me give you an overview of its history and some of the things you can do there.
“Speicherstadtrathaus” (“Speicherstadt City Hall”)

History of the Speicherstadt

The tide was low when we visited.
The Speicherstadt is the largest continuous warehouse complex in the world and consists of several multi-storey, neo-Gothic, red brick buildings located between the canals that lead directly to the port.

Hamburg joined the German Empire in 1871, but it would take another 17 years for the city to become part of the customs territory. In order to facilitate the transportation of goods, such as tea, coffee, carpets, and spices to and from Hamburg, a warehouse complex needed to be built to store these goods somewhere central with access to the port. Not long after that, Hamburg became got its free port which meant that it was not necessary to pay customs for transporting goods.

The chosen area was already inhabited by more than 20,000 people, mainly poor workers, who had to be relocated, and whose more than 1,000 residential buildings had to be torn down.

Construction began in 1883 and was completed in 1927. All buildings were built on oak logs.
During World War II, half of the buildings in the Speicherstadt were destroyed. They were rebuilt, and the Speicherstadt, as we know it today, was completed in 1967.

There are about 20 bridges in the Speicherstadt.

What to Do in the Speicherstadt?

The neo-Gothic architecture adds to the Speicherstadt’s unique character.
You will enjoy the Speicherstadt most by taking a walk through the streets and over the several bridges. You can find several museums closely linked to the history of the area, such as a spice museum, a customs museum, the International Maritime Museum, and an actual Speicherstadt museum which explains the history of the complex. However, there are also other attractions such as the Miniatur Wunderland which is the largest model railway in the world, and the Hamburg Dungeon, a set of live shows covering the history of the city.
For more technically inclined people there is a car museum, and if you are interested in the lives of blind people you should get tickets to “Dialogue in the Dark” where blind people guide you through an exhibition which simulates everyday situations.

For another perspective on the Speicherstadt, you can go on a boat trip through Hamburg’s waterways which will lead you through the canals of the Speicherstadt as well. It’s a great idea to explore this district by foot and boat alike to get an idea how goods were stored.

You should also make it a point to see the Speicherstadt by night when it is illuminated and looks even more stunning than during the day.

The Speicherstadt is centrally located and can be reached at several metro stops (U1: Messberg, U3: Baumwall, U4: Ueberseequartier) or by buses 6 or 111.

Have you been to the Speicherstadt? What’s your favorite sight in Hamburg?


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