When it comes to European travel, Hamburg often plays second fiddle to its cooler neighbor to the east, Berlin. But Germany's second city is no second-tier destination – and this year, it's pulling out the stops to prove it.
With the 50th anniversary of the British Invasion approaching, and the two remaining members of the Beatles having just made a rare joint appearance at the Grammys, Beatlemania is simmering once again. Besides New York, where they played their first U.S. show on February 7, 1964, Hamburg is also inextricably linked to the history of the band: between 1960 and 1962. They played many of their first concerts there.
This year, though, Hamburg will be honoring a different musician, Carl Philip Emanuel Bach, and the 300th anniversary of his birth, with a concert at St. Michael’s Church on March 8. But that doesn't mean that Germany's second-largest city is looking only to the past. Here are some exciting new developments to look forward to this year...
The First International Music Festival
Taking place from May 9 - June 15, the first International Music Festival Hamburg, will present a series of concerts, from classical music and opera, to jazz, to world music. Local and visiting artists will play a number of different venues throughout the city, from traditional concert halls to the still-under-construction Elbe Philharmonic Hall, which will host open-air performances.
Ten Michelin Stars
For 2014, the Michelin Guide has awarded 12 stars to Hamburg’s top restaurants. Two restaurants, the French-Mediterranean Haerlin, and French-accented Jacobs Restaurant, received two stars each, while Anna Sgroi, Küchenwerkstatt, Landhaus Scherrer, Le Canard Nouveau, Se7en Oceans, and Piment all received one star.
A New Life for the Red-Light District
Reeperbahn, the center of Hamburg’s famous red-light district (and where the Beatles played their first gigs), has been rapidly gentrifying over the last few years, and many new bars, restaurants, and clubs are moving in. Recent openings include Clouds, which serves French-inspired European cuisine in what is Hamburg’s highest restaurant and roof top terrace. Nearby, the live-music venue Noho Hamburg occupies two floors and two rooftop terraces.
Each September, the Reeperbahn Music Festival, hosts about 300 bands from Europe (and beyond). They'll perform in more than 70 clubs, pubs, and theaters across the St. Pauli district from September 17-20. Entrance fees start at €24 for a one-day festival ticket.
New Hotels (And Affordable Old Standbys)
Opening in June, the Hotel Indigo Hamburg St. Pauli will have six floors of individually designed rooms, with each floor representing the styles of a past decade; from the 1950s to 2000.
Scheduled to open in the summer of 2014, the 192-room Nordic design-inspired Ameron Hotel Speicherstadt will be the first hotel in Hamburg’s historic Speicherstadt warehouse district. From the hotel's terrace on the famous Fleet canal, guests will have views across the photogenic Speicherstadt district.
In the meantime, affordable Hamburg hotel options include the stylish 25Hours Hotel Number One on the west side of the city, where rates start at €74 a night, and the Arcotel Onyx on Reeperbahn, where nightly rates start at €89.