Hamburg is a harbor city. The harbor is the spot to view huge shipyards, stroll along the waterfront or enjoy excellent seafood. A tour boat is classic Hamburg, but you can get a similar adventure by taking the ferry. The ferries are part of Hamburg’s public transportation system, meaning your inexpensive ticket is valid not only on streets and rails but on the water. Among tourists, the most popular ferry is No. 62, which takes you on a 30-minute trip along the most important waterfront sights.
On a bright, warm day, a spot on the top ferry deck is a coveted position. Be prepared to elbow your way aboard and up the stairs. Watch out for sunburn.
Technology and processes that enable ships to load and unload directly to trucks and trains helped reduce demand for Hamburg’s row on row of iconic red-brick storage warehouses.
The Elbe is continually dredged to accommodate huge container vessels from all over the globe.
A container ship dwarfs a ferry.
The Dockland Building is one of several Hamburg structures that mimic the shape of a ship.
Unlike a tour boat, a ferry plies a real passenger trade, too.
The ferry pilot is not called “captain” but “ship’s leader” (Schiffsführer). And it is verboten to talk to him while he’s at the helm.
Docked near the ferry’s mooring is the 318-foot, three-masted barque Rickmer Rickmers. She was launched in 1896 and today is a floating museum. In 1958, she won the tall ships race.
The craggy roofline of the Elbphilharmonic hall dominates the skyline along the harbor, up river from the landing bridges where the ferry docks. The Elbe, flowing right to left here, rises in the Czech Republic and empties nearly 700 miles later into the North Sea.
Portugal has a distinguished sailing pedigree, and a long lunch of tapas in the Portuguese Quarter, just steps off the harbor, makes a good way to unwind after the hustle and bustle of the docks.