Hamburg has recently been awarded the title ‘Global Active City’ along with Buenos Aires, Lillehammer, Ljubljana, Richmond and Liverpool. Each of these cities have a focus on offering their residents the opportunity to choose active and healthy lifestyles. Hamburg is working to expand the sports infrastructure and provide access to facilities for the local community.
The German city is known for its sporting events like the Haspa Hamburg Marathon, Ironman Hamburg and the Hamburg Wasser World Triathlon, but I wanted to see how visitors can incorporate activity into their stay. On my recent trip, I got to experience this for myself.
Hamburg City Cycles
As it was our first time in Hamburg, a guided cycling tour was the perfect introduction to the city. We joined Hamburg City Cycles for a relaxed ride in a small group visiting all the main districts and landmarks. The city is flat and the roads are quiet making it ideal for cycling.
We picked up the bikes and met our guide Garrit at Hamburg City Cycles office in the St Pauli district, before heading out towards the harbour and landing bridges. Hamburg’s harbour on the River Elbe is known as the ‘Gateway to World’ and is the second busiest port in Europe and the 15th largest worldwide.
Water is a prominent feature in Hamburg with lakes, canals and rivers flowing through the city. With water comes bridges and Hamburg boasts over 2500- more bridges than Venice, London and Amsterdam combined. We cycled across bridges and through the Speicherstadt which is the world’s largest warehouse district. Built on oak log foundations between 1883 to 1927, the warehouses are connected by canals which were once used to deliver Persian rugs, cocoa, coffee, tea and spices.
In contrast, HafenCity is a modern district full of newly developed buildings which house cafes, restaurants and offices. In this district stands one of the most emblematic buildings of Hamburg- the opera house or Elbphilharmonie. Opening nearly six years later and £640 million over budget, the base is constructed around a former warehouse with a curved glass structure on top.
The cycling tour also took us past The Rathaus, the neo-renaissance building where Hamburg’s parliament assemble. This is also where the finish line for the Hamburg triathlon is situated!
Hamburg Running Tours
Running is another of my favourite ways to explore a new city, particularly somewhere like Hamburg which has so much green space.
In the heart of Hamburg is a 160-hectare lake which was formed by creating a dam on the River Alster. Split into the Inner and Outer Alster, the lakes are used for recreational purposes, such as sailing and rowing. The lakes are lined with many beautiful parks and gardens, making it one of the most popular running spots in the city.
I booked a tour of the Outer Alster lake with Jesper from Hamburg Running Tours. The 7.4km circuit passes by some of the most famous spots in Hamburg including the US Consulate and the Atlantic Hotel Kempinski where Tomorrow Never Dies was filmed.
The lake looked stunning in the morning light with Autumn leaves falling on the paths. The entire area was full of people walking, running, cycling or using the outdoor gym facilities. It really highlighted to me how Hamburg embraces fitness. I enjoyed the run so much that I decided to carry on up the River Alster back to our hotel making a total of 8 miles.
UV Light Mini Golf
We took a break from city sightseeing and headed to Schwarzlichtviertel for a game of mini-golf under UV light. Slightly less sporty than our other activities, but still lots of fun especially on a rainy day.
Schwarzlichtviertel is quite off the beaten path and we would never have stumbled across it without having had a recommendation. We were kitted out with 3D glasses, a neon putter and ball and entered into a psychedelic world with different themed zones, such as under the sea and in the jungle.
The fluorescent obstacles and Day-Glo decor really add a new dimension to the game. Some of the holes were quite challenging, particularly as we were wearing 3D glasses and couldn’t see where we were aiming! The course was crowded in some areas, but we will able to bypass the larger groups to carry on with our game. Although it was close, Glen eventually beat me by a few points!
Other activities in Hamburg
Walking features highly whenever we’ve on a city break, so we covered most of the city by foot. One journey which is worth doing is through the Elbe Tunnel. Since 1911, the tunnel has transported pedestrians and cars across the river. It’s 426m long and 24m below the surface of the water. The dim lighting and tiles give an eerie glow.
To experience the city from its iconic harbour, we took a boat tour with Barkassen Meyer. The audio commentary is in German, but we were provided with an app to translate it into English. Seeing the scale of the ships and docks up close is seriously impressive, we learned a lot about the history and workings of the port. Plus the boat tour gave our feet a rest after a lot of running, cycling and walking!
We visited as guests of the Come to Hamburg scheme and the cycling tour, boat tour and golf we provided free of charge.
Have you ever visited Hamburg? How do you like to stay active while on a city break?