Hamburg, Germany

Germany's Gateway to the World

Hamburg, Germany

Germany's Gateway to the World

While Berlin and Frankfurt are cities that quickly come to mind when considering conventions, meetings and events in Germany, Hamburg — the second largest city in the country — is vibrant.

There’s an interesting contrast between old and new that can be found when visiting Hamburg. On the one hand, Hamburg established itself as a strategic, international port route and gateway in central Europe for coffee, tea, spices and carpets.

Experience Hamburg, Germany, for Business Travel:

Hamburg — home to 1.8 million people —  is a modern and a strategic hub for business and industry, and significant investment has already gone into revitalizing the area’s along the port into a new vision of urban development and sustainability. As the business tourism community observes this success and expertise in urban planning anb architecture, it seems Hamburg will be a perfect host city to future international meetings in this sector.

Hamburg is already a popular destination with business travelers for meetings and incentives: 3.5 million attendees visit each year and combine for 2 million overnight stays (domestic and international), according to a report from ghh Consultant, The German Meeting and Convention Market. Hamburg the fourth most popular business destination in Germany (after Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich). In 2012, 5.6 million overnight visitors (business and leisure) stayed in Hamburg for a total of 10.6 million nights in 2012. Of the total number of overnight visitors, roughly 22% were international, according to the Hamburg Convention Bureau. It’s top five markets include Switzerland (254,585), Denmark (237,203), UK (224,698), Austria (201,699) and USA (154.235).

Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning a meeting or visiting Hamburg, Germany:

HafenCity Hamburg: The Port in Development 

The Port of Hamburg is the biggest in Germany and Europe’s second largest container port — maritime trade plays an important role in the city’s economy and jobs. Today you’ll find shops, restaurants and museums in this part of the city. Located on the Elbe waterfront and its canals, HafenCity Hamburg is actually one district with a collection of 10 different neighborhoods with mixed architecture and uses (such as homes, cultural activities, business, office buildings, public spaces and shopping). The 2025 master plan also addresses sustainability, urban mobility and infrastructure.

Construction began in 2003, and as of September 2013, it has attracted 2,000 residents and 450 companies (9,000 workers), including the Historical Warehouse District is vital (tip: enjoy lunch, tea or dinner on the river at Wasserschloss and bring home some items from their gift shop). When complete, HafenCity will have 6,000 homes and more than 45,000 jobs.

And anchoring HafenCity is Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, an architecturally impressive mixed-use space that will be home to the Grand Hall and a hotel (take note, meeting planners). Built on an old warehouse, its glass facade is shaped liked a wave and the facility is very cutting edge. I can’t wait to go back there when it’s open.

IBA Hamburg: The New City in Development

The IBA International Building Exhibition is a model of sustainable and future-oriented inner city development for the 21st century.  The idea is to show how this city is growing in a socially and ecologically balanced way through 60 social, cultural and building-related projects and programs.

Located on a 35 square kilometer island, 55,000 people live in this area where a public and private partnership this public and private investment. The Metrozones initiative showcases 17 buildings that include three hybrid houses, four smart material houses, five smart price houses and five water houses with a total of 179 residential units.

It is here where you’ll find the International Garden Show (Around the World in 80 Gardens), and there’s a great monorail to help you navigate through the park. Restaurant Wasserwerk Wilhelmsburg is an excellent venue for dining and special events (check out the unusual meeting and seminar room). And if you’re staying in this area, the Raphael Hotel Walderhaus is an ecologically designed three star superior hotel.

BallinStadt: Historic Hub for European Emigration

From 1850 to 1934, 5 million Europeans wishing to emigrate to the New World traveled to the Emigration Halls in Hamburg where they would transfer to Ellis Island by ship from Hamburg. The BallinStadt Emigration Museum is dedicated to telling the story about how and why emigrants left their homeland. When visiting, you can also use the museum’s databases to research your ancestry (which I plan to do as part of my follow up from the visit).

Located on seven acres of land, BallinStadt is comprised of three buildings and located on seven acres of land. As you go through the buildings and their exhibits, you will learn the fate of individual emigrants and the struggles they faced.  Not only is Ballinstadt an interesting venue for a personal visit, it is also available for special events – seating banquets up to 160 people or theatre seating up to 200 (plus small exhibitions).

Hotels in Hamburg

You’ll find more than 300 hotels in Hamburg, so there are plenty of business and convention hotels to consider. My visit included stays and visits to three hotels. In the city center, I spent an evening at Hotel Atlantic (see, Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg Review) and two nights at Hotel Gastwerk which is about 15 minutes from the city center (see Hotel Gastwerk in Hamburg Review). I also visited the George Hotel Hamburg which is another great option in the city center. This design hotel combines modern and classic touches — I had dinner at Restuarant Dacaio which offers classic and contemporary Italian cuisine (excellent for private dinners). All three are great options.

More Hamburg Tips and Insights

During my visit I had an opportunity to have lunch and a tour at Haus Rissen, a very important, nonprofit educational institute for politics and business that opened in 1954. For those wishing to organize a high level and private discussion,  you’ll want to check for availability.

Like many cities in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, Hamburg has its red light and nightlife district of St. Pauli Reeperbahm. Skipping over the seedier aspects of the neighborhood (which is actually undergoing a bit of gentrification), this is where the Beatles actually honed their skills (August 1960 to December 1962). There are a variety of tours, but Hempel’s Beatles-Tour is the original musical tour, and Steffi Hempel is an excellent guide who will take you through their days and nights in Hamburg (and she encourages you to sing along with her, so it’s a lot of fun).

If you’re interested in museums and cultural options, other suggestions from the Hamburg Convention Bureau and German Convention Bureau include:

  • Miniatur Wunderland
  • International Maritime Museum
  • Bucerius Kunstforum
  • The Hamburg Dungeon
  • The Prototyp Museum
  • The Russian Submarine U-43 (just in German)

Hamburg Weather and Logistics

Hamburg has moderate weather conditions throughout the year, and does not have extreme winters or summers 28°F to 75°F.

Hamburg is also a major hub in Europe by air (three airports include Hamburg Airport) and rail (five major train stations). There is an excellent supply of taxis and private car services.

The city center is extremely easy to walk, and transfer options include buses and trams for those who wish to use it.

  • CCH Congress Center Hamburg CCH Congress Center Hamburg With a seating capacity up to 12,500 and 23 meeting rooms, 160 conferences, meetings and exhibitions are held here each year. Courtesy of Hamburg Convention Bureau
  • Elbphilharmonie Foyer Rendering Elbphilharmonie Foyer Rendering Courtesy of Hamburg Convention Bureau
  • Hamburg Maritime View Hamburg Maritime View Courtesy of Hamburg Convention Bureau
  • Hamburg Town Hall Hamburg Town Hall Courtesy of Hamburg Convention Bureau
  • Hamburg Lake Alster Hamburg Lake Alster Courtesy of Hamburg Convention Bureau
  • Elbphilharmie Exterior Elbphilharmie Exterior Courtesy of Hamburg Convention Bureau
  • HafenCity HafenCity Courtesy of Hamburg Convention Bureau
  • Hamburg Beatles Hamburg Beatles Courtesy of Hamburg Convention Bureau
  • Hamburg Atlantic Hotel Tagansicht Hamburg Atlantic Hotel Tagansicht Courtesy image
  • Hamburg Gastwerk Hotel Atrium Lobby Hamburg Gastwerk Hotel Atrium Lobby Courtesy image

Rob is editor of Business Travel Destinations. He was voted among the top 10 business travel bloggers by USA TODAY 10Best. Rob reviews international destinations for meetings and events -- where business travelers go, the hotels where they stay and their lifestyle preferences on the road. He spent more than a decade planning hundreds of corporate events throughout the U.S. for a Fortune 50 company, including meetings, conferences, seminars, executive retreats and other special events. Rob was previously the event planning guide for About.com (owned by The New York Times Company) from 2007 - 2011. His articles have appeared in business travel publications and travel sites internationally.