I had been talking to the Germany National Tourism Office for about a year before this trip started – trying to figure out the perfect schedule and find the best dynamics of a trip to Germany. Well, let me tell you that it was well-worth the wait, because this trip turned out to be one of my favorites to date!
I would like to give an extra shoutout to my friends at @GermanyTourism (on IG & SC) for arranging an awesome schedule, loaded with tours and activities. I spent 48 hours in three of Germany’s finest cities: Hamburg, Leipzig and Berlin.
Something funny to bring up about the timing of this trip – the entirety of my visit to Germany (Oct 25 – Nov 2) happened to be during the World Series. Now, as many of you know, I am a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan, and we haven’t won the World Series since 1908 and haven’t even been to the WS since 1945 (laughable, I know). Although we were really good this year, you can never, ever, EVER expect them to be in the World Series…. and WE WON THIS YEAR!!!!!
So, my sleeping schedule was quite unusual as I woke up everyday at 2AM (Germany time) to stream the games live on my computer. It ended up working out perfectly as I went to bed around 9PM and woke up around 2 (during the 5th inning) and then I was wide awake from then onwards. Therefore, I was always the first person in line for the breakfast buffet each morning in my hotel – and I stacked my plate up so high with sausages, pretzels and meats that I didn’t eat again until around 3PM (I love German food)!
Ok anyways, back to the trip:
I had been to Berlin before, twice actually, but Hamburg and Leipzig were both my first visit. It was also my first time in Germany (and Europe) during the autumn season, so it was a bonus to see the changing colors of the trees which happen to be fascinating in Germany (I never saw this growing up in the desert of Arizona)!
Below, I will break down the highlights in each city.
Hamburg – I arrived in Hamburg early morning and had the first day as a “free day” so I could get caught up on jet lag (which never really happened) and get comfortable with my surroundings. Despite the weather being pretty cold (35F, 2C), foggy and overcast, I thoroughly enjoyed walking around the city without a plan. I mean, it was my first time back in Europe in about 13 months, so what was there not to be happy about?!
For being a big city (~2 mil people), I found Hamburg to be quiet and charming during the day. There are several big churches, palaces and canals cutting through the city – it sort of reminded me of Amsterdam. My favorite building was the Rathaus (Town Hall) which you can see photographed below.
By night, I learned quickly that Hamburg is not such a quiet city, as it offers some of the best nightlife in Germany! There is a red light district called the Reeperbahn filled with bars and clubs, which comes alive around 10PM. I never stayed awake long enough to party there, but I definitely felt the vibe as I walked around and saw the 5-story night clubs next to the brothels. The place is wicked.
My second day in Hamburg was a biking tour day with a local guide. We rode about 20km all over the city and my guide provided me some great facts and insight about the city. I really enjoyed riding through the Planted un Blomen Park and seeing the colorful trees!
On my final day in Hamburg, I attended a “Beatles Tour” which was the highlight of my entire trip. I have always been a huge fan of the Beatles, but I never realized how big of an impact the city of Hamburg had on the start of their career.
Here’s a photo of me standing in the exact same spot that John Lennon stood for his “Rock n Roll” album cover photo!
From 1960 – 1962, the four teenage boys from Liverpool – John, Paul, Ringo and George – went to Hamburg to play some shows around the city. At the time, they weren’t famous yet so they were mostly playing cover songs, but they formed their identity in those early days and ended up playing more shows in Hamburg than any other city. They once played 92 straight days!
My amazing tour guide, Stefanie Hempel, is a lovely singer-songwriter and a Beatles expert. She told me stories about the Beatles’ journey in Hamburg as we went inside all of the old clubs that they played at. In one club, called The Kaiserkeller, she told me the story of when John Lennon slammed his guitar through the stage and made a giant hole, which was still there today! Stefanie has a unique element to her tour – that she plays and sings Beatles songs on her ukulele as you stand and admire the sites that they used to play at.
If you find yourself in Hamburg, then I absolutely recommend taking Stefanie’s Beatles tour.
Leipzig – I jumped on a 3 hour train from Hamburg to Leipzig (via Berlin) with my Rail Europe pass. I was reminded that train travel in Germany is so easy and convenient – it’s right up there with Japan & Korea as the most efficient in the world.
I had the first day in Leipzig to myself, so I just explored around and enjoyed being in a new place. I went to the Plagwitz district, where I discovered how artsy and hipster Leipzig is! They are calling Leipzig the “New Berlin” because many artists, musician, etc are flocking to this city for a much more affordable living. The streets in Plagwitz are covered in graffiti and there were many cool cafes and bars. I went into a random underground bar and drank a local beer while listening to strange trippy music. Loved every second of it.
Did you know that Leipzig is geographically located at the meeting place of 3 rivers, and there are more bridges in Leipzig (417) than in Venice, Italy? Combine that with the beautiful autumn trees, and the views are just about as good as you can get. Like this one, which I stumbled across as I was walking around town.
The highlight in Leipzig for me was the tour of the Spinnerei – which was formerly the largest cotton factory in Europe in the 19th Century. Nowadays, the 10 hector campus has turned into a workspace for artists, pottery makers, craftsmen, etc. Essentially, all of the rooms have turned into art studios, and there are even movie theatres, sculpture exhibits and cafes inside as well! It was really interesting to learn about the history of Spinnerei, which once employed 4,000 people, and to see what it has turned into today. I recommend a visit there if you find yourself in Leipzig.
Berlin – Last but certainly not least was my favorite city in Germany, and one of my favorite cities on the planet – Berlin!
I arrived at the Hauptbahnhof (train station) with a big smile on my face. Berlin really has everything you could want, and in my opinion, it’s one of the most livable cities on earth. Anything you can imagine to suit your preferences, whether it be music, food, sports, etc– you can find it in Berlin!
My schedule in Berlin was pretty open, so I had the freedom to explore at my own pace. I decided to rent a bike from my hotel, because it’s always more enjoyable to see a city on two wheels! Also, Berlin is very biker friendly, making it easy to navigate the streets.
I literally rode everywhere. Around the Mitte district, to the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Alexanderplatz, TV tower, and more. Berlin has so much history and I could feel it around me as I was strolling around.
The hotel that I stayed (Circus Hotel) at was great – they also have a backpacker’s hostel next door (Circus Hostel) which has their own micro-brewery in the basement! I went there every night to get a daily dose of the delicious hoppy beer that they make. The Circus Hotel is in the Mitte district – the most happening area of Berlin with more restaurants, bars, clubs, cafes, and studios than I could count!
So that pretty much sums up my trip to Germany with Germany Tourism. A fantastic 6 days which left me even more convinced that Germany is one of the best countries in the world.
Immediately following my 48 hours in Berlin, I took a train to Quedlinburg, Germany to start my first Guinness World Record early the following morning. I had been planning the World Record trip for 2 years! My buddy Rodrigo and I visited 12 UNESCO World Heritage sites across Germany and Holland within 24 hours. We took 5 trains, 5 buses, 4 metros, 8 taxis, 1 flight and ran more than 10 miles – finishing the task in exactly 20 hours and 2 minutes! You can read more about the experience in this blog post.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or comments about Germany – I’ll be happy to answer!
Danke Schöen ☺