The city of Hamburg extends along of the valley of the river Elbe, where canals and wharves stretch the whole length of the river, presenting a strange-looking configuration. Bergedorf, which lies upstream on the right bank of the Elbe and south-east of the centre of Hamburg, is greener and less pervaded by water. A little further south is another port area undergoing an architectural remodelling, the district of Harburg. In this article, we’re going to consider what points of interest both have to offer.
Bergedorf is, to a great extent, an unspoilt, rural area. It is traversed by the river Bille, and its origins date back to the thirteenth century, when a town was established here and a castle, the forerunner of Bergedorf castle, was built. From 1420, Bergedorf was governed by its neighbours, Hamburg and Lübeck, on a six-year rotational cycle; then in 1867, Hamburg purchased Lübeck’s rights over the town so that Bergedorf became another district of Germany’s great northern capital the following year.
Bergedorf has several interesting places worth visiting:
- Bergedorf Castle, the only castle in the whole of the Hamburg metropolitan area. It is currently home to the Museum of Bergedorf and Vierlande, and tells the history of the region. In the castle’s park, you can still see the monument to Bismark, the architect of a unified Germany.
- The Bergedorf Observatory, an important astronomical observatory established in 1909, is currently seeking status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this observatory in 1973, the astronomer Lubos Kohouotek discovered the comet that bears his name.
- The Church of St. Petri Und Pauli [Peter and Paul]: one of Bergedorf’s oldest historic monuments, it was built in a Renaissance style and was completed in 1502. The altar and sixteenth-century pulpit are particularly impressive.
- The Neuengamme concentration camp was the largest in the north-west of Nazi Germany. Around 100,000 people passed through here, and over 43,000 died. Fifteen of the camp’s buildings have been preserved for exhibitions, along with various monuments and memorials in remembrance of the victims.
- The Soviet War Cemetery: here lie the remains of 652 prisoners of war and Soviet soldiers who died at Neuengamme.
Bergedorf has one feature that sets it apart from the other boroughs that comprise Greater Hamburg. And that is its green, rural character. Constant flooding by the Elbe and other rivers in this valley have helped to form a very rich ecosystem, with various nature reserves, woodland areas, marshes and small lakes
- Boberger Niederung: around 350 hectares of marshland, woodland, dunes, and lakes with bathing permitted. This is one of the richest areas in terms of flora and fauna.
- Die Reit: an area of 92 hectares, with extensive reedbeds, willow and birch woods, and various lakes.
- Kirchwerder Wiesen: Hamburg’s largest green area, covering 857 hectares. A huge expanse of marshland and meadow, with an abundant population of birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish.
- Zollenspieker: another area of woodland, meadows and marshland covering 80 hectares to the north of the Elbe.
- Kiebitzbrack: the smallest natural enclave, at 29 hectares. It has five small lagoons formed when the Elbe’s dykes have ruptured at times of exceptionally high tides.
- Borghorster Elblandschaft: a 226-hectare area covering part of the northern bank of the Elbe. It is home to reedbeds, forests, meadows, dunes, and over 360 plant species.
The district of Harburg — from port to ground-breaking neighbourhood
The whole of the southern side of Harburg (as far as the boundary with the state of Lower Saxony) is occupied by the Harburg neighbourhood, which revolves around the port. The origins of the neighbourhood date back to the old cities of Harburg and Wilhelmsburg, which lost their independence with the creation of Greater Hamburg in 1937.
Harburg’s outstanding feature was its inland port, many of whose buildings and installations have survived to the present day. Now, this is a modern district of offices and residential buildings, many of them converted former industrial premises.
This area of the city is also a cultural hotbed, due to the presence of the university, along with several museums, and to the number of young people who have been attracted to live here. This neighbourhood is definitely worth exploring to appreciate how the former port installations co-exist with the contemporary styles of the newer buildings.
As you can see, an exploration of the boroughs of Bergedorf and Harburg, in the south of Hamburg, will give you a totally new perspective on Germany’s second city.
Europe’s second largest port is also an unmissable huge historical, artistic, cultural and gastronomic mosaic.
Framed by the rivers Elbe, Alster and Bille, the old Free Hanseatic City of Hamburg is now a favourite destination with tourists, flooded with colour and nature.
Every Sunday morning, Hamburg’s fish market is one of the most fascinating places in this extraordinary German city.