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Hamburg isn't usually the first city you think of in Germany, but we were recently invited to visit and we loved exploring this fascinating city as a family.
We have always enjoyed city breaks and rather than stopping them when we started our family, we have instead tried to find a family friendly way to do them. Most cities are full of brilliant attractions for under 5s if you look below the surface and we loved discovering this side of Hamburg.
I checked the Hamburg website before we arrived and noticed that we were arriving in time for the Hamburg Dom. A huge fair that stays for a month at a time, three times a year, the Dom is free to enter and full of lights and colour. After our drive it was the perfect place to explore, although the weather had turned and it was getting chilly.
It wasn't exactly a cultural visit, but we loved noticing the difference in food stalls, the giant cookies emblazoned with 'Ich liebe dich', the donuts and spirals, the stands selling all manner of sausages and hot dogs. The skies were threatening rain and the fair wasn't too busy but still after 3 hours we hadn't taken it all in, it really was huge. With the lead up to Easter there were giant decorated eggs which the boys loved spotting and everything was wonderfully colourful.
The centre of Hamburg is serviced by an underground, a light-rail network, buses and ferries and to get back to our accomodation we had to get both a train and bus. The whole journey was only about 20 minutes door to door but the boys loved watching out the windows and exploring the differences between the transport there and at home. Everywhere was really accessible with the buggy which made getting around really easy.
After breakfast at our hotel, we ventured back into the city centre to really explore. Unfortunately the weather wasn't on our side, but the rain held off and we could walk around marvelling at the criss cross of rivers that run through the city, wandering across bridges and looking up at the beautiful green roofs on many of the buildings. The Minatur Wunderland came highly recommended and as the boys had enjoyed the local Hornby centre we thought we would try it out in the morning.
The Wunderand really was amazing and it was so much bigger than I was expecting. We could have spent the best part of the day there as the boys were mesmerised by the tiny worlds. Set over two floors, you can observe minature towns, cities and countries with many American states being represented, Scandinavia and of course Germany. The exhibit was interactive in the two year old's favourite way - buttons. Each display had several buttons that triggered something, for example a man to bungee jump, a disco to light up, a ferris wheel to turn. We loved pressing the buttons and watching to find out what we had done.
It was really busy and not ideal with a pram, but you could get around and we could always find a space up against the glass to watch. One of the most magical parts is the way the lights are on a cycle so every few minutes the sun seems to set and everything goes dark so we can see what these cities are like at night. One display included the Hamburg Dom that we had visited the evening before and it was beautiful watching it light up.
I would totally recommend visiting the Miniatur Wunderland, it was a fantastic experience for the adults and children and you go and watch the artists creating new figures and areas too which the children found really fascinating.
The Wunderland is set right on the side of a river with the dungeons just below it. I would have loved to have visited them, but the children are still a little young. We had a quick run around and wander along the river admiring the statues with their scarves and how grey the sky was. Ed noticed a coffee rotisserie and being a bit of a coffee addict he insisted we went in for a look.
It was a really interesting place with a ridiculous selection of coffee. You could watch the coffee being roasted, try different varieties and of course eat cake. There was a shop attached selling all the beans too and I think this was probably the highlight of his holiday. The boys loved the cakes and I had the best latte I have even tasted.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the rivers, popping into a couple of shops and finding places for the children to run around. We had been recommended the Better Burger Company for dinner and of course whilst in Hamburg it is compulsory to have a hamburger!
It was exactly what we needed after a day on our feet, the burgers were delicious and you can pick your toppings so we each had something a bit different. It was a really chilled out place with long tables to share and seating outside if you wanted to people watch. We didn't stay long as the boys were starting to get pretty tired by this point!
The journey back to our hotel was the perfect way for them to calm down and they settled easily once we got in.
We had a long drive back, so we only had a couple of hours on Wednesday morning to finish exploring the city. There were a few things I wanted to do including a bus tour and the Hagensbeck Tierpark which is like a zoo, but rather than cages, the animals are seperated by a narrow moat. We decided to keep things simple though and went for a walk around the city admiring the stunning architecture. There is such a contrast between the UNESCO buildings and the modern concert hall and shopping arcades but the skyline was never boring and we found it fascinating working out what some of the buildings were.
We left at midday and had a wonderful time in Hamburg. I think it is a great city to visit and there is a lot for young families to do. Mostly we found the people friendly, although on the trains don't expect anyone to give up a seat for you or your children even if you are babywearing. Everyone we met spoke fantastic English and other than on the trains they were really helpful.
We stayed in the Appartello smart living hotel which was convenient, comfortable and perfect for families and I will be writing a review very soon.
We were invited to Hamburg on a press stay and vouchers for some of these experiences were provided. Other bits we paid for ourselves and as always this is my honest opinion.