Hamburg, Germany

Photo: daspunkt via flickr
Photo: daspunkt via flickr

From the Sydney Opera House to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles to Harpa in Reykjavík, performing arts centers continue to change the look of cities all over the world. Hamburg is next.

Hamburg may be known as Germany’s Gateway to the World, but the world has largely overlooked the country’s second-largest city. Sure, it has a huge port and is known as a financial, media, and transportation hub. Tourists tend to go elsewhere, particularly Berlin, though. About a dozen years ago, two islands in the Elbe river were earmarked for an urban regeneration project. It became known as HafenCity, which has been turning warehouses into shops and restaurants, modern office and residential buildings ever since. Its crown jewel was just completed.

You can’t miss Elbphilharmonie. The 26-story building sits atop one of the neighborhood’s old warehouses. It was designed by famous Swiss architects with a glass facade—featuring curved window panels—and a wave-shaped roof. There are apartments, a hotel, and restaurants inside. But everyone is talking about the heart of the project, the Grand Hall.

To reach the Grand Hall, ride an escalator, which rises through a curved tube, from the waterfront to the Plaza. This vast space, in between the old and new buildings, is open to the public and offers stunning views of the Norderelbe river. From there, you continue moving up into the Grand Hall, a cave-like concert venue. Its 2,100 seats wrap around the stage, while its vaulted ceiling seems endless.

Performances begin in the middle of January with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester. Visiting orchestras and philharmonics, as well as jazz festivals, will soon follow. Tickets are already sold out for months. But that gives Elphi, as it’s already been nicknamed, plenty of time to work out the kinks. While you finally plan a trip to Hamburg.

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