Why Hamburg is the Antwerp of the North

Like many great cities, both Antwerp and Hamburg have some wonderful architecture, good food and great people. They are also both the second biggest city in their country and have a larger geographical area named after them. Having recently moved to Hamburg from Antwerp, I noticed that the resemblances don’t stop there.

  1. They are major ports.



Everyone who visits Hamburg goes to the Landungsbrücken: they go to board a harbor tour, to get on a ferry to the Elbstrand (Antwerp also has one of those called St-Anneke) or simply to watch ships and feel the wind in their hair. Although it is a pretty sight, Hamburg’s harbour is not just there for tourists. Like the Antwerp port, it is the very reason for the city’s existence and continues to be its most important business activity. In fact, Hamburg and Antwerp have been competing for quite a while to be Europe’s second biggest port. Only Rotterdam handles more freight.

  1. Their town halls are beautiful.


Antwp - City Hall

You will find a city hall pretty much anywhere, but in Hamburg and Antwerp you will find these beauties. Although the two buildings are from different periods (Antwerp: 1565, Hamburg: 1897) and have their own interesting histories, both city halls proudly represent their cities.

  1. You must take a train.

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Antwerp Central Station Dec 2013 - 06

Any visit to Hamburg or Antwerp passes through the main station. There is no escaping these central hubs and you might not even want to. In Antwerp the station is even a tourist attraction in its own right.

  1. They know how to build something cool (and expensive).



Although both Hamburg and Antwerp became big because of their ports, ships and transportation have changed drastically over the years and some parts of their harbors can no longer be used. Both cities seem to have found the same solution: modern architecture. In Hamburg, you are going to need a lot of money to live in the HafenCity. Antwerp’s Eilandje is a little less expensive, but not much.

  1. You can try yummy beignets at the fair.

Hamburger Dom

Helter Skelter

When I first heard about the Hamburger Dom, I thought it must be exactly like the Sinksenfoor we have in Antwerp. It is, except about three times bigger. The Hamburger Dom also occurs three times a year and has its own designated fairground in the middle of the city centre. The Sinksenfoor is only once a year, around Sinksen, and was recently moved to a location slightly out of the centre. But they both have thrill rides and fair food, of which I recommend the lacquemants (thin waffles filled with sauce) or smoutebollen (beignets) in Antwerp and the schmalzkuchen (tiny beignets) in Hamburg.

In case you have been trying to guess, pictures from Hamburg were always first and Antwerp second. I’m not going to tell you which city you should visit next. I recommend that you visit them both. In any case, Antwerpenaars and Hamburger have every reason to be proud of their cities (and they are!).

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