Not just the name, Speicherstadt (Warehouse Town), but also the atmosphere of cobbled streets, gables and turrets combine to make the area on the other side of Zollkanal (Tax Canal) a world apart from the city opposite. The red-brick architecture – a deliberate nod to Hanseatic days – of the largest continuous warehousing in the world sprang up from 1885 to 1927, providing storage for a city that had recently signed up to the fledgling Customs Union (1888) of the Second Reich. An entire residential district was razed, and nearly 24,000 people displaced to make way for it. Trade has leached away to deeper water, but things haven’t changed much in concept. A few importers still hoard goods tax-free until market prices provide a tidy profit and so strict are preservation orders on the area that goods are hoisted by block and tackle. Carved up by canals, its warehouses are piled high with crates and Middle Eastern carpets (it still houses Europe’s largest stock). While a museum provides details of the area’s past (see Speicherstadt museums), much of the pleasure comes in simply nosing about, especially from dusk, when spotlit warehouses rising sheer from the waterways is one of Hamburg’s most evocative sights. You can also experience the area at water-level on boat trips from St-Pauli-Landungsbrücken and Jungfernstieg.


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