Hamburg: Paddle in the city

Hamburg our paddlegem. | Photo: Michael Neumann
This is how micro-adventuring works: after your business appointment in Hamburg, postpone your return flight by 24 hours and swap your laptop for a kayak.

As the editorial office responsible for this magazine, we often journey from our home town of Augsburg to pay a visit to Globetrotter’s headquarters in Hamburg. We go there to think up new ideas, discuss various topics and enlarge stories in the making. And in the end, we go back home.

Not this time at the beginning of May. Ascension Day allowed us some free time and we postponed our trip back by 24 hours and asked the store at Wiesendamm if we could rent two kayaks. We could. 


Hamburg’s Globetrotter store is the starting point to one of Germany’s most beautiful paddle tours

We quickly pack our belongings into the waterproof storage spaces in the boats and wheel our laden boat carriers 50 metres to the bank of the Osterbek Canal. In the afternoon, we paddle towards the city centre. In no time we reach the Outer Alster, a look-and-find river, which resembles a lake. Sailing boats are criss crossing back and forth, rowing boats speed past and tourist boats hoot us out of their way. From the Outer Alster, we make our way into the Inner Alster with the water fountain and the town hall in the back ground – probably one of the most photographed city scenes of Germany. And we are right in the centre of things.

To reach the Elbe River from the Alster, we need to pass through two locks. They are designed to regulate the water level on the Alster and protect the inner city from flooding.


The Alster is for hobby captains whereas the Elbe is only for professionals.

When we leave the locks behind us, we enter a new world. The Elbe rules here with its tidal range of an average of 3.66 metres. It is absolutely vital to adhere to the traffic rules. It is possible that you have a 300 metre long container ship behind you instead of a little tourist boat. In short: If you go paddling on the Elbe, in the harbour area and through the warehouse district, you should know what you are doing. 


Bildergalerie: Michael Neumann: Summer in the City |

All aboard!

To keep out of the thick of things, it is recommendable to stick to the well-known countercyclical strategy. So when we slosh out of the lock and into the warehouse district at 7pm, most of the traffic has already disappeared, a day’s work is done. We paddle through the brick gorges almost on our own. Just the hustle and bustle at the waterfront is a bit irritating. What kind of huts are they putting up there? A passerby can tell us more. It's the traditional harbour anniversary event tomorrow, no less than the biggest harbour festival in the world. Whoa!

That explains how difficult it was to find a hotel room. We did not choose it according to its stars rating or the length of the breakfast buffet table, all that counted was the distance to the water. It turned out to be the new 25hours at the Alten Hafenamt which suited us just fine. We were able to store the kayaks in the backyard before we treated ourselves to the eastern Mediterranean cuisine of the adjoining Neni restaurant. Luckily, nobody noticed that our neoprene shoes left wet marks everywhere. Before we closed heavy brocade curtains and disappeared under our duvets, we checked the sunrise app. It displayed an unearthly time of 5:39 am. And as we are planning on being on the water at that time, we agreed to meet at the boats at 5 am.


It is the harbour’s birthday celebration today.

There is nobody else on the water at 5 am. We quickly paddle along the Elbe philharmonic hall, navigate our way past the jetties and on to the futuristic Hamburg Cruise Center. And then quickly back towards the Alster before the birthday party starts with the opening parade. 

The people in good spirits who floated past us in vessels of all shapes and sizes on Father’s Day were on a par with the harbour’s birthday celebrations. Hamburg is, and will always be, a paddler's gem. 


GM Info

Paddling through Hamburg

Wassersportkarte der Alster

If you are about to go paddling on the Alster, you will find important information including kayak rental agencies on the water sports map of the Alster (order number 18.61.86, € 6.95). Globetrotter unfortunately only rents boats out to prospective buyers and employees. The map is waterproof and can therefore always stay on board. It also shows the warehouse district and the harbour city. However, only experienced sea dogs should plunge their paddles into these waters, as it it quite narrow and busy with the shipping traffic.


weiterführende Artikel: 

Dietmar Denger: Summer in the City

Im Sommer entspannen sich die großen Städte, Hitze vertreibt die Hektik. Eine gute Zeit für Entdecker wie den Fotografen Dietmar Denger. zum Artikel