Radisson Blu Hotel, Hamburg Airport

Hafengeburtstag – Hamburg Harbor’s Anniversary

Hamburg’s port has been vital to the prosperity of the city throughout its history and it is still important today, providing trade links to the world. Local residents recognize the importance of the harbor area and each May the port is brought to life with a three-day celebration, known in German as Hafengeburtstag. It is, in fact, the world’s largest port celebration displaying a maritime extravaganza.

The celebration marks the anniversary of the port, established on May 7, 1189. Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa issued a charter to the people of Hamburg, granting them exemption from duty for ships on the Elbe from the city to the North Sea. Since that date, people with ties to the city’s shipping industry have a long tradition of marking the occasion and date. What once began as a low-key event has grown into a great three-day festival, offering attractions and entertainment for the whole family.

Bringing the docklands to life

Over 300 incredible vessels from around the world, including tall ships, steam boats and leisure boats converge in the harbor, decorating it. It is easy to let yourself be taken back in time and imagine what this port would have looked like historically. Some of the ships welcome guests on board so you can learn all about life in the ocean and the conditions that many sailors experience in everyday life. Giant cruise ships line up on the River Elbe, as onlookers try to sneak a glimpse into the scale of these incredible floating hotels.

A vast program

The festival largely revolves around the water and contains more than 200 items on the program. This includes the grand arrival and departure parades and the unique tugboat ballet, which takes place on Saturday. During the festivities, the celebration also extends to include food and music. Sample delicious local cuisine whilst listening to local music from rock, pop and folk genres.

While you are in the area, set aside some time to stroll the suburb of St. Pauli. This is an area where sailors traditionally went ashore for refreshments and to this day remains the bustling hub of the city’s nightlife. If you are thinking of traveling to the city in May or have an airport layover, the Radisson Blu Airport Hotel in Hamburg offers excellent accommodation and is close to transport links into the city.