Alter Elbtunnel

A historic tunnel under the Elbe River.

Alter Elbtunnel

Alter Elbtunnel

If you're looking to explore Hamburg's rich history and iconic landmarks, then a visit to the Alter Elbtunnel - also known as the Old Elbe Tunnel - should be on your list. Opened in 1911, it has become a significant monument of the city's industrial and transport history and an appealing destination for both local residents and tourists from all over the world. This under-the-river tunnel runs beneath the Elbe River, connecting central Hamburg with the docks and shipyards on the southern side.

Located precisely at the Landungsbrücken, the Alter Elbtunnel welcomes you with its two green domed buildings, housing the machinery that operates the lifts. These are an iconic photographers' favorite due to their architectural beauty. Descending into the tunnel is an experience in itself. You can either opt for the wide lift, made to initially accommodate cars or take the pedestrian stairway. Notably, this was the first river tunnel on the continent, and its construction was seen as a big boost to the city's economic development.

As you venture into the 426-meter long tunnel, you can't help but marvel at the massive engineering feat that it truly is. The tunnel consists of two tubes, each 6 meters in diameter, lying side by side. These tubes are lined with over 4 million white-glazed tiles, which gives the tunnel a clean and gleaming appearance.

One striking feature about the tunnel is that it runs 24 meters underneath the river's surface. This places it far below any shipping line, ensuring that it doesn't interfere with the bustling shipping activity taking place in one of the busiest harbors in the world. Despite being over a century old, it remains fully functional and open to pedestrians and cyclists.

Interestingly, the tunnel offers a spectacular close-up view of Hamburg's cityscape. A walk through the tunnel to the southern end offers a fabulous view of the harbor and the city's distinctive skyline, with its spires, towers, and modernist architecture.

A walk through the Alter Elbtunnel also offers a peek into Hamburg's vibrant artistic culture. The tunnel incorporates various artworks, including a series of bas-relief sculptures created by sculptor Weinhart. These depict various scenes from the harbor's life, serving as a timeless testament to the city's maritime heritage.

One cannot miss the nostalgic feel of the tunnel. There's an uncanny silence within the tunnel that juxtaposes perfectly with the vibrant hustle in the city above. It transports you back in time, providing a stark contrast to the contemporary city life happening right overhead.

One thing to note is that the Alter Elbtunnel is not just a tourist attraction. It's a functional part of the city's transport system, serving as an essential thoroughfare for workers heading to and from the container terminals, docks, and shipyards. This is a testament to its enduring functionality and architectural durability, despite its age.

For those visiting in summer, the tunnel also serves as a shortcut to several music and cultural festivals happening on the southern side of the river. Many festivals and events take place in the parks along the Elbe riverbanks, which are easily accessible through the tunnel.

Not just during the day, the tunnel is worth visiting at night as well. With reduced traffic, one can relish the serenity of the tunnel. Plus, on the tunnel's south side, the night view of the Hamburg skyline is breathtakingly enchanting.

In conclusion, a visit to Alter Elbtunnel provides an experience that combines transportation history, architecture, engineering innovation, and an unbeatable view. Whether you're a history buff, an art connoisseur, or just someone looking for a unique travel experience, this under-the-river walk should be on your Hamburg adventure list. Just remember to pack your camera!