Beatles-Platz in the centre of Hamburg is a circular plaza paved black to look like a vinyl record and edged by statues of the Fab Four. Built in 2008 it commemorates the two years from 1960 when the group, then little-known, were gigging in local bars, working up to their first recording.
The plaza is in the St Pauli area of Germany’s second city, next to the infamous Reeperbahn red-light area. In 1960 the area was seedy and sometimes dangerous. Paul McCartney’s father, hearing its reputation, had to be persuaded to let his son leave Liverpool.
What a difference 50 years makes. St Pauli has tidied itself up and Hamburg’s reputation has changed almost as dramatically as did the band’s fortunes. Cultured, sophisticated and handsome, Hamburg is now Germany’s richest city with some of the country’s highest property prices.
The view from St Michael's, the German city's best-known church. Image: Alamy
Always a wealthy city thanks to its thriving port — Europe’s second largest — Hamburg’s prime areas, with classical mansions around the five-mile Alster Lake, now have no crime-ridden areas to detract. International companies including Airbus and Unilever have made their headquarters in Hamburg, it’s a media hub and academic centre, and it’s a green city, too. Over 40 per cent is made up of parks and lakes and it regularly ranks among the world’s top 20 most liveable cities.
Ben Schaul, who develops listed buildings in Berlin, lived in Notting Hill for 14 years before choosing to live with his Swedish wife in Hamburg. They bought a 1,650sq ft, two-bedroom apartment at Sophienterrassen, a development on the banks of Alster Lake, an artificial lake formed by damming the river Alster to make an important recreational area.
“The Alster is the pulse of the City, rather like Hyde Park in London,” says Ben, in his thirties. “People jog, walk and cycle around it, year-round. Living here is like living in the countryside, yet we are in the city centre. Berlin is funky and edgy while Hamburg is more polite and settled. Germans all agree that Hamburg and Munich are our most beautiful cities.”
From £209,400: Sophienterrassen on prestigious Harvestehuder Weg has flats, townhouses and villas beside Alster Lake.
Design By Lagerfeld
Sophienterrassen is on Harvestehuder Weg, Hamburg’s most prestigious address where German company Frankonia Eurobau is developing a former military building in private parkland. On completion there will be 105 one- to four-bedroom apartments of 430 to 4,300 square feet, priced from £209,400. Twenty-four completed four-storey townhouses start from £1,675,000 and five substantial Alster villas are £2.5 million.
“Hamburg is a rich city but understated,” says Hilke Brandig-Rettig of Frankonia. “Our classic design reflects the city’s elegant architecture. So far over 50 properties have been sold to buyers from China, Germany, Europe, Russia and the Middle East.”
These well-built homes with striking neoclassical and art nouveau architecture have triple glazing for the harsh winters, high ceilings and top-quality bathrooms and kitchens. There’s underground parking, a spa, gym and a full-time concierge. Fashion guru Karl Lagerfeld, who like German Chancellor Angela Merkel comes from Hamburg, has designed some communal areas.
In the same street Cluttons Resorts is selling the last five of 57 flats, at Harvestehuder Weg 36. The one- and two-bedroom homes feature high ceilings and share a gym and underground parking. Prices start at £1.4 million.
£541,000: for a renovated three-bedroom house, with annexe, garden and garage close to Hamburg Golf Club. Through Engel & Volkers.
Philip Bonhoeffer, MD of estate agents Engel & Völkers Hamburg, says average prices in the city are £300 per square foot with the best locations such as Harvestehuder and Winterhude up to four times higher. Up-and-coming areas where buyers can find value include Schanze and Barmbek-Süd. Highest current demand is for two- to four-room flats for investment or personal use priced up to £418,800.
Average rental market yields are three to 4.5 per cent, says Bonhoeffer. “The city is growing every year due to the stronger economy and high attractiveness, especially to younger people. To cover current growing demand Hamburg needs another 6,000 new apartments every year.”
* Sophienterrassen: sophien terrassen.de (+ 49 40 226 32 890)
* Cluttons Resorts: cluttonsresorts.com (020 7584 3050)
* Engel & Völkers: engelvoelkers.com (+ 49 40 36 13 1359)