Your Guide to Elbphilharmonie Hamburg
Elbphilharmonie or Elbe Philharmonic Hall is a concert hall located overlooking the Elbe river in Hamburg’s HafenCity. Pronounced Elb-phil-har-mo-nie, this stunning concert hall is amongst the most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world and a must-visit when in the city. Elbphilharmonie Hamburg isn’t your typical concert hall — its spectacular architecture makes it a distinct visual landmark in the Hamburg skyline. Featuring a concert hall encased in glass and set upon a giant brick warehouse, Elbphilharmonie is a starkly stunning reminder of human potential. The Hamburg concert hall attracts millions annually and has become one of the most iconic buildings in the world within its three years of opening for guests. Read on to discover what makes this special concert hall truly remarkable.
The Elbphilharmonie stands tall on the shoulders of an iconic Neo-Gothic warehouse built in 1875 — Kaiser Speicher. Kaiserspeicher was the first warehouse in Hamburg and was considered an architectural masterpiece when the city became an international trade center. Unfortunately, the original building was destroyed during World War II, and by 1963, the area was detonated and Kaiser Speicher A was constructed in its place. This new building served as a storage space for tea, cocoa, and tobacco, but was eventually no longer in use with the growing popularity of container transports.
In 2007, the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg as we now know it began construction on the same site as Kaiserspeicher A. While a majority of Kaiser Speicher A was gutted, it served as the base for the Hamburg concert hall and the dazzling curved glass facade was added on top. The iconic landmark is designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron and took over a decade to be designed and constructed. After a difficult couple of years of construction delays and budgeting issues, the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg finally opened doors to visitors in January 2017. Despite the delays, the concert hall has already brought in over half a million visitors in just three years of opening and is touted to be the biggest attraction in Hamburg.
What makes the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg unique is the difficult marriage of the rustic brick-style warehouse and a glittering and contemporary glass facade. This unique interplay is what gives the concert hall much of its drama and, according to many critics, most of its appeal. Despite the original warehouse being destroyed during World War II, parts of its structure were retained during reconstruction and still make their presence felt in this modern architectural marvel.
The Elbphilharmonie concert hall features three stunning concert halls, a magnificent Westin hotel, 15 floors of apartments, an 80-meter escalator, and a plaza boasting 360° panoramic views of Hamburg. Each of these sections is meticulously designed, and while visually different, they come together beautifully to create a concert hall for the ages. The roof of the Elbphilharmonie is also a visual highlight and a literal crowning jewel — with its wave-like design, it plays a major role in making the concert hall special.
Why Take a Guided Tour of Elbphilharmonie Hamburg
There's a big difference between exploring a place on your own and experiencing it through a guided tour. While the former gives you the freedom to roam around as you like, the latter is much more organized and makes for an overall more fulfilling experience. Your tour guide will take you on a remarkable journey through the beginnings of the landmark and cover all the interesting facts that make it special. With an Elbphilharmonie guided tour, you can experience the beauty and opulence of the concert hall without mindlessly walking through it and stumbling upon something special.
Each landmark or tourist attraction, even if it's relatively new, has a lot of history associated with its inception, architecture, and design. The Elbphilharmonie Hamburg falls in the same category. While it began construction only in 2007, the concert hall rests atop a brick warehouse from the pre-World War II era. With a guided tour of the Elbphilharmonie, you'll get to learn everything there's to this world-class concert hall from an expert. Instead of aimlessly wandering from one room to the other, you can opt for an enriching experience at the Elbphilharmonie.
A guided tour is the easiest way to explore a landmark in its entirety. When you visit a landmark on your own, there's a possibility you might miss out on some of the lesser-known parts or aspects and cover just the popular parts. When you opt for a guided tour, your expert guide will ensure you explore and experience every part of the landmark while explaining the significance behind what you're witnessing. From hidden spots to secret tunnels, a guided tour allows you to explore every aspect of a landmark that makes it special.
What to See
- The Plaza: Located 37 meters above ground and right in between the Elbphilharmonie’s modern glass facade and old-school brick warehouse, the Plaza is a must-visit. Given its advantageous location, you can expect spectacular views of Hamburg, a seemingly never-ending trail of river Elbe, boats bobbing in the gentle river, and the glittering city skyline. The Elbphilharmonie Plaza is open seven days a week, and entry is free.
- The Tube: An 82-meter long escalator that begins at the entrance of Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Tube is a ride worth taking. The slow escalator takes approximately 4 minutes to get to the top, but the journey is interesting, to say the least. From sequined reflective disks that create an illusory effect to glimpses of the city and river Elbe, the Tube isn’t your typical escalator.
- The Grand Hall: Often described as the heart of the Elbphilharmonie, the Grand Hall features a vineyard style seating and boasts a capacity of 2100. Since the orchestra is in the middle and the seats rise steeply in interwoven tiers, the sightlines in the Grand Hall are clean, and the sound quality is spectacular. For improved acoustics, renowned specialist Yasuhisa Toyota has decked the hall with paper panels and grooved plaster. These don’t just give the hall ceiling a seashell effect but also help create balanced resonance.
- The Recital Hall: Another highlight of the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg is the Recital Hall. Seating 572 guests, this performance venue is best suited for intimate performances across different genres, including jazz, chamber music, world music, and lieder. This classically designed hall features wood paneling and flexible stage and seating elements.
- Visitors are required to wear a face mask and maintain a distance of 1.5 m from other guests for the duration of their guided tour. Please note that face visors are not considered face coverings.
- To minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection, the lifts will not be in use, and therefore guided tours are not wheelchair accessible for the time being.
- While entry to the Plaza is free of cost, you can make a reservation by paying €2 online and skipping the queue.
- You can access the Grand and Recital Halls only via stairs and lifts from the Plaza on the 8th floor. The hall entrances are situated on floors 12, 13, 15, and 16, while the Recital Hall entrance is on the 10th floor.
- If you’re visiting the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg for a concert, arrive at least two hours in advance to fully explore the landmark.
- Please note that food and drinks cannot be taken into the halls. If you wish to eat something, please head over to the bars located on all levels of the Grand Hall and Recital Hall before the performance or during the interval.
- Toilet facilities are in the foyer areas of each corresponding hall. Patrons with mobility disabilities and wheelchair users can use the B lifts located at the entrance of the Elbphilharmonie Shop to access the toilet.
- If you need to withdraw cash, a Euronet ATM is located in the entrance area of The Westin Hamburg hotel on the ground floor.
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Elbphilharmonie Hamburg: Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Once open, the attraction is bound to have many visitors. By purchasing your tickets online and in advance, you will be able to beat the crowd while getting great discounts on your Elbphilharmonie Hamburg tickets.
Given that there is a lot to see and experience at the Elbphilharmonie, you should ideally arrive at the venue at least 2 hours before the performance begins.
If you arrive late to a concert or event, ushers will indicate an appropriate time for you to enter the hall, generally during the applause between works.
Yes, all the halls in the Elbphilharmonie are accessible for wheelchair users. The Plaza is also fully accessible via lifts located in the tunnel to the right of the Tube.
Taking photographs and recording videos during a concert or event is strictly forbidden. You can take photos or record videos for private purposes on the Plaza and the Foyers before the start or after the end of an event.
Lost items can be retrieved from the security office. Found items should be handed to the security staff on the Plaza, at the main entrance, or the security office located at the south-east corner of Elbphilharmonie Hamburg.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the cloakrooms are closed, and jackets can be taken into the hall. Normally, umbrellas, bags sized A3 and bigger, and luggage or other bulky items can be stored in the lockers located on the ground floor.
Yes, fully licensed cash bars are open to guests on all levels of the Grand Hall Foyer and in the Recital Hall Foyer before each concert or event and during the interval.
No, smoking is prohibited at the Elbphilharmonie, including balconies, the entire Plaza, and the outer walkway.