A special charm at the heart of the city The Alster Lake

The Alster is a big attraction for both Hamburgs locals and visitors, offering popular boat trips around the Inner and Outer Alster as well as walks around the water.

The Alster Lake in Hamburg attraction

Address:  Jungfernstieg, 20534 Hamburg
Public transport: S1, S2, S3 and U1, U2, Station 'Jungfernstieg'.
Parking: Parkhaus 'Alsterhaus Hamburg' (Bei der Stadtwassermühle)

This body of water is made up of the Außenalster (Outer Alster) and the Binnenalster (Inner Alster) whose southern part flows into the Elbe. The source of the Alster originates in Henstedt-Rhen, outside of Hamburg. In the north of the urban area is where the river reaches the city before meeting the Krugkoppel bridge on the Außenalster. The water is surrounded by trees, green parks and beautiful buildings which give the area a special charm. To maintain the standard of beautiful scenery it is a rule that all buildings surrounding the Alster must be white and that their roofs should be covered with copper.

Going with the flow

With a size of 164 hectares, the Alster lake also has a long shoreline which is a popular meeting point. Well-used jogging paths run along the waters and small sailing vessels and barges make tours of the lake.

Water sports are also a very popular activity. In 1844 the first rowing regatta took place on the Alster. Six years later the first sailing regatta followed. From April to October you can hire sailing boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats or rowboats at many places all around the Alster.

In the Alster park and numerous other green areas surrounding the lake, people can leave the stresses of a hectic metropolitan life for a moment under the shade of the trees looking out into the lake. The green parks are a perfect place for relaxing, having a barbecue, or even sunbathing or reading on one of the 'Alsterchairs'.

Winter freeze

In cold winters the Alster can freeze over and then thousands of Hamburg locals go for a stroll across the ice. Both children and adults have a go at sliding over the surface on skates. However, it is very seldom that the ice is judged thick enough to be safety approved by the local government. The last two years for this to happen were in 2012 and 1997.

At the southern end the course of the water narrows. The Kennedy and Lombard bridge separates the Outer and Inner Alster lakes. So if a walk around the whole of the Outer Alster seems a little too tiring, a stroll around the Inner Alster, with buildings on three of the four sides and a 35 metre high fountain in the middle, can be much more preferable.

The striking silhouette of the city's buildings creates an excellent photo opportunity in the evenings when the lights are reflected back by the water.

(Source: www.bilderbruecke.com)


The Alster in Hamburg has been around since 1190, but in various forms. Originally, it was actually created as a kind of water reservoir for a mill. The upper Alster was canalised in the 15th century and strong shipping traffic in the 16th century brought a lot of economic goods from the surrounding estates to Hamburg. From 1615-26 fortifications were built to protect the city. These fortifications, close to the Lombardsbridge and Kennedybridge, led to the division of the Binnenalster and Außenalster.

The Great Fire of 1842 destroyed downtown Hamburg almost completely and changed the appearance of the Binnenalster. Bridges were built and new floodgates lowered the water level of the Alster lake about a metre. Because of this action the grasslands around the Alster lake were protected from the frequent floodings, especially in the areas of Harvestehude, Eppendorf, Winterhude and Uhlenhorst. Small rivers like the Eilbek and the Osterbek were canalised, becks were filled up and the surrounding area transformed into building land by aggradation.

The Lombardsbridge marks the former position of the fortification splitting the Außenalster from the Binnenalster. The Lombardsbridge was unable to handle the rising traffic and in 1953 the new Lombardsbridge was built to the north of the old one. In 1963 it was renamed into Kennedybridge. The 10th meridian east is marked at the Kennedybridge.

(Source: www.bilderbruecke.com)

An inspirational development

Until the beginning of the 19th century there was only the bank of St. Georg on the east side of the Außenalster. In 1820 a waterside promenade with a lindenavenue was created. In 1875 public parks were added by civil engineer Franz Andreas Meyer. At the same time a circular road was planned and created around the Außenalster in order to encourage public access to the banks.

Private gardens in the area of Harvestehude extended to the Alsterbank and blocked public access to the water. Only after World War II it was possible to buy the estates located at the waterbank for the International Gardening exhibition. In 1953 this area was rebuilt into public parks.

Towards the end of the 18th century people discovered the recreative potential of the Alster. People started taking walks along the Binnenalster or along the banks of St. Georg. In 1793 the “Badefloß” was built, which was one of the three public swimming baths. Later it was renamed “Alsterlust”.

In the end of the 19th century the beauty of the two Alster Basins became known in the United States of America. In 1886 similar parks were developed along the banks of the Charles River Basin in Boston by the landscape architect Charles Eliot.

The Alster Lake
The Alster is a big attraction for both Hamburgs locals and visitors, offering popular boat trips around the Inner and Outer Alster as well as walks around the water.
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