Speicherstadt Warehouse Complex - History and Facts | History Hit

Speicherstadt Warehouse Complex

Hamburg, Germany

Amy Irvine

18 Feb 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Speicherstadt Warehouse Complex

The Speicherstadt is the world’s largest warehouse complex, spanning an area of 260,000 square metres. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see on a trip to Hamburg.​​​​​​​

History of the Speicherstadt

In 1871, the Hanseatic City of Hamburg became part of the German Empire. Although able to maintain its own tax and customs regulations for a while, in 1881, a new customs union was installed. From this point on, only the free port area along the River Elbe was exempt from import sales taxes and customs, meaning the city thus needed to create new storage capacities inside the free economic zone in Hamburg’s port.

Construction of the Speicherstadt began in 1883 after 1,100 houses were torn down to make way and 20,000 people relocated. It was built into the River Elbe on thousands of oak poles and with beautiful neo-gothic brick architecture, and the district is crossed by fleets – canals that are flooded depending on the tides which can then also be travelled by ship.

Interrupted by World War One, the Speicherstadt’s construction finished in 1927. However, Operation Gomorrha (the Allied bombing of Hamburg) destroyed the western part of Speicherstadt during World War Two, but it was later reconstructed.

On 1 January 2013 the free economic zone of the Speicherstadt, which covered almost a fifth of Hamburg’s entire port area, was dissolved.

Speicherstadt today

The site was awarded its UNESCO World Heritage Site status on 5 July 2015 – Germany’s 40th overall.

Today, Speicherstadt is a major tourist attraction, and host to an array of leisure activities including Miniatur Wunderland (a genuinely impressive enormous detailed model railway system), the German Customs Museum and International Maritime Museum.

The area is also home to some great places to relax, including the former coffee warehouse, Speicherstadt coffee roastery (which is definitely worth a visit and located just 1 minute away from Miniatur Wunderland).

There are long canals between the former storage buildings which are still used by smaller ships, and a traditional ship harbour housing historical ships.

Some buildings are still used as warehouses for items such as carpets, cocoa, coffee, tea, spices, maritime equipment, and electronics.

Getting to the Speicherstadt

The Speicherstadt is located in the Freihafen (free-port) between Deichtorhallen and Baumwall, about 1.2 miles from Hamburg’s main station – around a 20 minute walk.

From Hamburg’s main station, you can also take the U3 subway to Baumwall (6 mins), and the Speicherstadt is then a 5 minute walk. Alternatively the Line 6 bus from the station to nearby Auf dem Sande takes 12 minutes. Boat tours depart from the landing stages in St. Pauli.

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Historic Sites in Hamburg

Discover some of the best historic sites in Hamburg, Germany - from its famous port to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the world’s largest warehouse complex at Speicherstadt.