Ice skating in Hamburg: enjoy the best spot now while you can

The skating in Holland seems like a dream that happened ages ago, but just because it warmed up and melted all that lovely ice doesn’t mean there’s no place closer to home to lace on the blades.

As often as I can in winter I get out to the outdoor ice rink at Hamburg’s central Planten und Blomen park, which locals say is the largest outdoor slab of artificial ice in Europe. Then again, you can actually see “Hamburg – world’s most beautiful city” splashed on billboards here, so don’t take their word for it.

It’s a great place for kids to learn to skate. Here’s the little-red-haired girl getting pushy with a dwarf out on the ice a few years ago:

We’ve been going skating as a family at that rink for years because it’s a great way to get out and about in the winter months without having to spend a fortune every time at Hamburg’s notoriously expensive swimming pools. If you have your own skates, it’s a deal – about €3.50 per person.

And simply as a sheet of ice, it’s wonderful, often crawling with skaters from morning ’til night through the winter months.

Unfortunately, the rest of it is a pit. hamburg-ice-skating-planten-blomen-wallanlage-crappy

They probably last gave it a coat of barf-n-baby-shit-yellow paint in the mid-1970s, filling in the numbers along some hideous designs straight from some bureaucrat’s bottom drawer. I’m not surprised the city’s ubiquitous graffiti sprayers haven’t bothered to smear the site with their mindless tags, for even they must figure it’s ugly enough as it is.

hamburg-ice-skating-planten-blomen-wallanlage-lockersMany of the bashed-in lockers in the dark and dingy common area don’t close properly, it’s often so crammed with people you can hardly find a place to plant your butt to lace up the skates, the biffies reek like 10-day-old piss, and as for the people working the joint…

Well, let’s just say a few of the employees could use either a personality transplant or start taking happy pills every morning, because some of them are about as friendly as a bill collector with hemorrhoids.

It’s pretty common to have a bored, indifferent face serving you in Germany, but maybe now they’re especially pissed at the the fact they might soon be out of a job?

During a break in a recent skate I signed a petition asking Hamburg city hall to keep the ice rink open.

hamburg-ice-skating-planten-blomen-wallanlage-penguinApparently the city has plans to “develop” the site, but what form the new ice rink will take, whether its vast surface will be maintained, whether it will have a puffy, air-filled roof or not, whether it will come stacked with cinema, bowling alley, revolving restaurant, water slide, diving tower and wave pool and permanent three-ring circus with ice skating an afterthought or gone completely remains to be seen.

(That last link’s in German, sorry.)

If I could only divert the attention of the powers-that-be down at Hamburg City Hall from that horribly expensive cost-overrun extravaganza called the Elbe Philharmonic opera house, a project we can’t afford and which will benefit only the super-rich, here’s what I’d tell them:

Given that ice skating is probably the last affordable sporting activity left in this city, keep the ice open! Spend a few bucks to give the arena the facelift it needs, but don’t mess with it. Compared to the rinky-dink patches of fake ice Canadians are used to rattling around on like hamsters on a wheel, a skating rink that size and shape is unique. It’s HUGE.

hamburg-ice-skating-planten-blomen-wallanlagen-girlsWe don’t need any fancy-dance crap tacked on. People come from miles around to skate there from morning to night every day, and they’ll still come if you just fix it up a little bit. Even on the most crowded days there is usually enough ice so that everyone can find a patch to skate on.

When you stop you can enjoy the wide view of the park and surrounding buildings. Even the city’s iconic St. Michaelis bell tower can be spied through the winter’s bare branches.


Don’t muck it up with anything that takes away from what’s already there: a perfect spot to enjoy winter in the middle of Germany’s most beautiful city.


19 Responses to “Ice skating in Hamburg: enjoy the best spot now while you can”

  1. February 19, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    “a bill collector with hemorrhoids” – niceπŸ˜€

    Looks like a bunch of fun, I haven’t done it in ages, so I only barely remember.
    The place sure could use a makeover though *shudder*.

    Uh, to make a whole new thing out of it would be a shame though😦
    But it wouldn’t surprise me😦

  2. February 19, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Hi Ian, Thanks so much for the nice email and comments on our blog, actually I haven’t seen the TT comments and I may not look for them! But thanks for positive support and your photos here are beautiful, love them!

  3. February 19, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    I want a skating dwarf!

  4. February 20, 2009 at 8:34 am

    I love that photo of the leaves under the ice – very nice!

    • February 20, 2009 at 8:38 am

      Thanks, az. The leaf photo is my favourite too, taken at the start of the 2007 season when there were still leaves on the nearby trees and which fell while the ice was still forming. The other photos are from this year, and of course the little red-haired girl couldn’t have been more than four in that video. A composite post, you could say.

  5. February 20, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    I love that photo of the two babes asses! Were they skating? oh! Is this blob about skating? Oh! Ahem! I love that photo of the leaves under the ice…

  6. February 20, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Beave, I posted that shot just for you. And another guy named Fred.πŸ˜‰

    Yes, they were skating! I was trying my best not to be too obvious with the camera…

  7. 9 writechicpress
    February 21, 2009 at 3:24 am

    Hey, Ian…I’m enjoying your winter more than mine. Except don’t be jealous…It’ll be 65 degrees (f) tomorrow, and I’ll be playing tennis.

    Were you on your knees for the leaf shot? Love it.

  8. February 21, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Lucky guy, you! I’d like to be at Hamburg now. I will come for a flying visit in the end of march, at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (beside Planten un Bloomen).
    A propos the Opera: Looks like a bunker sheeting the view. But the architect is happy.
    In fact, I prefer the North Sea Coast where I’m born. We skated on little lakes, riddled with leaves (like on the picture above)

    See you !


  9. 12 writechicpress
    February 22, 2009 at 2:08 am

    Sacrificing the body for your art. Awesome.πŸ˜‰ I was holding my imaginary camera trying to figure out. Thx.

  10. February 22, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Well, I was of course dressed for the job! Would have been another story if just wearing a bathing suit.πŸ™‚

  11. February 22, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Seems like a nice place to hang out! It’s unfortunate that it might change for the worse…hopefully things will work out. If only we had such a skating facility in the Center of the Universe….

  12. February 22, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Yes, but where in Canada are you from?πŸ™‚

  13. 16 ffo
    February 23, 2009 at 1:17 am


    This is “fanfromottawa” from the Medium Large blog. I see that you, too, are Canadian – perhaps that’s why we had the same reaction to Friday’s strip?!

    I just have to ask, seeing as I’m from Ottawa: have you ever skated on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal?

  14. February 23, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Hi ffo. Strip? Nudge-nudge, wink-wink saynomore.πŸ™‚
    Yes, it’s funny how two Canucks both spotted it before anyone else did. Or are we the only ones who dare to say what everyone else is thinking? BTW, anyone reading this comment thread, fanfromottawa is referring to this comic strip and the comments left:

    And to answer your question – yes! I loved it. While a student in Montreal in the early nineties we all piled into a van and headed there for a weekend. I remember the ice being very rutted on the narrow parts near the Parliament Buildings. I also loved how you could go out onto a wide spot – or is it a lake? – and take a break buying beaver tails, coffee and such at booths set up on the ice. Loads of fun. Too bad it’s so far away, or I’d do it again.

  15. February 26, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Thanks for the ice skating tip — I had no idea!

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