Core Course Week: Hamburg & Copenhagen

This past week was Core Course Week at DIS, which means everyone is off traveling half of the week with their core course! My core course, Urban Studies, went to Hamburg, Germany for 3 days (Monday-Wednesday) and then came back to Copenhagen and had more adventures as a class Thursday and Friday. Because my course focuses on cities and the urban environment, that means we need to be out in the city, which meant lots of walking and biking tours.

Early Monday morning (5:30am wake up call) we took the train to Hamburg. It was about a 5 hour journey that included a ferry ride (with the train on it!). Upon arrival in Hamburg, we checked into our hostel, the Generator Hostel, right across the street from the central train station. This was my first time staying in a hostel and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was picturing. I shared a room with 5 other girls from my class and the bathrooms were probably tinier than airplane bathrooms, but I think we were all way too tired after each day to care.

After dropping off our luggage, we dove right into a biking tour around Hamburg. I was definitely nervous but it turned out be very fun and easy. Hamburg has a very different bike infrastructure than Copenhagen, but the sheer number of bikers in Copenhagen probably makes it more intimidating for the beginner. Bikers in Hamburg often share the sidewalk with pedestrians and there aren’t designated lanes on the street unlike in Copenhagen where there is a strong network of integrated, leveled bike lanes.


After the bike tour we had an amazing group dinner at Gröninger Privatbrauerei, where we were served homemade beer and a platter of a variety of meats!

Highlights of the day:

  • Biking
  • City Hall
  • Dinner


Tuesday was another packed day of walking tours to IBA Dock and HafenCity, both incredible city development projects focused on sustainability. IBA Dock is an organization that has been transforming the island of Wilhelmsburg. HafenCity is a waterfront project located on the Elbe River, and a completely manmade extension of Hamburg.

Highlights of the day:

  • Algae House (IBA Dock tour)
  • Lunch at the Ministry of Urban Development and Environment Office Building (super cool candy-colored building design)
  • Floating docks of HafenCity
  • Sautter + Lackmann Bookstore (all books about art, architecture, design, and cities-could have stayed there all day)

Wednesday was another walking tour, this one not as long and cold, and focused on gentrification. Visits included Plan Bude and the Gaengeviertel Housing Project. After these visits we hopped on the train back to Copenhagen!

After such a crazy 3 days it was nice to come back to something that’s starting to feel homey and familiar!

But the adventures didn’t stop there. Thursday we had a tour of Christiania, a sort of Freetown not exactly governed by Copenhagen. Home to hippies and squatters, the area is a colorful assortment of homes, cafes, art galleries, and the like. A haven for the sale of marijuana, residents have limited taxes and run under their own laws. From an urban studies perspective, we looked at how a community like this functions and whether this type of community is sustainable, weighing the pros and cons of this type of environment. Christiania is truly a whole different world inside and must be experienced first hand to truly understand the dynamics. Photographs are not allowed in certain areas.

Finally Friday, we ended the week with another bike tour, this time all around Copenhagen. This was the first day I actually biked all the way to school from my house (took about 20 minutes but apparently can be done in 10). In a group of 25 people, it was definitely a little difficult to bike through the city, but I feel more confident about biking in the city now. Still scary since bikers basically rule the streets here, so they expect you to know what you’re doing!

We ended the week with cake and coffee at the Playhouse (theater), a really cool building on the water.

Playhouse (Copenhagen)

I loved exploring Hamburg. So different from Copenhagen, it felt more like an American city with its diversity and fast paced environment, but with a cool blend of historic and modern buildings. I really enjoyed bonding with my class and can’t wait to travel with them more on the Long Study Tour in April!


One Comment

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  1. Ashley, what a way to go to school!! You definitely are getting the benefit of what the world has to offer! Hamburg sounds like like a great place. You’re going to be a pro at biking when you come home. It’s good that you are starting to get that homey feeling in Copenhagen. You probably have places you and your friends like to go to in your off time. You are taking advantage of this opportunity in the best possible way. I really love your enthusiasm!keep your messages coming!

    Liked by 1 person

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