On a fine warm day in Hamburg, there are two places to be: on a sightseeing cruise or in the extravagantly lovely Planten un Blomen park. Enter at the corner of Gorch-Fock-Wall and Jungiusstrasse and cross the Wallgraben, one of the last remaining bits of the moat that once surrounded the city. On the left are greenhouses full of exotic plants, and on the right is the carefully composed Japanese landscape garden. If you continue straight, you’ll reach another exquisite Japanese garden of little rocky waterfalls and sculpted conifers, centered on a small pond with a teahouse. Its northern tip borders a formal rose garden, opposite of which is the Parksee mit Wasserlichtorgel. In this larger pond, fountains à la Las Vegas’s Bellagio put on a show at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. daily from May to October and with lights and music at 9 or 10 p.m., depending on the season.
The tables of the self-service Café Seepavillon have some of the best views. Continuing on, you might happen to catch a performance at the open-air Musikpavillon, where we saw a Brazilian dance troupe. The Apothekergarten on the northwestern edge of the park grows tidy groups of medicinal herbs, but the park’s real glory is just to the south: the waterfalls, a magnificent length of lily pad-speckled pools cascading into one another. Refresh yourself with some ice cream from Eis Livotto, the choicest tables of which overlook the waterfalls. We spent about 90 minutes in Planten un Blomen, but I could have happily whiled away an entire afternoon here.