Compared to my previous visit twenty-five years ago, the run-down parts of the city are much worse; it is hard to believe you are in northern Europe. The nice parts of the city are more splendid. They are building a new city section altogether — Hafen-City – at a hard-to-discern rate of occupancy, can you say Austro-Hamburg business cycle theory? It's all mixed with in 18th century warehouses. Here are some apartments for sale. Here is one good introduction to the project.
In Hamburg they serve smoked eel with moist scrambled eggs, on delicious black bread.
A good chunk of the people in Hamburg could pass for Scandinavian; that's not the case in Berlin.
For contemporary work, Hamburg's Hafen-City is the architectural marvel of the Western world. It is Europe's single largest development project, not counting whole countries of course. Who said we no longer build coherent, splendid-looking neighborhoods? It is sadly under-discussed (addendum: but not here). For my unusual taste, the views from Hafen-City, through the harbor, all the way down to Hamburg-Altona, are among the very best in Europe. The bridges, the elevations and overpasses, the rows of brick, steel, and glass, the transport links, the integration with the water, and the "imaginary harbor," cosmopolitan in nature of course, remind me of what I would expect to find in the lost notebooks of a brilliant "Outsider" artist, except it's all for real.
One lengthy description, in German (but good visuals), is here.