How to Get Around Transportation-Wise While Travelling to Venice Italy and the Hanseatic Cities of Europe

November 24, 2020

Venice is uniquely connected to the mainland by Ponte della Libertà or Liberty Bridge that was built in 1932 and the railroad bridge that lies right next to it built in 1846. Both bridges are 5km long and connect the historic island to the mainland by bus, train and car (The Liberty Bridge, 2018). The railroad bridge has 2 tracks in both direction and terminates at the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station on the historic island of Venice.

Overall, Venice has unique infrastructure based on its marshy lagoon geographic traits. The transportation system also responds to these conditions in ways different than most cities that have more stable land and less water frontage. As Venice is a major tourist destination and located on the sea side, cruise ships have become an issue regarding the infrastructure of the city.

Transportation Infrastructure in the Hanseatic Cities

Hamburg is a sheltered natural harbor located at the junction between the Elbe and Alster rivers. Hamburg is known for its bold infrastructure, historically from the damning of the Alster river to form the two Alster lakes in as early as the 13th century (All About the Alster, 2018). The damning of the river was to generate hydro power for the mills. Today the Alster lake is iconic to Hamburg and is used for a variety of leisure activities ranging from paddling to ice skating.

Hamburg is a major transportation hub as its location is in the center of Europe with connections to the autobahn and railroad junctions that connect to Scandinavia. The city was one of the primary cities in the Hanseatic League which corresponds to its success today as the 2nd largest ports in Europe. There is a strong international connection with its port, airport and cruise ship terminals, but also has a very strong and influential domestic transportation system called HVV translated to “Hamburg Transportation Association”. The successful transportation infrastructure both domestically and internationally can be related back to its association with its strong role in the Hanseatic League.

The HVV is the company in Hamburg that coordinates the different public transportation methods in Hamburg including the buses, trains and ferries. Creating a company that includes these different sub-owned or managed transportation companies in 1965 was a revolutionary idea that was first of its kind worldwide (HVV - Hamburger Verkehrsverbund 2018). The idea for creating the HVV company was for a unified fare system that would allow for a single ticket to be used for different transportation methods. Hamburg is also home to the busiest bus lines in Europe, such as the Metrobus 5 which has no set arrival times as the bus arrives every 2-3 minutes.

The Hanseatic League started informally among Northern German towns in the 1100s and grew in strength and expanded around the Baltic Sea, until it slowly began to diminish starting in 1450. The word Hansa was derived from the old high German word for convoy, which applied to bands of merchants that traveled in the Hanseatic region by land or water (Hansa – Hanse, 2018). Even though the Hanseatic League does not exist today in its original form and function, it is still referenced in many modern contexts. Some people have connected the expansion of the European Union into the Eastern Baltic countries to a revival of the Hanseatic League (Travel to the Baltic Hansa, 2007). There are over 10 cities that were part of the Hanseatic League that use the term Hansa city in their city names and on their license plates. There are many companies that use Hansa in their names such as Lufthansa, which translates to air hansa, Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Hanze Oil, Hanse Sail, HansaBank and many more companies that exist throughout the Hanseatic region. The fact that so many companies use Hansa in their branding shows how the people carry a feeling of pride to be associated with a time of economic glory and power.

Gdansk is one of the larger Hanseatic cities with a population of 464,829 (Bank Danych Lokalnych 2018). Gdansk has an urban electrical rail system that connects Gdansk to the two other main cities of Sopot and Gdynia. Ferries are not suitable for the geography of Gdansk being located inland. Gdansk has an interconnected tram and bus system that allows for the purchase of a single ticket for both uses. Gdansk has recently been improving its infrastructure with a 3 billion euro investment in improving the rail line connection between Gdansk and Warsaw. The geographic and political situation for Gdansk has shaped its transportation infrastructure in unique ways compared to other Hanseatic cities.

Another Hanseatic city that has a unique transportation system based on historical technological advancements is Helsinki. Being geographically located on the Sea, Helsinki was founded to be a center for shipping. The freezing of the sea stunted the economic growth of the city until the late 19th century, when ship making developed technologically to have ice breaking capabilities. Helsinki has had a very active port with well-established trading routes between Tallinn and St. Petersburg that been active for hundreds of years (Cargo Traffic and Ships, 2018).

With a population of around 5.23 million, St. Petersburg has intensive transportation systems (PL Review, 2011). The transportation systems in St. Petersburg are a result of the Soviet Era times when there were only trains to the factories that ran in one direction to work in the morning and the other direction towards the residential areas in the evenings (PL Review, 2011). The transportation system today has evolved drastically since. The transportation system remains segregated depending on the method, for instance you can not purchase a single ticket that can be used on the train and/or the buses. The tickets are to be purchased at the station or on the bus instead of at a ticketing kiosk or on your phone. The transportation infrastructure is generally on a large scale in St. Petersburg. The underground train system goes quite deep underground to go below the rivers in the city and is used by many citizens. The transportation systems in St. Petersburg are overall very large-scale, but lack in their inter-connectivity compared to cities like Hamburg where one can ride a train and take a bus with a single ticket purchased on their phone, which is a more efficient process.

The Hanseatic cities have unique transportation infrastructure that can be related to their historical, political, economic, geographic and social conditions. Hamburg has its own transportation network that successfully interconnects the different methods of public transportation with the HVV company. Venice’s transportation system is unique in comparison to the Hanseatic cities and is currently facing a deterioration of its historic infrastructure due to cruise ships. Transportation infrastructure is something that most people do not think about when it is successfully implemented and is a crucial element to the development of a city that relates to all aspects of a city down to the quality of life of the citizen.

Are you interested in visiting the Venice Biennale of Architecture white in the romantic city? If so I wrote this ultimate guide with an exclusive look into an exhibit that my uncle from Lithuania was involved with!


“All about the Alster.” Hamburg Tourismus,

Bank Danych Lokalnych, 5 Dec. 2018,

Buckley, Julia. “Venice Just Banned Mega Cruise Ships from Sailing through the City.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 8 Nov. 2017,

“Cargo Traffic and Ships.” Port of Helsinki,

Dhwty. “The Construction of Venice, the Floating City.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 13 June 2014,

D’Amato, Giuseppe. “Travel to the Baltic Hansa.” - International Politics and Culture, 2007,

“Explanation of the PUBLIC TRANSPORT in Hamburg.” The Red Relocators,

“Gondola History.” Gondola Romantica,

“HVV - Hamburger Verkehrsverbund.”,

Nadeau, Barbie Latza. “Venice Bans Giant Cruise Ships. Sort Of.” The Daily Beast, The Daily Beast Company, 9 Nov. 2017,

PL Review, 2011,

“The Liberty Bridge Connects the Centre of Venice with the Mestre District.” Venice Hotels,

Transitmap. “Transitmaps.” Transit Maps, 18 Feb. 2012,

Wohlert, Martin. “Hansa - Hanse.” Der Werwolf Von Klein-Krams Bei Ludwigslust | Lexikus, Steffen Herbst, 2018,

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JJ Sterling
As the co-founder of Urban Splatter and an architecture graduate from Chicago, I thrive on crafting a digital nexus where architectural innovation intersects with boundless digital opportunity. My academic roots in the Windy City's rich architectural tapestry inspire a unique vision for Urban Splatter's journey into the ever-evolving digital frontier of design. Join us as we navigate the exciting confluence of structure, style, and technology.

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