Travel Inspiration: Hamburg
Hamburg… second largest city of Germany, home of sailors, captains, traders and noble businessman, European city with the largest inland port, musical city, “gate to the world”. Due to its unique location and the proximity to the Northern and Baltic Sea, a lot of water within the city with its docks, harbor, rivers and bridges, melting pot, crazy nightlife and renowned red light district, hip and stylish urban scene, easy-going, friendly and relaxed inhabitants, local specialties as “Franzbrötchen” and Astra. But for us Hamburg is so much more since one of us is born in Hamburg and used it to call home for many years. Moreover, in our opinion it is definitely second best and prettiest city of Germany – right after Munich, of course :).
Since we go to Hamburg ever so often on business and private trips, you can find our favorite spots and things to do while in this beautiful city. Have fun and… AHOI!
Since we are lucky to have family in Hamburg we cannot offer great hotel advice out of our own experience. But we investigated a bit within friends and colleagues and here are some ideas where to stay in Hamburg depending on your budget:
- Of course, if you want to enjoy luxury and are not on a budget, there is always the Atlantic Hotel – see https://www.kempinski.com/de/hamburg/hotel-atlantic/ – , which is home for famous rock star Udo Lindenberg for decades. The location is perfect – you can see the Alster but are also very close to all subway lines and the central station.
- Friends have stayed at the five star Mövenpick Hotel in the Schanzenpark and were more than happy with their hotel choice – check out http://www.movenpick.com/de/europe/germany/hamburg/hotel-hamburg/angebote/ for rates. The Mövenpick brand speaks for itself… so we don’t have to explain anything we guess :).
- The Hafen Hamburg (also more in the luxury category) offers not only great service and food, but also the perfect view over the harbor and docklands – see http://www.hotel-hafen-hamburg.de/ (for those of you who are on a budget… you can also enjoy the view by just visiting the hotel bar :)).
- Very cool and stylish new hotel in the hotspot HafenCity: the 25hours hotel http://www.25hours-hotels.com/de/hafencity/home/home.html. Each room is decorated according to the maritime theme but not overly done and you feel at home once you get in. The rates are medium priced and hotel bar is also frequented by locals which is always a very good sign when it comes to bar quality. On the first floor you will also find a small gift shop that sells very cool post cards and little-somethings – a true insider tip:).
- For those of you on a strict budget: the Generator Hostel offers very reasonable rates for single, double or shared rooms and is perfectly located for a city trip near the central station https://generatorhostels.com/de/reiseziele/hamburg/?section=rooms .
It is definitely advisable to plan your trip well in advance, since room rates as well as plane or train tickets are highly volatile due to many events and exhibitions that take place in Hamburg. We also suggest to check the following websites as they usually offer great deals that include flights or train tickets in combination with accommodation and sometimes even musical tickets:
Sightseeing and hotspots
Before you start your trip we recommend to get the HamburgCard – it does not only include free public transportation (subway, busses, local trains and the harbor ferries) but also offers discounts for many sights and also some restaurants and bars. There are various options (single or group, day-ticket or weekly tickets, print-out or mobile ticket etc.) and it’s definitely worth the bargain – check out http://www.hamburg-tourism.de/suchen-buchen/hamburg-card/jetzt-online-buchen/?gclid=CK3Gi-jTic0CFQoW0wodP3cN8Q ! Since you can purchase it online before your trip, even the ride from the airport to your accommodation is already included!
Since Hamburg offers so many beautiful places, sights and landmarks as well as cultural highlights we are positively sure that we did not capture every single one of them and even for us there is much more to discover… but in our opinion these are the most important sights and places that you should not miss when in Hamburg:
- Participate in the best free walking tour: very interesting and entertaining guided tour through the city, offered daily in German and English. For those of you who are not familiar with the free-walking-tour-principle: You join the group and the guide at the meeting point, take part in the tour and pay at the end by tipping the guide as much as you want or you think the tour was worth. There are two different walking tours offered: Historic City Center or Harbor, St. Pauli and Reeperbahn – we did them both and loved them. The guides were funny, knew their town by heart and had some stories to tell about Hamburg and its famous or less-famous inhabitants as well as historical and architectural facts… see https://www.robinandthetourguides.de/en/ for dates and meeting points! We did both of the offered tours and that was so fun!
- Guided tour in the beautiful city hall downtown (approximately 30 minutes) – very recommendable tour in this very cool building with lots of history. Important: check out possible dates in advance since the city hall is closed to public sometimes due to official receptions or press conferences http://www.hamburg.de/rathausfuehrung/
- Cargo museum ship Cap San Diego in the harbor area, close to local train station „Landungsbrücken”. Interesting ship details as well as great overview over the harbor area. Opened daily – also hosts various events and specials. See http://www.capsandiego.de/
- Museum ship Rickmer Rickmers, next to Cap San Diego, also close to local train station „Landungsbrücken” – beautiful old sailing ship which has been restored fondly and hosts also exhibitions and many interesting information about shipping and the harbor area. http://www.rickmer-rickmers.de/
- Walk around the Alster lake (not the inland Alster at the Jungfernstieg, the large one 🙂 or rent a bike and enjoy the lovely view with the blue lake and the white sails of the countless boats that are out there on a sunny day. There are many beach club styled restaurants and bars where you can enjoy a drink (we suggest “Alsterwasser”) – the whole track is approximately 8 kilometers.
- Visit the dream universe of every chocolate lover and chocoholic: Hachez Chocoversum. The guided tour is absolutely worth the entrance fee – you learn a lot about the chocolate manufacturing process and of course can taste a lot of chocolate, too. It is advisable to make reservations https://ticket-at-home.de/Events/Dates.aspx?TOPProposalNr=4&shopid=11
- Visit the „Internationales Maritimes Museum“ in the Speicherstadt area. Nine floors full of great and fascinating exhibits as for example the golden “Santa Maria” ship of Christopher Kolumbus and the notorious “bone ships” (ships made by prisoners out of animal bones) http://www.internationales-maritimes-museum.de/
- For art fans an absolute must-see: the Pinakothek next to Central station.
- See the town’s landmark: the well-known main church St. Michaelis or as everyone calls it: the Michel. The church is not only truly pretty and light from the inside, you can also take the elevator up to the top and enjoy one of the best views over the city – sometimes you can even see the Baltic Sea.
- Take a boat trip with the public transport ferry number 62 to Finkenwerder: the place at Landungsbrücken is easily to spot as there usually stand a lot of people. The ride is for free if you have a public transport ticket – and it goes almost the same route as the touristic harbor boat tours which cost about 18 EUR. If the weather is nice it is one of the best low-cost activities in Hamburg! Get off in Neumühlen/ Övelgönne and walk over the Elbe beach or look into the captains houses above the beach. Stop at the pirate bar Strandperle (must-bring: sunglasses!) for an Astra (local beer) or an Elbe cider (very delicious) and watch the cargo ships float by http://www.strandperle-hamburg.de/ .
- Get up early or stay up late for the famous Hamburg fish market: it takes place each Sunday from 5:00 am till 11 (don’t be there later than 7:00 am or the fun might be gone) and watch the fisherman sell their best catches. An absolute must-see is the stand of Aale-Dieter… could also be a comedian as well. Don’t get to close, though, as Aale-Dieter likes to slap people with eels 🙂 http://www.hamburg.de/fischmarkt/
- The most famous red light district of the world: walk down the Reeperbahn street! Take the local train to the station Feldstraße and follow the masses… you have to visit the Boutique Bizarre (it does live up to its name :)) and get lost. You should also check out the party location Hamborger Veermaster http://www.hamborgerveermaster.de/ – actually it is a ship-like restaurant where an old captain sings his favorite sailor’s songs on weekends – pretty bizarre and funny. Of course, the Reeperbahn offers a lot… just walk around and go in wherever you like – just don’t waste all your money :).
- The new urban landmark HafenCity is certainly worth a closer look… if the weather is nice, you should walk from the subway station Messberg and enjoy some nice views in the Speicherstadt before you reach the „Internationales Maritimes Museum“ and walk towards the Elbe. You will come across some nice bars and restaurants and you see the Elbphilharmonie approaching – we took this nice picture while walking there.
- City Hall and „the balcony“ of Altona (Altonaer Balkon): the “white house” of Hamburg, the former city hall of the city of Altona (before it became a part of Hamburg). Very nice gothic building which is worth a closer look. After that walk across the street and enjoy the brilliant view over the harbor and the docklands. If you have time, walk down to the Altona Cruise Center, take a beer or two with you, climb up all the stairs and stay there for a while enjoying the harbor view!
Hamburg’s TOP-5 for a sunny day
- Take a walk around the beautiful Alster lake and stop at the various beach clubs or bars to enjoy a drink and watch the sail boats
- Take the free harbor ferry #62 to Finkenwerder and disembark at Neumühlen/Övelgönne, walk to the pirate bar Strandperle and enjoy an “Elbler” while watching other people (must-wear: sunnies and flip-flops)
- Rent a boat, SUP, kayak, paddle boat or canoe and paddle around the Alster on a sunny day – you even have the chance to buy drinks while paddling! Just get close enough to the Alster bars and restaurants that you come across during the tour and most of them sell drinks in plastic cups to all sailors and captains:)
- Enjoy the view from the town’s landmark the Michel over the city or from the Altonaer balcony (short walk from the train station Altona) over the harbor
- Take part in the free walking tour (guided tour in order to get a first impression)
Hamburg’s TOP-5 for a rainy and windy day (sorry… more likely than the above)
- Visit the museum ships Cap San Diego and Rickmer Rickmers
- Enjoy a guided tour in chocholic’s paradise Chocoversum
- Check out the “Maritimes Museum” – 5 floors of naval history and great nautical exhibits
- Get yourself lost at the famous Miniaturwunderland and look for all the tiny details – if you are done, go to number 5, since it is located right next to the Kaffeerösterei
- Experience great coffee and see an original Speicherstadt-building from inside at Kaffeerösterei
Food, Drinks and local specialties
Of course, a city trip does not only include sightseeing and shopping, but also eating and drinking some local specialties. As Hamburg offers so many places, it is not that easy to spot all the latest hotspots… however, we present our favorite restaurants, bars, cafes and unique places… not quite the typical stuff you will find in travel guide books, but more cool and individual places where also locals hang out since they recommended them to us. If you have any other suggestions to the list, please let us know!
- The Cliff: Due to its unique location directly at the Alster. The Cliff (or Alstercliff) http://alster-cliff.de/site/ is perfect for hanging out after or before your walk around the Alster. We recommend it especially for breakfasts since the sunrise is right across the Alster and for having drinks or coffee and cake. The best seats are certainly the ones right by the water! Try to get a chair and enjoy your drink while watching the masts of the sailing ships. Very relaxing one should add:). Prices are a little above average, but totally worth it!
- Amora Beach Club: Also located at the Alster http://www.a-mora.com/amora.php, but on the other side (close to the Atlantic Hotel) is the Amora Beach Club. You should definitely not sit down on the first chairs when entering, but go to the lounge which is even behind the bar. There you will find very comfy chairs which invite you to stay on a nice and sunny day. Since it is more a beach club/ bar not that much different food is offered. But the variety of cocktails, wines and drinks is quite good and the view tops everything… you might even be able to find out what Hamburg people mean when they talk about the “naked sailor”:).
- Since Hamburg is a harbor city you will find very good fish restaurants all over the city. You should definitely check out one of the Italian or Portuguese fish restaurants in the Portuguese district (area around the Ditmar-Köhl street). You will get huge plates of various fish for very little money but very good quality. On weekends all the restaurants are crowded – so if you want to go to a certain place you should make reservations. We recommend Lusitano – other good alternatives are O Farol or Nello; all of them located in the Ditmar-Köhl street.
- If you are in the harbor area or close to the Hamburger Fischmarkt in St. Pauli and want to have some pasta or pizza we totally recommend Lust auf Italien (desire for Italy). http://www.lustaufitalien.de/
- For dining out very fancy (there is no official dress code, but you should dress up a little) and enjoying one of the best harbor views, we recommend the French restaurant Au Quai http://au-quai.de/. Its specialty is various fish dishes and of course a lot of French quality wines. Of course, you can find cheaper restaurants all over Hamburg, but as we all know French quality food has its price!
- Also located at the Hamburg harbor, directly at the Landungsbrücken is the Blockbräu http://block-braeu.de/startseite/. Here not only the food and drinks are worth the visit but also the great view on a nice day from the rooftop terrace.
- We love the brewery and beer hall of “Altes Mädchen” http://de.altes-maedchen.com/ in the Sternschanze – here you can get a lot of different craft beers as well as modern and traditional food. You have to try the “Meerjungfrau” (mermaid) – it’s a little beer tasting of 4 different beers served on a plate that looks like a mermaid.
- The best curry sausage (Curry Wurst) in town is said to be offered at heiße Ecke http://www.heisse-ecke.com/#!der-curryimbiss/c1qgt
- In case you like steaks or gin tonic or both – we recommend “Estancia” in the Afrikahaus close to Messberg station http://estancia-steaks.com/index.php . The selection of different meat is huge but the service team is very helpful and assists you to pick the perfect steak! Of course, the prices are a little higher than in one of the franchise steak houses, but the quality of the meat and the best taste is absolutely worth it. Try to get one of the outside tables on a nice day and enjoy the atmosphere in the patio.
- One of our all-time favorites in Hamburg… check out Pizza-Bande http://www.pizza-bande.de/ within the famous red-light district Reeperbahn. If you do love pizza as much as we do and always wanted to create your own, you simply HAVE to go there. Also, the staff is so friendly and relaxed and you will definitely get the relaxed student-university feeling while eating there. Since the place is really tiny (only about 5 tables) we recommend to go there in small groups (no reservations possible).
- For all burger-lovers: check out Sinners & Saints http://www.saintsandsinners-stpauli.de/ in St. Pauli. The burger place offers a lot of different burger creations and also a lot of different cocktails. If you want to check out a fun and relaxed restaurant as well as check out the St. Pauli atmosphere, you should definitely stop by!
- For trying something exotic and very special, we suggest to dine at Fardi (see http://www.fardi-hamburg.de/ ) – so far the only Syrian restaurant we have ever been to. The mixed starter plate gives you the taste of the Arab/African cuisine – we tried it and we love it! Moreover, they offer also very delicious main courses as fish or lamb dishes. The prices are above average, but we think this extraordinary taste experience is definitely worth it.
- BBB – Brooklyn Burger Bar is our favorite place for the best burgers and cocktails in Hamburg http://www.brooklynburgerbar.de/. The menu does not only offer unique and creative burgers, but even more sweet potato fries and coleslaw. In case you like fruity gin cocktails you have to try the “Halle Berry” – yummy! Even if you don’t find your favorite cocktail on the menu or want to try out something new – just ask the bartenders and they will come up with something original and great – promise! Since the place is really popular, make reservations!
- Best view over the whole harbor area and a beautiful sea of lights – that offers the fancy and glamorous cocktail bar 20 up in the 20th floor of the Empire Riverside Hotel (see http://www.empire-riverside.de/de/hotel-restaurant-bars-hamburg/ ). Dress code is chic and classy, no sneakers allowed! In case you come in a larger group or on weekends, make reservations!
- We LOVE the pirate-styled beach bar Strandperle http://www.strandperle-hamburg.de/ in Övelgonne and go there every time we are in HH. You take the HVV ferry 62 direction to Finkenwerder and get off at Museumshafen/ Övelgönne – than just walk barefoot over the Elbbeach and enjoy the view and the wind. The Strandperle offers also some snacks and delicious cakes and is also opened on nice winter days. It is also a great location for watching the sunset.
- Also a kind of beach bar, located at the harbor area in St. Pauli: Strandpauli (only opened during summertime see http://www.strandpauli.de/ ). You feel immediately transferred to some Caribbean island with its unique furniture, great drinks and DJ sound. So get the pirate feeling and hang out there for a while!
- Not really a bar, but nevertheless one of our all-time favorites for a nice and warm day: the small kiosk Alsterperle at the Alster lake. Get a beer or a radler, sit down at the lake and simply enjoy life! Also a very cool locations to watch sunsets!
- Of course, everyone knows the Tanzenden Türme (dancing towers) in Hamburg since they are easily spotted as an architectural landmark at the beginning of the Reeperbahn. Up on top you will find also a very fancy and chic bar that offers a great view over the city – adequately named Clouds http://www.clouds-hamburg.de/ . Since the place is usually really crowded, reservations are recommended especially on weekends! Make sure to dress up (also mostly no sneakers policy). In case you are in Hamburg during the summer months you should check out the outside rooftop area!
- There are so many different bars and clubs located on the Reeperbahn – but that one definitely sticks out as you would not expect a quality wine bar located directly in the red-light district. But the bar Weinladen in St. Pauli/ Reeperbahn (address: Paul-Rosen-Strasse 29, no website) is really one of the coolest vintage wine bars we have been to! There is no menu, just the bar tender who describes himself as “living singing menu” and he recommends you the tastiest wines according to your favorite flavors! The prices are really good for quality wine and you can also order some cheese or olives. If you find your favorite new wine you have also the possibility to buy some bottles and enjoy it at home!
- We simply love the retro vintage cafe Cafe Herr Max http://www.herrmax.de/ in the area Schanze (S-Bahn Sternschanze). Very fun and relaxed place to hang out and the best cakes and sweet treats in town! They also design unique cakes according to your likes and favorite flavors!
Must dos in Hamburg
- Try a „Mexikaner“ and a “Küstennebel” in one of the countless bars at the Reeperbahn. (just do it… we are definitely not spoiling the magic by telling you what it is in advace 🙂
- Rent a boat, SUP, kayak, paddle boat or canoe and paddle around the Alster on a sunny day
- Watch a St. Pauli soccer game if you get tickets
- Enjoy the view from the top of the Michel
- Sundowner at the pirate bar Strandperle in Övelgönne (take the public transport ferry nr. 62 direction Finkenwerder)
- See the Lion King musical at the stage theater directly in the docklands
- Try the local sweet specialty “Franzbrötchen” (sweet cinnamon pastry) at one of the “Dat Backhus”-bakery stores, the “Franz & Friends” bakery at the central station or at the Franzbrötchen-world-champion