Spending a weekend in Germany’s maritime metropolis, I couldn’t believe the extent of entertainment dotted around the winding rivers. Grand museums, a fascinating history and a vibrant harbour are just some of what you will find in the uplifting city of Hamburg.
Come rain or sunshine (and trust me I experienced the extremes of both during my trip), there is plentiful of places of see as well as a thriving restaurant scene and collection of unique hotels…
If you’re looking for luxury than the 5 star Louis C. Jacob is a beautiful base in the city with river views and timeless elegance. This hotel is a wonderful place to visit in the warmer months, with an outdoor terrace looking out towards the Elbe.
Louis C. Jacob Hotel https://hotel-jacob.de/en/
CLOSE TO THE AIRPORT
If like me you are taking a late evening flight into the city, then its worthwhile booking a room close by to the airport which is located near the lovely area of Alsterdorf. I checked into the Best Western Premier Alsterkrug Hotel for one night, taking advantage of the guaranteed good service, getting a restful night’s sleep in a spacious elegant double room.
Best Western Premier Alsterkrug Hotel https://www.alsterkrug-hotel.de/en
The fun, young 25hours Hotel brand has three properties in Hamburg with two located in the city centre starting at less than £100 a night. The HafenCity and smaller Altes Hafenamt both take inspiration from the seafaring soul of Hamburg, combined with tongue in cheek humour and inspiring décor. You can read a full review of the 25hours Hotel HafenCity here.
25hours Hotels www.25hours-hotels.com/hotels/hamburg
For a more intimate option, the apartello smarttime living hotel offers a selection of spacious apartments complete with private kitchens and living rooms, perfect for larger groups or a longer stay. Their current summer sale offers two nights, breakfast and a harbour tour from just 99 euros!
As Germany’s gateway to the sea, Hamburg is flooded with fresh fish every morning, making it a top city for seafood. A beloved favourite is Alt Helgoländer Fischerstube, located on the waterfront with stunning river views.
Alt Helgoländer Fischerstube http://www.althelgolaenderfischerstube.de/
An authentic local is BistrOcean, with a chalkboard daily menu and fantastic service.
For a light seafood bite, the hidden Fischmarket Bistro is a great place for a fish burger, delivered directly through the back door from the fish market.
Fischmarket Bistro www.fischmarkt-bistro.de
A QUICK BITE
It would be a crime not to have a hamburger, what with Hamburg being the origin and all. Make sure to put the Better Burger Company on your map, perfect for a quick bite mid-shop or on route to the Kunsthalle Gallery. Each burger is served like a Subway sandwich, with a selection of toppings and sides.
Better Burger Company www.betterburgercompany.de
Germany does Asian food extremely well, with everything from sushi to poke. A great spot for lunch is Ban Canteen, serving delicious Vietnamese food in a cosy, casual spot near St Pauli.
Ban Canteen www.bancanteen.com
For a casual fine dining experience, head to Heldenplatz which offers a contemporary seasonal menu from Chef Markus Haamp. The restaurant is open until 2am, perfect for late night diners and post-theatre meals.
Vlet is a trio of top restaurants located in the Gänsemarkt square, Alster and Speicherstadt. Gourmet German meals and a European menu get a five star review from almost every diner.
A SWEET TREAT
For something sweet, head to Flane Patisserie and Chocolate Shop where you’ll find pink walls stacked of irresistible looking treats. A small café outside is a lovely spot for a hot chocolate with a mountain of marshmallows or hot bite to eat.
The skyline bar of the Empire Riverside Hotel is a beloved favourite for locals and visitors looking to enjoy a view at a relaxed pace. Open from 6pm until late, the bar is perfect for a sunset dinner or couple of cocktails as the Hamburg slowly darkens.
For a slice of the creative cocktail scene that we all know and love, head to the fairy lit forest of Clockers. An early drink is best accompanied with one of the bar’s library books before the bar becomes busier.
On a mild or sunny day, a walk along Hamburg’s harbour is a perfect way to see the core spirit of the city. Lined with tours, bars and restaurants there is much to do by the river Elbe. For the best views of the harbour, join one of the many tours from the river where you’ll sail around the port with a guide. I joined the Barkassen Meyer 60 minute tour which leaves every hour. Make sure to download the app in advance on Wi-Fi as the guide will only speak in German!
Tours from approximately €18 http://www.barkassen-meyer.de/harbour-tour/
For a walk in the park or picnic in the sunshine, head to Planten un Blomen that houses the largest Japanese garden in Europe as well as botanical nature and a tropical greenhouse.
Hamburg is actually a beautiful place when it rains, the grey skies contrasting against the rich red brick buildings. But when it pours, a selection of museums and galleries make a wonderful place to keep dry. My favourite was the Kunsthalle Gallery which showcases a variety of bizarre modern art and more classic works in one of the largest museums in Germany.
Admission from €12 for adults www.hamburger-kunsthalle.de/
Perhaps the most unique museum in Hamburg is the famous Minatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway. Make sure to book tickets for this busy attraction, perfect for all ages.
Admission: starting from €11.70 for adults www.miniatur-wunderland.com
Hamburg is the second biggest home to musical theatre after London, with many famous ongoing productions. The Theater am Hafen has been host to The Lion King for over 15 years, with its own transfer boat to ferry guests across the river. Other shows include Aladdin and Kinky Boots.
For panoramic views over Hamburg, head up the 106 tower of St Michael’s Church to the outdoor observation deck. The church itself is also worth a look around, playing atmospheric organ melodies with a crypt down below.
Admission: €5.00 – 7.00 for adults http://www.st-michaelis.de/en/
To see the whole city whilst among its streets, a classic open top bus tour is the answer! There are a variety of buses running through Hamburg, many with both German and English guides.
Day bus tours starting from €15 http://www.die-roten-doppeldecker.de/en/
The recently opened Elbphilharmonie is one of the most striking buildings in the city, located on the river Elbe. Inside are some of the most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world but you don’t have to book a show to see the fascinating structure.
Guided tours from €15 https://www.elbphilharmonie.de/en/
The Hamburg Rathaus is a beautiful 19th century Town Hall, overtly opposite to the many modern buildings of the city. A quick wander through the courtyard will often see events, weddings and fairs with tours available of the historic interiors.
Guests must register for a guided tour at http://www.hamburg-travel.com/attractions/best-of-hamburg/town-hall/
The early hours of a Sunday morning are when Hamburg is truly alive, when sellers of all trade flock to the Fischmarket to flog to early risers and those still partying from the night before. Everything from crockery to carrots is sold here, with live jazz and a feisty atmosphere. The market opens at 5am in summer or 7am in winter until 9.30am.
Since 1911, pedestrians and cars have used the Elb Tunnel to access the other side of the river and it is just as fascinating today as it was 100 years ago. Take a journey down the steps to 24 metres below sea level and cross to see the city from another angle.
And the rest…
WHEN TO GO
Hamburg is best suited to a spring or summer break, with warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours. However even on a rainy day there is plenty to do for all ages, indoors and out.
The Metro is extremely easy to use, with stations dotted around the city. It’s best to grab yourself a map and make sure to get a ticket before boarding. Bus services are additionally very regular in addition to taxis.
To save money on sightseeing, a Hamburg Card offers free travel and discounts on a variety of attractions, theatres and tours from €9.90 for one day. Additionally is the Kunstmeile pass which allows you to visit the 5 of the city’s best galleries in one year for €36.
Kunstmeile Pass http://www.kunstmeile-hamburg.de/en/
For more information and inspiration regarding Hamburg, check out my post all about the soul of the city.