In votings for the most beautiful cities in Germany Hamburg is always in the top positions… why? Because Hamburg is damn beautiful. If you prefer walking or cycling over driving by bus, tram or car then Hamburg is perfect for you. The city is pretty flat and has a quite small city center compared to the overall size. This makes for short distances between the sights is not too far.
Many visitors are travelling to Hamburg for the lovely musicals like “Aladdin” or “The Lion King” which probably is the most popular musical these days and is performed at the Stage Theatre in the port of Hamburg. But Hamburg has more to offer: nightlife, historic buildings, food, and so on. Here's are my favorite places in the city.
1. Port of Hamburg
The “Hamburger Hafen” is Germany’s most important sea port and one of the most famous sights of the city. From the “Landungsbrücken” (gangways) you have an amazing view over the whole port and there are many cafés, restaurants and snack stands. And from here start all the harbor tours where you can choose between small launches or old school Louisiana paddle steamers. A ticket is from 18 to 25€ and during the tours you get a lot of interesting information about the history of the port.
If you’re not in the mood for paying 20 bucks for driving around in a boat you can take one of the ferries… That’s only a few euros, though you have to do without the history and stuff. And if by accident you plan to visit in May, you are lucky. Because in May the birthday of the harbor is celebrated with live music, ship parades, fireworks and all that.
2. The “Speicherstadt”
Speicherstadt is a part of the port and consists of many brick-buildings from the Founder's Epoch. Particularly amazing about this area is that all the houses are built on poles standing in the water. During low tide you can even see parts of that special construction. Therefore and because the houses are so pretty the Speicherstadt is under historic preservation since 1991.
Originally the buildings were used as storehouses but today they are the home of many museums, exhibitions and of the Hamburg Dungeon – a combination of Hamburg’s history and a ghost train.
You can explore the Speicherstadt by foot or by boat. Tours are starting from the harbor on a daily basis. A ticket for a ride through the so called “Fleeten” (channels) is 24€.
At night the Speicherstadt is even more beautiful, the houses with their pediments and turrets are gorgeously illuminated.
3. Visit Außenalster and Have a Beer at the Binnenalster
In the center of Hamburg is the lake “Alstersee”. The northern part of it is the bigger one and called “Außenalster”. Around the Außenalster is the Alster-park where you can go for a walk and have a nice view of the city or the lovely sunset, if you’re there in time.
At the Binnenalster it is best to have a beer at the “Alsterpavillion”, watch the grand fountain and the hustle and bustle around the lake. Because there is always something going on at the Binnenalster. Especially nice is the “Alstervergnügen” (Alster-fun), a festival that really can keep up with the harbor birthday.
4. Planten un Blomen
Planten un Blomen is Hamburg’s old botanical garden and arranged just wonderful. Everything blooms and shouts –or better whispers- relax. About other things there’s a rose garden with 300 different kinds of roses and a Japanese Garden with a tea house where you can attend tea ceremonies every now and then.
In summer they a water-light-concert, theatre performances for kids in the open-air theatre and other musical acts. Further there are a whole lot of deckchairs where you can sit and take a little nap or just hang out.
Schanzelviertel is one of the hip quarters of Hamburg. Here you can find countless cafés, bars, restaurants, corner shops and boutiques with everything your heart desires. At the “Schanze” Hamburg’s residents are meeting for partying or at least for pre-partying - having a few beers in a relaxed atmosphere.
A particularly nice bar / restaurant is the brewery “Altes Mädchen” at the “Schanzenhöfe” (name of the place). They sell different kinds of craft beer and they have a home brand “Ratsherren”. On the menu is a tasting tray with five different Ratsherren beer that’s really worth trying. –I did that on midday and I was a bit dizzy afterwards - but in a good way.
6. St. Pauli
St. Pauli hosts Germany’s most famous red-light district - the “Reeperbahn”. This consists of well known streets like “Große Freiheit” und “Herbertstraße” (no women allowed…). There’s always something going on until the small hours and there’s a lot of partying and drinking and tattooing. (A funny fact: the first people living in St Pauli where monks and nuns).
When you have enough of the hullabaloo at the Reeperbahn, in the sidestreets around it you can find a few really amazing bars. One of them and still a secret tip is Clockers. Especially when you’re into gin since from here is the gin of the same name. But the bar with its special ambience is a highlight for everyone.
Also the bar tenders there know what they’re doing and the drinks are delicious. You’re only going to find the Clockers bar if you know where to look for it. There’s no sign at the door, no chairs in front of the door… nothing. It looks like the usual house entry that’s accidentally open. Don’t be afraid, just step in.
7. Get up early and pay a visit to the Fish Market
If you didn’t celebrate the whole night on the Reeperbahn, get yourself out of the bed in the early morning ang go to Hamburg Fish Market (or if you did just go there directly ;)). Besides from fresh fish you can buy fruits, plants and souvenirs.
But the best thing about the Fish Market are the cars with the barkers, who are trying to sell their fish to the people and always have heated debates… it is great fun to just sit on a bench and listen to them, it is never boring.
The opening hours in summer are from 5AM to 9:30AM and in winter from 7:30AM to 9:30AM.
Where to go for lunch & dinner?
No one knows whether the Hamburger really was invented in Hamburg but in any case they do offer some delicious burgers in the city. A lot of people even say the best, so make sure to eat at one of the burger restaurants in the city. A really good one for example is Otto’s Burger: supposedly they are making the best burgers of the town – and the best fries with the homemade smokey mayo.
I tried the restaurant at the Schanzenviertel, but there more Otto’s Burger restaurants in Grindelhof and in Ottensen.
But not only hamburgers belong to Hamburg, you also have to try some fresh fish. The city is so close to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea Hamburg’s great for everyone who loves seafood. And a really good place for your lunch break is e.g. Karofisch, a small and unimposing looking store at Karolinenviertel. For lunch you get the catch of the day with a side for 6,90€. If you go there during the week you might need a little patience because many people are going there for lunch.
Where to stay?
Last time we’ve been in Hamburg we stayed at the 25hours Hotel HafenCity. An absolutely awesome hotel with cozy rooms, comfortable beds in a perfect location – only a few minutes from the port of Hamburg and the Speicherstadt. But the best thing about the hotel are the extras: free rental of bikes and Minis (yes, the car!) for short and longer tours in Hamburg and the surroundings, in every room there is a boombox for you to use during your stay (inside the hotel and also to take with you – even under the shower). Only condition: it has to be in the room when you leave.
But the real icing on the cake is the sauna on the top floor with panorama windows and a free minibar. And despite all the luxury they manage to make you feel at home as soon as you enter the lobby. We honestly can recommend that hotel to everyone 🙂
But of course it’s more on the pricey side. If you’re looking for a room that’s less expensive the “Superbude” might be the right choice. A little less luxury but just as fancy and you can chose between dorms and double rooms - you don’t have to bring your own towels, no mather which room you stay in.