Updated: Jan 13, 2022
This week’s Bundesländer guide will take you through the city-state of Hamburg with its modern and international character, maritime charm, bustling restaurants, beautiful greenery, lively bars and more. Located on the banks of the River Elbe, this northern port city is by far my favourite place in Germany.
The Port of Hamburg. Photo: Karsten Bergmann via Pixabay
In my last article on Hamburg, I took you on a journey through touristy Hamburg around the Alster, past the Rathaus, along Landungsbrücken, and through Planten un Blomen. This guide will take you on a more local tour, veering off the city's sightseer routes to discover its hidden gems.
Schanzenviertel, a trendy, alternative quarter a few stops from Hamburg’s Hauptbahnhof, is a great place to start. Schanze, as it is called by locals, has a lot to offer. From vintage, second-hand shops (e.g., HUMANA and Episode) and cute cafes (e.g., Herr Max and EM Breakfast Club) to some of Hamburg’s best falafel spots (e.g. Falafel Stern and Falafel Kimo) and bustling pubs and bars along Schulterblatt (e.g. Galopper des Jahres), Schanze is perfect for a chilled afternoon coffee or a lively night out.
The neighbourhood of St Pauli, known for its beloved football club (see if you can catch a game at the Millerntor-Stadion) and the Reeperbahn, has a lot to explore. Next to the massive Feldstraße Bunker lies Heiligengeistfeld, home of the Hamburg Dom, a large funfair held three times a year.
Near Feldstraße, you can find many small shops selling records, musical instruments and second-hand items. Top-rated restaurants such as Happenpappen, undoubtedly Hamburg’s best vegan restaurant, Underdocks, a fish restaurant, showing off Hamburg’s seafood, and Wabisabi Ramen, a little restaurant with delicious Japanese food and an ambient atmosphere, are also nearby.
Happenpappen's interior. Photo: Happenpappen via Facebook
The St. Pauli Piers (also known as Landungsbrücken) are not only a great place to grab a Fischbrötchen - a 'fish roll', commonly prepared with herring - but also present a great opportunity to catch a boat along the Elbe. I would recommend taking a public transport boat towards Finkenwerder from Landungsbrücken pier to Elbstrand (Övelgönne). The boat ride along the Elbe is very peaceful and pretty, and a walk along the Elbstrand after a few ciders from Sutsche, one of the bars along the waterfront, makes for a lovely afternoon out.
The district of Altona is probably my favourite. There is so much to do here, but the atmosphere is more relaxed than in some of Hamburg’s tourist hotspots. Altona has many nice cafés and bars such as Café Bar Knuth, Aurel, and Gazoline Bar.
The area is also home to some beautiful greenery, such as Altonaer Volkspark, which boasts a large forest with winding paths and, at its heart, a field with a Munich-style beer garden. Altonaer Balkon - a unique park that sits above the Elbe - is also worth a mention, offering stunning views of Hamburg’s harbour with its sky-scraping cranes and glistening water.
Altonaer Volkspark. Photo: Carolin Franta via Facebook
Furthermore, a trip to Hamburg is not complete without a visit to Altonaer Fischmarkt. Every Sunday morning between 5 am and 9:30 am, the fish market attracts Hamburg’s night owls and early birds alike to the banks of the Elbe. The tradition began in 1703, allowing fishers to sell their catch, and has now expanded to selling fruit, flowers, clothing, souvenirs and more. The atmosphere is lively and a band plays, waking up the early-risers or attracting partiers from the Reeperbahn, hoping for one last dance before heading home.
On a trip to Hamburg, it is also definitely worth trying some of the local beers from the Ratsherren, Landgang, Astra and Holsten breweries. The Lütte Höög beer from Landgang Brauerei is particularly nice, its name meaning ‘little joy’ in Plattdeutsch ( or 'low German' - a language variety spoken mainly in North Germany).
Bottles of Lütte Höög. Photo: LÜTTE HÖÖG - Das Hamburg Bier via Facebook
Other nice places to see are the scenic sandy beaches in Blankenese and Wedel, as well as the Eppendorf quarter, with its pretty canals, trendy bars such as Little Amsterdam, and Isemarkt - a long, open-air market that stretches for kilometers under the U-Bahn tracks between Eppendorfer Baum and Hohelüftbrücke.
Hopefully these local tips have given you an opportunity to explore even more that this wonderful city has to offer, alongside its commercial attractions. For more information on Hamburg’s tourist attractions, see my Travel After Lockdown: Hamburg article.