Let’s start this brand new series with an exploration of Hamburg, a German city that is really giving Berlin a run for its money in terms of cool.
What do you do when you want to explore a new city? I have given up on guidebooks long ago. When we decide to go somewhere new, I ask around for advice. First, I used to ask my friends and family.
Now, I have turned to social media and other blogs. Even a quick tweet like ‘Hi! I’m visiting Hamburg in a few days, got any tips?’ usually starts a string of replies, giving lots of ideas on really cool things to see and do. If you can ask locals, then all the better. It’s great to have friends in the city, pointing out little bars in the backstreets, great street food stalls and all those things that only locals (and those who love the city a lot) know.
This gave us the idea for a new series; exploring cities following the advice of locals and bloggers. We asked people to give us their top tips on what to see and do in the city. Touristy or secret, off the beaten path or right in the centre, restaurants or bars, anything they liked.
Then, we pooled a dozen recommendations, checked them out in Hamburg and came up with the five we liked the best.
Here are our top five Hamburg insider tips.
1) ElbTunnel – recommended by Henry of Fotoeins, recovering astronomer and aspiring writer.
I have a serious weaknesses for underground places, and the idea of exploring an early-20th century tunnel under a river really appealed to me. The ElbTunnel is 24 meters below the surface, connecting Central Hamburg with the docks on southern bank of the river. The tunnel is chilly and damp, covered in tiles depicting not only fish and other riverine wildlife, but also mice and rubbish. We loved how quirky and creepy it felt, not unlike Hamburg itself.
It is also the site for one of few underground marathons of the world!
2) Herr Max Patisserie – recommended by Clemens of Anekdotique, coffee lover and raconteur of journeytelling stories.
Clemens described Herr Max as ‘best cakes in Hamburg’. Let me tell you, after a bite I was hooked, and I ended up ordering four different slices. Four. Herr Max is a bit hipster – think skulls decor and tattooed waitresses. Unlike many similar hangouts, it felt super friendly. Your friendly neighbourhood café, perfect to while away an afternoon with a coffee and a good friend. It’s in Sternschanze, often described as the ‘coolest’ Hamburg neighbourhood, just opposite the Rote Flora squat.
3) Hamburg Fischmarkt – recommended by Vica, lover of classic movies and dried fish, and Masha, who likes boats and the sea.
The quintessential Hamburg experience, Vica and Masha said. Loved by tourists and locals alike, the Fischmarkt is open every Sunday morning from 5 to 9.30 am in summer. Which means, an early start, or a (very) late night out. The market is a short walk away from the Reeperbahn nightlife area. Think a mixture of old-style market stalls, bleary-eyed party kids, live music in the old covered market building and fischbrötchen galore, the fish sandwich that is Hamburg’s unofficial specialty.
4) Frau Möller – recommended by Iole, a red-wine drinker and couch potato.
When you walk down a street looking for a bar, and you find one that is packed to the brim with locals swilling pints and swapping jokes, you know that it’s worth a stop. It’s a bit dingy and sure, it could be cleaner, but the atmosphere is unbeatable, especially during HSV football games. The food includes the usual German suspects, from schnitzel to bratkartoffeln, reasonable prices and gigantic portions.
5) St Pauli, recommended by Gustav, a redeemed rowing champion.
Now Hamburg is going all pretty, with the fancy Hafencity district and the Elbphilharmonie on the riverside. Do you want to know what Hamburg is all about? Head to St Pauli, Hamburg’s former sailor neighbourhood. There’s a lot more to it than girly bars and ladies in the street; cultural diversity and a historical heritage with no equals. Interested? Stay tuned for our St Pauli post in a couple of days, and/or contact St Pauli Tourist Office for info on walking tours in the area.