Hamburg is the latest German city that I checked off my Wasn’t-Planning-On-Traveling-Here-But-This-City-Is-Actually-Super-Cool list. I was fighting jetlag for most of my trip, but when I did rally and get up I had a fantastic time—even in the blustery spring weather!
First thing I did was do a self-walking tour of the city. I went to the Rathaus (pro tip: head here in the morning when the light best for taking pictures – no back light). For a snack, I grabbed a franzbrötchen, which is kind of like the Hamburg version of a cinnamon roll, from a street bakery—spoiler I hated it. Then I wandered through the Speicherstadt or the Old Warehouse District out to HafenCity and the ship channel. Sitting on the steps by the Philharmonic Hall and watching the ships go by was really quite mesmerizing. Hamburg Tourism Department actually has an app that allows you to track what type of boats are out there. It also provides suggestions for free audio tours when you pass by a museum. Pretty cool!
Next I took a looooong walk (over 4 miles) around the Alster Lake. I stopped and had a late lunch the Alster Cliff. I dined outside—so European in the 45 degree weather—and watched crew boats row across the lake. The bordering neighborhood around the lake is absolutely beautiful. I had a blast getting lost in the mansions and admiring all the architecture around the lake. On this side of town, I also ate at the OG of vegetarian restaurants, Tassajara which opened in Hamburg in 1976. The mango lassi and homemade cakes without eggs or sugar are aaaahh-mazing!
Later in the afternoon, I went to the Hamburger Kunsthalle which is the city’s art museum and absolutely fell in love. (Pro tip: if you get the Hamburg card you can get a discount at this museum). The museum has an old part (that’s a technical term) and a modern part. They feature mostly German art! My favorite exhibit was their “Transparent Museum” where the museum curators get honest about the behind the scenes of how a painting is acquired, how it’s framed, who decides how it’s hung, when it comes out of storage, if it’s fake and if it came out of a Nazi seizure and should be returned to its original owner. They also had a cheeky exhibit on “Museum Sprints” where a guy ran through the whole museum in 20 seconds in athletic gear. And another video where at the launch of some big exhibit they had naked people stand at the door so visitors had to squeeze through and couldn’t leave without getting “touched” by art.
Around sunset, I made my way to the top of St. Michael’s tower and watched the sunset. I got there around 5:10pm and it closes at 5:30pm in the winter but it was perfect timing to climb up and see the sky view of the city at dusk. I paid €5 to get to the top and by the end of it my phone said I had climbed nearly 30 flights of stairs!
Afterwards, I met up with Hamburg blogger Julia of Mrs. Brightside and got dinner at Atelier F. I highly recommend the fresh lemonade and the cous cous beet burger. On that same trip, I was able to see my first opera at the Staatsoper Hamburg. It was the French opera, Carmen, that takes place in Spain and had German subtitles. Talk about multi-cultural! For €12 ticket for the cheapest box seat, I absolutely loved it.
If you don’t want the night to end, head over to the Elbe Tunnel (tbh overrated, but everyone raves about it) and walk along the shipping docks and see the Fish Market. According to Julia, my Hamburg insider, people like to go out in the St. Pauli neighborhood—lots of bars and clubs (also strip clubs) and stay out till 5am and then head to the fish market for a late night (morning?) snack.
If you didn’t know, the Beatles got their start in Hamburg and played 8+ hour days at some of the sketchy bars in St. Pauli. It was a rough time with no money and shady living quarters, but they perfected their sound and talents and ultimately went on to be super stars (duh). Their success is commemorated by Beatles Platz in St. Pauli, a highly overrated plaza in a seedy part of town that apparently cost €500K to build. *Eye rolls*
By now your day should be over, but if for some reason you’re still awake and these restaurants are open, I also dined at L’Osteria (huuuuuge pizzas) and the Paulaner (Bavarian German food) which I’d both recommend.
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