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Known as the Gateway to the World, Germany’s second city offers everything from awe-inspiring art to never-ending nightlife. There are plenty of things to do in Hamburg; we show you how to make the best of your day with this time-based itinerary.
As a maritime city, Hamburg wakes up early, so you’ll find everywhere open for business by 9am. Begin your adventure at Café Paris, where “The Hamburg” breakfast (wholemeal nut bread with shrimp, herring, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs) makes for an epic start to any day. Be sure to look up during your meal—two early-1900s ceiling tile murals have been preserved on its ceiling.
Next, work up a sweat by climbing the 452 steps that will take you to the top of St Michael’s Church, where you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the city, its port and countryside. Fret not if it’s too early for exercise—there’s a lift that will take you past the first 400 steps.
Catch your breath back inside while admiring the church’s stunning baroque interior. If you’re visiting at noon, stop by and hear its 6,000-odd pipe organ being played during the midday prayer service.
If you’re around on a Sunday, make a beeline for the Fischmarkt (Fish Market) in St Pauli instead, a favourite local haunt since 1703. Open from 5am, this is where Hamburg’s all-nighters and early risers get to meet. If you don’t quite fancy takeaway waffles or sausages for your meal, there’s always the nearby Fischereihafen Restaurant, which offers a sit-down menu and a luxurious oyster bar by the river.
The world’s largest model railway sits in Miniatur Wunderland, which lets you explore the incredibly detailed fictional city of Knuffingen and other countries from the perspective of a giant. The attraction has been steadily expanding its ‘worlds’, recently unveiling its ninth, Italy, in 2018.
Step back to reality into Speicherstadt (feature image), the largest warehouse district in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The neat row of buildings built on oak poles sits in the revived port of HafenCity. Today, the Speicherstadt spans 1.5km (0.93 miles) and its buildings feature both land and water entrances.
If there’s time to spare, don’t miss Hamburg’s latest landmark, the Elbphilharmonie, just around the corner. A stunning piece of architecture, it is also one of the largest and acoustically most advanced concert venues in the world. Quite fitting, since Hamburg is the third-biggest musical city after New York City and London—its top-class musicals attract up to two million visitors every year!
If you find its design familiar, it’s because its curves at the top are reminiscent of its counterpart in Berlin, the Berliner Philharmonie concert hall.
By now, it should be evident that Hamburg is all about art and architecture. Fuel up first at Gasthaus an der Alster, an authentic, traditional German pub with great options for both meat lovers and vegetarians. Then take a short stroll over to Kunsthalle, one of the largest and finest galleries in Germany with a wealth of European masterpieces from the Middle Ages on.
Continue your museum hopping at the Deichtorhallen, which showcases outre contemporary art and photography. Then visit Hamburg’s most out-there building, the Chilehaus, a paradigm of the short-lived 1920s Brick Expressionism style.
Autumn visitors will also get to enjoy the Hamburg Filmfest, which runs every end-September to early-October.
With most shops open into the evening, there’s plenty of time for retail therapy. You’ll find the usual high street stores lining Mönckebergstrasse. For arts and crafts, walk the Karoviertel district, where you’ll find Lockengelöt, a quirky store which upcycles old everyday items for modern-day use—think closets made from oil drums retrieved from the harbour!
For luxury designer pieces, wander around upmarket shopping street Neuer Wall. And for idiosyncratic indie fashion, stroll the Schanzenviertel, often considered the counter-cultural centre of the city.
If shopping isn’t for you, find respite at Planten un Blomen Park instead. There is a botanical garden with a tropical greenhouse and the largest Japanese garden in Europe can be found here.
Getting peckish? About time. Hamburg is a fish and seafood haven, where you’ll find unstuffy restaurants like La Sepia, which serves up a great traditional Portuguese grilled cuttlefish with olive oil. Meat lovers will enjoy Bullerei’s sauce-slathered steaks, and the beef roulade at Parlament.
Once you’ve had your fill, it’s time for a beer. Germany is world-famous for its beer culture—and Hamburg is no exception. There are several outstanding brewpubs, from the historic Groeninger Privatbrauerei to Überquell, an avant-garde craft microbrewery facing the riverside.
Late-night Hamburg is all about one area: St Pauli. Its main street, Reeperbahn, has a sometimes-seedy reputation, but it’s also the city’s best after-dark drinking strip, home to sky-high bar Clouds, rock hangout Lehmitz and classy gin joint Glanz & Gloria. Other local gems like Bar Christiansen’s—where St Pauli cocktail king Uwe Christiansen crafts his award-winning concoctions—are just around the corner.
St Pauli is also home to legendary after-dark clubs like Halo and Club Hamburg, as well as more eclectic nightspots such as the basement bar-cum-boxing club Zur Ritze (where Mike Tyson and the Klitschko brothers trained) and the Second World War bunker turned uber-cool electro club Uebel & Gefahrlich.
Don’t leave Hamburg without taking a stroll through the old Elbe Tunnel nearby, a pedestrian and vehicle tunnel that’s over a 100-years-old! While vehicles are not allowed to pass through currently, you can still take a walk or cycle to the south of River Elbe at any time of the day.
When you’re done exploring the city, relax in comfort at the brand-new Fraser Suites Hamburg, which celebrates its grand opening today. Set within the historic Oberfinanzdirektion, a listed building dating back to 1907 located in the prime area of Rödingsmarkt, Fraser Suites Hamburg features 154 comfortable apartments that offer a serene oasis in the heart of the city.
With the Rödingsmarkt metro station on its doorstep and the main train station just a short walk away, the city is just waiting to be explored!