Fun fact, my most visited country is Germany. Ever since my aunt moved there when I was 8, I’ve loved seeing the mixture of traditional villages, bustling cities and gorgeous woodland (also I’ll always remember getting stuck on a zip wiring platform). When I was invited to visit Hamburg last weekend, I was curious to see what it was about. I didn’t know much about the port city (and hadn’t seen it much on the gram), so was keen to give it a chance during the recent Cruise Days festival.
One thing I love about Germany is the amount of space there is. Hamburg is larger than Singapore but only has a third of the population and hardly any high-rises (apparently the churches are a big deal and control the landscape). There’s plenty to see in the centre, but my top tip for visiting is to find dedicated Instagram accounts like Hamburg Ahoi, celebrating the unique spots within the city.
Whether you find yourself here for the Christmas markets or music festivals, I’ve listed some of the areas worth exploring during your trip.
THE SHOPS WHERE YOU’LL WANT EVERYTHING
Trust me to head towards the ‘alternative areas’ whenever I’ve got a bit of free time, the Sternschanze district is where you’ll find ALL the independent coffee shops and street art. I know I’m rather predictable with my obligatory shots of nice lifestyle stores, but it’s a great way to discover new brands and see what local creatives are interested in.
Minimarkt led me to cosy blankets by Tina Ratzer, Mexican tote bags by Pi Project and Dutch brand Serax. It’s all rather aspirational (with prices to match), but who doesn’t love pretending what kind of gold ladle their future home would have. B Lage also had me appreciating the colourful cushions and graphic design brand Redfries.
Due to time constraints, we only caught the tail end of the Saturday flea market by the Feldstrasse U-Bahn and spent most of the afternoon escaping the rain at coffee shop Less Political. Next time I’d definitely explore the surrounding streets (The Burger Lab is meant to be good) and head towards Weide for more homeware inspo.
A Blend Of Old & New
If you’re an architecture buff, then you’ll be spoilt for choice in the centre. Although a lot of the medieval buildings were destroyed during the Great Fire of 1842, there’s still the UNESCO World Heritage area of Speicherstadt with gothic brick warehouses to admire. There’s an interesting mix of the traditional and modern, I was reminded of Amsterdam when I spotted the narrow houses of Nikolaifleet and Rotterdam’s futuristic apartment blocks. I think most of my favourite sights were by the canals.
One place that has received a lot of attention, is the gleaming Elbphilharmonie concert hall. It took over ten years to build the glass structure that sits above an existing warehouse and it contains numerous concert halls, restaurants, apartments and a hotel. You access the plaza via a curved escalator that’s 82 metres long (this image illustrates it perfectly) and there’s perfect views of the harbour and city landscape. Although concerts wouldn’t be my usual way to spend an evening, you have to appreciate that they try and make it accessible to everyone via creative workshops, school visits and free tickets to the viewing platform.
The Practical Bit
We stayed at the cosy Henri Hotel, which is a five minute walk from the Central Station and close to the main shopping street. It’s a little bit like The Hoxton with all the Midcentury influences and comfiest beds known to man, plus it’s a short walk away from the picturesque canals. The 25 Hours Hotel also looked promising (we had dinner there one evening), with three quirky branches around the city. You can sort out public transport before you arrive by downloading the Hamburg card on your phone and even try a riverside bike tour with Hamburg City Cycles. I managed to cycle 15km and only hit one pole!
A massive thanks to Hamburg tourism for inviting me on this trip! They’re hosting a Hamburg On Tour pop up festival in London next month, so it’s worth visiting if you’re curious about the city!