19 Hours in Hamburg (and 5 for sleeping)
If y’all haven’t caught on by now, I really like Hamburg. So much so, that I wanted to write THREE separate blurbs about my overflowing cup of admiration for this cute lil’ city. A piece of my heart is a bit sad that this is my final post in the series, but I think I’ll get through it.
Anywho! Lets imagine you're on a whirlwind tour of Europe and/or Germany, and you have 24 hours to be wowed by Hamburg. I assume you should sleep for at least five of those hours, but live your life. With the remaining hours, take a peek at the suggestions below, and fill your day with the architecture, history, and art that make Hamburg, well, Hamburg. You can also skip the architecture and history and just eat your way through the city. Also acceptable.
Away We Go!
First of all, if you want to explore, you’ll want to see different neighborhoods. How do you get there? Well, in winter, the subway is a wonderfully clean, timely option. In all other seasons, you can bike!
StadtRad is the public bike rental service in Hamburg, and they have stations everywhere. And I mean everywhere. It’s incredibly convenient, and all rides under 30 minutes are Free Ninety-Nine! Just download the app, sign up for an account using a credit card (for the 5 euro deposit), and off you go! Hamburg has very clear bike paths throughout the city, and google maps provides detailed biking directions, leading you along some of the city’s most beautiful streets. It’s a quick, efficient and fun way to get around. It’s “Rad,” if you will.
So hop on your bike, and park it near…
Note the Swan
This beautiful lake, complete with swans, fountains, and surrounded by daffodils, is one of Hamburg’s well-known attractions. The area below the Alster holds most of the city’s name brand shops, ranging from Chanel to Lululemon. Save the shopping for later, and instead, opt for a fresh smoothie from MAD About Juice, and head out for a walk around the Alster. No trip to the Alster is complete without taking a peek at the nearby Rathaus (or Town Hall). Resembling the home of a Disney villain, this commanding, fortress-looking structure is the quintessential Hamburg landmark.
The buildings in this part of town are stunning, but they’re nothing compared to the bridges. Take a stroll, and meander your way towards a StadtRad station. Should you be hungry, try one of the two Poké Bowl spots nearby. Poké You and U|F Poké Bar are both within two blocks of the Alster, and both serve fresh, customizable, fishy creations.
For more food recommendations, click the button below
After lunch, hop on the nearest StadtRad, and head towards Landungsbrücken. Water is the lifeblood of Hamburg, and this spot along the river gives you just a glimpse into the thriving industry that exists along the Elbe. Dock your bike and take in the view. You can even walk over to the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg’s brand spankin’ new concert hall, with a design (and budget) that has Germans divided over its brilliance. If you’re in this area on a weekend, be sure to stop by the world-famous Fish Market, which is conveniently open overnight, because every drunk person craves a fresh fillet o’ fish at 1am? Yeah, the hours are a bit mystifying, but it’s an institution, so be sure to check it out.
Did somebody say charm?
Once you’ve finished taking in the water views, and your nostrils have had enough fish smells for one day, hop on your StadtRad, and head towards St. Pauli. I recommend dropping your bike at the Paulinenplatz station, and walking over to Kiezbohne for a coffee (awesome people. awesome coffee.) Then, take the small side streets and work your way towards one of my favorite neighborhoods…
I’m not a native Hamburger (hehe) but in my humble opinion, Sternschanze is the equivalent of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. For those of you who don’t know New York, you just need to know this. It’s hip. It has grungy roots. And it’s hip. Check out the shops over here, as they’re a bit more original than the larger chain stores in the city center. Take a seat at Katze for an afternoon thirst quencher, (or revisit Katze later in the evening, and mingle with one hundred of your new best friends, on the front patio). Sternschanze is a great, somewhat-central neighborhood where you can really feel the energy, and buzz, that makes Hamburg unique. Did I mention it’s hip?
Should you want to continue being “hip” (I say this word with a wobbly granny voice, for added effect), you should probably bike, or subway, your way to my current favorite museum in Hamburg.
While this museum has many facets, the photography hall is where I’d like to get a bit preachy. I don’t like massive museums, because they overwhelm me, and being the incredibly impatient person that I am, I normally leave before seeing half of the “good stuff.” Well, the Deichtorhallen has one completely manageable building filled with “good stuff.” If you’re interest in photography is limited to instagram filters, you should skip this one, and check out the most famous of Hamburg’s museums, the Miniatur Wunderland, instead.
If my knowledge of time is correct, at this point we’re approaching the dinner and drinks portion of the evening. Check out the button below if you’re looking for a place to have a nice cocktail, and I’ll meet you back here after you’ve indulged in some bright, boozy creation.
Hey! You’re back! How were the drinks? Wunderbar. Now I’d like to propose something a tad different. Most guide books will tell you to check out the Reeperbahn for Hamburg’s best nightlife. The Reeperbahn is alright, but it’s mostly generic, tacky bars and a whole lot of sex shops. By all means, go check it out, as you’re definitely bound to meet some characters, and enjoy a few too many drinks. But I’d like to let you in on a little secret. My favorite jazz club is in Hamburg, tucked away in a basement off of a plaza known as Großneumarkt. You can easily get there by train or bike, and the surrounding area is about as cute and quaint as you will find. So, if you’re brave enough, take my advice and duck into…
This place isn’t hip, and it sure isn’t fancy. But the music sings for itself. I’ve been wowed by every musician who takes to the stage, in this small, dimly lit wooden bar. The average audience member is a bit older, and they’re always quite curious about the young English speakers in the corner. Oftentimes, they’ll even come over and want to chat about what brought you into this local joint. I recommend checking their schedule online, as the styles and instruments often vary. But the constant here is damn good music. Zugabe! (encore!)
And this is where I leave you, dear Hamburg traveler. If the Cotton Club gets you in the mood for music, please, carry on a few blocks away on the Reeperbahn, or make the short walk back to the Alster, and take in its beauty by starlight. Whatever you chose to do with your hours in Hamburg, I think something about this lovely city will capture a piece of your heart. European life is executed perfectly here, and I hope these suggestions help you to enjoy just a piece of it, for 24 hours. And should you be visiting this winter, send me a message! I’ll gladly meet you at the Cotton Club.