Top 5 Hamburg Bars
An American’s guide to discovering the best fancy schmancy cocktails, craft beers and free popcorn Hamburg has to offer
Hamburg is the city that changed my life. When I accepted a contract working for a German cruise ship, I was so excited to leave the United States, I didn’t really care where we rehearsed, as long as the U.S. dollar wasn’t the currency. Luckily, the stars aligned and I landed in a gorgeous German city of about one million people, and proceeded to fall in love with European life. We all have “that place” where we feel completely understood, and for some reason when I landed in this funky city, I felt at home. I’m not quite feeling “at home” with the language yet, but hey, it’s all about the journey.
I’ve lived in Hamburg for a combined total of four months, so I’m by no means an expert. However, I am a go-getter in the food & drink department, so I’ve explored many a craft cocktail, artisan coffee and hipster cafe that fill the winding streets of my beloved German nook. A friend of mine recently said she’d be going to Hamburg, which triggered a slightly overenthusiastic response from yours truly.
Everyone always goes to Berlin and Munich, but rarely makes the trip to Hamburg.
Why is everyone skipping Hamburg? I have no idea, but y’all are missing out. So here, let me unload my favorite nooks and crannies of this city, and change your German travel itineraries forever! Mwhaha
My all-encompassing Hamburg post will be broken into three parts, so you’re not overwhelmed and you still have time to check instagram. Today, I want to start with the heartbeat of any city…
Germans love beer. I love beer. I do not love German beer. It’s just a stylistic preference. Most German Biers are very light, crisp, and intended for mass consumption. That being said, craft beer is now popular in Germany (surprise surprise) and there are some breweries concocting some delicious brews, my favorite being Ratsherrn. I’ve taken my preference for American IPAs to mean one thing in Hamburg: Cocktails. Just like any major city, Hamburg is bursting with bars concocting alcoholic science experiments served in crystal glasses. Well, I’ll be a lab rat any day, because what person doesn’t need something stronger than water after learning choreography for seven hours straight? Let’s take a peek at some top-notch bars.
This champagne was a $200 gift from strangers, b
ecause that happens here.
Starting with the bougieist (is that a word?).
I had the absolute privilege of being whisked away to Le Lion on a date, and I just kept finding reasons to go back. Le Lion provides a cocktail experience, not just drinks. Atmosphere reigns supreme here, and the service is top-notch. To be blunt, it’s expensive. Put on your fancy shoes, do your hurr, and waltz through the thick black curtains concealing the entry, knowing that you will be transported into a vintage, velvet-lined dreamworld where the cocktails are just the icing on the cake.
M & V.
Apparently this is a gay bar. I am not gay but thankfully they let me in this bar, so it’s also an Emily bar. You can go there too. Then it’s a You bar. But M&V is a lively joint mixing up delicious cocktails with an inviting atmosphere. This place really comes alive on the weekends, so if you want to score a table, I recommend getting there early, or going on a weeknight. If you’re there in spring or summer, grab a spot outside on the patio, where you can people-watch while sipping your gourmet gin & tonic. They do gin very well here. And shoutout to the dapper server from South Carolina whose name I can’t remember…
drip drip drip
This hard-to-find gem is one notch down on the bougie scale from Le Lion. This is your Brooklyn hipster bar, Deutsch-style. Dark wood and your grandma’s old sofa tastefully decorate this small space, and the staff are incredibly kind and welcoming. You’ll get a lesson on how their boozy science experiments work, and then you’ll get popcorn as a reward for being a good student. It’s awesome. The focus here is definitely on cocktails, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better spot for a Monday-Thursday date night drink.
The opposite of bougie. The folks here run your quintessential neighborhood bar. This local joint was my go-to place after rehearsal with friends. We could stumble in, sweaty and tired, and crowd into a nice wooden booth, order some Zwickels (a very nice German beer. Lookie there!) and decompress, surrounded by the lively conversations of the locals around us. The emphasis here is on beer and good-ol’ potato-filled German food. Prost!
St. Pauli Night Market
at Spielbudenplatz (seasonal)
It’s easier to pronounce after a drink
Don’t be intimidated by the name. Schpeel-boodin-plots. Say it fast and sneeze at the same time, and everyone will point you in the direction of this outdoor market brimming with various food and drinks. Atmosphere is everything at this open-air bar colony, smack dab in the middle of the Reeperbahn, also known as the armpit of Hamburg. If the sun is shining, grab an Aperol Spritz from one of the stands, take a seat on a reclaimed pallet couch, sit back, and enjoy the live music that normally fills the main stage. Don’t be surprised, most bars charge a deposit for the glass, but just bring it back when you’re finished and those 2 euros will land safely back in your pocket. This is a don’t-miss in spring/summer.
Well folks, there you have it.
I’m sure this list will grow as I return to Hamburg this winter and delve into the magic of mulled wine and Christmas markets.
Did I miss your favorite spot?
Chime in via the comments section, or shoot me a message on the contact page!