We decided to stop over in Hamburg after it appeared on a Lonely Planet top list of cities to visit. We went in the depths of Winter so it was freezing but the Christmas Markets were well worth it. We were barely there for two days but managed to squeeze lots in.
Where we stayed
We stayed in the four star Scandic Hamburg Emporio Hotel for two nights which set us €271 for a double room. The hotel was modern, spacious and in a great location. The breakfast was exceptional, with a huge variety of hot and cold food. The bar food was a little overpriced but there’s plenty of fantastic places nearby. This is a dog-friendly hotel too!
We walked around The Speicherstadt area which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and great for a wander. Here, there is also Hamburg’s newest concert hall – the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, which is a beautiful building with a mix of modern architecture built on top of old warehouse buildings. You can enter the concert hall for free, you just need a ticket.
There are several crazy busy lunch spots around this area, but we had lovely sandwiches in a small, quiet and unassuming bakery just five minutes away. It was basic but I really enjoyed the quiet and the food. It’s literally called ‘Bakery & Deli’ but the address is Brandstwiete 36, 20457 Hamburg, Germany.
We then moved on to Planten un Blomen which is an enormous park in the middle of the city covering 47 hectares. I feel it’s prime is in the summertime, it was lovely but a little lack lustre due to the time of year.
That evening we went to the Weisser Zauber Christmas Market. It runs along the promenade beside an artificial lake and was very beautiful. It appeared to be predominantly food-based, but this was what we wanted!
From there, we jumped on the subway to Reeperbahn which is Hamburg’s Red Light and Nightlife District. It’s a bit tacky but there are some very cool bars if you look past the flashing neon signs. The Skyline Bar 20up at the top of the Empire Riverside Hotel is a cocktail bar with incredible views and just a six minute walk from Reeperbahn station. Book ahead if travelling with a group!
The actual ‘red light’ area of Reeperbahn is blocked off and only men are invited to enter. It is legal for women to walk through it but apparently confrontation is not uncommon so the police advise against it.
On our way home we came across another Christmas Market (Winterwald Hamburg) which felt really authentic and a step removed from the typical more tourist oriented markets.
As we only had the morning Hamburg before taking the train to Berlin, we were up early and off to take our boat tour at midday. Our boat had a clean bathroom and you could buy drinks on board. It was also very warm which was a huge bonus! We took a one hour tour which was very informative and we saw plenty of interesting sites, including the largest freight ship in the world!
English boat tours from Landungsbrücken are generally only at midday, so arrive early! There is one with an English audio tour around 1pm but it is two hours long.
Next it was off to visit some markets. First up was the beuatiful Isemarkt (it closes at 2pm) which is a gorgeous Farmers Market selling local produce (fruit, veg, oils, cheese, spices, bread, meat etc.) Next, we visited Flohschanze, a lively hipster flea market selling various trinkets and vintage gems. It is situated on cobble streets around an old slaughter house. Open Saturdays 8am to 4pm. Then it was back to the hotel and off to the train station to travel to Berlin!
Other things to do
If you’re in Hamburg on a Wednesday check out St. Pauli Nachtmarkt for street food, drinks and live music. Open Wednesdays 4p,-8pm.
I really wanted to visit Dialogue in the Dark which is an awareness raising exhibition and social business where visitors can get a small sense of what it’s like to live as somebody who is blind. Unfortunately it was closed while we were there.
If you have an extra half day definitely visit Miniatur Wunderland which is a miniature museum. Sadly we didn’t book tickets in advance and couldn’t visit. I’ll be returning to visit the next time I’m in Germany!
Next stop, Berlin!