‘Did you have a hamburger in Hamburg?’ Honestly this was a question I was asked several times upon return from my trip to Hamburg. And sadly I had to disappoint anyone who asked because the truth is, I didn’t. What I did have however was a pleasant experience and one of the best European city breaks in a German city that might not initially be top of mind when it comes to visits from foreign guests . Hamburg is one of those places that is a little bit off the beaten track when thinking about Germany and it doesn’t initially come to mind for foreign visitors who often choose Berlin or Munich as a first choice when visiting Germany (I have been to Dusseldorf too!). But I have to challenge you, why not? So when I was invited by the Hamburg Ahoi to spend a weekend exploring this city I didn’t think twice about saying yes.
First of all, Hamburg is an hour and 10-minute flight from London which I think is quite extraordinary. Why? Because in a little over an hour you can be submersed in a totally different culture and language. So it’s super easy and quick to get to. Second of all the public transportation is very easy to navigate. As a first timer and solo at the start of my trip, navigating my way using public transport from the airport to the Superbude Hotel was easy and not stressful in the slightest. If you are solo traveller and looking for some of the best European city breaks then look no further. If you are visiting Hamburg for the first time, I would suggest getting the Hamburg Card which is a pass that gives you free travel on HVV services and other discounts. The public transport in Hamburg is super easy to use and convenient so I think this is the best way to explore Hamburg.
I was deposited in the neighbourhood of St. Pauli which is a cool, hip area of Hamburg with lots of independent boutiques, cafes and restaurants. My first judgement of any hip neighbourhood is ‘do they have good coffee?’ The answer is YES, the coffee in Hamburg is amazing and you can get oat milk lattes everywhere. Dream. And just to note when you say oat milk (even though German people have impeccable English skills) they don’t always understand so it’s better to say it in German which is Hafermilch. After depositing my things and checking into the Superbude (a boutique hotel and hostel in the St. Pauli neighbourhood) I went to explore the area.
One food you have to try in Germany is currywurst. I hear all the Germans talking about this interesting food which is essentially a sausage covered in curry ketchup. Sounds simple and it is but it’s amazing. I had the vegan currywurst just around the corner of the hostel and my goodness I wish I could remember the name of the place I went into but it was just down the street from the Superbude Hotel. I was so distracted by the smell of the currywurst I didn’t even remember to note down the place. But anyways there are so many restaurants in the St. Pauli neighbourhood and the place really comes alive at night with beer gardens and people sitting outside to have dinner and drinks.
One thing I noticed about Hamburg and about Germany in general is that they are way ahead in terms of sustainability. I actually don’t remember seeing plastic bottles anywhere and there are recycling bins everywhere. And when I visited Vogelball (which I will tell you about in another post it was plastic-free). VERY impressive.
I spent the afternoon exploring by myself which is always nice – I don’t mind a bit of solo travel. Once back at the Superbude later I met the rest of the group and we set off on a tour around the trendy neighbourhoods of Schanze and Karolinenviertel. These areas have a lot of graffiti art which looks really cool and I would highly recommend a wander around. I didn’t see a chain in sight here either – this is an area full of creatives and there are so many boutique shops, cafes and bars. At the Schanzen-District between the Schlachthof meat market, Schanzenpark and Schulterblatt, we had a beer on the street and wandered around. Our guide Tomas explained there were a lot of start-ups and independent shops in the area.
I’m always thinking about my next meal and the next one didn’t disappoint. Here’s me coming back from a recent visit to Rome and then going to Jill’s in Hamburg and declaring it to be the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life. And I take that statement very seriously! I swear if you are looking for some good pizza in Hamburg my goodness please go to Jill’s for goodness sake. The restaurant makes authentic Naples-style pizzas in traditional ovens and honestly, they were amazing. Throw in some local German sparkling wine and you’ve got yourself an amazing meal.
And if you have energy after dinner head to the Reeperbahn neighbourhood. This was once a red-light district for seafarers during the 60s but has now been transformed into an area with art galleries, restaurants, night clubs and bars.
I have to be honest and say I didn’t have much energy left at the end of the day after a 4am wake-up call for the airport so I headed back to the Superbude to put on a mask and head to bed. I have to say though that every time I’ve visited Germany I always feel safe walking on the streets in the evening and Hamburg definitely feels safe so if you are looking for a great European city break for families I would also recommend it.
The next morning after a lovely breakfast at the Superbude we headed out to go paddle-boarding. Now I absolutely LOVE water activities so this was like magic for me. I’m quite athletic as well even though most people wouldn’t guess it (I paddle-boarded in a dress haha). Also, this is why I love a press trip is because it’s basically a trip where the local insiders show you around and you end up doing things you would have never even considered. Which is why I have to tell you that you MUST go paddle-boarding down the canals in Hamburg if you visit. It’s such a fabulous activity and very calm as well – even if you are a beginner you can do it and it’s a great way to see another side of the city.
Hamburg has a lot of canals and a huge lake called Alster Lake that you can explore through paddle-boarding. You can book in paddle-boarding through the Supper Club and it’s very reasonable – I believe at the time they quoted 14 Euros for 1 hour. And it’s such an enjoyable activity, every Euro is worth it.
After paddle-boarding we ate lunch at Supper Club which is also highly recommended. They have a healthy selection of salads and bowls and if you really want that hamburger in Hamburg they have that too. Also please try the truffle fries – they are YUM.
The next day was ours to explore Hamburg ourselves so Supal from Chevrons & Eclairs set off to do some exploration. Our first stop was the Jungfernsteig which is a beautiful waterfront promenade in Hamburg. Hamburg is all about the waterfront with the canals and lakes so definitely head to the Jungfernsteig if you can and stroll along for a bit.
As I mentioned before, Hamburg has some great coffee shops and we hit up Balzac Coffee for a pit stop on the way which is close to the Jungfernsteig. It was started by two sisters who were inspired by the coffee scene in the USA after a visit so started up their own in Hamburg. The name as well I love because it’s inspired by the French writer Honoré de Balzac , known for his excessive coffee consumption of up to 60 cups a day. I mean, I thought I had an excessive coffee habit but I guess not!
There are plenty of places to go in Hamburg to explore if you like architecture as well. We stopped at Chile House to admire it because apparently, it’s an exceptional example of the 1920s Brick Expressionism style of architecture. The Chile House is a short walk from the River Elbe so it was then off to the Speicherstadt district which was probably my favourite in Hamburg. Also, Hamburg is super easy to walk around and all of these places we got to via foot.
Speicherstadt means in German ‘City of Warehouses’ so essentially this is the warehouse district in Hamburg and the architecture is really quite incredible. The buildings were built on timber-pile foundations and the whole area was even declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2015.
From here it’s a quite walk to view the Elbphilharmonie which is the Hamburg Concert Hall. It cost 886 Million Euros to construct so well worth a look! It’s also the tallest building in Hamburg. You can get a good view for it just a short walk from Speicherstadt.
And I know I said the Speicherstadt area was my favourite spot in Hamburg but I’m now thinking that the Deichstrasse and Nikolaifleet had the top spot. The Deichstraße is the oldest remaining street in the Altstadt of Hamburg, Germany and dates back to the 14th century. You just have to head there to have a look at the old 17th to 19th century houses – they are really incredible!
So, all in all would I recommend a long weekend or a city break in Hamburg? Yes, most certainly I would – it’s one of the best European city breaks! The city is great to explore by foot and there are lots of nice restaurants and cafes to try along with some sights you can easily explore without the heaving crowds in other cities.
*This trip was a media trip with Hamburg Ahoi where were able to experience Hamburg and then write our review on our trip. All of my opinions and words are my own, as always.