Hamburg is everybody’s favorite port city in Europe.
Although it is often overlooked by Berlin and Munich, anyone who has been to Hamburg will go on about how it’s one of the coolest places in Germany. This Hanseatic city in the north is low-key, diverse and uber-cultural. The flawless merging of the historic and modern makes Hamburg an ideal urban destination which you’ll regret not having visited sooner.
Speicherstadt is one of the coolest UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the largest warehouse district in the world. Speicherstadt boasts the most fashionable collection of neat red brick buildings lined up along interlocking canals. The chic, minimalist complex of warehouses built in the late 19th century is every hipster’s dream aesthetic coming to life. Walking along the canals and getting lost among the tall brick buildings is incredibly charming and it’s impossible to stop taking photos.
While Speicherstadt is Hamburg’s top historic attraction, the Elbphilharmonie, aka the Elbe Philharmonic Hall, is the city’s modern crown jewel. The concert hall was constructed as part of a revitalization project to develop the HafenCity district and officially opened in 2017. The gleaming futuristic structure modeled like waves sitting on top of an original brick warehouse has become one of Hamburg’s most iconic sites. The surrounding HafenCity development along the Elbe River is also spanking new with a variety of hip offices, boutiques, museums and restaurants.
Eat Fischbrötchen at the Fishmarkt
Can you even say that you went to Hamburg if you haven’t gone to the Fish Market for a scrumptious fischbrötchen? The Hamburg Fishmarkt has been around since 1703 and you can enjoy one of Europe’s most famous fish markets every Sunday morning. Snacking on a fischbrötchen – a delicious sandwich with pickled herring, onions, pickles and lettuce – is a top priority when visiting the market. If pickled herring isn’t your jam, there’s plenty of other yummy options, including: fish and chips and seafood salads. If you’re too lazy to wake up on Sunday morning, there are food trucks near the entrance of Speicherstadt and stalls along the docks where you can munch on a fischbrötchen any day of the week.
Have a Wild Night in Reeperbahn aka the Red Light District
Did you know that Hamburg has the biggest Red Light District in Europe? Reeperbahn is also where the Beatles played in various clubs and got their stripes prior to becoming famous in the early 60s. Despite a few brothels and a generally seedy vibe (which is totally part of its charm,) Hamburg’s notorious Red Light District is more like the city’s biggest nightlife destination. There are more than enough grungy dive bars under the neon lights where you can party with all sorts of rowdy colorful characters. If you feel like listening to bumping techno in a dark room, Pooca Bar is a personal favorite where this author had a great time.
A night cruise is a beautiful way to enjoy Hamburg from the water. At night, the lights of HafenCity and Speicherstadt come alive. The cruise picks you up from the docks then takes you through the canals of Speicherstadt and past the Elbphilharomonie. The cruise is very laidback and makes you appreciate the truly unique port city that Hamburg is.
clouds Heaven’s Bar and Kitchen
For the most scenic and swanky dining room in Hamburg, look no further than clouds Heaven’s Bar and Kitchen. At the bar, you can enjoy sweeping views of the Elbe River and the rest of the city from the 23rd floor. With the views, you can indulge in upmarket cocktails and master cuts of steak from Lower Saxony. As one of the most exclusive dining rooms in the city, clouds is where you go to treat yourself to a swish gourmand experience.
The sweeping restaurant designed by Jordan Mozer inside east Hotel Hamburg is the trendiest place to see and be seen. The dramatic space is real groovy, with sensually undulating columns reaching to high heavens and giant church-style windows. The restaurant serves trendy “east”-inspired dishes, like: Masa Yuzu Taquitos and Sake Leek, and it’s known for serving the best sushi in Hamburg. For a swanky night out on the town, east Restaurant is a no brainer.
If you’re looking to try something real special, head over to Wolfs Junge in a quieter part of Hamburg near Alster Lake. Wolfs Junge was the first organic-certified restaurant to open in Hamburg. The restaurant’s fearless leader, Sebastian Junge, brought the sustainable food movement to his hometown. Everything you find on the table at Wolfs Junge, from the produce, wine and even the candles, is organic and sourced from around Hamburg. For lunch you’ll find rustic French and German favorites while at night you’ll experience Chef Junge flexing his creative chops. For a gorgeous, 100% sustainable dining experience, Wolfs Junge is the place to go in Hamburg.
Clockers is the coolest cocktail bar in the city. With an interior that looks like an enchanted indoor forest, Clockers is the best place to taste top-notch cocktails while relaxing to RnB, rap and hip-hop. Gin is the drink of choice, since Clockers makes its own brand of fragrant gin. The bar also offers gin-tastings which teaches you about the distilling process and the world of juniper botanicals.
The Chug Club
The Chug Club is a low-key cocktail bar right by the Red Light District which leans heavily into tequila. The bar is very intimate and laidback. It has a fun cocktail menu with lots of beautifully presented and strongly boozy options.
Looking for a more divey option where you can just order a beer and relax? Le Fonque is casual but remains to be a cool bar in the hipster district of Sternschanze. It’s got groovy décor and a local DJ spinning funk, boogie, hip-hop and whatever else they feel like putting on. You’ll get to hang out with a cool mix of locals who also come to Le Fonque just to relax and wind down over cheap drinks.
East Hotel Hamburg
east Hotel Hamburg is the coolest design-forward hotel around. Set inside an old iron factory, all of the interior design by Jordan Mozer is thoroughly edgy and contemporary. east was created as the ultimate urban destination, where guests could have a fabulous night out at the trendy restaurant. Then continue their night in the chic hotel suites above. The location also couldn’t be more perfect. Located between St. Pauli and Reeperbahn, the hotel is close to all the nightlife without being smackdab in the riffraff.