A Music Lover's Guide to Hamburg

Photo of Ilze Ieviņa
20 March 2017

Maritime and multicultural Hamburg boasts a lively and diverse music scene. From jazz improvisation nights to spectacular musicals, from indie club gigs to classical performances at the Elbphilharmonie, in Hamburg every music lover will find something to suit their taste.

For jazz lovers

Hamburg’s love affair with jazz music is a long and fruitful one. The city’s oldest jazz club – the Cotton Club – is approaching its 60th birthday and has welcomed many world renowned musicians over the years. Another long-time favourite is the Birdland where the guest list is no less impressive and the Thursday night jam sessions are legendary. Jazz in a unique location can be found on the Feuerschiff – a former lightship. Hamburg also hosts several jazz festivals, the most famous among them being the Elbjazz Festival in June and the Überjazz Festival in October.

Jazz Band | © Clusternote/WikiCommons

For club enthusiasts

Hamburg is the perfect place to enjoy live music in smaller, more intimate settings than packed out stadiums. The most popular locations for club music are the St. Pauli district with clubs like Grosse Freiheit 36, Molotow, and Gruenspan, and the more indie Sternschanze district with venues such as KNUST, Grüner Jäger, and Haus 73. The title of Hamburg’s most unique club undoubtedly goes to Uebel & Gefährlich that’s located on the top floor of a gigantic World War II bunker. In addition, every September, Hamburg hosts Germany’s biggest club festival around the legendary Reeperbahn party street.

Molotow | © Hinrich Carstensen

For musical fans

Hamburg is the birthplace of the German musical and one of the biggest musical cities in the world. It welcomes 2 million visitors a year and is outshone only by New York and London. Disney’s König der Löwen (Lion King) has been selling out shows for 15 years in a specially built musical hall by the river Elbe. Other favourites include Disney’s Alladin, Ich War Noch Niemals in New York (I Have Never Been to New York), and Heisse Ecke (Hot Corner) about the St. Pauli district musical. Hamburg’s bounty of musicals is fantastic but keep in mind, all of them are performed in German.

For classical music aficionados

The spotlight of Hamburg’s classical music scene is currently taken by the magnificent Elbphilharmonie that was opened in January 2017. If you want to experience the incredible acoustics of its vineyard-style Grand Hall, make sure to book well in advance. But Hamburg has much more to offer. The Laeiszhalle is one of the best concert halls in Europe and home of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra. The Staatsoper Hamburg was Germany’s first public opera and offers a wide opera and ballet repertoire. And an innovative approach to chamber orchestra music can be enjoyed in the resonanzraum.

Inside the Elbphilharmonie | Unsplash

For church music appreciators

Some of Hamburg’s most spectacular concert venues are its churches. Here a variety of organ music, choir, ensemble, and orchestral performances can be enjoyed. One of the gems of Hamburg’s church music is the baroque St. Michaelis church that boasts five organs. Also the St. Jacobi and St. Katharinen churches are beloved concert venues. In turn, the St. Johannis and Kulturkirche Altona are known as cultural churches that offer a more innovative and diverse programme that especially attracts younger audiences.

The large organ at the St. Michaelis church | Pixabay

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