The best place to start exploring Hamburg is the historic old town by Lake Alster. At its heart, you will find the Neo-Renaissance Hamburg city hall, which houses the city’s senate and parliament. Follow the lure of the stores and shopping malls that line Mönckebergstraße and Spitalerstraße streets, and make sure to stop and admire the beautiful St Petri and St Jacobi churches. If you’re looking for a bite to eat, pass the St Nikolai memorial church and head to Deichstraße for some superb and affordable restaurants.
If you’re looking for an upmarket shopping experience, Hamburg’s ‘new town’ is the place to go. The area around Jungfernstieg, Neuer Wall, and Große Bleichen will fulfil every heart’s desire. Stop by Cafe Alex to rest your feet while enjoying a coffee and gorgeous views of the lake. Discover the gorgeous 17th- and 18th-century red-brick buildings of the ‘composer’s quarter‘. Visit the St Michaelis church, from which you can enjoy the best views over the city, and descend towards Landungsbrücken into the Portuguese Quarter in order to sample the best Mediterranean food in Hamburg.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hamburg’s warehouse district is the largest of its kind in the world. The gorgeous red-brick warehouses were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on oak-log foundations. Some of the buildings here are still used as warehouses for exclusive goods such as carpets, coffee, tea and spices, while others house popular museums such as the Miniatur Wunderland and the Hamburg Dungeon. Don’t leave before sampling some of the best products stored in the functioning warehouses, such as the coffee roasted on the spot at the Speicherstadt Kaffeerösterei.
Night falls at the warehouse district Speicherstadt | © Sascha Neuroth
A visit to Hamburg would never be complete without stopping by the Reeperbahn, nicknamed ‘the most sinful mile’. The area around Europe’s longest party street is filled with countless restaurants, bars, pubs, nightclubs, discotheques and, of course, Landungsbrucken, the city’s unmissable floating dock. Some of the places favoured by the locals are hidden away in the side streets and squares, such as on the Große Freiheit, Hamburger Berg and the Hans-Albers-Platz. Don’t be surprised if you see a black flag with a skull and crossbones on every corner – it’s the unofficial emblem of the district’s cult football club, the FC St Pauli.
The HafenCity, one of Hamburg’s newest districts, is among the largest urban regeneration projects in Europe. Here you can explore beautiful examples of modern architecture and witness a new neighbourhood being born. There are residential buildings and offices, playgrounds and park areas, museums and restaurants. At the heart of HafenCity is Hamburg’s most ambitious project of the past few decades, the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall built on top of an old warehouse building.
This alternative neighbourhood, usually referred to simply as the ‘Schanze’, is busy at all times of day. The district’s main street, the Schulterblatt, is dominated by the Rote Flora cultural centre that has been squatted in since 1989, and represents Schanze’s leftist and alternative vibe. Here you can have breakfast at a Portuguese bakery, enjoy a lunchtime currywurst, drink an after-work cocktail in one of the bars, or go dancing during the weekend. Just around the corner lies the trendy Karoviertel, known for quirky stores stocking garments by up-and-coming fashion designers.
Located between the main train station and Lake Alster, St Georg is considered to be home to Hamburg’s LGBT scene. At the heart of the district, you can find ethnic restaurants and cafés representing almost every cuisine in the world. In turn, the nearby Steindamm is dominated by Turkish and oriental restaurants and stores. If you want to sample Hamburg’s best döner kebap, look no further than St Georg!
Once an industrial neighbourhood home to the immigrant population, over the past decade, Ottensen has transformed into a vibrant district without losing its unique multicultural character. It is now a beloved residential area with many shopping opportunities, as well as art and culture venues. You can explore the shops and boutiques around the Ottenser Hauptstrasse and Bahrenfelder Strasse, and find a bite to eat at the Alma-Warternberg-Platz. Nearby you’ll also find the Zeisehallen, a refurbished old factory that now houses a cinema, a gallery and a restaurant; and Die Fabrik, an ammunition depot-turned- popular-alternative-concert hall.
Located near Lake Alster and Hamburg’s largest park, this district is an upscale residential neighbourhood. The bi-weekly Isemarkt, held under the steel arcs of a railway line, is Europe’s longest farmers’ market, with over 200 stalls. The neighbourhood’s main street, Eppendorfer Landstrasse, is lined with historic buildings housing trendy little retail shops and boutiques, as well as cafés and restaurants. As elsewhere in Hamburg, the streets of Eppendorf come alive when the weather is sunny, with locals flocking to the restaurant terraces no matter the season.
Once a humble fishing village, today Blankenese is one of the richest and most picturesque districts of Hamburg. Here you can enjoy a leisurely downhill stroll among gorgeous villas and historic mansions in the so-called ‘district of stairs’ with its 5,000 steps. Once you’ve reached the sandy beach on the River Elbe, stop for a coffee in one of the waterside cafés and enjoy the quarter’s Riviera-like atmosphere.