When I posted an instagram photo with a caption saying I didn’t really like Hamburg, I got some direct messages (not comments) saying it wasn’t possible! and that Hamburg was their favorite city and I didn’t know what I was talking about etc. I respect that Hamburg can be someone’s favorite city but it’s ok if I still didn’t like it, right?
To be fair, this may not really be a big reason for most people. It mostly concerns parents with younger kids, mostly those who still have to use a stroller. Hamburg, like many other European countries has a quite impressive public transportation system, and this means a lot of going up and down the stairs. With a stroller, stairs are doable, but not every single time. Even a ramp would have made it easier. I never felt this kind of discomfort in different German cities, including Stuttgart. Come on, Hamburg, what do you have against elevators?
2. Things to do
So, like any traveler, I had a list of things to do and places to see. Of course, since it was Easter holiday, I didn’t think everything would be open or available so my list ended up being a bit…pointless. There were a lot of “we’re here! What now?” including the ports, the HafenCity and the warehouses. (Museums are a pass in my opinion, because most cities have museums.)
We enjoyed the Miniatur Wunderland, which was in fact inside an old warehouse, but it was a little bit disappointing for several reasons: any Asian cities? Hong Kong? Seoul? Tokyo? (They are planning to make some Asian cities, not sure which ones, by 2028…) Perhaps something outdoors, because the warehouse did feel a bit old and very damp. The air circulation could have been a bit better with all the people and kids from around the world. The detail was actually amazing and everyone was mesmerized by the planes actually “flying through” the ocean of clouds. The souvenirs were a bit sad, very outdated and not much related to the actual exhibition. An overall, more modern update would have been nice, I think. But if you are in Hamburg as a traveler, it’s the number one tourist spot, so it would be a shame to miss it completely.
HafenCity was my fault because I thought it would be more of a smaller specific designated area, but it’s a very big district currently under hardcore development, so a lot of big holes, constructions sites, trucks and cranes. You can check out the new concert hall called the Elbphilharmonie or check in for some spa and skin treatment at the Eucerinhaut Institute. It’s not an actual mall or building, but a district, so this was also a bit of a “hmm, what now?” situation.
Rathaus was… Rathaus. Neuer Wall, which is very close to the Rathaus area, is a shopping district. Quite the luxury type of a shopping street, but we did buy some chocolate at Neuhaus, a Belgian chocolate maker. (Did you know Escada was German? I didn’t.)
Hamburg is also known for being the third largest city for musicals in the world. (The other two are New York and London.) There are currently 12 musicals running, including the Lion King, Aladdin, Kinky Boots and Billy Elliot. (London has more than 40.) But if you would like to watch a musical in Germany, this is the place to be.
(Hamburg is also the home of Der Spiegel, one of Europe’s largest publications of its kinds. And being a journalist and all, I had to visit the HQ (It was closed). In 2010, it was known that the publication was employing the equivalent of 80 full time fact checkers, which is “most likely the world’s largest fact checking operation,” according to the Columbia Journalism Review.)
There were two things that popped up when I searched for food in Hamburg: hamburgers and Franzbrotchen. The latter is a pastry with various toppings, such as nutella, nuts or fruit. Mostly sweet. Great, but once was enough. We tried two burgers during our stay and while they were indeed good, it wasn’t “oh my god, this is definitely the birthplace of the hamburger!” (I’m picky when it comes to food, if you haven’t noticed already). This place called The Burger Lab was really good, which was recommended through instagram (if you go to the website, they say they serve New York Style burgers, so… the irony)
We were so looking forward to the fish, but this worked out in a different way, both good and bad. (I talk about that later.)
Love sweet potato fries. The Burger Lab was excellent, from the modern and casual interior, the food, the drinks, the staff, all great. But then there are also a lot of other famous burger places that we didn’t get to try, including Brooklyn Burger Bar and Dulf’s Burger.
Three reasons I did like Hamburg
Beautiful architecture, with a mix of old and new. There are construction sites everywhere at the moment, which made it a bit tricky to walk around with a stroller, but it means there are to be new buildings and areas in the near future. The photo above is the Wandrahmsfleet, which is the part of the Speicherstadt, the biggest warehouse district in the world. It used to be a custom free zone for things like spices, coffee, cocoa and tea but now it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a couple of museums lined up through the warehouses, including the Miniatur Wunderland, the Hamburg Dungeon (which seemed terrifying because I saw more than three kids crying in front of the exit) and the German Customs Museum.
Fish! The variety of fish could be better, but there was indeed an abundance of seafood menus, which we very much appreciated. We had the seafood platter at Casa del Sabor in the Portuguese Quarter and it was brilliant. We had some fish and chips at a restaurant inside the International Maritime Museum, but it was very disappointing. So all in all, it’s like anywhere, some places are good, others bad. But for us, it was nice to have a richer selection of fish here and there.
One evening, we popped into a Chinese buffet called Mr. Cherng, which is not the typical place you would go in Germany, but it was one of the best Chinese buffet places I’ve been in a very long time. The food selection wasn’t so big, but every dish was tasty and especially the Mongolian barbeque part where you pick the ingredients and the chef cooks it for you with your choice of sauce was amazing. Some people just took shrimp with chili sauce and, there you go, chili fried shrimp.
The seafood platter at Casa del Sabor was a great deal for money. And delicious.
3. Streets and quarters
While Stuttgart has great many things, it’s not the biggest city in Germany. So there’s not much room (yet) for so many big districts or quarters at the moment, but because Hamburg is bigger and is easily divided due to the canals, there are a lot of distinctively different places. For instance, the Portuguese Quarter. A street lined up with restaurants, cafes, bars and shops (Milch was an excellent cafe with wonderful coffee). We’re heading to Lisbon in June, so this was actually a great introduction.
Sternschanze was another unique district that was popular. This is the place to be when it comes to bars, cafes and restaurants. It’s also where you can find a lot of good deals for breakfasts.
Have you been to Hamburg? What were your thoughts? What part did you like/dislike? I’m really interested to know other travelers’ or even locals’ thoughts and opinions. If you have any recommendations for next time, please let me know. I would love to visit again and try other suggestions out. If you’re interested, I really enjoyed my time in Dresden (here, here and here), Munich and of course my home for now, Stuttgart.
- Miniatur Wunderland
- Eucerin Hautinstitute
- Neuer Wall
- The Burger Lab
- Casa del Sabor
- Mr. Cherng
- The Milch
All photos by rachelsanghee. April, 2017.