I’ve kicked off a bit of a love affair with Germany lately, having been to a few festivals and soaked up the glorious weather they’ve been having (and OF COURSE the beer and sausage), so when I was invited to pack my bags and fly away to discover what Hamburg had to offer for the weekend, I jumped at the chance.
Whenever I think of a German break my mind automatically darts to Berlin or a Christmas-sy Frankfurt, so I didn’t really know that much about the city before I arrived, but it only took landing in the airport to a John Lennon quote to know that this was the perfect spot for me. As Germany’s second biggest city, Hamburg is most well-known for it’s maritime atmosphere, music, nightlife, and it’s port – all things that are right up my alley, so naturally I wanted to delve into deeper and experience all these things for myself!
What I discovered was a beautiful city packed with culture, art, and impressive architecture, and I know you’ll love it too! Here are the highlights…
One of my favourite ways to explore a new city is to jump on a bike and take a cycle tour that really gets you into the thick of things, it’s so much quicker than a walking tour and you get to discover all the interesting nooks and crannies that you wouldn’t otherwise find if you ventured off alone – such as this creative little corner!
Definitely jump on a tour that takes you through Schanzenviertel, Karolinenviertel, and St Pauli if you’re interested in picking up some vintage gems at the flea market, snapping some colourful street art, or exploring a wonderfully creative young scene away from the mainstream city centre. Many of the dilapidated old buildings in these areas have been taken over by migrant families moving into the city (Hamburg is huge on welcoming refugees), and the result seems to have been an explosion of culture and colour in these areas coming together with the local art scene. Definitely worth a visit!
If it’s music you’re into, you cannot miss a tour of The Beatles hotspots dotted around the city – they pretty much invented themselves here don’tcha know! Having played for nights on end in clubs and bars, lived together in an ivy-covered building in an arty part of town, and even drew inspiration for their iconic hair-do’s from the hipsters of Hamburg, are you even a fan if you don’t?
Once you’ve had your fill of the colourful backstreets and multiple bridges of the city, pedal on over to the other side of town, through the historic Old Elbe Tunnel and the industrial neighbourhood of Wilhelmsburg, to end your day with a cold beer and traditional German handbrot at the annual music and arts festival, MS Dockville.
This year’s cracking line-up boasted the likes of Bastille, Foals, Crystal Fighters, Half Moon Run, and Matt Corby, as well as art installations from stencil, urban, and street artists from all over the world. In between catching your fave bands play, head on over to the arts village, which is literally like stepping into another world. Get lost in the maze of trees that leads to a secretive nook of cosy hammocks and fairy lights, or delve into the shipping containers hiding away electronic DJs to knock back licorice shots late into the night.
Whatever vibe you’re after, you’ll find it here – and if you’re hardcore enough (in my old age, I wasn’t), follow the crowds straight from the festival at 5am to drop by Hamburg Fish Market for breakfast. Apparently this is a festival tradition, although why anyone would want that fishy scent all up in their grill after a heavy night on the shots is beyond me… each to their own!
Being a city that’s huge on art, you can’t visit Hamburg in the summer without catching at least one show during Kampnagel’s International Summer Festival. Germany’s largest independent production and performance facility and among Europe’s biggest venues for contemporary performing arts, Kampnagel welcomes artists from all over the world to come together and show off what they got – whether it be theatre, dance, music or discourse.
During my visit I got to catch an amusing live gameshow-style performance called Call A Spy, where the “players” would have to improvise tasks the host would give them while in telephone conversation with actual spies around the world (with hilarious results), and a Japanese virtual manga opera, which I won’t lie to you, left me totally baffled.
Once the shows are over, head out into the garden for a beer (and a chat to dissect what the hell that manga opera was that you just watched) and a visit to the casino, complete with roulette, board games, raffles, and a magic show. By the end of the night you’ll be feeling like a right cultured cat!
One for all the train-lovers out there, a visit to Miniatur Wunderland – the world’s largest model railway exhibition – is a great way to while away an afternoon if it’s not looking too sunny outside. I went along just out of curiosity (clearly being my trainspotting father’s daughter) and loved it! With areas dedicated to America, Europe, and the city of Hamburg, the attention to detail is incredible, you could spend hours in the exhibit quite happily just marvelling over the tiny houses, mountain scenes, and thousands of tiny people dotted about the place – there’s even a working airport with planes taking off and landing. After all that hungry work, grab a currywurst in the train carriage themed canteen and I’d say that’s an afternoon well spent!
I spent my glorious weekend at the luxurious 25hours Hotel Hafencity, a nautical themed haven in an upcoming neighbourhood – but you can read all about that in this post here!
Have you been to Hamburg? I’d love to know what you enjoyed!
SO MANY THANKS to Hamburg Tourism for inviting me along to discover their vibrant city.
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