In my recent Hamburg post I concentrated on the city’s music scene, specifically the ElbJazz festival, the new Elbphilarmonie concert hall and the Beatles’ heritage in the city where they gained their identity. In this second one the focus is on the city itself and the districts that give it such character.Hamburg is a city with the highest percentage of millionaires in Germany whilst being a haven for left-wing politics and alternative culture. This social cohesion is promoted by the Social Democratic local government and supported by a strong culture of philanthropy.It’s also a port city, one of the great trading points of the world. The Beatles would never have come to Hamburg if it wasn’t for the clubs in the St Pauli area that sit behind the notorious sex shops of the Reeperbahn needing cheap Rock’n Roll bands to entertain the sailors. Even now women are not allowed access to Herbertstrasse where the prostitutes are on show.Once you get beyond the sex and music clubs St Pauli is a hip residential area that is well worth an explore. Don’t miss out on the Jäger-Passage where you can pose as John Lennon did for the cover of his seminal album Rock’n Roll. I look more like Ernie Wise than the young Lennon, but hey, you can’t have everything. Where would you put it?Hamburg is expanding exponentially. The new Hafencity development started in 1997 and is extending the city’s central residential and office footprint by an extraordinary 40%. Much of the old port area is now unneeded post the container revolution…The Hafencity is also the home of the amazing Elbphilarmonie building which you should visit just to enjoy the stunning architecture even if you don’t make it to a concert.The best place to eat if you are visiting the Elbphilarmonie is Carls Brasserie.It sits directly opposite the concert hall and is the perfect place for a glass of bone dry Riesling or a plate of Smoked Eel from the Baltic. Try the Fillet of Pikeperch with thyme butter, summer truffles, green pea and violet potatoes. It was delicious.The Kontorhausviertel quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage site housing the offices of merchants. Built in 1920s this monumental set of buildings mark an architectural divide between past and present. They are designed in a “Brick Expressionist” style with special facades featuring nautical themes and stunning interiors. Watch out for the Chilehaus which looks like a ship! Hamburg’s other UNESCO World Heritage site is the Speichertstadt warehouse city. Speichertstadt was a customs-free area until recently. Now it is only oriental rugs that are still stored here alongside offices, advertising agencies, fashion labels, tourist attractions and artists’ studios.After a hard day’s sightseeing in the Speichertstadt the Kaffee Museum is the perfect pit-stop with a fab selection of coffees and cakes.If shopping is your thing you should stroll around the leafy boulevards of Eppendorf (Brits should think South Ken) – but watch out you don’t trip over one of the Stolpersteine – commemorative brass plaques embedded in the pavement commemorating the Jews who lived in these houses before they were forcibly taken away.If you’re more of a hipster then you should check out the Karolinenviertel. It’s near the exhibition centre and the atmosphere is alive with youth and colour offering a multicultural, creative backdrop for graffiti artists, fashion designers and start-ups that have relocated to a former abattoir! The neighbouring Schanzen-District between the Schlachthof meat market, Schanzenpark and Schulterblatt is a hub for the creative and alternative scenes characterised by trendy boutiques, cafes and bars.If you are in the Karolinen or Schanzen Viertel then drop into Bullerei. Chef Tim Mälzer is the nearest the Germans have to Jamie Oliver and this casual restaurant is great for a light lunch or dinner with friends. Drink an Alsterwasser, the Hamburg version of a shandy and try the Misolachs, salmon marinated in miso and chilli or a classic steak tartare with a Bullenfutter (bull feed) green salad with Parmesan dressing.If fish is your thing then Liman Winterhud in the fashionable upmarket Mühlenkamp shopping district should float your boat. Go for the fish platters and if the weather’s good get an outside table and people watch.During this Hamburg trip I was a guest of the 4* Hotel Mercure Hamburg Mitte, positioned by the Speicherstadt warehouse area and with HafenCity and the city centre, River Alster, and the Jungfernstieg and Mönckebergstrasse shopping areas all just a short walk away.With the Olive Tree restaurant and Lemon Bar, a car park and its central location it has all the amenities you need for a great city centre stay whether you’re there for business or pleasure.The bedroom was comfortable and quiet with a great shower in the bathroom and Sky News on the TV.And the breakfast buffet was plentiful with a terrific section of cereals, fruit, yoghurts, pastries, English fry-up ingredients, smoked fish, fruit, juices and hot drinks. It’s a great option for a Hamburg stay and won’t break the bank.No trip to Hamburg is complete without a visit to the Sunday morning Fish Market on the Landungsbrücken wharf. It’s rammed with locals, tourists and clubbers who haven’t made it to bed yet having a fish roll and buying seafood, fruit and veg and flowers for the week and has a great atmosphere.
if you are in the Hamburg mood then visit Hamburg on Tour – a pop-up event coming to London on 20 – 21 October, designed to recreate “that Hamburg feeling” in the heart of Shoreditch! Think live music, craft beer and festival vibes on Brick Lane, at The Boiler House.
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