A Weekend in Hamburg

(Click onto picture to download / Pier Jungfernstieg / Christian Spahrbier)

The Elbe, the Alster, the port, St Pauli – and of course fish rolls and Franzbrötchen pastry: there are ample reasons for a city break in Hamburg. While a weekend might give you limited scope for exploring a city, there is still a lot to be discovered in Hamburg even within two days.

SATURDAY

The day begins with a French breakfast at the Café Paris – the bustling brasserie in the city centre of Hamburg. Make sure to make a reservation for your weekend table. Once you have finished your breakfast, you might want to stroll over to the town hall situated diagonally opposite the café. During one of the regular guided tours through this neo-Renaissance building you can learn about the history of the city and of the town hall.

A city break wouldn’t be complete without a shopping tour. In close proximity to the town hall you can find the Mönckebergstrasse, a highstreet boulevard with countless shops by popular retailers such as H&M, Zara, Mango and Görtz. Just around the corner, the elegant Neuer Wall is lined with designer shops and beautiful shop windows, and the Hanse-Viertel shopping arcades invite you to stroll and browse. From here it is but a short walk to the Alex café on the Jungfernstieg, where you can enjoy your coffee inside the pavilion or outside on the terrace with a beautiful view of the Inner Alster. Just opposite you can see the Alsterhaus, Hamburg’s traditional department store: established more than 100 years ago, the Alsterhaus offers an exclusive choice of fashion, beauty and home accessories on more than 24,000 square metres. All those on the look-out for local designer pieces should take the suburban rail to the Schanzenviertel district. With its small designer shops, local manufacturers and quaint cafés, this quarter exudes a special urban flair. And here’s a tip: each Saturday, a big flea market is held just opposite the Feldstrasse underground station. In a crowd of local hipsters and students you can discover real gems here.

Enough of shopping – it is time to take a break. Hamburg is one of Germany’s greenest cities, and numerous parks and greens around the city centre offer ample opportunities to relax. Situated in the heart of the city centre, the beautiful Planten un Blomen park is the perfect oasis. In the evenings and during the summer, locals and tourists gather here for the free water-light concerts.

Now that you are sufficiently rested, you can ring in the night on the infamous Reeperbahn in the district of St Pauli. Between colourful and seedy shops, countless bars and clubs of all types and sizes are waiting to be discovered. After all, St Pauli is Hamburg’s most popular nightlife quarter. In the immediate vicinity of the Spielbudenplatz you will find live music venues, theatres and musicals. Speaking of which: did you know that Hamburg is Germany’s musical hotspot? Current productions include e.g. Aladdin, Kinky Boots, Mary Poppins, as well as The Lion King, Disney’s all-time favourite.

Just a stone’s throw away you will bring your first day in Hamburg to a close at dizzying heights: during the summer months, the Clouds bar located at the top of the “Tanzende Türme” skyscraper opens its rooftop terrace “Heaven's Nest”, providing an almost 360-degree panoramic view of the city. For an unobstructed view of the port and amazing sunsets over the River Elbe you might also want to visit the nearby 20up skyline bar in the Empire Riverside Hotel.

SUNDAY

Your second day in Hamburg starts early, for the early bird catches the … fish: Hamburg’s traditional fish market is open each Sunday between 5am and 10am – unless the tide is high. This is the place where tourists, clubbers and local early birds gather for fish rolls, bargains and post-party drinks. From here it is just a short walk to the St Pauli Landungsbrücken, where you can embark on a harbour boat trip. The barge will take you to the far side of the port and, depending on tides, through the bordering Speicherstadt, Hamburg’s historic warehouse district. On board the ship, the captain will entertain you with stories and banter on Hamburg and the port.

Back on land, why not explore the Speicherstadt further, one of the city’s architectural highlights. The historic building complex with its red-brick façades has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is still used for storing carpets, spices and coffee, and sometimes you can even smell it in the air. Several museums are located here, among them the Spice Museum and the International Maritime Museum. The spine-chilling Hamburg Dungeon with its historic horror show is hugely popular among children, and so is the Miniatur Wunderland – the world’s largest miniature railway. The love of detail exhibited here is simply amazing: in more than 760,000 hours of work, the Alps, the American continent, Switzeland, Austria, Scandinavia, Italy and of course the city of Hamburg have been recreated here. More than 260,000 hand-painted figurines will put a smile on any visitor’s face.

Next to the Speicherstadt you will find the HafenCity Hamburg district, Europe’s largest inner-city development project. It is characterised by modern architecture and design on extensive waterside promenades and squares, combined with cafes, restaurants and plenty of retail opportunities. Make sure to also visit the fascinating Elbphilharmonie concert hall. Designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, Hamburg’s new landmark is scheduled to open on 11 January 2017. From here you can take a stroll to the Marco Polo Terrassen and the Magellan Terrassen squares. On your way back towards the Sandtorhafen you can take the weight off your feet at the Fleetschlösschen café or at Carls brasserie directly beside the Elbphilharmonie.

To continue your waterside experience, you can take the suburban rail to Blankenese. This picturesque quarter on the Elbe exudes a truly Mediterranean flair. Winding alleyways and steep stairs invite you to explore the area while enjoying the lovely view of the glistening Elbe. To round off your day, you can go for a stroll on the beach of Oevelgönne and through the historic captain's quarter and stop over for a cool drink at the Strandperle, Hamburg's popular beach café. Enjoy the maritime atmosphere and experience the giant passing container ships sounding their horns in the gentle breeze.

Alternatively, you might want to stay urban and visit the Outer Alster Lake in the very heart of the city centre. Lined with beautiful mansions, the banks of the Alster are hugely popular among joggers, walkers and sunbathers, and you can see sailing boats passing by on the water. This hustle and bustle can best be experienced from one the cafés on the Alster jetties such as Bodos Bootssteg or the Amora. With a drink in your hand you can round off your weekend in Hamburg with a view of the beautiful Alster.