48 Hours in Hamburg
March 19th, 2013.
It was bitterly cold.
I was walking around in mostly sub-zero temperatures for most of the day.
In this kind of weather, my wanderlust was more restricted to discovering more of the indoor sights and delights of Hamburg.
Luckily, there is plenty to do in Hamburg.
Soak in some culture at a world class art museum, go for some window shopping at a few independent music stores , checking out the live music scene in the Reeperbahn or eat out at some excellent, inexpensive fast food joints- it was an action packed 48 hours in Hamburg.
Cruising on Alster Lake, long walks in some of the city’s 1400 parks and gardens of Hamburg would have to wait till my next visit to the city when it’s a little bit warmer.
9:30 am Check into the Jugendherberge Hamburg Auf dem Stintfang Hostel
Situated in the city centre , just a short walk from the transport hub of Landungsbrücken and directly opposite the harbour, the Jugendherberge Hamburg Auf dem Stintfang Hostel is perfectly placed for exploring Hamburg.
Other big pluses are the nice views of the harbour, onsite bar, excellent breakfast buffet plus it’s very secure. Staff are polite and helpful.
It’s a big modern hostel, clean, quiet and more geared towards families and couples.
There are no organized activities so if you’re looking for a more upbeat party vibe then look elsewhere.
Price for a bed & breakfast in a 8 bed dorm room starts at €22 while a private room starts at €66 per room, per night and includes breakfast.
11 AM St Michaeliskirche
St Micheliskirche is probably one of the most beautiful churches you will ever see.
People come here for the views- climb 453 steps ( you can take a lift) & at the top are rewarded with stunning views. Well worth the €5 entrance fee. Or you could just go into the church like I did ( € Free, recommended donation of €2 ), admire the stunning baroque interiors. I was lucky to time my visit with the Easter rehearsals of the church orchestra. Check out my Audioboo below for a brief excerpt from the Easter rehearsals to get an idea of the amazing acoustics of the place!
1PM Currywurst! Mo-Grill in Jungfernsteig
My first snack in Hamburg was Currywurst!
Mo-Grill in Jungfernsteig, widely regarded by locals as the best currywurst joint in town does a roaring trade at lunch and is packed with hungry diners.
Cool staff and plenty of smiles around, even on a bitterly cold winters day- a great wee place.
2pm: Kunsthalle, Hamburg
I spend the first half of the afternoon at the Kunsthalle, Hamburg.
On a bitterly cold winter afternoon nothing beats wondering around a beautiful building filled with the works of the greatest artists in the world: Monet, Manet, Degas, Munch, Picasso, Chagall, Ernst- Kunsthalle is one of the global powerhouses of contemporary art and a must see on any visit to the city.
Entrance is a pricey €12 so if modern art and impressionism isn’t your cup of tea you might want to give this place a miss.
Admission is free for children and adults below 18. Family day ticket costs €18.
4pm Ace cheap eat: Manju’s, Hauptbahnhof
If you’re looking for a cheap, quick and and tasty bite in Hamburg, the Hauptbahnhof is a safe bet, jampacked with lots of cool budget eateries.
You can eat everything from gyros to Syrian food or chomp on bratwurst along with a stein of Lowenbrau.
I am still quite hungry and plump for a tasty Indian curry in a box at Manju’s which sets me back a mere €3.90
Hamburg is one of Germany’s leading musical cities: it’s where the Beatles started their long winding road to fame and discovered their sound, it is home to musicals like Lion King, Dirty Dancing and Mamma Mia plus you can enjoy world class classical concerts at the Laeiszhalle-Musikhalle and soon visitors will be able to enjoy the highly anticipated opening of the Elbe Philharmonie.
My musical pilgrimage of Hamburg which started at St Michaeliskirche , continued at the cool district of Karoviertel ( Nearest U-Bahn stop: Feldstrasse )
Alt, quirky, laidback and grungy Karoviertel
While the Schanze is more hip and where the creative, cool types go ( Hence, the prices of everything are a little higher) neighbouring Karoviertel has that more rugged, alt-rough at the edges feel. In many ways it reminded me a lot of Shoreditch.
5pm: Mono. Karoviertel
There’s a ton of great shops to discover here-from second hand stores to designer boutiques to lots of smoke filled bars like Mono.
Yup, you can still smoke inside bars and restaurants in Hamburg. In a separate room, according to the law….
Mono has a very laidback feel with chatty barstaff and played a great selection of tunes everything from Massive Attack to Faithless. In the spirit of trying all things local I ordered a glass of the local Alsterwasser- ‘water of the Alster.’ ( Cost: 2.50 euros for a half-pint ) Basically it is the local version of a shandy but ordering a ‘Alsterwasser’ sounds much cooler + masculine.
For casual window browsing and as a refuge from the cold I visited Hanseplatte (Neuer Camp, 32) , unwittingly discovering a store which is a bit of everything that is local and unique to Hamburg.
Besides stocking music of local Hamburg musicians you can find a whole bunch of stuff from local artists –from art prints , designer tees to even locally made chocolate.
6:30pm Groove City Record Store
The music scene is quite eclectic in Hamburg and caters to people of all tastes: next store I popped into in Karoviertel was the Groove City Record Store, which sells mainly vinyl records of funk, soul, hip-hop, jazz, Latin, Afro and electro.
I had fun hanging out in this place. Has real character and great music.
Groove City Records, Hamburg- Tone of groove and character
8pm: Catch a live gig at Mojo Club
It’s a shame to see record shops die out in the UK and everywhere else but I am happy to report to you that in Hamburg the spirit of music that the Beatles discovered is still well and truly alive.
This is more than evident on my unexpected last-minute decision to check out the Adam & Binki gig at Mojo Club.
Mojo is one of Hamburg’s hottest nightlife hotspots that in the 90’s was the hotspot for dancefloor Jazz in Germany hosting a bunch of great music artists like Gilles Peterson, Massive Attack, Moloko, the Propellerheads, Pizzicato Five, Roni Size, Goldie, the E-Z Rollers as well as Kruder & Dorfmeister.
It was a great gig and had I good company in the shape of local bloggeratti : Kathryn Wittich and David Phillipe. Even though I hadn’t heard of Adam Green and Binki Shapiro before, I loved their honest, bittersweet songs of heartbreak and well crafted, chilled out melodies.
The locals love, appreciate good music and the loud hollering, whistles that followed at the end of the show, show that they clearly loved their personalities too.
Adam Green with his good natured banter and ridiculous dance moves clearly warmed the hearts & voices of the crowd.
Hamburg is packed with a raft of top live music venues and these are the coolest places to check out Zwick, Millerntorplatz, St Pauli, Molotow, Spielbudenplatz, Grosse Freiheit 36, Übel & Gefährlich, Feldstraße, Logo, Grindelallee & Marktzeit in der Fabrik, Barnerstrasse
Beatles Platz. I am a John or Paul here…hmmmm
10:30pm: Beatles Platz
The last stop of my Hamburg musical pilgrimage fittingly ends with a silly picture of me at the Beatles Platz ( Is that Paul or John, John was lefthanded right? ) a vinyl record shaped memorial at the crossroads of Reeperbahn and Grose Freiheit, dedicated to the memory of the Fabulous 5′s ( Stuart Sutcliffe, who left the band after Hamburg) time in the city from 1960-1962.
10AM Landungsbrucken – the departure point for the New World
I start the day with a great view of one of Hamburg’s most iconic landmarks- the harbour area of Europe’s largest floating island, Landungsbrucken. Built in 1839, this pier/platform was the departure point for many future Americans setting sail to the New World. Nowadays, the pier serves as a departure point for sightseeing tour boats across the harbour.The iconic 420 metre long clock tower besides functioning as a clock/bell tower also has a water level indicator.
10:30 AM Fischbrotchen
Enjoy a classic Hamburg experience for just 2 euros. Watch the seagulls float above you, the sightseeing boats pass you by on the Elbe, the hearty bellow of the sightseeing tour operators drum up business while proceedings are punctuated by the ring of the clock tower bell every half an hour ….
11:30 AM Welcome to the Gangeviertel
I discover Gangeviertel- a playground of amazing art that spans across a labyrinth of 12 houses and backyards dating from the Middle Ages.
It’s a studio and home to a creative mix of artists who saved the buildings from being torn down in 2009. Concerts, parties, poetry readings…it’s a unique space in Hamburg that stands out, even on a bitterly cold winters day.
12:30pm Modern Life School
When visiting Gangeviertel, pop over to the Modern Life School, Hamburg just around the corner
On the International Day of Happiness ( 22nd March ), it was appropriate that I discovered a cafe+bookshop +temple of ideas & positive thinking like the Modern Life School.
Galileo’s quote: ‘We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.’ sums up the philosophy of this place.
You can enjoy their ‘gastrosophy’ classes where you could be treated to a lecture in freedom from philosopher while enjoying a three course meal and wine.
Some classes are free- check Modernlifeschool.com ahead for their schedule. Cafe offers excellent coffee plus superb free-wifi.
2pm Schulauer Fahrhaus at Willkomm-Hoft
‘Willkomm-Hoft’: the ‘welcome point’ at Schulauer Fahrhaus in Wedel is on the city outskirts where vessels destined for Hamburg are welcomed over loudspeakers with its national anthem.
Precise details of the cruise ships & containers are described by the ‘captains’ like Eckart Bolte (in picture ) as people chow down in the restaurant ( least expensive item is espresso- 2.6 euros)
Here’s an audio excerpt of Eckart Bolte announcing the ships as they pass by the Schulauer Fahrhaus
Sit back, watch the vessels go by on the River Elbe.To check what you can see before you go, visit Hamburgcruisecenter.edu
Getting there: A single ticket to Wedel on the S-Bahn takes 30 minutes and costs €2.80.
Cost: Espresso at Schulauer Fahrhaus – €2.60 , return ticket to Wedel with S-Bahn- €5.60
3pm Late Lunch at Junge, die Backerei
If you go to Willkomm Hoft visit Junge, die Backerei in Wedel. The bakeries in Germany are awesome & plentiful- cheap & great for snacking on the go.
Since 1897 Junge from Lubeck has been serving locals in Wedel. I’m enjoyed a roll with grilled chicken & sundried tomato pesto followed by a sugar glazed croissant – Franzbrotch that originates from Hamburg.
Total cost: 4.60 euros
4pm Ballinstadt- ‘The World’s largest Inn’
Hamburg was the ‘port of dreams’ & gateway to the New World with 5 million Europeans emigrating between 1850 & 1934 in search of a better life , a life free of poverty, disease & starvation that was a feature in many parts of Europe in that era.
Before departure they would be housed in the Ballinstadt: Emigration halls which was in the times described as the ‘world’s largest inn.’
The museum, a faithful recreation of the original settlement ( original was razed to the ground in the 1943 Allied RAF bombardment , 2500 tonnes of heavy explosives dropped in just 50 minutes- there is a photo exhibition here about this tragic event) is a moving & powerful tribute to the million of people who made that brave journey, often leaving their loved ones behind and spending often 3 times their salary to secure passage on the boats.
1 in every 5th citizen in the US has German ancestry – Miller, Steinway, Strauss, Heinz, Kellogg to name just a few. The museum houses also an impressive in-house research centre where you can access for free the Hamburg passenger lists – with over 600 million entries it is the world’s largest genealogical database.
Entry cost: 12 euros ( 10 for students ) is expensive but well worth the price.
5:30pm Heinrich Hertz Turm ( TV Tower )
On the way back I stumbled upon the TV Tower.
Standing in front of the 272.2 metre high ( highest building in Hamburg) Heinrich-Hertz Turm I feel I could have been transported me to another galaxy. If you didn’t know it’s purpose it does look an intergalactic spaceship no? 🙂
615pm Sunset and dinner at Jugendherberge Hamburg Auf dem Stintfang Hostel
One of the cool aspects of staying here was the view and enjoying sunsets like this over the harbour.
The hostel also offer guests dinner for €7. Within this cost you can help yourself to their unlimited salad buffet, choice of a hot meal ( wiener schnitzel in my case) plus a drink and dessert. Plus you can help yourself to tea and coffee afterwards. The food is decent, for the price it’s pretty good value.
6:30pm Elbe Tunnel
Built in 1911, 426 metres long , 26 metres below sea level and just 6 metres in diameter, the Elbe Tunnel is 24 hour pedestrian tunnel that links the dockyards on the southside of the Elbe with central Hamburg. Glazed with terracotta figures, the tunnel is a bit of an icon in modern cinema featuring in movies like ‘The Odessa File’ & also Wim Wenders ‘An American Friend.’
Entrance is free.
9pm Angel Club
To round off my 48 Hour pilgrimage to Hamburg in style I head down to the visual arts venue-Angel Club down by the famous St Pauli Fischmarkt along with friend and local fashion blogger, Kathryn Wittich.
We arrive at the venue to discover that the annual local ‘graffiti championship’ between 2 local street artists was taking place while a local hiphop DJ spinned the beats.
With it’s high ceilings, spartan interiors it’s quite minimalistic but the place is jam-packed with locals and the atmosphere on the night was great. Great place to wind down my last few hours in Hamburg.
Cost: I got in for free but some of events here have a cover charge- check the club website for details. They were offering a promo of Corona beers for €3 on the night.
48 Hours in Hamburg How much did it cost?
- 2 nights stay at Jugendherberge Hamburg Auf dem Stintfang Hostel €44
- St Michaeliskirche € Free
- Currywurst! Mo-Grill in Jungfernsteig € 2.20
- Kunsthalle € 12
- Manju’s, Hauptbahnhof € 3.90
- Half pint of Alsterwasser at Mono €2.50
- Adam Green & Binki Shapiro gig at Mojo €15
- Fischbrotchen €2
- Gangeviertel € Free
- Modern Life School € Free
- Espresso at Schulauer Fahrhaus €2.60
- Return ticket to Wedel with S-Bahn €5.60
- Lunch at Junge, die Backerei €4.60
- Ballinstadt €12
- Dinner at hostel €7
- Elbe Tunnel € Free
- Corona beer at Angel Club €3
- All day ticket on Hamburg transport network €7.10*
*The All-day Ticket is valid for unlimited travel by 1 adult and 3 children (6–14 years inclusive) on the date of issue, all day until 0600 the following day.You can buy these tickets from any bus driver or ticket vending machine
Total: € 123.50
Big thanks to the German National Tourism Office , their partners for the ‘Youth Hotspots’ campaign – Jugendherberge : The German Youth Hostelling Association and Deutsche Bahn for sponsoring my ‘German Wanderlust’ tour.
Also like to thank the Hamburg Tourism Board for their kind support.
I was touring Germany as part of an effort to highlight and discover the country’s emerging ‘Youth Hotspots.’
Please note: While my trip has been sponsored, the views and thoughts represented in this article are my own.