Hamburg Travel Guide

Hamburg Travel Guide

Seamlessly merging metropolitan flair with maritime charm and hosting the most exciting architecture in all of Germany, Hamburg, while at its core is a wealthy industrial port city, at its heart is so much more. The city’s canal-marbled landscape has much in the way of culture to offer, including charming coastal towns, unspoiled beaches and romantic ancient castles, making it a popular destination for hip young Germans and savvy travellers. The smelting factories and trade warehouses of the past have metamorphosed into modern spaces for creative boutiques, daring galleries and world-class restaurants, and the former red light district of St Georg now boasts Europe’s most liberal gay scene, vanilla, fetish and all. Every July, Hamburg Pride takes over, spreading love across the whole city including other alternative gay hubs such as St Pauli in Reeperbahn. Other noteworthy events include Hamburg International Queer Film Festival, Harbour Pride and Winter Pride, because who needs an excuse really? Read our definitive Hamburg gay travel guide to discover the best of what to see in Hamburg.

The best hotels in Hamburg

Let’s kick start this Hamburg gay city guide with a roundup of the best hotels. The eclectic 25hours Hotel is found in three spots around Hamburg, but the branch in HafenCity is the most eccentric. The nautical interior design aesthetic is meticulously crafted, with sailor’s artefacts in each room, making guests feel like modern-day seafarers themselves. Taking their design concept to a wholly different place is hip hotel Sir Nikolai, sitting among the city’s picturesque canals. Unless you come dressed for a black tie event it’s likely the décor at Sir Nikolai with steal your thunder, covered as it is in bejewelled velvet furnishings, marble and mahogany surfaces and elaborate golden accents. In addition to trying the hotel’s bar with a balcony view and the Japanese izakaya restaurant, guests don’t have to venture far to get a culture hit because the famed art museum trail known as kunstmeile is right outside!

Despite the name, SIDE Design Hotel Hamburg ain’t no side bitch! Recently re-opened after extensive renovation, this ultra-contemporary minimalist lodging – with ceiling-to-floor glass windows, sleek yet colourful spa with pool, and gym facilities – is a main bae through and through, particularly among gays with taste.

Travellers looking for fun vibes should opt for the Henri Hotel Hamburg Downtown, a 50s style hotel located in a restored period building in the retail district next to the central rail station. Henri Hotel’s spacious suites and studios feature 50s throwback furniture and wooden flooring throughout. Amenities include breakfast and snacks in the lounge area and a wellness centre complete with steam bath and sauna, spa services and fitness room. Nearby, close to Alster Lake, are the Eric Vökel Boutique Apartments, an upscale selection of suites designed in either Nordic and Mediterranean styles and each fitted with fully-equipped kitchens, dining spaces and private bathrooms. Notable Hamburg points of interest in the vicinity include the Speicherstadt and Chilehaus.

25hours Hotel HafenCity

25Hours Hotel HafenCity | Photo: Stephan Lemke

25Hours Hotel HafenCity | Photo: L. Koje

25Hours Hotel HafenCity | Photo: L. Koje

25Hours Hotel HafenCity

25Hours Hotel HafenCity

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Recommended hotels in Hamburg
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Things to do in Hamburg

Offering a vibrantly diverse range of attractions, this merchant-founded city-state keeps you guessing at every turn. Go the distance of Hamburg’s Museum Mile to discover as many as five major galleries, flanked at each end by two radically different art institutions; the much revered Kunsthalle in the north and the avant-garde Deichtorhallen in the south. Having just completed a huge €24 million renovation of its 1847 red-brick build is the Kunsthalle, home to one of Europe’s largest art collections including 20th-century masterpieces from Picasso, Max Ernst and Paul Klee in addition to older classics. The adjoining clean-cut concrete gallery meanwhile, focuses on the likes of Warhol and Tracey Emin. Deichtorhallen then, lying in the towering shadow of Der Spiegel, is a markedly different, bare minimalist affair featuring Sigmar Polke, Baselitz and Beuys, in addition to the ‘Haus der Photographie’ displaying the works of Martin Parr, Sarah Moon and other trailblazers of the form. Go ahead and put both on your list of things to do in Hamburg, hell, why not go the whole mile and do all seven?

Habour | Photo: Jannis Lucas

Habour | Photo: Jannis Lucas

Hitch a ride of the S-bahn or wend your way along the veiny waterways on a ferry to the old neighbourhood of Treppenviertel Blankenese, located on the bank of the Elbe River just ten kilometres from the city centre. Literally translated as the ‘Stairs Quarter’, the area’s lure lies in its jumble of twisting alleyways traversing through stunning whitewashed residential lanes, all interlinked by stairways totalling 5,000 individual steps. After happy curiosity has you trampling all 5,000, take a refreshment on the banks of the Elbe, where at Easter the city holds huge bonfires. Planten un Blomen is another top way to spend a day of Hamburg sightseeing, a large green space and botanical garden right in the heart of the city, home to the largest Japanese garden in Europe. In the summer this park really comes alive with various performances and festivals, including magical water-light shows accompanied by live classical music. Bring a blanket, picnic and bottle of wine or two and make an evening of it!

Travellers looking for something to get the blood pumping while getting a lesser-found perspective on the city should jump in a canoe at Bobby Reisch Jetty on the edge of Aster and paddle through the canals of Winterhude. Your trip will take you all the way through one of Hamburg’s most exclusive residential districts, resplendent with dream homes and greenery at all sides, giving a moment of serenity that is usually only reserved for wealthy locals. Another outdoor activity is to take a trip to the sandy shores of the Elbe River, for a beach day without ever having to leave town. As you’ll also find a number of beach bars strewn along the front, it would be sacrilege not to say yes to a cold one, plunge your toes in the sand and look out over the river backgrounded by the industrial docks.

HafenCity | Photo: Roman Kraft

HafenCity | Photo: Roman Kraft

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Recommended experiences in Hamburg
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Photo: Liggraphy

Photo: Liggraphy

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From Jungfernsteg it is best to take the Metro to Hafen City, one of the world’s most impressive architectural sites of the 21st century. It is still under construction and showcases visionary urban architecture

What to see in Hamburg

In a city like Hamburg, where various architectural styles vie for attention, it is best to see the historical centre first. It consists of various landmarks, such as the history-steeped City Hall, and the nearby St. Michaelis Church, known fondly as “Michel”. Between City Hall and the Jungfernsteg, the Alster Arkaden can be found. These arcades, home to exclusive shops, resemble Venetian architecture and inject the city with some flirty Italian flair.

From Jungfernsteg it is best to take the Metro to Hafen City, one of the world’s most impressive architectural sites of the 21st century. It is still under construction and showcases visionary urban architecture. The complex should be completed by 2025 and is expected to double the downtown population, expanding the city with new lofts, waterfront buildings, hotels, restaurants and a new concert hall.

Adjacent to Hafen City is the warehouse district, called Speicherstadt. It is a beautiful collection of century-old warehouses, cobblestone streets and a spider’s web of narrow waterways. Some buildings are still being used for storing carpets and silk, but most of them have been transformed into luxury lofts, high-end restaurants and upmarket shops. One of the highlights in this part of town is the Kaffeerösterei, where they roast coffee beans on site; a process that is best enjoyed while sipping a delicious cup of the same espresso. Close to the neighbourhood’s famous Sunday fish market is Stilwerk, a haven for interior design junkies, located in an industrial harbour building. The store has seven floors filled with high-end furniture, modern design and lifestyle accessories of well-known brands such as Moooi, Montana, Kartell and many more.

Photo: Finn Gross Maurer

Photo: Finn Gross Maurer

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Café Gnosa, a laid-back breakfast café with its own in-house bakery, serving up delicious cakes and coffee as well as decent breakfast fare until as late as 4 pm; perfect for Hamburg’s most diehard partygoers

Where to eat in Hamburg

Get ready to make stars on your Google Maps application because our Hamburg travel guide to the best eateries is about to go down! Let’s start with Hamburg’s fish dishes, ever popular in Hamburg and keeping the Hamburg Fish Market in business for over three centuries. Our favourite place for outstanding seafood is Fischereihafen Hamburg, a family-owned restaurant serving up elegant, contemporary European fare since the 1980s, even once to the Prince and Princess of Wales. Plain-looking on the outside with classic candelabras, white tablecloths and nautical stylings on the inside, Fischereihafen saves the bold colours and flavours for the menu which includes fresh oysters, lobster bisque, turbot and tiger prawns.

A number of beach bars and restaurants also serving delectable seafood alongside other bites and cocktails can be found running along the beautiful beaches of Elbe River. Strandperle, in particular, with its wooden docks and view of the harbour skyline, is the perfect place to fill up while taking in Hamburg’s divine sunsets. If you’d like a fine dining experience in a unique waterside location, VLET in der Speicherstadt awaits you. Set in Alster Arcades near bustling Jungfernstieg, here you’ll find original Hamburg cuisine in a modern hanseatic atmosphere. Over at celebrity restaurant Die Bullerei, owned by German star chef Tim Mälzer, choose from a menu of northern German cuisine with international influences in a pleasingly rustic setting and casual atmosphere. And, by all means, accompany your hearty meal with one of a vast selection of house craft beers and cocktails.

VLET in der Speicherstadt

VLET in der Speicherstadt

A darling of the local gay community in St. Georg quarter is Café Gnosa, a laid-back breakfast café with its own in-house bakery, serving up delicious cakes and coffee as well as decent breakfast fare until as late as 4 pm; perfect for Hamburg’s most diehard partygoers. Art fans will also be interested in the art deco vibes of the cafés curved glass windows as well as the ever-changing display of locally made abstract art. Another long-standing breakfast place for a different day is Café unter den Linden found in the quirky confines of Schanzenviertel neighbourhood. Although gentrified, this area retains its counter-culture credentials and after feasting on the cafés continental breakfast platter, homemade soup or a thick slice of Apple strudel with an old school coffee, feel free to enjoy the hipster locale in all its graffiti-ed glory.

Awarded with a casual three Michelin stars is highly praised restaurant The Table Kevin Fehling, named after the head chef. Serving exotic dishes such as Faroe Island Salmon with passion fruit, yuzu and miso, The Table restaurant is surprisingly understated, retaining a modern yet relaxed atmosphere for comfortable dining. Based in Tyrolean, within earshot of the Hamburger Dom funfair, is contemporary European restaurant Marend. Replete with simple pinewood interiors, softly lit by lamp and candlelight, Marend is home to a pared-down menu of filling dishes centred around Mountain Knödel (dumplings) flavoured in a number of ways. Popular for cosy dates and relaxed group dining, Marend is the perfect place to line your stomach before heading across the street to attend a concert or club night at the ex-bunker hotspot Uebel und Gefährlich.

The Table Kevin Fehling

The Table Kevin Fehling

VLET in der Speicherstadt

VLET in der Speicherstadt

Shopping in Hamburg

Hamburg has its fair share of tailors offering traditional elegance with a modern twist for dapper gents. In the Karoviertel, right on Marktstrasse, you will find one of the best menswear stores. Designed in Hamburg, Herr von Eden sells extravagant suits, dress shirts and ties. Down from HvE is Gretchen’s Villa, a neighbourhood café with home made baked goods and cakes, all prepared with love and attention to detail in a very welcoming environment. Lewin is a traditional men’s tailor, which can be found in the Portuguese Quarter. Elegant suits, trousers and jackets are made to measure for every customer. The owner himself, Thorsten Lewin, gives advice on style, fit and fabric, and explains how to best complement your wardrobe with accessories. A few steps away is Milch Feinkost. They serve fabulous coffee from small local roasters and bake their own cookies and cakes, all in a fancy 50s setting. In St. Pauli, close to the Schanzenviertel, a real treasure can be found. Weberei Andreas Möller is a traditional weaving studio where a husband and wife team weave luxurious scarves and blankets on the premises with custom built looms.

Lewin

Lewin

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Responsible for some of the best gay parties currently happening in Hamburg is PiNK INC, an event organiser specialising in queer takeovers of otherwise straight clubs

Hamburg nightlife

While there are a smattering of gay bars in St. Pauli, the central hub of Hamburg’s gay nightlife is no doubt the St Georg district, which once was the site of the city’s red light district. Now St Georg is a great place to set up basecamp, home to a ton of gay cafés to keep you busy by day and endless entertainment by night. Le Lion is a good evening stop for cocktails, particularly the Gin Basil Smash, summer drink-of-the-moment that Le Lion claims to have invented. In sultry speakeasy flair, customers must ring the bell to enter. As well as serving antipasti style small plates, there is also the added bonus of an open second floor which gives a prime people-watching view of the busy bar below. While you may spend a while searching for this next one, the hunt is more than worth it. Find the doorbell and you’ll enter into a magical Narnia Forest known as Clockers, a creative cocktail joint with its own rare house-distilled Gin and dreamlike atmosphere. Upstairs you’ll find a contrasting library theme, complete with bookshelves and Chesterfield sofas for chilling. The same guys responsible for Clockers now have a new offering named Drilling; a combination bar, café and distillery all under one roof.

Clockers

Clockers

Our Hamburg gay scene guide wouldn’t be complete without at least one rooftop cocktail bar. Enter swanky Skyline Bar 20up the most popular spot to view the cityscape in smart clothes with a drink in hand. While the prices are steep and the tourists are plenty, the high perch, floor to ceiling windows and classy ambience work to make up for it. For a night when understated just won’t cut it, take a trip to M&V Bar an eclectic gay club open to all types since 1953. Attracting a diverse even with its inconspicuous façade, once you cross the threshold this bar comes alive with waiters popping champagne bottles at individual niches where good stories are frequently shared. Now for a show at Olivia Jones Bar, a gay bar in the old red light district owned by drag icon Olivia Jones. Fans flock here to see the Jones drag family perform their golden-era cabaret nightly, and you should too!

Responsible for some of the best gay parties currently happening in Hamburg is PiNK INC, an event organiser specialising in queer takeovers of otherwise straight clubs. A sight to behold, PiNK INC hosts around three events a month and almost always sells out in advance. Book now or forever hold your peace. One last alternative, however, would be to make your way to 136º, another stellar gay club party held monthly in an ultra-cool underground space. Here, 136º DJs spin upbeat electro, house and dance music to a sweaty, dance-happy crowd of Hamburg’s lascivious and most uninhibited.

Clockers

Clockers

Drilling

Drilling

Drilling

Drilling

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