Despite being one of the largest port cities in Europe, Hamburg was never a place I knew much about before visiting. As a mid-way point between Berlin and Amsterdam, it made the perfect stopover on our interrail trip and we took a couple of days to discover the city’s gems. Unfortunately due to the grim weather, Hamburg wasn’t always showcased in the best light compared to some of the other cities that we visited but nevertheless, I fell in love with the red brick buildings and the bustling city centre.
It was a whirlwind visit to Hamburg as we had less than 48 hours to visit all that we wanted and push through the growing exhaustion from the past two weeks. Due to a short(ish) train from Berlin we arrived in Hamburg soon after midday and could make the most of our time there. I was able to see the main spots that I had hoped to but it did mean a lot of walking and even more coffee to get through the long days. It was a shame that our time in Hamburg was a bit rushed but it does mean I have an excuse to go back.
Hamburg’s coffee scene is incredible. With beans constantly arriving in the port from all across the world, there is such a variety of blends that it has lead to a bustling, experimental and artisan coffee scene. After our train from Berlin, the first point of call was to get a coffee and begin to taste what Hamburg had to offer. From a little Pinterest research, Elbgold was highly recommended by many and being across the road from the town hall, it was the perfect first stop. The minimalist interior created by the concrete floor and granite counter highlighted the coffee in its best, simplistic form. My little cappuccino was perfect, making it one of my favourite coffee stops of the trip.
No matter how much I try to disguise it, I was definitely a tourist when we interrailed across Europe. This meant visiting every town hall (Rathaus) that I could. Like others I had seen prior, it was enormous with so many intricate details and carvings, all highlighted in the courtyard with a gorgeous fountain. Despite the misleading blue skies in the photos, the weather began to deteriorate so whilst I would have loved to gaze at the architecture for longer, it was a race for shelter as the heavens began to open.
Shopping around the City Centre
As it heavily rained outside we made the most of Hamburg’s city centre and the few large shopping centres it has all close together. I was mainly hunting for another Bijou Brigitte to spend all my money in but despite my use of Google Maps, I couldn’t find one. I did however find a true gem called Vintage and Rags on a small side street, away from the main shopping destinations. I bought an incredible denim jacket that was fairly lightweight despite its oversized fit and had to restrain myself from buying more.
After spending an hour or two shopping, the calm after the storm arrived in the most beautiful, golden form. We picked up some post-dinner snacks and drinks and sat looking out to the Alster fountains. It seemed like a popular spot for tourists and locals alike because the shore was fairly busy but the bustling crowds gave the area a lovely atmosphere and we had a lovely time sitting and talking about our trip so far with the odd visit from swans and ducks.
Public Coffee Roasters
After the success of Elbgold the day before, I was keen to try some more of Hamburg’s coffee offerings. Even though the temperature was still in the mid-twenties, being down at the port made it feel colder so a cappuccino was needed to heat me up. The coffee was nice but in comparison to Elbgold from the day before, it couldn’t quite live up to the same level of expectation. It was still a good start to the day and Ursula and I walked towards to the traditional red buildings of the old warehouses with coffees in hand.
Internationales Maritimes Museum
With my last name being Marriner I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Maritime museums but this one was nothing like I had ever seen before. Housed in the oldest standing red-brick warehouse in the Speicherstadt, the museum spans nine floors covering everything from cruise ships and naval uniforms to maritime preservation and a miniature boat collection that consists of over 38000 ships. Being the museum lover that I am, I wanted to explore every nook and cranny the museum had to offer but considering how large it was, it would have taken me days, if not weeks. Even the building itself was a wonder to look at with old beams exposed everywhere and balconies offering a view through the heart of the museum.
As a student, I paid €9.5 for entry to the museum so whilst it was one of the more expensive attractions of our trip, it was totally worth it. There was not a single part of marine association that the museum did not cover. Even my home town of Aberdeen was mentioned a few times in an exhibition about the oil industry. I loved the diverse collection from old maps to captain’s hats and wish I could have spent more time there. It’s not every day that you find yourself surrounded by scaled models of massive harbours with teeny tiny shipping crates. The largest collection of maritime artefacts that started from a single boat less than 100 years ago and its all been on dislay since the museum opened in 2008.
Continuing on with my red brick building obsession, I was very keen to explore the warehouse district of Speicherstadt. The uniform look to the buildings is incredibly satisfying and it was kinda fun to get lost because everything looks so similar everywhere you turn. Ursula and I had a nice wander through Speicherstadt to the next tourist hot spot on our list.
The crowning glory of Hamburg for me was the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg. Being the music student that I am, I couldn’t visit Hamburg without paying a visit to the colossal concert hall. The building itself is gorgeous and the modern architecture blends in seamlessly with the rest of the Speicherstadt. I would have loved to see a performance in the hall itself but due to our limited time frame in Hamburg, this wasn’t possible.
There’s a short wait time to get a free ticket but you can visit the viewing platform to see across the port. The escalator is quite long but it’s so beautifully curved that I was in awe of it the entire time. The view from the platform is fab I just wish it had been blue skies when we visited.
Nord Coast Coffee Roastery
Yes. More coffee was needed.
The two-level coffee shop was the perfect stopover to grab a pick-me-up after the amount of walking Ursula and I had done so far. Along with my cappuccino I had a cinnamon bun to refuel. The interior was lovely and a bit antique-y with mix matched chairs. We even had an old trunk instead of a table.
Planten un Blomen
As we approached the late afternoon, the rain cleared up and the sun came out for the last item on our agenda, Planten un Blomen, a gorgeous park in Hamburg’s city centre. Unfortunately the glasshouses were shut by the time we got there but we spent some time wandering around outside and people watching. We passed the time by sitting on a bench, making friends with a squirrel and resting our feet as we enjoyed the sunshine which had been missing for most of our time in Hamburg. I love green spaces and often escape to them whenever I want to get away and pause for a moment.
Like the night before, we returned to the Alster Fountains after dinner to spend some time at the music festival that was taking place on the shore. We spent the evening dancing and listening to the live music as the sun went down on our last night in Hamburg. My favourite thing about the evening was a couple enthusiastically dancing together without a care in the world. The music played by the band (wish I knew their name) was really good and it was so nice to see everyone in the crowd enjoying themselves, the perfect end to our whirlwind visit to Hamburg.
With less than 48 hours spent in Hamburg, I feel like our time there was definitely too short. Whilst I did mange to see a lot of the main attractions, I feel like I didn’t get the opportunity to immerse myself in the city the way I would have liked, especially as we spent a lot of time hiding from the rain. I expect I’ll return to Hamburg at some point in the future but perhaps not anytime soon. It’ll be then when I get to explore further than the immediate city centre and drink half of Hamburg’s coffee supply.