Most people think of Hamburg as nothing more than a seedy stag-do destination. With one of the largest red light districts in Europe, sex tourism is alive and well in the city. However away from the sex shows and debauchery of the infamous Reeperbahn, Hamburg is a welcoming, family friendly city packed full of history and culture.
As seasoned travellers we are experts and planning trips. We usually spend time researching our destination, reading guide books, other travel blogs and tourist information websites to familiarise ourselves before we arrive. We were pretty busy in the run up to our Hamburg trip and didn’t find any time to research the city before leaving the UK. Luckily for us, Hamburg is a go with the flow kind of place. We managed to cram our three day trip full of beer, food, culture and great experiences.
Traveling around Hamburg is a doddle, the underground system is fast, modern and easy to use. We picked up a Hamburg Card which gave us unlimited travel and all sorts of discounts for the duration of our stay. It took the hassle out of planning our days and purchasing tickets for every journey. It was perfect for exploring, we could just hop on any train in any direction and see where we ended up.
We arrived in Hamburg late in the afternoon and Emily fell in love instantly when she realised the vending machine in our hotel foyer dispensed beer. Before we had even checked in we were supping on an ice cold bottle of pilsner, freshly served by our very own mechanical barmaid. That evening we took a wander around the St. George neighbourhood, Hamburgs gay area. It was a Monday night so the area was quiet, but the familiar rainbow flags felt safe and welcoming so we stopped for a large beer in a corner restaurant. At this point it is important to point out that a large beer in Germany is around the size of weightlifters forearm. Ordering it makes you feel like a king, when it arrives it’s like having your birthday cake brought out in a restaurant. With your senses tingling and thirst about to be quenched, the first sip of the golden nectar is a refreshingly pleasurable experience. By the time you get half way through the beer, you’re feeling a little tipsy and wondering how you will ever finish the mammoth task before you. When you eventually take the magical final sip and conquer the beverage completely, you inevitably feel the need to reward yourself with another large beer. As you may have deduced, beer featured heavily on our Hamburg mini-break. So with one beer down and another on the way we order ourselves a traditional German dish of sausage, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. We were a little taken back by the giant portion sizes, each plate arrived with six sausages straddling a mountain of mashed potatoes and enough sauerkraut to feed the whole city. The traditional hearty fare went down a treat and we had no problem clearing our plates. Giant beers and a family pack of sausages for tea, Hamburg we love you!
The following day we took the train down to the Speicherstadt which is the largest warehouse system in the world. The Unesco site stands proud over a network of waterways which once transported all manner of goods through the port of Hamburg and the rest of the world. Now the Speicherstadt is a pleasant place to walk around with quirky cafes, interesting museums and gift shops.
There were a few things we didn’t get to see in Hamburg as the city isn’t as well equipped for tourists through the week. We could only view the impressive Rathaus from outside as there was no English speaking tour on the day we visited. We walked over to the Kunnsthalle gallery but found it closed for renovation. We also wanted to visit the Hamburg Dungeon to learn about the gruesome history of the city, however the English speaking tours were only available at weekends. Unperturbed, we decided to try somewhere that was open, Hamburgs most visited tourist attraction, Miniature Wunderland. We aren’t really fans of trains or model railways but it was raining rather heavily so we decided to see what all the fuss was about. We quickly learnt that the Miniature Wunderland is the largest model railway in the world. Set over several floors, with its own airport, the ridiculously detailed models recreate scenes from across the globe. We found a tiny chocolate factory built into one of the hillsides and were in awe when the button we pressed began a production process which ultimately dispensed a miniature Lindt chocolate into our hands. It was almost as exciting as the beer vending machine. Wandering around the display was a pretty cool way to spend a few rainy hours.
A great way to view Hamburg is from the steeple of Michaeliskirche, the most esteemed church in the city. After a look around the church and a visit to the crypt, we climbed what felt like three million steps to the top of the church. From there we had excellent views of the port and the city of Hamburg. Following the epic climb we headed towards the port and rewarded ourselves with giant pretzels. Nothing quite beats the salty doughy goodness of a German pretzel and eating them became one of our favourite hobbies during our trip to Hamburg.
Hamburg is a great city to visit, as well as the attractions, we enjoyed wandering around the lake and stopping for coffee in the many waterside cafes. The city is a real foodie place and everything is washed down with beer, which is exactly the sort of city break we love.