A winter weekend in Hamburg: Gemütlichkeit, beer and hearty meals
Hamburg. The second largest city in Germany after Berlin. Yet it doesn’t seem to be as popular as a tourist destination. I had read about Hamburg being hip and happening in travel magazines, so when I saw a dirt cheap flight offer popping up in my inbox, I grabbed the opportunity and booked a long weekend for me and my boyfriend.
What can one do and see in Hamburg? There’s the harbor, which is expanding at an incredible pace, and St. Pauli, the seedy red light district. Also, there’s a pretty church: the St. Michaelis (Michel). That’s all nice and dandy, but what I really cared about was eating a good Schnitzel and enjoying German beer and Schnapps.
We arrive on a Thursday night in February. Not the best time to visit because it’s still rather chilly in Hamburg, and with Hamburg being a harbor city, it can get pretty windy. Because of the flight offer that could not be refused, here we are though, dressed up extra warm and warming our thoughts with the prospect of soothing Schnapps and hearty meals.
Our home for the weekend is in St. Georg, a gay-friendly and Gemütlich (cozy, relaxed) area of town at walking distance from the train station and the historical city center. From the train station it’s very convenient to get around by S- or U-bahn (metro and tram). Our apartment is close to Lange Reihe, the entertainment artery of the neighborhood with restaurants, (snack)bars, shops and supermarkets. When we get to Lange Reihe on the first night it’s already past the regular dinner time, but we find a Thai restaurant that’s still open. I find one can never go wrong with Thai food!
The next day we first head out to Altona for a stroll where we eat our first Curry Wurst. We then take the S-Bahn to Sternschanze to head to Hamburg’s former meat market area Schanzen-Höfe. We’re having lunch at Das Altes Mädchen, a bar/restaurant where Ratsherrn beer is served, from the brewery on the premises. They do food and beer pairings and we’re happy to try this out.
Das Altes Mädchen is a very relaxed place and we spend most of the afternoon there, becoming more and more relaxed after every beer. Time for a nap! In the evening we go to the Brooklyn Burger Bar which is housed in a former pharmacy. Luckily we get a table pretty quickly, even though the place is packed. The Bar is oozing a hipster vibe in a laid-back German style. I order a home-made lemonade with basil and our burgers are divine! Sadly I have no pictures to prove it, since it was very dark inside. You’ll just have to trust I’m telling the truth.
On our last day in Hamburg we take ferry number 62 from Landungbrücken to go around the harbour for a few euros. You can take a proper tour as well, but it will cost you more and we don’t mind just going around and staring at the view without any explanation of what we’re staring at.
In the afternoon we go to St. Pauli, the entertainment area. It’s the red light district of Hamburg and has clubs and bars. Since we’re there in the afternoon, we’re not going clubbing. In fact, we’re looking for Beatles Platz on the Reeperbahn; a square with statues of Beatles’ band members. We’re walking on the wrong side of the street at first, taking care not to trip over the piles of vomit that are scattered on the sidewalk, so we completely miss the square. We take a little detour and find the alley that is forbidden for women. I tell my boyfriend Titus he’s welcome to go in and have a look at what the fuss is about, but he’s not interested. Bless him.
Once we’re back on the right side of the Reeperbahn Titus sees a street sign that says ‘Beatles-Platz’, which makes us look around and then we find the statues. I read online that the square is painted black to make it resemble a vinyl record, but we don’t see it. The statues are kind of hard to make out against the grey concrete and we conclude this is a case of “it looked better on Google Images.”
There should be a few nice restaurants north of the red light district according to my research, but we find some don’t open for lunch and end up in Kraweel. We’re spying on our neighbor’s plates to see what they’re having (it looks fantastic!) and we figure out we should order the big and savory breakfast (all day breakfast!) with a basket of various types of bread and toppings, including various cheeses and meats. Did I mention the Germans are great at baking bread? They are!
It seems we’re not doing much besides walking around and eating, but hey, why not? It’s a real mini-break if you don’t have to do anything. No need to check off a huge list of tourist sites, just walking around and sampling the local specialties is joyful enough. There is one thing left to do though: eat Schnitzel! Our friendly AirBnB host recommended a restaurant at the Lange Reihe close to our apartment: Das Dorf. The restaurant serves traditional German fare: quite some meat items on the menu, but also fish and seasonal vegetables. We decide quickly on the Schnitzel with Bratkartoffeln (baked potatoes) and end our meal with Schnapps. At home, Titus cooks a mean Schnitzel and his baked potatoes are unrivaled, but there’s nothing like eating food closest to its source.
Hamburg is a great city to spend a few days in. I like Germans a lot; they are funnier than they may appear at first glance and in general very friendly. It seems the quality of living is high in Hamburg and it’s also a thriving business city with a lot to offer. If you can, I would recommend going to Hamburg in spring or summer, when the weather is mild, but even in winter it’s wonderful, because then you have an excuse to eat hearty meals. Zum Wohl!