Back in February, Ed and I spent a very lovely, very cold weekend in Hamburg. We went not really knowing anything about the city besides the fact that flights were cheap and beer was in thick supply, and so off we went to spend a lovely Valentine’s weekend roaming them city, cycling around on bikes, and eating and drinking a lot!
We arrived really late on a Friday night but easily navigated our way on the train to our hotel, 25 Hours Hafencity. Hafencity is Hamburg’s regenerated area, “Habour City.” I’d definitely recommend visiting, if not staying here, it has a cool feel to it. The hotel is extra quirky— quite a lot like a Citizen M hotel if you’ve ever stayed at one of those. It’s all exposed brick and industrial elements, and there’s a meeting room made out of a shipping container. The whole thing is designed to mimic a ship, as a reflection of the harbourside location. Our room had maritime-themed furnishings, a rope ladder up the wall, a packing trunk for a shelving unit, and illustrations of sailors’ tattoos on the wallpaper. I’m making it all sound a little twee but it’s actually very cool and modern, we really liked it a lot. The breakfast was great too, with all your buffet classics and many German specialities. It will always hold a place in our heart because it’s where we discovered griesbrei— that’s German for semolina pudding, but honestly, neither of us had tried it before, especially not at breakfast, and we have since been so, so into it! I still often get up and make it for our breakfast at home!!
On Saturday morning we wandered through Hafencity, across the maze of waterways and into the older part of town, taking detours here and there for the skate shops Ed had spied out. Did you know that Hamburg has more canals than Amsterdam and Venice combined? And the red-brick buildings that line many of them make for dramatic city scenes.
We walked along the Elbe river until we found Docklands, a glassy parallelogram of a building, which stands out proud and tall against the rest of the city. Unbelievably, it’s actually just an office building(!), but there are steps up the side and a great viewing platform on the top. Scale the steps for one of the best vistas of the city— just try not to blow off the top! From there, wander back into the old town towards the Ottensen neighbourhood to find Aurel on the corner of Bahrenfelder Strasse and Nöltingsrasse (look for the red exterior). Aurel is a little neighbourhood bar. The thing that makes it a site of pilgrimage is the fact that it does huge €4 Caipirinhas at Happy Hour. They’re sweet, strong, long and delicious. Let that be a warning…
Later that evening we went in search of a pizza place I’d heard about. If you know me, you know I love pizza, and you’ll know that I will make it my mission to try the good stuff in a new city. Eisenstein is Hamburg’s good stuff. It’s also a beautiful space with a raw aesthetics, white tablecloths, high ceilings and a romantic vibe— the latter could have just been amped up because it was Valentine’s Day. Though our dinner wasn’t exactly the most romantic (Ed had one too many Caipirinhas, can you tell from the shot above!?), it was bloody delicious. I had the tastiest pizza, piled high with roasted peppers, courgettes and grilled prawns, whilst Ed had an equally good ham and mushroom combo.
The next morning, full of griesbrei, we went trundling around the city on bikes we’d borrowed from the hotel. Though we were absolutely freezing (I think Ed thought his fingers were going to fall off…), it was a fantastic way to see a lot of the city quickly. Granted, we did go back and forth over the same bridge a couple of times, and round and round a roundabout a couple of times, but once we’d got our bearings, we were away! If you are visiting over a weekend, plan ahead because Hamburg is one of those cities whereby everything is closed on a Sunday. At 2/3pm restaurants and eateries started to open again, but we ended up just sharing a giant plate of chips (not complaining) because we couldn’t really find anything else.