When Ryanair offer £9.99 flights it’s hard not to take advantage of them. So when the offer hit my inbox, I instantly headed to their website to see where we could go for such a bargain price. We love Germany and having visited Dusseldorf, Cologne, Munich and Berlin before, when I saw Hamburg on the list of cheap flights I searched no further. And with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it offered a great reason to take a mini break. I thought Mr ESLT wouldn’t be up for a trip so soon after New York, but he surprised me by jumping at the chance (I knew there was a reason I married him!)
Due to annual leave restrictions (meh!), I could only spare 2 days, we knew from the outset that out visit to Hamburg was going to be a whistle-stop one. 48 hours may not sound like a very long time to explore a city and in reality it’s not. But then again Hamburg is a relatively small city and we visited in February which meant the tourist season was not in full swing yet. Because of those reasons I’d say 48 hours was enough time to get a good feel for the city and experience some of the things that is has to offer.
Where we stayed
Deciding where to stay in Hamburg was our initial challenge. After a lot of research we decided to stay near the Reeperbahn which is a street and entertainment district in Hamburg’s St. Pauli district and the centre of Hamburg’s nightlife and also the city’s major red-light district. We obviously stayed in this area for the former and not the latter reason(!). Getting to the Reeperbahn from the airport was really easy. We simply jumped on the S Bahn (metro rail network) at the Airport to the central train station and then took another train from there to St Pauli. The journey took around 40 minutes and cost less than €3 per person.
We’d been ‘warned’ about the Reeperbahn and just how terrible and seedy it was – seriously? Obviously, the people providing these warnings have lived a very sheltered life. Yes it is seedy with more strip joints than you can shake a stick at and the side streets littered with working girls. But provided you keep your wits about you and if you do stray into one of the numerous bars along the Reeperbahn remember to use cash rather than card as you may be scammed, you should be ok. As we visited in February, it was actually very quiet, however in the summer months; I imagine the streets are packed with sex tourists and stag groups. If you are a nervous person by nature or are intimidated easily, then maybe the Reeperbahn isn’t for you.
However, we would recommend visiting Beatles – Platz located at the crossroads of Reeperbahn and Große Freiheit. It is circular, with a diameter of 29 metres (95 ft) and paved black to make it look like a vinyl record. Surrounding the place are five statues, representing The Beatles.
What we did
I’ll be honest we didn’t do that much. Hamburg is relatively small with not many tourist attractions. It was a great little city to have a wander around but as for things to do – not so much. The number 1 thing to do in Hamburg according to Trip Advisor is Miniatur Wunderland. Even though it is ranked number 1 and a number of people had recommended it saying ‘it wasn’t as bad as it sounds’ we still decided to give it a miss, it just didn’t sound like something we would be interested in.
Instead we opted to take a boat tour along the River Elbe and around the port. There are a number of different operators and boats to choose from. We opted for a one hour tour for €20 euros each. After handing over our cash we were informed that the commentary was only in German. The fact that Mr ESLT and I can only speak half a dozen or so words in German proved a slight problem. However, it was a gloriously sunny day and the sights from the boat were nice to see, so we enjoyed it regardless. It was a great way to see the buildings, including the Elbe Philharmonic Hall and the Fish Market, along the river front and the port itself. As Mr ESLT is a marine pilot, he particularly enjoyed seeing the massive docked ships.
We also had every intention of visiting the viewing platform in the bell tower in St Michael’s Church, which gives 360 degree views of Hamburg; however we simply ran out of time.
What we saw
Hamburg itself is not as pretty as other German cities; don’t get me wrong the centre is beautiful but the outlying areas, not so much. There are of course a few buildings outside of the centre that are worth a nosey at, but the majority of those are modern buildings with glass frontages which can be seen in most major cities in the world. The Rathaus (City Hall) however is a beautiful example of architecture. We spent a lot of time admiring it from all angles both during the day and when it was lit up at night.
Our love of churches also drew us to St Peter’s Church which stands in the middle of the city. St. Peter’s was probably built at the start of the 1189. The building fell victim to the great fire that swept Hamburg in May 1842 and was rebuilt just seven years later and survived World War II unlike lot of other buildings in Hamburg.
Something that was hard not to miss was The Bismarck Monument which is a memorial sculpture located in the St. Pauli quarter directly opposite the train station and is dedicated to Otto von Bismarck. Located next to our hotel we passed it a number of times before we finally headed to see it. Standing at 115ft tall and made of granite, the sculpture was opened in 1906 and even though it has been graffitied over the years, it still looks like it was only erected yesterday.
What we ate
Our first night in Hamburg was a bit of a let down thanks to the Hardrock Cafe. Many may ask why we visited a chain restaurant and didn’t eat a local restaurant. Well here’s the thing – I love the Hardrock cafe and if we visit somewhere that has one we ALWAYS visit. Unfortunately, due to a huge mess up and the rudeness of the staff, we left hungry. Not a great way to spend Valentine’s day but we were with each other and that’s what counted.
Our second day was more of success. When in Germany it would be rude not to indulge in sausage. I’ll be honest they are not my cup of tea but Mr ESLT cannot get enough of them. After our boat trip we headed to one of the many food stalls dotted around the port so he could pick one up. Needless to say he was in his element and it really whet his appetite (literally!) for more.
So that evening we hotfooted it to the Hofbräu Wirtshaus Speersort for some proper(ish) German food. Having visited the Hofbräu Wirtshaus in Berlin last year we knew that the food was delicious and having only eaten snacks (and the odd sausage in Mr ESLT’s case) we were ready for a good meal. Again another chain restaurant, however at least in this case a German one. Saying that though, we seemed to be the only Brits in there, proving that it’s not a complete tourist trap, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself anyway. We waded our way through a mountain of food including – homemade cheese spread with onion rings and fresh farmhouse bread, sausage dish with Vienna sausages, sausages produce, white sausage, sauerkraut & mashed potatoes and Tyrolean cheese noodles with fried onions & fresh market salad! All amazing and very filling.
What we drank
I actually think it’s against the law (of course it’s not) to visit Germany and not enjoy a Stein or 5……..:)
Have you ever bed to Hamburg? Did you enjoy this little city?