Our travel experts have been exploring Hamburg’s vibrant music scene, stellar fashion credentials and a creative gastronomic climate. See below for our expert guide on the best places to eat & drink during your stay.
This is one of Hamburg’s highlights, a contemporary fish restaurant on the banks of the Isebekkanal. Hamburg can be gritty and grimy, but jump off the U-bahn at Eppendorfer Baum and there’s birdsong, blooms and leafy streets. This well-to-do neighbourhood is Hamburg’s Little Venice.
Chef Thomas Macyszyn’s first independent venture opened in 2016. The concept: two restaurants in one with the semi-circular ‘chef’s table’ in the middle of the main restaurant – designed to take the fear out of fine dining.
The main restaurant has an à la carte sharing menu and features a fishy take on the traditional steakhouse – choose your ‘cut’ or fish such as black cod – which comes with sides of smoked mash and spinach with kimchi.
Tasting menu dishes include no more than four ingredients and have the same lightness of touch as the airy, open-plan restaurant’s decor. Try mackerel ceviche with sweet olives, nuts and horseradish or avocado dim sum filled with soft crab and a wild garlic and smoked ham bouillon.
Then, wander outside to the bucolic decking area stacked with kayaks and canoes to rent during the summer if you fancy an hour or two messing about in boats.
Take a walk on the seedier side of the street with a gourmet walking tour of the infamous St Pauli district.
The local tourist office offers a range of tours including a two-and-a-half-hour food-focused stroll through this neighbourhood, dipping into fast food joints, ice-cream parlours and bars along the way – all seasoned with historic titbits and tales.
As you traipse the streets you’ll learn how, in the 16th century, this area was dead space between Hamburg and Denmark, and home to butcheries and tanneries. Fast-forward a couple of centuries and you get the arrival of steam ships, and sailors on shore leave making a beeline for the red light district.
The tour weaves in brothels and the Beatles and veers onto the infamous Reeperbahn, with stop-offs along the way for local staples such as a matjes (herring) fish sandwich and currywurst.
From double Michelin- starred Haerlin to vegan eats at Leaf and Mamalicious, and modern brasserie-style cooking at Carl’s, a vast range of tastes are catered for within Hamburg’s food scene.
Among them, don’t miss the chance to eat at Heimat Küche + Bar (“Home Kitchen and Bar”), a buzzy, open-plan spot in the lobby of cool mini-chain 25hours Hotel, in the city’s ongoing harbour development.
Think a soaring warehouse space kitted out with retro leather sofas, exposed pipes and an old shipping container in one corner – utilitarian in feel and artfully constructed.
The kitchen’s philosophy is simple: to create honest dishes from the best regional produce and modern interpretations of classic local staples.
Take the hamburger, for instance – a slab of pork in a crusty bun liberally doused with gravy and topped with a giant gherkin and mound of onions. Seasonal specials have a lighter touch: creamy ewe’s cheese with tangy rhubarb compote and fresh salad leaves, for example.
In the St Pauli district, this was once the city’s cattle market and livestock auction hall. There had been a market and slaughterhouses here since the end of the 19th century but the original building was destroyed during the Second World War.
When the new St Pauli Market Hall opened in 1951, decorated with reliefs by sculptor Ernst Hanssen of cattle market scenes, it was the largest freestanding market in Europe.
Since 2014 it has been a giant food hall (closed Sundays but open 8am-9pm the rest of the week) and perfect for a spot of gourmet grazing as you mooch around the crepes, homemade burger and currywurst stalls and its Italian deli counter, stacked with salami, prosciutto and artisan cheeses.
Look out, too, for the market’s sleek wine bar and organic grocer, the Bio Company.
T-bone, flank, porterhouse, high rib or fillet – choose your cut at celebrity chef Tim Mälzer’s sprawling red brick restaurant, where there’s more than a touch of bovine bullishness and abattoir-chic.
The huge slabs of meat sizzle on the fiery grill and come with a choice of sauces from béarnaise to pepper and BBQ with sides of fries – and Kimchi as standard. It’s not all about meat, however. How does grilled aubergine with hummus and smoked hazelnuts sound? Or monkfish with grapes, spring garlic and deep-fried capers?
A helping of Hamburg’s history is dished up in the Spice Museum on the Speicherstadt, the largest warehouse complex in the world. As you wander among the sacks and crates, in what was once the headquarters of coffee company Hanssen & Studt, you’ll learn about the city’s trade in exotic spices, coffee and tea – and the architects who designed the 19th-century complex.
The museum also puts on regular events, talks and tastings, and there’s a little café and shop where you can stock up on organic and herbal teas and artisan roasted coffee.
Architectural wow-factor on the waterfront is provided by the Elbphilharmonie concert hall (take the escalator up to the public viewing platform for breathtaking 360-degree views of the city and the harbour).
Inside you’ll also find Stortebecker Elbphilharmonie. In the sleek 6th-floor shop and tasting area you can perch at a big wooden table with a tray of six beers and let one of the beer sommeliers guide you through the aromas and flavours as you analyse the colour, cloudiness and clarity – or just fill your growler and you’re good to go.
A legendary Sunday morning pitstop, the Fish Market on the banks of the Elbe, in the St Pauli quarter, has been a Hamburg institution since 1703. Get up early (it’s open from 5.30-9.30am) or stumble here on your way home for a reviving cup of coffee as the sun rises, and one of its famous fish sandwiches.
The auction hall is packed with partygoers dancing to live bands at either end, mingling among the stalls or tucking into brunch upstairs while outside traders haggle on the harbour-side.
It’s not just Hamburg’s culinary landscape that is modernising. Recent hotel openings include the Sir Nikolai. Named after its location on the Nikolaifleet canal, in Hamburg’s old town, its 94 rooms have wooden floors, marble bathrooms and gallery walls.
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Words | By Lucy Gillmore
Images | designhotels.com| Lucy Gilmore | Spicy’s Spice Museum Hamburg | Getty images | Elbphilharmonie | heimatkuecheundbar.de