Travel writter Laura Mosley writes about the 48 hours she spent in Hamburg
Although often snubbed by travelers in favour of its bigger sister Berlin, Hamburg – Germany’s second largest city – provided us with the perfect refuge after an intense few days in Amsterdam. Situated in the north of the country, the city hosts a variety of experiences; allowing us to delve into the city’s history, its culture and most interestingly remind us of home with its connection to The Beatles.
Leaving the train station, our initial excitement over the hotel’s close proximity soon dissipated as we wandered through the Turkish Quarter and were confronted with an array of stores advertising everything from gambling to sex. It seems that even though we were in a different country, its scenery wouldn’t be too dissimilar to that we experienced in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, only, what we were presented with here was even tackier.
Kunsthalle Art Gallery
After resting our feet for a brief moment at our hotel, the two of us went on our next adventure – to the Kunsthalle, Hamburg’s famous art gallery. This was conveniently situated not far from our hotel meaning that walking there in the baking heat wasn’t too harrowing. The building itself was grand and impressive, surrounded by arches and statues that denoted the building’s significance. Walking around, there were halls of paintings across time, forming a maze you could easily get lost in. Although I always enjoy contemporary art, I rushed to the 19th century art section, only to find that the painting I’d wished to see Wanderer above the Sea of Fog was actually residing in Berlin in the meantime and I’d missed it. I guess the other art made up for it nevertheless.
Being in Hamburg meant that our first dinner out was already predetermined – hamburgers. We found a cute little restaurant part of a chain known as ‘Peter Pane’ that had a menu nearly as extensive as the Kunsthalle’s art collection itself. Surprised by the extensive vegan selection, I opted for a sweet potato patty with mango chutney and it was delicious; doubling this up with Hamburg’s favourite drink Alsterwasser, a beer mixed with lemonade. I was blending in quite nicely.
We ended the evening with a walk up the right side of the aubenalster which resulted in the best €1,20 scoop of ice cream in existence. We saw the sunset over the lake while watching people laugh and enjoy the night around us.
The next day began with some baked goods from Lidl and our first trip on German public transport. We travelled to St. Pauli to have a look at the famous harbour and go to the U-Boat Museum, where Soviet soviet submarine U-434 is docked and visitors have the opportunity to take a look inside to see the conditions that the crew lived in. Despite its battered and worn appearance, the ship was only built in 1976 and therefore hasn’t really seen much fighting.
The museum was decked out with torpedo rooms, an extremely cramped living quarters that apparently used to sleep 78 men, and a kitchen that surpasses anything you’ve ever seen in a Selly Oak student house. I found this museum fascinating; having a personal familial connection to such submarines, this was definitely a highlight of the trip.
We followed this with a visit to the Reeperbahn which although not necessarily intended for daylight, offered much more than meets the eye. Think of this as the Hamburg equivalent of the Red Light District. We got to see the Beatles-Platz, a sculpture dedicated to the time the band spent in the city, as well as an array of bars, shops and theatres suited for various tastes. A couple were open in the daytime, although we did not go inside for slight trepidation of what might be in there (most likely a sad, empty bar). I would recommend seeing this area in the evening as in the day it is slightly lackluster and the adjacent ‘sex €39’ and McDonald’s signs become even more apparent.
We then travelled to Planten un Blomen, a large urban park in the inner-city full of themed gardens and plenty of space to chill out and avoid the hustle and bustle of the city. This provided us with the perfect place to relax before we continued to the Schwarzenviertel where there was plenty of cool street art and shops to look at.
Food and drink
In the evening, we opted to go to a Thai restaurant called ‘Green Papaya’ and it was one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever eaten out. I had the tofu red curry, which admittedly wasn’t German but perhaps could be one of my main motivators for a future trip back to Germany. We then followed this with a trip to a local bar named Klimperkiste where we tried more authentic German beer before completing the night with a walk around the Binnenalster which offered one of the most amazing lake-side views I’ve seen in a while. We considered returning to the Reeperbahn but were too tired so headed back to our hotel before our coach to the capital.
After visiting both Hamburg and Berlin, I would certainly favour a return trip to the latter as there is much more there that I want to do, and it was surprisingly cheaper than previous cities we’d been to. Nevertheless, if you have a couple of days where you fancy squeezing in a new European city, Hamburg offers a slightly different insight into German culture and is worth visiting for the food alone.