If you’ve been following along for the last two travel guides posted, I met up with my German friend, Monja, and she has shown me around both Düsseldorf and Cologne on consecutive days and after an early morning train, we are now in our third and final city together; Hamburg. Germany was only my first stop on a two-month backpacking trip around Europe.
A little more about Hamburg, Germany. . .
It is the second most populace city in the country and eighth most populous city in the entire EU with around 1.7 million inhabitants. Hamburg was ranked as the 16th city in the world for livability in 2015 and is noted for several popular cultural and music festivals. The city is known as Germany’s capital of sport and a major transport hub for the European continent. Hamburg is known for several foods but first and foremost they are known for birnen and bohnen und speck (green beans cooked with pears and bacon).
First Impressions. . .
We arrived in Hamburg around 11 on a sunny, beautiful Saturday morning. Shortly after checking into our hostel, we met up with a few more of Monja’s friends, Marie and Philipp, who were both from the area – or at least close to it. They were amazing guides and I’m thankful they were gracious enough to show me around to a bunch of places and attractions that they had already seen and paid for.
The first thing we did was take a boat tour along the Elbe River. There, I learned through Marie and Monja who were translating for me as we accidentally picked a tour guided by a German speaker (although there are English speaking tours available) that Hamburg has 2,576 bridges within its city limits (which is more than Venice). There was a lot of neat architecture including their newest Performance Center which has yet to be finished, already costing the city over 800 million euros and has been deemed as statistically incapable of ever turning a profit for the city.
Eats and drinks
After the boat tour, we grabbed a bite to eat and headed for the beach! Well, kind of. At Strand (beach) Bar, which was one of many artificial beach bars along the river. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. Philipp tells me that the warm weather was rather odd for a late-March afternoon.
After a relaxing breather at the beach, we departed from Philipp and Marie until the night time and did a bit more sightseeing around the historic Warehouse District. I didn’t think too highly of the Warehouse District itself, but just walking around the downtown area of Hamburg is quite entertaining. Of all European cities I’ve seen (aside from London) it had the least European-feel to it. Afterward, I had my first taste (but not the last) of the infamous Hamburg cinnamon pastry, Franzbrötchen. Philipp recommended it, as he recommended much more things to me in addition to this. This is a must for anyone visiting Hamburg!
One of the only advantages of Interrail passes is no set travel dates. I was persuaded into staying an extra day in Hamburg which I truthfully actually wanted to do. The next morning, Monja and I hiked to the top of St. Micheleis Tower which had gotten bombed, destroyed by fire, and rebuilt twice during the 20th Century. It wasn’t the best view of a city I had ever seen and I probably wouldn’t recommend this to visitors – however, it was raining which limited the viewing experience.
At night, Monja and I walked through the biggest “Dom” or fair I had ever seen. It was spectacular – about a mile long loop of carnival games and rides and delicious food. It was packed on Easter night, which was unusual to me. The Dom runs four times a year for multiple weeks at a time, so I was a bit lucky to be here at the right time. Easter isn’t the same in Germany as it is in the States. There’s no unwritten rule of staying in that night with family or anything like that.
We then met up with Philipp and Marie on Kiez. Kiez is the bar district of Hamburg that kind of reminded me of a miniature Las Vegas. Marie told me there were over 4,000 bars in the area of Kiez, which is actually one street. As one can imagine, you could see just about any kind of character out on those streets; just as in Vegas.
It was actually kind of a bummer to say goodbye to Philipp and Marie so soon. They were really good people and I’m so fortunate that Monja introduced us. Hopefully, it isn’t our last time meeting.
I owe Monja and her family huge thanks for hosting me and showing me around 3 great cities of Germany. It’s incredibly nice of her to spend her money and time on things she has already experienced just so I would get the best possible experience in Germany. She organized everything and made my life so easy during the stay.
Kapitan Prusse River Tour – €16
Jever beer at Strand – €3.50 (return bottle to bar for €1 refund)
Average hamburger meal with beer – about €12
One use tram pass – €1.60
AO Hostel – €11/ night for private room and free breakfast
St. Michelis Tower – €4 to climb
Miniatur Wunderland (impressive model train museum) – €9 admission for students, make reservation to avoid long queue
Bars, Restaurants, and Other Attractions
Rosi’s – quaint budget bar within Kiez District
Dialog in the Dark – interesting initiative to take you into the life of a blind person
Port of Hamburg – excellent, if not touristy, area to walk around and spend an afternoon
Park Planten un Blomen – free botanical gardens
Bruecke 10 – home of the self-proclaimed best fish sandwich in the world (affordable!)
So far, Hamburg is my favorite of the three German cities I’ve been to. It’s time to say goodbye to Monja, and time to experience backpacking Europe on my own for the first time. Off to Berlin!