Hamburg has become renowned for its laid-back cool. Yet this historic port city is also characterised by a vibrant cultural scene, from music and theatres to galleries, museums and a tremendous array of restaurants and cafés. A multifaceted culinary scene is evolving here, making Hamburg a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience a true taste of modern Germany.
A river runs through it
Hamburg takes much of its identity from its waterside location. The river Elbe runs through its centre, connecting the city to the North Sea and branching into numerous waterways and canals. This is the second largest port in Europe and the biggest in Germany, so life on the water is integral to the city’s character, and there is no better way to experience this than through Hamburg’s food.
The Altona Fischmarkt is a great place to start. This famous weekly fish market is frequented by everyone from families to restaurateurs. It is also a bustling hub of local life. Residents flock here for delicious fish sandwiches, fish burgers and much more from a plethora of food stalls. Come early on a Sunday and you’re likely to see people dropping by for a quick bite before they head home after an all-night party.
For a sit-down meal, Fischereihafen is a Hamburg institution. Its menu features the best and freshest local fish and presents traditional German dishes in a sleek and modern way. Be sure to ask for a seat on the balcony, where the view across the Elbe is breathtaking. Coast by East is another seafood specialist with beautiful views, and its sushi and sashimi dishes are not to be missed.
Top of the range
Rindermarkthalle is a former cattle market that has been redeveloped into a multipurpose space that contains a number of cafés, restaurants and stalls offering top-quality produce. There are no chains here, and you will find excellent meat, wine, coffee and more.
In summer, the space outside Rindermarkthalle is transformed into Eatstreet Market, which has a simply incredible array of street-food stalls. From sushi to smoothies, barbecue to burgers, coffee to crêpes, every tasty treat you can imagine is on offer in this bustling space. The size and the energy of the market show that Hamburg is reaching the foodie level of cities such as New York and London.
Old and new
Hamburg is often seen as more traditional than Berlin; it’s a characteristic that has shaped its citizens. Proudly German, they love their heritage and their city, and this shines through in their food. You’ll find traditional dishes on the select menu at Marinehof, a relaxed restaurant which is garnering attention for cuisine based on the freshest of local produce. A favourite is the restaurant’s take on Labskaus, a traditional northern German dish of salted meat, potatoes and onion. Marinehof’s version combines corned beef, beetroot and potato, and is topped with pickled herring and a fried egg.
Heimat Küche & Bar is another great example of a Hamburg restaurant that interprets tradition in a modern way. Dishes are beautifully simple ‒ perhaps pea soup with local ham to start, followed by Wiener Schnitzel with roast potatoes and crisp green salad. Everything is carefully considered and presented well, from the homemade bread to the locally sourced organic cheese.
Of course, Hamburg is not immune to international food trends, and those on the lookout for fast-food staples will not be disappointed. As the possible birthplace of the hamburger, the city, unsurprisingly, offers a variety of excellent patties. Brooklyn Burger Bar is not to be missed. Order one of its excellent craft beers alongside your burger, or try the homemade lemonade. At lively Louis Kitchen Bar, ingredients are beautifully fresh, and with the burger menu ranging from veggie to chilli cheese, this is a place that merits more than one visit. If pizza is what you’re after, you can’t go wrong with Slim Jims, which brings an enticing taste of Italy to Hamburg. Ultra-thin bases are piled high with sweet tomatoes, rich mozzarella and more.
Quench your thirst
When it comes to libations, the foodie world seems to have three obsessions right now: coffee, beer and wine. After you’ve eaten your fill of Hamburg’s best dishes, head to a place in town that will offer you all three. Vin Aqua Vin is primarily a retailer of fine wines, but pop into its shop in trendy Eimsbüttel and the friendly staff will talk you through the range of excellent beans and beers as well as bottles. They’ll also let you sit down to sample a few.