Those wanting to take a mini-break in Europe should consider a trip to Hamburg. Germany’s second-largest city (after Berlin) has a compelling metropolitan mix of top culture and cuisine, and its waterfront setting makes it a great place to explore. Hiring a bike is an ideal way to make the most of your time in Hamburg ‒ it’s a mode of transport favoured by locals. Our guide takes you to the best places to eat, sleep, drink and shop in Hamburg
Stay at the George
If you’ve got only a couple of nights in Hamburg then we recommend opting for one of the city’s top boutique hotels. The George is often favoured by the fashion and creative crowd, who check in to enjoy its quirky aesthetics and modern flair. Taking inspiration from the English club scene, the hotel fuses old-school elegance with modern details, and it is perfect for a chic, comfortable stay. The bedrooms are equipped with all the modern amenities you need and many come with top views. The hotel has an Italian restaurant, a British bar and a spectacular roof lounge offering panoramas across Alster Lake.
The George, Barcastrasse 3, 22087 Hamburg, +49 (0)40 280 0300
Breakfast at a chic café
Having set your alarm for an early start, enjoy a morning walk along the Alster and breakfast at Erste Liebe Bar. This is an Instagram-worthy café complete with a minimalist-chic interior and top coffee. Grab a space by the window to watch the world go by, and enjoy a selection of top breakfast items, from fresh juices to muesli, croissants and yogurt.
Erste Liebe Bar, Michaelisbrücke 3, 20459 Hamburg, +49 (0)40 3690 1808
Take in the Elbphilharmonie
Designed by Herzog & de Meuron architects, the Elbphilharmonie is a must-see while you are in Hamburg. The shimmering concert hall is a striking building that juts into the city harbour. It has two concert halls and puts together a packed schedule of top concerts, from orchestral music and chamber music to opera and contemporary music. If you want tickets to see a performance, be sure to book well in advance. The public viewing platform offers terrific panoramas; at 37 metres above ground level it offers a 360-degree view of the city and the harbour.
Elbphilharmonie, Platz der Deutschen Einheit 1, 20457 Hamburg, +49 (0)40 3576 6666
Climb St Michael’s Church tower
Enjoy more of Hamburg’s architecture and pay a visit to St Michael’s Church. Its 132m clock tower is Germany’s tallest such structures and is one of the city’s most striking landmarks. Brave the heights and climb up to the top; you’ll be rewarded with impressive views of Hamburg’s port and the surrounding area. Then head inside to see the church’s interior. complete with a magnificent altar and a crypt below.
St Michael’s Church, Englische Planke 1, 20459 Hamburg
Enjoy art and culture at Hamburger Kunsthalle
Walk through 700 years of European art history at Hamburger Kunsthalle. This is one of the largest and most revered art museums in Germany, and it is well worth whiling away an afternoon here. The museum offers an impressive Old Masters collection, including works by Rembrandt and Rubens, as well as paintings by Monet and Manet. Classic modern art has a big place here, too, with art by Edvard Munch.
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Glockengiesserwall 5, 20095 Hamburg, +49 (0)40 4281 31200
Dine at Restaurant Haerlin
Restaurant Haerlin at Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten is the place to go in Hamburg. One of only three restaurants in the city to hold two Michelin stars, it is perfect for those looking to eat at one of the best dinner spots in the city. Seasonally adapted menus ensure only the finest ingredients are used, especially the seafood that the area is renowned for. Technically perfect dishes are served with a backdrop of stunning views over the Inner Alster Lake.
Restaurant Haerlin, Neuer Jungfernsteig 9-14, 20354 Hamburg, +49 (0)40 3494 3310
Drink with a view at Clouds
Of course you won’t take in all of Hamburg in just 48 hours, but to enjoy fabulous evening views head to Clouds bar and restaurant. It is located on the 24th floor of the city’s famous Dancing Towers and it offers 360-degree views of the city. It is the highest restaurant in Hamburg and a great spot for a drink. Those looking to party until the early hours will love the DJs and the cocktails.
Clouds, Reeperbahn 1, 20359 Hamburg, +49 (0)40 3099 3280
Soak up the atmosphere at the Fish Auction Hall
Open from 6am every Sunday, the Fish Auction Hall is an amazing place to feel the pulse of the city and immerse yourself in Hamburg tradition. This landmark was built in 1896 and is a must-see; a magnet for locals and visitors alike, it offers countless stalls of top seafood. Be sure to check out the events line-up here as the Fish Auction Hall also offers a great programme. This June the Big BBQ festival returns with a weekend full of food, talks and music ‒ it’s an occasion that is sure to kick-start your summer.
Fish Auction Hall, Grosse Elbstrasse 9, 22767 Hamburg
Invest in local and international design
For shopping, head to the Neustadt neighbourhood. Here, Neuer Wall is one of the most luxurious shopping streets in Europe and is a prime destination in Hamburg. Lined with the stores of many of the world’s best-known designer brands, from Prada to Longchamp, Mulberry to Michael Kors, it is ideal for those wanting a sparkling souvenir or looking to invest in the top trends of the moment. For more shopping, Grosse Bleichen runs parallel to Neuer Wall and offers another concentration of luxury brands. The area is home to Douglas, one of the best stores for all things beauty-related in Hamburg.