48 hours in Hamburg: Where to eat, stay and play

Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany with a population of over 1.8 million, connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River. It’s crossed by hundreds of canals – in fact, it’s a little known fact that Hamburg actually has more canals than Amsterdam and Venice combined.

It’s also a really great place to visit if you love to eat!

I recently spent a couple of nights in Hamburg, with my hotel stay and activities arranged courtesy of the Come To Hamburg blogger outreach program. Here’s where I ate, drank, played and stayed in one of the coolest cities on earth.

Eat

Hobenkook

Hobenkook – whose name translates to “Harbour kitchen” – is a former freight yard that has been transformed into a 600 square metre dinner hall and food market. The vast, industrial hall is split in two, housing an open kitchen and restaurant serving sustainable, seasonal slow-food; and a market selling everything from craft gin and coffee, to artisan meats, cheeses and pickles from more than 200 regional producers.

Every day the kitchen menu at Hobenkook changes to reflect what’s in season. I had the pan-fried hake with roasted vegetables, new potatoes and a delicious butter sauce; served with a side of still-warm, freshly baked sourdough bread. This is the kind of food I could eat all day long – simple and hearty, but totally delicious.

After our meal we spent a good 30 minutes just browsing the varieties of local craft beer in the food market. If there was one time on this trip that I regretted only having hand luggage, this was it.

The Better Burger Company

The Better Burger Co call themselves “the fastest slow food burger shop in the city” – a reference to the fact that this is no ordinary fast food joint. Here, the buns are made fresh every day, in cooperation with an old-established Hamburg baker. The beef patties are made from high-quality organic beef of royal Danish cattle, seasoned well, and flattened to order (the ‘thump!’ sound as each one is rendered flat is really quite satisfying). The sauces, ranging from hot and spicy to sweet and sour, are all made in house. And every burger is entirely customisable – similar to Five Guys, the options are almost endless. 

I don’t eat beef very often for a variety of reasons, so when I do, it’s a real treat. My Better Burger Co creation was worth it; a well-seasoned patty with charred edges and a juicy centre, topped with handfuls of fresh salad, Emmental cheese and a hot chilli sauce. Perfect grub for sorting out a Hamburg beer-hall hangover.

Ban Canteen

If you really like your burgers, this is another place worth trying out. Ban Canteen is the result of a collaboration between two sisters and a school friend who wanted to give their mothers’ recipes a revival with a modern twist.

That modern twist includes an asian-inspired burger menu, including a delicious chicken burger laced with lemongrass and chilli, served with a spicy mayo in a freshly steamed bun.

If you’re more of a purist when it comes to Vietnamese food, don’t worry; Ban Canteen can also do the classics pretty well. The Vietnamese summer rolls I ordered were packed with fresh, fragrant herbs, and served with a refreshing sweet chilli sauce, just as they should be.

Play

St Pauli

St Pauli has been an entertainment district since the 17th century, and is known around the World for its football club, the harbour and the buzzing Reeperbahn nightlife. This is definitely the place to come if you’re looking for a party – think bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, cabarets, theatres, live music venues and more. You’ll probably need a few paracetamols the next morning!

Drilling Bar

If you’re looking for a slightly more refined place to enjoy a few drinks, head to Drilling Bar. This former textile warehouse in the Bahrenfeld suburb serves coffee throughout the day, entertains drinkers until 3am, and is also the site where the team behind infamous St. Pauli bar Clockers distills their own spirits.

I absolutely loved the look of this beautiful industrial venue, furnished with contemporary design pieces, brushed concrete and Oriental rugs. But more than that, I loved their booze dice. The concept is simple; roll the dice to get a choice of alcohol and a random flavour, and the talented mixologists behind the bar will make you a bespoke cocktail, based on your unique combination.

Never did I think that a cocktail featuring curry and tequila could taste so damn good. I drank three of them! FYI the bar menu here is pretty great too – think Italian burrata and tomatoes, or poached egg with mushroom foam and a bacon crisp.

Johanna Schultz Wohnen

This beautiful vintage interiors shop is based just opposite the Hobenkook dinner hall, meaning you can easily  pop in on your way to / from lunch. Johanna Schultz Wohnen is full of quirky, neon signage, scandi-inspired furniture and  vintage art prints fit for any trendy warehouse loft conversion. Or in my case, tiny Victorian terrace…

If you’re into interior design, this cute shop is definitely worth a browse.

Dock / Canal Tour

Head to the floating docks, Landungsbrücken, for an hour-long harbour tour (€18) and a close-up look at the massive container ships that dock there. Gritty, industrial wonder at its finest.

For a slightly more scenic trip, you can cruise through the canals of the Speicherstadt (the world’s largest warehouse complex and a UNESCO World Heritage Site), from €16.

The Chocoversum

The weather in Hamburg can be a bit, er, British. When the rain and the wind is howling outside, the last thing you want to be doing is ‘enjoying’ a scenic canal tour. No thanks!

Instead, take refuge in the Chocoversum, where a 90 minute tour explains the entire process of making really great chocolate, from bean to bar. The experience also includes the chance to make your own unique chocolate bar flavour, choosing from a myriad of sweet and salty toppings.

The tour (prices start at €10) ends in the gift shop; a treasure trove of chocolatey delights, selling everything from chocolate pesto, to cocoa infused beer and BBQ sauce.

Stay

Hotel Am Stadtpark, Heikotel

During our stay in Hamburg, we were based at the Hotel Am Stadtpark by Heikotel.

It’s a 3-star hotel in the elegant Winterhude district of Hamburg, with a full continental buffet breakfast included in their standard nightly rate (from €98).

Every guest also gets a free drink voucher which can be redeemed for a glass of wine or pint of beer in the hotel bar.

Our room was a cosy, clean, double with a garden view (pictured below). It was really quiet thanks to good soundproofing – I had no problems sleeping despite being a real pain in the ass about these things; I normally have to sleep with earplugs when I travel but there was no need here. The wifi is also decent, and comes included in the standard room cost.

The Hotel Am Stadtpark was an excellent base for our short trip thanks to its great transport connections; the Saarlandstraße Underground Station is just a 5-minute walk away. From here we had no issues getting around the city – with our HamburgCARD – with ease (especially as many of the trains ran 24/7).

Note: This post was created in collaboration with Come To Hamburg. My hotel stay and some of the food and drinks were provided complimentary for the purposes of this blog post. 

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