If Berlin is Germany’s clubbing capital then Hamburg is the dinner party that’s as raucous as it is refined – and the guests are a varied bunch too. Stroll around this port city and you’ll brush shoulders with local fishermen on the banks of the River Elbe, world-renowned gallerists hosting cutting-edge exhibitions, and independent retailers flaunting wares that are either “Made in Hamburg” or exotic. Pull up a chair and meet the lot of them.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Media mecca: Hamburg is a bastion of journalism with 17,000 media-related companies, including newspapers Die Zeit and Die Welt, and current-affairs magazines such as Der Spiegel and Der Stern.
  2. The Alster: The city has a Mediterranean streak, thanks to the Alster. From spring to mid-autumn, Hamburgers head here for morning runs, afternoon sailing sessions and evening drinks.
  3. Fischmarkt: It also has an abundance of fresh fish from the Elbe and North Sea. This natural resource comes into its own every Sunday morning at the Fischmarkt, where everyone flocks for breakfast after a night on the tiles.
  4. Characterful contrasts: Hamburg is a tale of two cities. Not far from the baronial townhouses of Rotherbaum are the graffitied streets of Sternschanze and St Pauli – both pockets of liberalism, left-wing thinking and occasional anarchism.

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Hotels

Hospitality at its finest

  1. Ameron Hamburg Hotel Speicherstadt, HafenCity

    Old and new

    The 192-key Ameron is the only hotel in the Speicherstadt, which became a Unesco World Heritage site in 2015.

  2. Side Hotel, Neustadt

    Balancing act

    Side strikes the bullseye between comfort and avant garde design. Interior designer Matteo Thun is behind the 178-room stop-in.

  3. Sir Nikolai, Altstadt

    Go Dutch

    A bijou affair in a late 19th-century red-brick warehouse, tastefully converted by the Dutch Sir Hotels group.

Vocabulary

Local lingo

  1. Moin/Moin moin: Hello
  2. Quiddje: Out-of-towner
  3. Macker: Lad or pal
  4. Digga: Dude
  5. Lütt un lütt, bitte: Schnapps and beer, please (literally “little and little, please”)

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. Wohlers, Altona

    Everybody’s inn

    Sturdy wooden furniture, soft lighting and sea-blue walls make Wohlers a quaint spot where, on any given evening, you’ll find a casual group drinking local draught and playing cards.

  2. Bistro Carmagnole, Sternschanze

    Art of the artichoke

    Meals at French bistro Carmagnole begin with sighs of delight at the quality of the olive oil – it certainly sets the tone for what follows. The speciality here is the huge and hearty artichoke.

  3. Cölln’s, Altstadt

    City staple

    Cölln’s housed Germany’s first ever oyster bar when it opened in 1760 and it has been doing a roaring trade as a seafood restaurant ever since. Sit in an alcove and slurp on potato-and-prawn soup (fished from the North Sea).

  4. BistrOcean, Altona

    Go fish

    BistrOcean is a charmingly chaotic hole-in-the-wall that serves towers of everything from oysters and crayfish to Atlantic cod. Whatever you order, we recommend pairing it with a hearty potato salad and a bottle of organic white wine.

  5. Weinladen, St Pauli

    Charge your glass

    There’s a roster of more than 200 wines at Weinladen and different varieties are offered by the glass every night. Pair these with an aperitivo platter (cheese, grapes, charcuterie and the like) and you may well find yourself inclined to postpone that dinner reservation.

Retail

Shop talk

  1. Wohnkultur 66, St Pauli

    New originals

    Inside an imposing former abattoir you’ll find husband and wife Anna Martina Münch & Manfred Werner’s cache of 20th-century furniture from Scandinavian, Austrian and Austrian-American designers.

  2. Campbell Optik, Neustadt

    Eye candy

    This glasses specialist and opticians has been around since 1816, when Scotsman William Campbell set up shop in Hamburg. While ready-to-wear is available, Campbell prides itself on its bespoke service.

  3. Braun Hamburg, Neustadt

    Family affair

    The Braun family have been running their menswear business since 1933 and the new space is the go-to for the city’s cognoscenti. Beyond the top labels on offer (Tom Ford, Caruso, Brunello Cucinelli) you’ll find an in-house tailor and made-to-measure service.

  4. Bon Voyage Interieur, Hoheluft-Ost

    Close edit

    Former journalist Janina Krinke spent 18 years as a magazine editor before turning her attention to this genteel interiors shop in an early 1900s building. “I like the mix of business and creativity,” she says of her new profession, “especially the treasure hunt aspect of it.”

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