Why not. Seriously, why on earth not. This is a globally important city, with a history as part of medieval Europe’s most powerful trading bloc (the Hanseatic league), and is Germany’s second largest city.
I of course love it because it is well-organised (the public transport is great), it is full of green spaces and water (the advantages of being on a major river with lots of canals, and having a great park in the middle), has plenty of culture (check out the Kunsthalle Art museum); with its history as a port, is cosmopolitan (I do like to be able to go out and get good kofte, pizza or Japanese-inspired soup) and of course is flat (I am a big fan of flat, it makes walking about so much easier).
And being actually born in Germany (my mother was at university there), I really wanted to get back, and see how much I remembered about it. And talking to friends and family, Hamburg seemed a perfect city to go with the family – with enough to do with the kids, and enough spaces for them to run about in, yet urban and with enough character for me to explore.
There is really an independent character about the city. One of confidence and individuality. Of a city of traders and a city of people who are self-reliant, who depend on themselves and are proud to be who they are.
A City Break Guide Hamburg :Top things to do in Hamburg
Chocoversum (Chocolate Museum)
Kids both big (don’t judge me) and small will absolutely loooooooove the treat that is the Chocoversum aka Chocolate Museum. This unassuming on the outside but oh so fun on the inside is top of my must-see list.
You step inside and you are almost immediate transported to Charlie and chocolate factory type universe with beautifully vintage machines churning out various stages of the chocolate making process. The emphasis here is on really delicious tasting chocolate with numerous tastings built in. You get to learn all about the chocolate making process form bean to bar.
One of the best bits is that you get to make (and take home if you can resist eating it all) your very own personalized chocolate bar with topping for every taste. Let’s just say the kids love the gummy bears, chocolate buttons and sprinkles, Me when I might have over decorated my bar with coconut, hazelnut brittle and meringue crumbles. BEST. CHOCOLATE. EVER.
This spot is all about seeing the world (or at least parts of it) in miniature. Sounds odd, doesn’t it. Well it isn’t. It is seriously cool. Beautiful replicas of the alps have skiers coming downhill holding torches which light up in the “night”, Hamburg’s history is recreated at 100 times smaller, Neuchwanstein sits on top of a mountain (Freddy last saw it when he was a child, says they got it right).
Las Vegas is three or four meters square, and trains run everywhere. My kids had fun watching a toy shark chase diver in the Florida ever glades section and a rocket launching again and again at Cape Canavarel. Go. As you don’t want to miss this “so fun I want to take it home” attraction.
St Peter’s Church
The oldest church in the city, it was destroyed in the fire of 1842 A major landmark and certainly worth visiting – the lions head door handles are impressive and worth seeing themselves, as well as the numerous pieces of art in the cathedral.
The Old Town Hall
The beautiful and magnificent Old Town hall showcases proper north German architecture. Largely recreated since being destroyed in the 1842 fire, it shows the power of the city, though not at all unattractively. It dominates the nearby area, but because of its fine proportions, this is by no means overwhelming, it fits extremely well.
It’s architecture is lovely and is apparently as beautiful inside as it is outside (we only had a few minutes her so could not go inside, but passer-by’s told us about beautiful ceilings, lovely fountains, courtyards and staircases).
Hamburg Harbour Tour
Hamburg, being a port city, and one of the busiest ports in Europe, finds ships, shipping and the river Elbe very important. So it made sense for us to go on a boat tour of the port. We went with the Meyer tour, a comfortable boat which took us down-river past a couple of beaches, past one of the few surviving U-boats (it is astonishing how small they were – think of living in those things, under the north Atlantic) to see the actual modern port.
And by golly it is a serious place. Huge ships, automated cranes and thousands of containers. It is only seeing something like this that you see the real volume of international trade. Then back, to see the new concert hall (we had been told about this in the Chocolate Museum, because the base of the hall is on an old cocoa warehouse) and back to base.
The whole tour takes an hour, it is in German but you can easily download an app which tells you what’s up. And the boat has good beer, and delicious hot chocolate.
Stadtpark Hamburg – walking, picnic and canoeing
Hamburg is great. It has been designed to have enough parks. And the Stadspark is one that is right in the middle. Big enough to get lost in, it has paths all around and is a lovely breath of green in the city. It is really well run too – it has specific areas which allow barbecues, so even if you live in a flat, you’ve got somewhere to have a barbecue (why don’t we do this in London?).
Plus of course you can hire canoes and boats. Which is great. Because you can shove your water-loving partner and water-baby children into a canoe, they go off and explore the canals and the lake (stopping to pick blackberries on the bank, seeing herons and grebes as well as the usual coots and swans) and you can sit back on a bench, look over the lovely scenery and have a waffle with coffee. Worth it. Definitely.
A City Break Guide Hamburg ; Eating in Hamburg
Hamburg has its own cuisine, mainly influenced by the sea and the north German farmland around. So it is hearty fare, meant to fill you up and give you the energy you need to sail ships or unload them at the docks. Good stuff though – they even have a dish almost identical to the lobscouse that gives people from Liverpool the name of scousers.
However, the city is now one where you can eat anything. It has fresh fruit in summer (the blueberries from the fruit stalls are to die for), Chinese takeaways, Turkish grills, vegan soup shops and proper bistros.
We were pretty children-bound, so weren’t going out to supper properly. But we did have great picnics. Delicious tomatoes with oregano and a bit of salt and olive oil, with vollkornbrot, schinken and salami, and a bottle or two of lovely beer – what more do you want?
Jill – a great Pizza place in Bartelsstrasse
We stumbled upon this pizza place by mistake. My grumpiness at not having a pavement table free for us to sit at completely disappeared when we wandered through the restaurant to the beautiful courtyard at the back. We splurged on authentic pizzas (Freddy declared this the best pizza he had ever eaten), a lush beetroot with caramelised apple salad and home-made lemonade that puts your nana’s lemonade to shame.
Really good food and extremely helpful staff (we had to describe the ides of babychinos to them when our tired kids really, really wanted some) makes it is definitely worth making a trip there for a meal.
We had a really fantastic hamburger at the very popular and centrally located Better Burger Company. The burgers (and vegan versions) here are mahooooosive (so big that you almost don’t need the side helping of chips). The mix and match topping that you can choose from (hello pickled beetroot and crunchy sprouts) are awesome as are the sauces which include chilli, curry and mango.
Eating with kids sometimes needs to be flexible especially when self-catering. Sometime nothing beats going to the supermarket, corner store or market and loading gup with sweet fresh veggies, cheeses, sweet juice fruits, freshly baked bread and juices before heading on to one of the man family friendly parks dotted around the city or along the canal and having a picnic in the sun. Some of our best memories where at some such spots.
Around the Port
The port is full of fish and chip shops and restaurants. But one thing to do is to pop into a Shnell Inbiss (English: quick in-bite, or fast food) and pick up some chips with mayonnaise or some brotchen with different fillings. From herring to bratwurst, these brotchen really do the job of keeping you going.
A City Break Guide Hamburg : Hamburg public transport
It is best to get yourself a Hamburg Card which comes with unlimited travel on all public transport including ferries as well as discounted entry to more than 150 tourist attractions. The well connected bus network runs day and night with a special night bus also connecting the city center with the outskirts. You can easily get the card from Hamburg train station aka Hamburg Hauptbahnhof).
A City Break Guide Hamburg : Some tips when visiting Hamburg
- When walking please do take care to stay out of the well-used cycle path which are everywhere
- That’s said Hamburg is perfect for cycling, so rent a bike and cycle away.
- Kids really love discovering the numerous parks and playground dotted around the city. Great for a break from travelling around and these also make a perfect picnic spot.
- Walking is a great way to discover a few hidden gems in the city.
- If exploring with kids, then start with the chocolate museum (their chocolate bar is good as a bribery treat and energy giver for the rest of the day).
A City Break Guide Hamburg : Day Trips From Hamburg
Depending on the amount of time you have during your Hamburg visit, you could fit in a day trip from Hamburg or two. Options include the medieval Lübeck with all their amazing marzipan (about 1 hour away), Bremen (1 hour away) and checking out the arty vibe and the fab zoo in Berlin (90 mins by train).
A City Break Guide Hamburg : Apartment Hotel Hamburg
Apartment hotels are a great place to stay in Hamburg. We actually stayed at the well located, with good transport link right outside Appartello smart living apartments in Hamburg. Check out the blog for a full review soon.
So, Hamburg – I will be back. For longer. With bikes (I never got round to renting them) so we can see more. With more time to eat and laze around. And with friends – there is so much to do that it could make a perfect friends holiday. There is sailing and boats on the lakes for the boaty people, there are lovely long paths through parks for the joggers and the walkers, loads of concerts and plays for the cultured ones, delicious food for the foodies and pubs and bars.
So – would you like to go?
List the things you like doing, and then – unless it is downhill skiing or riding camels, I can pretty much guarantee that Hamburg will have it for you.
Thank you for reading this cirt break guide to Hamburg post. And please come visit again as I continue dreaming up recipes, traditional African recipes, African fusion recipes, Sierra Leone recipes, travel plans and much more for you.
We visited courtesy of ComeToHamburg.