‘I was born in Liverpool but grew up in Hamburg,’ was John Lennon’s impression of Germany’s second city. But The Beatles left the Reeperbahn in 1962, and the neon signs of Hamburg’s red light district are best avoided.
Instead, embrace the unexpected green elegance of this industrial city.
Take in the parks and lakes while stopping off in fashionable graffiti-clad bars and Scandinavian cafes.
In Hamburg, visitors can embrace the unexpected green elegance of this industrial city. Pictured is the park in front of the city’s courthouse
Where to stay
Scandic Hamburg Emporio
Close to Gänsemarkt Square this hotel has a corporate feel but some unexpected quirks. Rooms are filled with modern art, its Bar H20 serves Swapas (Swedish Tapas) and a gallery floor is devoted to portraits of German footballers. B&B doubles from £76 (scandichotels.com).
This modern alternative hotel has apartments to let from half a day up to several months. There is a restaurant and bar, and rooms have a study and kitchenette as well as housekeeping and a concierge. It’s outside the city centre, in Stellingen. Apartments from £77 (sylc.de/en).
Once a publishing house, Ruby Lotti, a waterfront hotel in Hamburg, is themed around Fifties and Sixties journalism
The Ruby Lotti hotel, pictured, has old newspapers, trilby hats and portraits of writers on the walls
Once a publishing house, this waterfront hotel is themed around Fifties and Sixties journalism, with old newspapers, trilby hats and portraits of writers on the walls.
You check in on a tablet which prints your keycard, and each room has a smartphone with city guides. There is a lively bar but no restaurant, though the excellent location near Stadthausbrücke solves this problem. B&B doubles from £77 (ruby-hotels.com).
Where to eat
A map showing the city centre in Hamburg. ‘I was born in Liverpool but grew up in Hamburg,’ was John Lennon’s impression of Germany’s second city
Nord Coast Coffee
This Scandinavian health cafe in St Pauli, also serves decadent pancakes and globe-spanning filter coffee. Try the apple and basil compote waffles, which you won’t see on menus often.
Go early to avoid weekend queues. Breakfast dishes are about £7, coffee from £2.30. (Nordcoast-coffee.de).
The rapid-fire ordering process is stressful but this Messehallen burger bar knows what it’s doing. Burgers and fries from £11 are engineered to excellence. (Dulfig.com).
On a warm day the rooftop is full of sunburnt diners gazing at the St Pauli piers. This multi-storey restaurant brews beer (£5) and has live music. Schnitzel £13, Kalbsbratwurst (veal sausage) £10.60 (block-braeu.de).
What to see and do
A frequent entry in Germany’s top attraction lists, Miniatur Wunderland is home to the world’s largest model railway. Prices fluctuate significantly, so book online. (miniatur-wunderland.com).
The Elbphilharmonie concert hall, pictured, is a wonderful sight. To circle the man-made lake where it is located, hop on a bike
A bike is best if you’re hoping to circle these man-made lakes. Don’t be misled, the speedboat-shaped pedalos are hard work. Stop at Eiscafe Il-Gelato for an ice cream, from £1.30. If you can make it south to the Hafencity, take a look at the Elbphilharmonie concert hall. (hamburg.com).
Flohschanze flea market
Opposite Rindermarkthalle St Pauli, there is a flea market every Saturday. Dig around for records, books, furniture and jewellery. Enjoy a drink at the St Pauli beach bar, a patch of concrete optimistically filled with sand and sun loungers. Neuer Kamp 30.
Exploring the city you’ll notice some of the 600 bronze plaques in the pavement. Part of the world’s largest decentralised memorial, Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) bear the name and life dates of victims of Nazi extermination or persecution.
Eurowings (eurowings.com) has flights from £81 return. One trip on the S-bahn is £2.85, which will get you from the airport to central Hamburg in 30 minutes.