If you had asked me a month ago, I would have told you that the only city worth visiting in Germany was Berlin. Harsh, I know, but it was the only city I knew like the back of my hand and one I simply adored. However, having recently spent a fun weekend in Hamburg, I feel Berlin has hot competition!
Hamburg is a city like no other. It’s one that seems to reel you in, captivate you, entertain you, and for many it’s one that appears very livable from the moment you arrive. In fact, it’s one of the few places in Europe that I fell totally in love with and felt I could live in from the moment I arrived.
My trip to Hamburg was a short one, just a quick weekend escapade, but boy did we fit a lot in. Summer in Hamburg is the festival season, with festivals taking place almost every weekend throughout July and August.
We were lucky enough to be in town to attend Vogelball, a popular “bird-themed” EDM festival taking place on the Docklands. It seemed no one outside of Hamburg has ever heard of Vogelball, and thanks to this it made it pretty unique. There weren’t too many tourists, and there was an incredible community feel between local attendees, many of whom volunteer each year to make the festival a reality.
The bird theme meant that pretty much all attendees made the effort to dress up, be it covering themselves in feathers, attaching wings, peaks or peacock-like makeup and accessories.
We had great fun getting our makeup done backstage by some local super-skilled creative geniuses, who made us all look like beautiful birds of prey! JUST KIDDING!
The festival grounds, located by the old docks just outside the city, were divided up into various different stages, a food truck area, chill out areas, and large platforms so you could look down on the various festival stages. There were also cool photo props everywhere, such as battered photo booths, what looked like an old police car with a BBQ inside and lots of other quirky things to check out and photograph.
I liked that there were lots of different stages and music acts, so you could walk around and have a dance to different music styles depending on your mood. Things really took off once the sun went down, and the party continued right until sunrise!
While I was only there for Vogelball, I have heard from my friends that the other festivals in Hamburg which take place in the same venue are just as wild and just as quirky!
If you happen to be in town and there’s no crazy festival to attend, fear not! Hamburg is teeming with fun activities to keep you entertained, and even just wandering the streets or signing up for a free walking tour will ensure a memorable stay.
St Pauli Walking Tour
We actually started the weekend by getting a guided tour of the St Pauli District. From learning about the areas more seedy beginnings to checking out the insane number of bars and nightclubs, the districts colourful street art and learning about how this area was particularly important during the war (and technically belonged to France at one stage!), a walking tour was the perfect way to get acquainted with the area. Later that evening, after a delicious meal of Chicken and Waffles (random, right?!) we went to the opening of a new Hip Hop club and checked out some cool local bars.
Nightlife in Hamburg is very varied, and is best enjoyed in summer when everyone chills out outside all the bars and on the streets, congregating in the strangest places at the strangest hours! Even out hotel bar, back at Motel One, was hopping until well after midnight!
Two places in St Pauli I loved, so much so I had to return to check them out the morning before I departed Hamburg, were an Insta-worthy Coffee Shop and a second-hand store!
The coffee shop had some of the coolest deco (simple but beautiful) and the best cold brew I’ve ever tasted. Sure, it took the guy about 15 minutes to make and we had it drank in 2, but that as all part of the atmosphere!
The retro, second-hand clothing store was unique as all purchases made are by priced by weight! It was a thrift shop-lovers dream and kind of sums up why I love Hamburg in just one place! I didn’t actually buy anything, but next time I go back I’m bringing an empty suitcase!
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Should the sun be shining down on you in Hamburg, a fun way to spend the morning and see the city from a whole new perspective is to sign up for a stand-up paddleboarding session with The Supper Club. Besides the festival shenanigans, this was my favourite excursion in Hamburg – helped by the fact that it turns out I’m rather good at SUP!
We had a group of around 8, along with our wicked cool instructor, and we spent about 2 hours paddling down the canals until we came out onto the main lake in Hamburg. It was amazing being able to get a sneak peek into the gardens and houses of Hamburg’s super-rich, who all have jaw-dropping properties lining the canals and lake.
The Supper Club also plays host to a very cute cafe restaurant where we had lunch and devoured some of the tastiest thin-base pizzas and sweet potato fries I’ve ever tasted!
In our spare time, we walked into the centre of Hamburg to do a little shopping, check out the growing cafe culture and to photograph one of the most famous areas in Hamburg. Speicherstadt, said to be the largest warehouse district in the world, is a photographers dream with huge buildings standing on old oak logs, lining the cities many canals.
This area is best at night when the buildings have this golden glow and perfectly reflect on the canals. Don’t forget your tripod if you want to truly capture the magic!
Where to stay in Hamburg
I stayed at Motel One Hamburg Am Michel in the St Pauli district. The location was amazing at it was walking distance from both the city centre and shopping districts, and the happening nightlife and cafe culture of Saint Pauli. I loved their buffet breakfast and the fact that their bar was always hopping – far busier than any other hotel bar I’ve ever stayed at!
Hamburg on Tour in London
While I definitely wish I had more time in Hamburg, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to visit and could not be happier to be representing Tourism Hamburg as an Ambassador this year!
If you would like to experience Hamburg, its quirkiness, food, drink, music and art WITHOUT actually travelling to Hamburg, then come along to The Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, London this weekend September 1st and 2nd were Hamburg on Tour is hosting a festival!