[spotlight series. elizabeth polkinghorne andThorsten keller]

[Hamburg soundtrack. Enjoy the Silence]         

Hamburg wasn’t part of our plan. We had a few days to fill-in on our way to Berlin, and after hearing a lot of good things about Berlin’s neighbor, we decided last-minute to stop by and check it out. Only 90mins from Berlin by train, Hamburg has a different energy. It is the center of Germany’s insurance, internet and newspaper industries; it is also home to the second largest port in Europe; its where the Beatles called home before they became famous (and the cute ivy-covered place they rented is next to one of our favorite restaurants in St. Pauli, Krug); and as well as that, it’s the birthplace of Karl Lagerfeld, and apparently Germany’s second fashion capital. It has a grungy/artsy vibe. We are not a massive fan of the Repperbahn (a street in St. Pauli full of strip clubs, neon lights and brothels), but we like the little streets around it. We love the Lake, wow. The Alster is huge and surrounded by beautiful green space and some gorgeous homes in the surrounding neighborhoods of Winterhude and Rotherbaum. Grab bikes and ride around. You’ll find more than just pumpernickel, sauerkraut, spaetzle, bratwurst and leiderhausen here! We were lucky to be there right in the beating heart of World Cup fever. We saw Germany beat France. The streets were on fire!

We have listed here some of our favorite things from our short three day stay…but for even more insight, check out our interviews with Australian-expat Liz Polkinghorne, and Hamburg local,Thorsten Keller, who know this city inside out and have kindly shared some of their amazing local secrets.

To caffeinate…

Less Political: one of Hamburg’s best ‘third wave’ coffee spots – this old warehouse-turned-café specializes in espresso, cold brew, filter coffee, as well as their own hand-roasted beans to take home. Located right near the Saturday flea market, it’s the perfect spot to drop into after a bit of shopping. Pale wood, minimalist design. Its beautiful here.

Luncheonette: we love this new-ish café in the heart of Ottensen. Offering great barista-style coffee, they had a basic lunch menu when we visited in July, but were just about to extend it to breakfast as well. Right in the heart of Bahrenfelder Strasse, you will find some other cute stuff along here as well.

To eat…

Breakfast at Café Paris (or for wine, dinner etc): this beautiful old building and café is a Hamburg institution. Feeling very European,  you will have a great coffee and breakfast here. If you are in the mood for something sweet, try the hot chocolate. Come back for lunch, aperitif and dinner as well. All so good.

Erste Liebe: located on Michaelisbrücke 3, at the end of the Admiralitatssrasse (home to many galleries and bookstores) – this spot is great for coffee, breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon drink.

Dinner at Vienna: this was our favorite dining experience in the three days we spent in Hamburg. A cute, cosy neighborhood favorite in Fettstrasse. No bookings, but plenty of room (and a cute bar to wait at), so make sure you stick around. Delicious Viennese food.

Dinner at Krug: located in St Pauli on Paul-Roosen-Straße. This super cute little place is housed in a gorgeous ivy-covered building. South German food. Good wine list. Open kitchen. Lovely service. Bookings essential. Some useless trivia – the house next door is where the Beatles lived for some time during the 70s !

Dinner at Chapeau: very hip and happening at the moment. Known for its burger.

We didn’t make it here, but wish we had have had time… Oberstübchen (St. Pauli Fischmarkt 27). A new one by the guys who run Krug. Located right next to the Pudel Club in the Park Fiction. A perfect place for a drink on their sunny terrace, or looking out over the harbor from the cosy inside space. They do a great weekend breakfast as well.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner at Alexandros: we ran out of time to get to Alexandros, but it came very highly recommended to us by Jorg, one of the barmen at Le Lion. A charming local place, just off busy Mönckebergstraße in the city center, apparently this is more like stepping into Alexandros’ home, than a restaurant. A small space – just one room with only a handful of tables. We will be sure to check it out next time. Apparently meeting Alexandros alone is worth the visit. The restaurant used to be a bookshop and some furniture and lovely stuff was kept by the owner.

For something quick and easy, pizza from Slim Jims – close to the Superbude hostel in St Pauli – is a good choice. Grab a seat out on the street.

To drink…

Le Lion Bar de Paris: a gorgeous little hidden cocktail bar, opposite the famed Café Paris. ring the doorbell in the lion’s mouth to be let in. best to make a reservation. brilliant and carefully crafted cocktails .

Toast Bar (Wohlwillstr. 54): on a warm night, locals spill out of this cosy little spot on to the street. Cheap drinks, spinning records, and friendly neighborhood vibes. Djs and good tunes. We really like it here.

The Boilerman Bar: by the same clever guys behind Le Lion (Jorg is the MAESTRO) – another awesome spot for fancy cocktails, they serve “fine Highballs, American Whiskey and a small selection of beer”.

Check out some of the “beach” bars down by the port. Kind of cheesy, but kind of fun. Look out forStrand Perle, and Strand Pauli. A mixed crowd.

Cruise along Sternschanze: lots of bars to choose from.

To shop…

Flohschanze Flea Market: the perfect start to your Saturday morning. This weekly vintage market gets cracking at 8am. It is run out of an old cattle slaughter house building in St Pauli – antiques, jewelry, clothes, second hand bikes, shoes, and more. Stop for a coffee at Less Political on the way. Easy to get to, just jump off the U-Bahn at Feldstraße (Heiligengeistfeld). Not far from here is Marktstrasse (see below) - a quiet little street full of cute boutiques and frequented by a younger, hip crowd.

Markstrasse: for cute boutiques. In particular, we love the vintage shoe store – U2 Schuhe (Marktstr.1A) – some seriously good kicks to be found.

Sternschanze: for cute back streets filled with interesting little boutiques and cafes.

Coffee Table Mags: available at Public Coffee Roasters @ Wexstrasse 28.

Farmers Market: every Tuesday and Friday (from 8:30am-2:00pm) Hamburg’s Isestraße becomes Europe’s largest outdoor market: the Isemarkt(Isestraße 1-37). Set in a charming residential neighborhood with beautiful art nouveau buildings, there are over 200 vendors on display, selling all sorts of wonderful things – flowers, herbs, cured meats, fish, bread, chocolate etc.

Property of…: this male accessory store, new to Hamburg, can also be found in Amsterdam and Singapore. also with stores in Amsterdam and Singapore. Great men’s bags etc, but our favorite bit – free barista-style coffee for customers while they shop (such a nice touch), and on top of that,the brand has a social conscience, too, and donations are welcomed in aid of local homeless charity Hamburger Tafel.

To do...

Get on the gallery circuit…starting of course with our favorite, the Galerie Herold (Colonnaden 5) right in the heart of the city center. If you have time, try to get to the island of Sylt as well, to visit Herold Galerie’s Kampen or Keitum outposts. Its beautiful here.

Also check out the Circle Culture Gallery: for the current exhibition (until 13 September) – Nothing Is What It Seems, by Olivia Steele. A collection of photographs and her latest neon sign installations. Open by appointment.

Try to track down the Kitchen Guerilla: an underground mobile dinner club. Run by Koral, a Turkish ex-pat living in Hamburg, and local Hamburger, Olaf…this is a super fun mobile, pop-up dinner movement. Known to hijack restaurants, boats, construction sites, or even sail boats on the Med! Check the website for dinners, dates and locations.

Go for a run, or ride bikes around the Alster (the lake in the middle of the city). Nothing better on a sunny day. Check out the beautiful homes in the surrounding neighborhoods of Winterhude and Rotherbaum.

Speicherstadt (near the water): good for a little wander around.

Wander around the Port: one of the busiest in the world – and check out the fischmarkt. Hamburg’s oldest fish market has been thriving since 1703 !

To sleep…

25 Hours Hotel (Number One): there are a few of these hotels around Europe (and a couple in Hamburg itself) all promoting “style at an affordable price”. The vibe is young and creative. Somewhat retro in design, you will notice cute (sometimes a tad tacky though) design features incl bespoke bedroom and bathroom furniture, bare concrete ceilings, string curtains, an awesome in-house magazine (our favorite part of the whole hotel !!) curated by the ever popular and super-dialed in, Freunde von Freunden, as well as cute (environmentally-friendly) bathroom products, and a pop-up burger stand out the front (housed in a vintage airstream). The design is simple and modern (perhaps a bit too modern for our tastes), but makes for a very affordable and easy sleeping option. Free bikes a nice touch as well.

Superbude: this is effectively an upmarket/hip hostel - ‘Bude’ meaning a ‘simple cabin’ in German. A fun place to stay. Great communal areas. A couple of locations (make sure you are at the right one when you check in!). Basic rooms, but clean and cute design features. Very affordable.

Gastwerk: a carefully restored industrial building  (an old gas plant) located in Ottensen, this is a gorgeous boutique sleeping option. All brick and steel, this beautifully designed hotel is a bit more pricey than 25 Hours and Superbude, but is definitely the more superior choice out of the three. A lovely outdoor terrace restaurant as well.