, , , ,

How To Eat In Hamburg

My Hamburg trip woke me up to the joys of German food. My previous Berlin trips had left me with the impression that German cuisine was all wurst and bier. Well, I was wrong. Okay, so I'd be remiss if I omitted to mention sausages and beer entirely, but this great city has so much more to offer. Best of all, it's brilliant for those travelling on a budget, with most meals for two clocking in at under 20. Here's a list of the food (and drink) I think you should try if you're planning a trip!

Fischbrötchen at Brücke 10 (St Pauli-Landungsbrücken 10)
Brücke 10, a little shack on the riverfront, offers the typical Hamburg dish. And no, it's not a hamburger; it's fischbrötchen, a fresh fish roll served with raw onions or pickles. (It's lucky that B and I have been dating for a while, isn't it?) Stick with me here - it's actually delicious. We tried two iterations of this traditional sandwich: herring and kräutermatjes (€3-3.50 each). This humble dish surprised me - it's full of complex flavours and textures. The fish, creamy yet meaty, offers notes of nutmeg and lemon, and is incredibly refreshing, especially when washed down with Alsterwasser, a Hamburg shandy. These are served cold and therefore probably best eaten al fresco at the height of summer, watching the huge liners sailing past. However, in the winter there's also the option of taking shelter inside the cute shack and snuggling up with sheepskin rugs while you chow down, and there's also warm food like Fischfrikadelle (fish balls).

Wurst at...

Mö Grill (Lilienstraße 36)
Simply the best: mildly spiced Currywurst with thickly-cut Pommes and a huge dollop of mayo. Cheap and filling. There's lots of 'Kombis' on offer at this particular joint: essentially meal deals where you can get currywurst, chips and a drink for about €5. Nicht schlecht!

For an even simpler lunch, have a little tray of classic Bratwurst and chips for lunch under the rails of the Isemarkt. We ate incredibly well at the Isemarkt (read more about this brilliant market in my 10 Things To Do In Hamburg post) - there's tons of choice, and if you're not keen on meat there's also the veggie option below...

Vegetarian lasagne at Isemarkt.
Like most German food, this lasagne is hearty and you get lots for your money (€5, or €4.50 without the sauce) - but is lighter without the meat. I'm not sure what this stall was called - perhaps 'Vegetarische Spezialitäten' - but I'd recommend walking along the Isemarkt to find it for lunch. As you might have guessed, it specialises in vegetarian food, from spelt pasta salad to Auflauf, and also does a fantastic range of juices, We had one with carrot, beetroot and celery, which tasted delicious and felt very cleansing. Which was sorely needed after all that fried food. 

Flammkuchen at Jimmy Elsass (Schäferstraße 26)
The speciality at this cool restaurant is a crispy, creamy quasi-pizza. Please don't attack me, Italians and Germans - the two are wildly different. There's a base covered with a range of toppings, and there the similarity ends. The shape is different - Flammkuchen are more oval or rectangular, and much thinner. We had goat's cheese with pear and Schwarzwald ham with rosemary and mushrooms. You can also enjoy über-Deutsch specialties here, such as steins of fantastic beer and Obatzter: a fluffy pretzel with a cheesy dip, cornichons and peppery radishes. The flammkuchen are pretty affordable, roughly comparable to London pizza prices at €8.50-11.50. 

 Pfannkuchen in the Kleinhuis' Cafe & Weinstube (Peterstraße 28)
In my experience, Hamburg museums have fantastic cafes, so you won't go hungry if you're in search of culture! Wiped after visiting the Komponisten-Quartier Museum, we sat down for a bite to eat in the elegant adjoining bistro-cum-cafe, which is not cheap but offers some great lunch options such as these pfannkuchen: mini crêpes topped with pulled pork (for me) and a feta and tomato salad (for him).

  Kaffee und Kuchen at...

Cafe Gnosa (Lange Reihe 93)
Gnosa is an amazing old-school establishment where you can peruse a cabinet stuffed full of cake and sip your coffee while leafing through the newspapers on poles. We chose a rhubarb streusel which came with tons of cream. Drinks: coffee for B and a hot chocolate for me. 'Would you like cream with that?' asked the waitress innocently. I answered in the affirmative, and along with a brimming cup of hot chocolate and biscuit came an espresso cup FULL of cream. On top of the cloud of cream that came with the cake. The Germans know how to live.

Kaffeerösterei (Kehrwieder 5)
This warehouse in the Speicherstadt is actually a coffee museum, so obviously it's got a great café. We walked in here exhausted after a day of roaming around the city and flopped down next to the antique roasting machines, but were soon revived after a predictably great freshly roasted coffee, a plump Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake) and thick, sweet hot Kakao, both garnished with the requisite mountain of cream.

Kunsthalle (Glockengießerwall)
I intend to write more fully about the Kunsthalle in due course, but for now let it be said that this brilliant art museum has great cake to match. B is crazy for Mohn (poppy seed) and this earthy Mohnkuche lived up to expectations. It went particularly well with a floral, full-bodied Earl Grey. I seem to recall that this was the most expensive of the cafes we visited, with a deal pricing a big cup of coffee and slice of cake for €5. However, be warned - if you want your peak of whipped cream with the cake you'll have to pay extra for it! Which I did, because I'm an addict.

Wine at Alles Elbe (Hein-Hoyer-Straße 63)
This amazing underground bar is a stone's throw from the Reeperbahn. It's an intimate space illuminated by candlelight, specialising in wines created along the banks of the river Elbe. I enjoyed a very good Riesling here: light and floral with a crisp green flavour, reminiscent of freshly sliced cantaloupe melon. B chose an Apfelwein which tasted citrusy yet reminded me of tarte aux pommes - incredibly light with an intense apple flavour. It's a charming bar, serving little pots of pretzels with the drinks, the tables adorned with little bottles of tulips and baby's breath, a record player in the corner piping unobtrusive jazz and signs on the wall forbidding political chat. It's also pretty cheap - I paid €3.60 for my glass of wine. I just know that if we lived in Hamburg that this would be a regular haunt, and wish I could find an equivalent in east London. 

I hope that this post (as bloated as my belly after my visit...) proves that Hamburg is rich in food offerings! I haven't even written about Hamburg's burgeoning bakery scene. As in Germany generally, there's a bakery on every corner - sometimes two or three - and breakfast is guaranteed to be exciting, with delicacies such as Mohnschnecke or Franzbrötchen to sink your teeth into. Try both!

If you want to read more on Hamburg, check out my 10 Things To Do In Hamburg post. 

Hungry for more? Continue the adventure on Bloglovin' | Twitter | Instagram!

, ,

10 Things To Do In Hamburg

Moin moin! Or hello, welcome to Hamburg! This charming northern German city has recently been in the spotlight due to the opening of the glitzy new Elbphilharmonie concert hall in HafenCity, which cuts into the river Elbe like a ship's prow. But Hamburg is so much more than a pedestal for striking modern architecture: it brims with historical significance, as the former jewel of the Hanseatic League and the city where the Beatles cut their teeth. I spent four days there this spring and loved it so much I knew I'd have to write about it when I came home (though exams got in the way!) In fact, I have so much I want to say about Hamburg's food offerings and the splendid Kunsthalle that I shall write about them separately. For now, here are ten things that you absolutely shouldn't miss if you get the chance to spend some time here.

1. Take a stroll along the lakes. 
Hamburg is home to two man-made lakes, the Außenalster and the Binnenalster. Wandering along their banks is a pleasure - there's cafes and benches at which to perch and drink tea and coffee, gazing out at the lake, plus exercise equipment and swings, which B and I had a go on (and found far too funny given our rapidly advancing age). In the spring, the trees are laden down with blossom and little fuzzy cygnets bob along behind their parents. This is a wonderful thing to do on your first day to shake off the pre-holiday and flight stress.

2. Partake in Kaffee und Kuchen
I'm lucky because I have my very own German. And he's taught me a useful phrase - Man gönnt sich ja sonst nichts. It means you have to spoil yourself sometimes. And on this, our first holiday together, worn down from long walks and the chilly weather, we ended up sitting down for a slice of cake and coffee every day. Think I took the dictum a bit far because I spoiled myself all the time. I'll be posting about my favourite cakes in due course, but for now, let it be said that at Cafe Gnosa (Lange Reihe 93), my first taste of German hot chocolate (with accompanying teeny espresso cup of whipped cream, for me) and cake (Rhabarber-Streusel, magnificent) blew me away. 

3. Climb to the top of the Michaeliskirche. 
The Michaeliskirche has become a symbol of Hamburg - while much of the surrounding area was razed by WWII fire bombing, this church escaped largely unscathed. For €5 (or €4 if you're a student), you can slog your way up 453 steps (or take a lift) up to a viewing platform with excellent views of the city. The inside of the church is also beautiful and free to enter. Michaeliskirche is so unlike the ostentatious Baroque churches of Italy. It's almost restrained with its reserved brick exterior, but lavishly gilded on the inside, like a wedding cake.

4. Visit HafenCity and the Speicherstadt.
Hamburg is brilliant for walking, and the network of bridges and canals on the north side of the river Elbe is especially worth exploring. You can enjoy beautiful vistas along the canals here and pop into the sparkling new Elbphilharmonie concert hall (the interior of which, with its insanely long escalators, is free to enter).

5. Downsize at Miniatur Wunderland. 
The quirky Miniatur Wunderland (€13 entrance for adults/€9 for students) is home to the world's largest model railway. Prepare to geek out. Yes, it's a bit touristy - you'll have to brave the crowds - but it's so worth it. There's 10 miles of detail to gaze at, and new sections being built all the time. My favourite bits were the displays detailing the history of a town, the impressive model airport and the Hamburg exhibit, which we spent ages poring over to work out what we'd visited. Come on guys, build London next! Also, you can have schnitzel and beer in a canteen that looks like you're on a train carriage - this amused me far too much. This place is open til 1 AM (!!!) so you can rock up and nerd out at all hours of the day.

Look away now, Mum and Dad.

6. Take a ferry ride to Oevelgönne.
Our Airbnb host, André, suggested this one to us! (On a side note - our Airbnb was superb and I'd really recommend it. It was located in tranquil, residential Winterhude just off the Alster, with bakeries on every corner to choose from for breakfast. It's a double room in a beautiful, well-equipped flat - the rain shower is particularly sublime and André has a very sweet chocolate labrador! I mean, if that doesn't sell it then I don't know what will.) You can jump on a ferry at Landungsbrücken if you've bought a U-Bahn/S-Bahn day pass, as it's included in the price. We were intending to take our ferry to the Blankenese, a purportedly picturesque fishing village, but took the wrong one so got off at Oevelgönne instead, a sweet museum suburb with beautiful houses with tulip-filled gardens and magnolia trees on the riverfront. This is the kind of place where scrappy dogs race along the sandy shore, their owners huddled up with Aperol Spritzes or Fischbrötchen to watch the boats go by. 

7. Go food shopping at the Isemarkt.
The bustling Isemarkt (Isestraße) is tucked away under the U-Bahn tracks and stretches along for almost a kilometre. It has a lovely Borough Market or Maltby Street vibe to it - locals come here to browse for everything from plump white Spargel (asparagus) to woody sticks of cinnamon and brightly coloured Dutch tulips. There's no shortage of lunch spots here (more on that in my food post!) and best of all, it was just a 20 minute walk from our Airbnb.

This scene, witnessed on the way to the Isemarkt, stole my heart. 

8. Rummage for treasures at the Flohschanze.
My second market recommendation is the Flohschanze, a sprawling flea market whose stalls congregate around an old slaughterhouse on Saturday mornings. Here, you can search for old film cameras and get an old-school black and white photo strip for €2 at the Photoautomat to the right of the market. Wandering around here on our last morning, B was tempted by sweet wooden chairs that could furnish a future café, while I was swayed by a bronze watering can. This is why I should never be allowed to set foot in flea markets.

Weather warning: Hamburg is pretty cold even in April and the weather can turn sharply. Bright sun might metamorphose into hail in a matter of seconds. All Hamburgers we saw were wearing thick puffer jackets at all times, so unless you're visiting at the height of summer, make sure you pack layers and knitwear.

9. Drink in nature at Planten un Blomen. 
This little oasis in the city centre is definitely worth a visit and was especially pretty as it burst into bloom in spring. I'd have loved to have lingered here for longer - it'd be great to take a picnic here or read a book reclining in the meadows. We walked through Planten un Blomen on our way to number 10...
10. Immerse yourself in music at the Brahms Museum.
We spent our last day taking shelter from the icy rain in this little row of higgledy-piggledy houses. The Brahms Museum is part of the Composers' Quarter Museum; you can buy a combined pass to both for €5, which I would really recommend. The more modern CQM is dedicated to Telemann, C.P.E. Bach and Hasse. Although B and I have both been musicians since childhood, we hadn't heard of Hasse, so found the exhibits dedicated to his life and music fascinating. We also had a wonderful tour from old Ulrich, the best guide ever. The Johannes Brahms museum, meanwhile, is less well-equipped but very charming, and you can even have a play on the piano he used to teach on (though it's incredibly out of tune!) The museums also have very pretty gardens as well as a fantastic little cafe, perfect for splashing out a little for your last lunch, as we did. 

Keen Hamburg fans will notice that I haven't mentioned anything about the Reeperbahn or St. Pauli districts but that's because I wouldn't massively recommend going there! I have a feeling I'd have enjoyed both if I'd been five years younger and visiting mainly to go out - not really my kind of thing nowadays. To be honest, I found the Reeperbahn quite sleazy - all neon strip clubs and upsetting billboards of women leering lasciviously, it kind of reminded me of Rouge City in A.I. However, it' might be worth walking up and down the Reeperbahn for fun, especially since there's a great bar that we came across by chance nearby - I'll talk about that more in my next post.

Another thing I haven't mentioned is the Fischmarkt, which came up on just about every 'things you shouldn't miss in Hamburg' guide I perused before the trip. It's open from 5 AM-9.30 AM in summer and is the place to go after a night out for fischbrötchen and coffee. I really wanted to go, but sadly we missed out because it's only open on Sundays (and we flew back on Saturday!) Next time.

And so we come to the end of my Hamburg guide. You should all know that I found out about the majority of these places from the wonderful Lisa of Not Quite Enough, who lived in Hamburg during her degree and whose blog should be the first port of call for anyone interested in visiting this beautiful city.

Until next time - stay tuned for my food and Kunsthalle posts!

Hungry for more? Continue the adventure on Bloglovin' | Twitter | Instagram!