[HAMBURG] — The sun was streaming in through the windows on a cold winter day over Christmas time. It was 1 degree Celsius outside, but in here it was warm. I settled into my six-top booth with the perfect view outside, warming in the rays like a cat.
A couple was having a business lunch at a table in front of the windows. Suddenly, it felt like the whole restaurant was moving, but it was really the outside. A ginormous ship was passing by, with a giant bridge castle as tall as a fifteen story building moving silently down the line of windows.
It was unsettling at first, feeling like you’re moving when you’re not. The couple, deep in business conversation, didn’t notice it at first. But then, they felt the same movement and turned around. Like me, reveling like children at this odd site and whipping out their cameras.
Nobody celebrates their harbor like Hamburg. And, like most of the city, the Rive Bistrot puts it center stage. You wouldn’t think a bunch of hulking ships and container cranes would be beautiful, but it is.
The food culture in Hamburg is, like it seems all over the Germany (and the world), on fire. Sure there are traditional places serving the same regional cuisine as they have for centuries, but in every neighborhood there are cool new restaurants, with cool designs, serving up killer food in new and inventive ways.
Hamburg has many neighborhoods, from the seedy Reeperbahn, to more stately shopping neighborhoods, but the food revolution has taken over here, too. Cool little cafes tucked in nearly every corner. I was only here for a week and walked and walked and walked. Stopping to eat here and there, feasting on curry wurst at the Christmas markets like a shark, every time I passed. During the holidays between Christmas and New Years, a lot of places I wanted to go were closed. But these are the best I found.
In this, Germany’s second largest city and its business hub, you can eat at just about every level. But being it’s biggest port, the emphasis is on seafood, fresh from the large fish markets along the River Elbe. There are a gazillion places along the river, many highly rated. I’ve starred them and mapped them on the interactive map below, where you can link to their websites and find your way there.
Had the most fantastic meal at Bullerei in Hamburg. If you look over everyone’s Best list, this is on it. Super friendly people. Ossobuco that nearly killed me.
I was so hungry from waking around all day I came here pretty early. The place was absolutely packed at 5pm. Music was cranking. Felt like 11pm on a Friday. Also felt like Brooklyn, with a German twist.
Every. Single. Thing. Was perfect. 🕺 Highly recommend you go here. Took me 15 minutes to realize I was in a different Bullerei. The smaller, more casual Schoolhouse. The other, fancier room didn’t open until 6pm. Looks like I’ll have to go back. Will report back. 🌝
The Rive Bistrot was a great seafood stop. Right smack on the river. The decor was a cathedral to the 90s, but just stare out the windows — like a New York street corner, there’s one of everything passing by every ten minutes.
The food and service was perfect. Come for a sunny lunch. Plus, it’s Michelin-listed.
I just loved Fillet of Soul. My perfect kind of restaurant. Not stuffy, super nice people and killer food. It’s right down by all the museums at the end of Speicherstadt, so it’s the perfect spot for a long lunch. Get the duck. OMG. It was highly recommended on the NY Times and Conde Nast sites. As well as this review on TripAdvisor.
I was in Hamburg for about a week over Christmas time 2017, walking endlessly. I ate at some great restaurants, tried to eat at others that ended up being closed. But also ate a lot of meals I ate were at the famous Christmas Markets along the lake on the main part of the city. I don’t really like Christmas Markets — I don’t need any more ornaments — but I do like the food they serve at all the little market stall. Great wursts, beers and special things.
I didn’t get a chance to eat here, but it was on everyone’s Top list. It’s right on the water and you can’t really see but people are lined up down the right for another 20 feet or so — on a 1 degree Celsius winter day!
I stayed at pretty cool hotel called Gastwerk in a renovated 120+ year old gas plant. It was Hamburg’s first Design Hotel and has some of the biggest rooms I’ve seen in Europe. Everything very nicely done, including a great restaurant and huge amounts of open space to hang out in the cavernous old factory hall.
I found it here, on Tablet Hotels, my favorite boutique hotel booking sites.
It’s in a very cool old brownfield/industrial park turned into a big office and condo mixed use development called Bahrenpark, about four S-bahn stops from the city center. Minutes, really.
There are acres and acres of old industrial buildings that lay dormant after the war, with many squatters and artists living here until the 90s when they redeveloped the whole place into a cool mixed use development. With restored factory buildings, cobblestone streets, sculpted ponds and squawking birds and some really cool looking condos. It’s kind of like a mellow LX Factory in Lisbon that I posted on my Portugal page.
It’s a little outside of the bustle of the city, but was about the quietest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in. Plus, it was kinda cool to hop on the train every night and come “home” with other Hamburgers, walking the few blocks from the station with everyone else. And if you’re driving around Germany in your car, there’s no hassle parking it here and jumping on the train to go exploring every day.
I don’t have a picture of it, but the hotel’s restaurant is one of the best rated restaurants in the city. I concur. It was fantastic, not just for breakfast, but dinner. And the L Bar serves up perfect cocktails. Even though you’re on the outskirts of town, after a day of walking all over town, you have an awesome place to come back, take a shower and a nap and roost in a good place.
Here is Gastwerk Hotel Hamburg’s website.
This isn’t a hotel or restaurant, but one of the coolest shops I’ve ever seen. I’ve been following this place’s website for years and now got a chance to pay a visit. A “perfect design” shop, with all things well-designed or well-made. From garden tools to furniture to clothes to kitchen gadgets. I even picked up an awesome Navy Pea Coat, made the same way since 1938 by a cool French navy coat maker. It’s in the Chile Haus, naturally, a shrine to cool design.
Manufactum’s website is here. Check it out.
Do a little research or look at my Hamburg Top Sites interactive map and see all the best recommended places I didn’t get a chance to go to, or where closed when I got there (open often, only at dinner, so look up in advance.) Every star marks somewhere special that I consolidated from my thick Hamburg file from everything like NYTimes, Conde Nast Traveler and other great travel sources.
If you save the link, you can take it with you on your phone and then, like I do, go from neighborhood to neighborhood and just see what’s close by. https://goo.gl/maps/tRsPYaKUnNm
Here’s a great guide of top Hamburg restaurants in my new favorite site, Culture Trip.
And Trip Advisor’s top restaurant picks.
And here is the UK Conde Nast Traveller’s most excellent city guide to Hamburg, with everything you need. I used this like a bible.
Fodor’s old school restaurant guide to Hamburg. The New York Times’ always dependable 36 Hours in Hamburg.
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