The Solaris Guide to Hamburg

As a lot of people ask me about what to do in Hamburg, I thought it’s time that my hometown gets the Solaris Guide treatment!

Just to get it out of the way: Hamburg is not comparable with Berlin. If you want the same freewheeling urban excitement that London or NYC can provide I would recommend you skip Hamburg and head straight for the German capital.

But Hamburgs calmer, prettier and let’s face it, more middle-class demeanor is exactly why I chose to  move back to Hamburg and not to Berlin! Saying that, Hamburg likes to see itself as a world capital and gets into the Top 10 of most livable cities globally on a regular basis, so it can’t be THAT dull and boring. Actually I found Hamburg very vibrant and happening!

  Image by Ulli Fast Forward
Image by Ulli Fast Forward

So let’s get into this…

Hamburg is most known for its Red Light District that’s on the Reeperbahn. Although these days the area tries to cater more for regular tourists you can still get laid for cash with the many prostitutes that offer their services either directly on the street, on the famous “Herbertstrasse” or in the many brothels. There is even a discount brothel that offers a shag for 39€… enjoy you cheapskate!

Here is a song about the Reeperbahn by the Elvis Presley of Hamburg: Hans Albers. Hamburg swagger at it’s finest!

As most bars and clubs on the Reeperbahn are open all night long, Hamburg is unfortunately becoming a prime destination for Hen Nights and Stag Dos. If this is your thing just head to the “Hamburger Berg” and you are all set. Hamburgs nightlife starts around Midnight so don’t get too pissed too quickly as there is no closing hour and you have 24 hours in the day to get wasted.

All the above is the reason why the real Hamburgers shun the Reeperbahn and rather hang out in the St.Pauli / Sternschanze area. It’s the most alternative part of Hamburg and that’s why it had its spot in the limelight during the G20 riots in 2017. I personally would still like to install a plaque of honor at the place where this couple was caught shagging whilst the rioters clashed with police down below. Pure class!

When there is no rioting the Sternschanze is filled with Hipsters that enjoy their artisan Coffees, Punks who rant against the establishment and all sorts of creative types with their Apple laptops. So yeah you guessed it: It’s the place to be!

Another pretty obvious part of Hamburg is the harbor. It’s Germanys biggest and there are still pretty massive ships traveling in and out on a daily basis. So doing a harbor tour is pretty much a Hamburg essential! And of cause we got the Elphilharmonie down by the river as well. It looks as funky as it was expensive: A whopping 700 million Euro over budget!

  Image by Ulli Fast Forward
Image by Ulli Fast Forward

Getting tickets for concerts in this spaceship is nearly impossible but you can go up the “Elphi” for free and enjoy a great view over Hamburg if the weather permits. Just to be on the safe side I’d reserve a spot online here:

The center of Hamburg is around the Alster, an artificial lake created around 1190 by a dude called Count Adolf III… no, not THAT Adolf! Around the Alster there is a lot of posh shopping and parks and it’s great to rent a boat and just go out on the lake to chill.

  Image by Thomas Ulrich
Image by Thomas Ulrich

Hamburg is ranked 14th when it comes to having the most Millionairs around in Europe and it shows. Especially when you head out to the Westend in Othmarschen and Blankenese. Pretty fucking huge houses I tell ya!

So to recap: 

Reeperbahn is full of drunken chavs, St Pauli and Sternschanze are Hipsterville and for a Middle-class shopping experience head to the center of town called “Mönkebergstrasse”.

Now that we got a broad overview let’s see how I would spend 3 days up North…

Day 1: Arrival and drinks

There is only one airport so that’s easy. Arrive at Fuhlsbüttel Airport on a Friday and get the train into town. Should take around 30min. I’d buy a day ticket and if you are traveling with someone else it makes sense to get a group one.

Your AirBnB should definitely be in or around Sternschanze as this is were the magic happens and it’s very central. Hamburg is very easy to bike, so maybe it’s worth renting one of the many city bikes. Then again the public transport is pretty happening also.

After dropping off your stuff at you accommodation I’d get some food. The Kebabs in the area are all pretty awesome but for a more solid bite I’d head to Omas Apotheke. They have everything from Pizza to Schnitzel plus Beers on tab. Maybe the closest Hamburg has to a Gastro Pub! There are a lot of other options as well so maybe having a stroll and see what you fancy is a good idea also.

The big painted building in the area is the Rote Flora: Squatted center of everything left wing and main attraction during the G20 riots.

Next to it is Haus73 which has a great selection of craft beers on tap. The traditional brew of Hamburg is Astra and it’s rival Holsten. Astra manages to actually produce genuinely funny advertising so I’d pick Astra over Holsten.

After getting a drink and food I’d pick up some local garmz. Head over to UnderPressure, a store catering for Urban Folk with a rich selection of the finest Spraycans, HipHop Vinyl, Designer Toys, Sneakers and Clothing. As you can imagine I feel right at home there! Cleptomanicx is the local brand so getting a T Shirt makes a great souvenir and gets you street cred. And just around the corner is local skate store Subvert where you can get everything to roll around the city.

Hamburg has a crazy amount of record stores so that’s where I would head next. If you go to Groove City you can even ask for a handy map of all the record dealers in the area, so that’s where I would start my vinyl pilgrimage. And don’t forget to tell the owner Marga that I send you! 

 Groove City
Groove City

The “Karoviertel” is next to the Sternschanze and has a great variety of independent stores: From the Sneaker boutique “Gloryhole” to vintage garms at “Hot Dogs” all the way to custom hats at “Rotkäppchen Design”, just have a stroll and look around! Oh, and for the dapper Gentleman I recommend “Herr von Eden” who has the flyest Dandy fashions known to man.

As the night falls I’d head out to St.Pauli and Reeperbahn. Do your research to find the right venue for you. I’d recommend Hamburger Berg for the obvious party places and meat markets.

For something more classy I’d check out PAL, Übel und Gefährlich, Mojo Club, Yoko / Mono, Fabrique, Grüner Jäger, Astra Stube. Just search to see whats on.

Day 2: Tourist stuff

Day two I’d kick off with a Continental Breakfast at “Unter den Linden”, a great Café with a slice of Vienne Coffehouse about it. Word of warning: It’s very popular so you might not get a table. Just good you have many other options in the area: Schmidtchen at Haus73, Frank & Frei or Omas Apotheke…

 Continental, baby!
Continental, baby!

Then I would head into town for some retail therapy. Get out at “Hauptbahnhof” and walk down towards the Alster and “Jungfernstieg”.

Shops I’d recommend would be Michelle Records for a cheap piece of Vinyl and Thomas-I-Punkt.

Thomas-I-Punkt is definitely the most spectacular store in Hamburg and I would compare it to Dover Street Market in London: 5 stories full of cutting edge Menswear, Womanswear, Streetwear, Accessories and Perfume. The interior design of each shop floor is absolutely fantastic and the labels on sale are top notch . But hold onto your wallet as this place is definitely not cheap!

  Image from AhoiHamburg
Image from AhoiHamburg

If you have some funds available I would recommend to purchase a piece of their own label OMEN: Vibrant and modern knitwear handmade in Hamburg. Casual yet damn funky, I am hooked ever since I moved back to Hamburg and added quite some pieces to my collection. As they don’t sell online you can really only get their stuff in their store! And if a 600€ jumper blows your budget I would have a cheeky look in their sale section as there are definetly great pieces available for a lower price.

Just down the street is another tourist highlight: The “Hamburger Rathaus”. This is basically where the parliament and major of Hamburg operate. Has a badass Christmas market in front of it during December as well which is highly recommended.

 Image by Heidas / Wikipedia
Image by Heidas / Wikipedia

Further down the street you have the “Alsterhaus”, our version of Selfridges. But do you really need to splash out on a Gucci dress whilst in Hamburg? I’d rather walk further up and go to the OMEN Flagship store at the “Gänsemarkt”: Companion store to Thomas-I-Punkt and visually just as impressive.

If the weather is great why not have a walk around the Alster? It’s very pretty and moving your limbs is good for you.

For food I’d recommend “Das Parlament”, a traditional German restaurant located in the basement of the Rathaus. Local delicacies: Shrimpsoup, fried Hamburg sole and Labskaus. 

Here is a great description of what to try when in Hamburg:

 Get the Labskaus you pussy!

 It's great trust me! Image by Oliver Bildesheim
It’s great trust me! Image by Oliver Bildesheim

If you are all done wrap dinner up with a shot of “Kümmel”, a traditional German Schnapps.

At night I would go out again. A great club to check out would be the legendary Mojo Club which is located at the impressive Skyscraper at the beginning of the Reeperbahn. They have a variety of great club nights and concerts.  The amazing feature is that the club is below the pavement and only accessible via two massive doors in the ground that get lifted open during the night!

Upstairs the Mojo has the “Jazz Cafe” that has great DJs spinning and offers mellow vibes and a great selection of tasty cocktails. Once a month it hosts the 7inch only night 45/7 Vinyl Club… check out their mixes here:

 Dj Felox in the mix
Dj Felox in the mix

This time it’s important you stay out partying until at least 5am to be able to sample two other essential Hamburg tourist attractions: Erikas Eck or/and the Fishmarket.

The Fishmarket opens at 5am and is close to the Reeperbahn. The stalls sell everything from traditional Fisch delicacies, fruit and veg all the way to lifestock! Plus it’s the place where wasted Partypeople run into sober families who just got up… so it’s a lot of weird fun and can be quite surreal!

It’s the the best place to eat a “Fischbrötchen” and listen to the fishmongers selling their merchandise by yelling really loudly!

If this sounds like too much hassle why not head to Erikas Eck on the way home: It’s like a greasy spoon restaurant where cops, cab drivers and train workers get their breakfast at 4am. Of cause it’s full of wasted people eating Schnitzel or having yet another beer as well. Definitely a place worth experiencing and authentic as FUCK!

Day 3: Hangover and Culture

In Hamburg Sunday is actually really Sunday… that means no shopping! All stores are closed. Insane, I know!

So Sunday is the day where you can hit the museums, visit the Elphi and take a harbour cruise. 

  Image via Urban Explorer
Image via Urban Explorer

Another highlight is the Miniaturwunderland: The craziest and biggest miniature train nerd experience ever! It’s situated in the world famous “Speicherstadt”, so that’s basically a 2 for 1.

If the weather permits I’d recommend a stroll along the Elbe as well. I’d start at the Jenisch Park and walk all the way down to the river. Then turn left and walk back into town alongside the water. It’s a beautiful walk and at it’s end you can get a Pizza, Soup or Beer at either the “Strandperle” or the “Ahoi”, both are cafés on the beach at the end of the walk.

To finish the Sunday off in style I would recommend some drinks at the “Le Fonque” in the Sternschanze. Legendary dive bar open 7 days a week with the best vinyl only Funk selection! You can even smoke inside so why not take advantage before you head back? 

Additional stuff

There is quite a bit of Street Art in Hamburg, especially the Graffiti scene is very legendary. Gallery wise I’d recommend “Affenfaust” and “Golden Hands Gallery”. Check their opening times on Facebook.

Interesting fact: Hamburg pretty much ruled the German HipHop scene in the 90ties. Absolute Beginner, Samy Deluxe and Fettes Brot are our Tribe Called Quest, Rakim and De La Soul.

Hamburg Slang

Moin Moin:  Hey! Hi!

Digga!: Bro! Homie!

Was geht?: What’s going on?

Tschüss: Bye

Ok peeps, you should now be properly prepared to check out this great town! Just don’t forget to pack an umbrella and a raincoat and you will have a great time. If you want to see more great pictures of Hamburg please check out my homie Ulli Fast Forward and his great snaps!

Solaris over and out!

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