Remember about 20 years ago before the "War on Urban Culture" began? Before the blueprint of what being urban, cool, and hip was distilled, marketed and replicated in every major city in the Western World? When a taco shop existed because it was in an Hispanic neighbourhood, and donut shops were where homeless people and drug dealers hung out? I'm not going to go on about urban gentrification and how it's impossible to find a place to live downtown anymore, other than to say, somehow the whole bullshit scene has skipped over Hamburg,Germany. Yes there are some cool trendy spots, but every city always had cool trendy spots. It's about balance and variety, and Hamburg manages to achieve this.
Hamburg is a big city, but it's not huge. I think around 3 million. It has rivers and canals and nice houses like Amsterdam, but modern apartment blocks, and concrete overpasses interspersed among them. The Elbe River is a massive industrial highway and the Hamburg harbour is one of the busiest in Europe. Despite the shipping cranes and big ships passing by, or maybe because of, the Hamburg port is a great place to visit. Lining the esplanade along the river are many restaurants, imbiss, and fischbrötchenbude. In any other city this would be a place for franchises and expensive tourist restaurants, but here you can chill out on crappy chairs, eat a hotdog or fish sandwich, and drink beer, or at the right time of year, gluhwein. Next to the esplanade is the Hamburg Fischmarkt. A busy market for fish, flowers and produce that has a crazy early morning beer hall disco going on at its center. Live bands and drunk people dancing at 6am in the middle of a fish market. How cool is that?
|The Hamburg Fish Disco|
|Foto by Antonia Zennaro|
|Foto by Antonia Zennaro|
The traditional food of Hamburg is very down to earth also. Their signature dish labskaus features canned corn beef as its main ingredient, and the pickled herring sandwiches are simple and delicious.
Places To Eat The Food Specialities of Hamburg
Fischbrötchen at the Port - Fish sandwiches can be found everywhere in Hamburg, but the port area is the epicenter where a large variety of sandwiches are served from kiosks called fischbrötchenbude. Pickled, fried, and smoked fish sandwiches are available, as well as my favourite, the super stacked krabbenbrötchen, a huge pile of baby prawns with mayo. The frikadelle fish meatball sandwich with tartar sauce is also good. Seelach is artificially coloured and smoked pollock. I found it horribly salty to the point of being inedible. The best place to try fischbrötchen is Brücke 10. It's a slightly more expensive place but the sandwiches are huge and worth it.
|The Amazing Krabbenbrötchen|
|The not so Amazing Seelachbrötchen|
Labskaus at Oberhafenkantine - If you only go to one restaurant in Hamburg it should be this place. A lopsided old brick building shoved partially under a railroad bridge next to an industrial canal, this place is very cool and unique. Inside is a mix of school chairs and church pews and the floor is slanted enough upstairs that you think your drink might spill. It has a menu of Hamburg classics like labskaus, grünkohl mit kohlwurst, and rote grütze for dessert. It doesn't have that sedated antique feeling of so many European restaurants serving traditional cuisine for tourists. It get crowded and lively.
Schnitzel at Erika's Eck - Erika's Eck is a local eating house in the Sternschanze neighbourhood. It's open 24 hours and serves traditional German food. It specializes in schnitzel in many different styles, as well as wursts, steaks and fried herring. Late night after 1am they serve rundstück warm, a local Hamburg dish which is like a hot open-faced pork roast sandwich that is covered in gravy. Some say it is the original Hamburger, but I think the hot turkey sandwiches you get at american diners are its direct descendant.
Currywurst at Luculius - Luculius may not have the best currywurst in Hamburg, but its crazy carnival atmosphere right in the center of the Reeperbahn make it a fun place to go. They have all kinds of German fast food and fries with curry and mayo. Kiez Curry is another good place to try Hamburg currywurst and they sell their own brand of skull and crossbones curry sauce to take home as a souvenir. Imbiss bei Schorsch near Neur Pferdemarkt is considered the best local currywurst shop. Have it with scharf sauce and potato salad.
Coffee and Pastries at a Konditorei - Hamburg has a couple of local pastries. Franzbrötchen is a sweet pastry with lots of butter and cinnamon. It looks like a squashed croissant, and can be found in every bakery as well as supermarkets. Hanseaten are more difficult to find and are also considered a Hamburg specialty. It's basically a red and white glazed shortbread with raspberry filling. Both are worth seeking out to have with coffee in the morning for a more unique Hamburg experience.