According to locals, catching a flight to Hamburg means travelling to Germany’s 'Gateway To The World'. Just a few hours spent in this thriving, multicultural and pleasantly liberal port city confirms that the world is coming to Hamburg, enticed by its quality of living, historic city centre and attitude to life. Hamburgers like to have fun.
Hamburg is where The Beatles learned their trade, and maintains its kudos as a home to alternative culture, with everything from rock music to a famous football team, St Pauli.
The docks – still the second biggest in Europe – are now populated by new hotels, restaurants, art galleries and the majestic Elbphilharmonie Hamburg concert hall. Old warehouses have been refurbished and become tourist attractions in their own right. Meanwhile, around the Alster Lakes, the mercantile money on which Hamburg was built is evident in the town hall, the Michelin-starred restaurants, the villas and boutiques.
Hamburg’s a vibrant, buzzy, city and many of eateries reflect that. Parlament’s massive dining hall is the place to try local delicacies amid locals. Similarly, Bullerei’s location in a former livestock hall is a great place to sample steaks from local producers. And of course, being a port city, there are plenty of scintillating seafood options too, from the refined surroundings of Fischereihafen and Se7en Oceans to the cooler, converted warehouse chic of Vlet.
And just because the city has an industrial heritage as a port city doesn't mean that its hotels are similarly gritty. In fact, many have taken cues from the city’s past and transformed old buildings into wonderfully atmospheric places to stay: East is a conversion of an old iron foundry, while Gastwerk had a former life, as the name suggests, as a gas works.
These design-conscious hotels make for a unique stay – in fact for all the grand, palatial charms of Hotel Atlantic Kempinski, it’s easy to make a case for East being among the best hotels in Hamburg. Even the new build hotels have got in on the act – 25hours HafenCity has a hip and stylish nautical theme, while Side’s designer lighting is an attraction in itself. There aren’t many places that have such interesting and unique places to stay, which is a reflection on the charms of Hamburg itself.
In fact, you could say a stay in Hamburg is all things to all people – refinement, excitement, history and modernity all in a place that remains very much a working city. It’s certainly a gateway to all that is good about Germany, and a reminder that a city can reinvent itself without losing sight of what made it great in the first place.