Ever since our trip to Berlin last year, I’ve wanted to explore more of Germany. I’ve heard the lakes in the south are spectacular, but the northern city of Hamburg has been recommended to me countless times. My boyfriend Marc lived in Hamburg for three years before I met him, and has often said how beautiful the city is, so it’s been on my radar for some time. I was thrilled when the team behind the Come To Hamburg campaign invited me over for a long weekend to explore.
Where to Stay In Hamburg?
We stayed at the Gastwerk Hotel Hamburg which is a very cool industrial design hotel. As the name suggests, it’s the old gas plant which brought light to the houses in Western Hamburg 120 years ago. Exposed red brick walls, steel railings, and glass atriums; despite it’s size, light streams through the whole building. So much care and attention to detail has gone into the design of the Gastwerk Hotel Hamburg, that it feels homely and welcoming, whist retaining it’s airy, industrial character. Everything from the rusted earth toned textiles and the tan leather furnishings, to the satin eye-masks left on the bed and the Rituals toiletries in the bathroom, makes a night at the Gastwerk Hotel Hamburg feel like a little luxury retreat. It’s made all the sweeter by being so reasonably priced.
There are so many lounging areas, casual meeting rooms, full bookshelves and cosy nooks dotted around the hotel, that made me wish for a week-long stay and a pile of books to curl up with. It’s a little out of the main tourist areas, situated in Bahrenfeld, an up and coming neighbourhood that feels a lot like my neighbourhood Ancoats in Manchester. It’s less than a 10 minute walk to the train station, and Bahrenfeld is on the main S-Bahn route so really accessible from anywhere in the city.
Breakfast at the Gastwerk Hotel Hamburg is even more as impressive as we were hoping for. I even filmed the buffet for my YouTube video, because a German breakfast done well is a fine thing, and goddamnit does the Gastwerk do it well.
What to do in Hamburg?
Given that I’d never visited the city before, and we only had three days, we thought it would be a good idea to do a cycle tour. We went with Hamburg City Cycles who I’d highly recommend. Emily, our guide was great. She brought the history of the city to life and gave the group an understanding of Hamburg locals and their attitudes. It was a 3 hour tour that went by really quickly. Being an unconfident cyclist, I was a little apprehensive about road cycling and getting in the way of tourists in crowded areas, but I needn’t have worried at all. The route we took was 100% cycle lanes, and away from all crowds.
We rode around the beautiful and serene Lake Alster and decided to take a steam boat trip on our second day to see the waterside villas and leafy, affluent neighbourhoods that line the banks. I picked out a dream house and we watched the locals jogging along the riverbank, under willow tree canopies. I really enjoyed seeing Hamburg from the water, and only wish we had time to rent paddle boards or canoes. Definitely one for next time.
Dialogue in Silence
When I saw our itinerary for the weekend, I thought this exhibition sounded like a bit of a wild card. It was actually one of the highlights of our trip, and I’d urge anyone visiting Hamburg, to look up the Dialogue Social Enterprise. Their mission is to facilitate social inclusion of disabled, disadvantaged and elderly people on a global basis. There’s Dialogue in the Dark which aims to give you a taste of life without sight as well as Dialogue with Time which challenges you to experience life as an elderly person.
We went to the Dialogue In Silence, which as I’m sure you can guess, gives you an idea of what life is like as a deaf person. We learnt some basic sign language, did some fun interactive challenges, and had the opportunity to ask our host about his experience as someone who lost his hearing aged two. It was fun, moving, informative and eye-opening. Check out the locations on their website if you’re interested in finding out more.
Picnic at Stadtpark
Marc arranged to meet up with some friends at the Stadtpark. Its the place to be when the sun is shining in Hamburg. Everyone takes BBQ’s and beers. It was so lovely to meet everyone and put some friendly faces to names. I didn’t want to get my camera out as almost everyone had babies and children, and I thought it would be a bit inappropriate. I did meet a fellow blogging team however, Kat and Dave from Hurry The Food Up, a vegetarian food blog! We had much to discuss.
On our second evening, we went for a wander around the Reeperbahn and stopped off for a drink. There are some sleazy parts and a few dodgy people around, but it was fun to experience. The sex toy shops are eye opening to say the least, and worth a quick look out of interest… I do appreciate how open and de-stigmatised sexual exploration is in Germany!
Where to eat in Hamburg
We had a delicious Italian meal at Cantinetta, which you’ll find at the Ameron Hotel in Speicherstadt. The restaurant is nestled in amongst the red brick mils and warehouses, and has a terrace that overlooks the canal. The atmosphere in the restaurant was exactly what we were looking for, in that it was friendly and relaxed (trainers are fine), but stylish and contemporary in design.
I started with fresh tagliatelle in a tomato and chili sauce with smoked pork cheek. Marc had the trio of bruschetta.
Marc went for white asparagus which is in season and delicious, with salmon, new potatoes and hollandaise sauce. I had to have the 60 hour braised shoulder of beef with gnocchi and vegetables. SO GOOD.
We were too full for dessert, but the team at Cantinetta very kindly gave us some delicious almond biscotti to take away, which coincidentally I’m tucking into right now. Obviously we didn’t stay at the Ameron hotel, but I would definitely consider it for next time because it was really well designed, and is in a great location. The staff couldn’t be nicer, and with Cantinetta restaurant, you’ve got everything you need for the perfect mini break.
For our second evening, we ate at VLET an der Alster which was organised by the team at Come To Hamburg, but was also recommended to us by a friend. There are two VLET restaurants in Hamburg, and the one we went to was in a very central, beautiful location of the Alster river. VLET specialise in traditional Hamburg cuisine, with an updated twist. We were treated to a five course menu, and each dish was absolutely delicious. I couldn’t get enough of the asparagus soup, which was more than likely 45% butter and 45% cream. So tasty, I could have eaten five courses of just that.
The dessert of chocolate and salt was also a particular highlight for me, as I’m a big fan of salty sweet stuff.
Marc particularly enjoyed the smoked Sturgeon with buckwheat pancakes and chives. Each dish was beautifully presented, and the restaurant and service was far from pretentious, which I really liked. Again, another contemporary and stylish place, with a relaxed atmosphere and friendly servers.
Check out my vlog below to see more of what we got up to.
Ph. Marc Webb and my own.
A huge thanks to the team at Come To Hamburg who arranged our trip, also to the Gastwerk Hotel Hamburg for our complimentary stay, and to the other campaign partners who looked after us so well.