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Where to stay in Hamburg

Looking for the best places to stay in Hamburg? Here's your guide to the best neighborhoods, hotels and sights.
By Eliza Apperly |
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Hamburg Ahoi! Whether you’re after world-class art collections, no-holds-barred nightlife or timeless Hanseatic elegance, Germany’s second-largest city has neighborhoods that cater to every type of traveler. This vibrant, prosperous harbor city is as proud of its Old Masters and world-class new Elbphilarmonie as it is of its cheep beer and raucous St Pauli bars; no matter where you stay, you'll find plenty of things to do in Hamburg. Fans of elegant boutiques, great exhibitions and historic architecture will find plenty to admire in the Altstadt, while those looking for a laid-back neighborhood vibe and top-notch coffee can happily stroll the streets and cafes of the Schanzenviertel. For those who prefer leafiness and luxury in the city, the well-heeled slopes of Blankenese promise sumptuous hotels, Michelin-starred dining at some of Hamburg's best restaurants and wonderful Elbe views.

Where to stay in Hamburg

Photograph: Lorenz Teschner

St. Georg

Northeast of the Altstadt, the St Georg district spans from seedy sex-shops around Hamburg’s central station to luxury hotels and penthouse apartments overlooking the Outer Alster lake. Hamburg Pride parade kicks off here each year and the neighborhood remains the most vibrant LGBTQ quarter in town, centered around the hundreds of buzzing bars and cafés along the Lange Reihe. St Georg is also a thriving multi-ethnic community with a number of Turkish, Indian, Irani and Afghan eateries and minimarkets along the Steindamm and around Hansaplatz square. The district is home to both the Centrum Mosque and the Mariendom, seat of the Archbishop of Hamburg, as well as the Schauspielhaus Theater and the Savoy, one of the best-loved cinemas in town. 

STAY

Avoid the area directly around the station and head towards the Lange Reihe and/or the lake. The Aussen Alster hotel is neatly located between the two with a 90s style décor that’s slightly tired in the bedrooms but still fresh and elegant downstairs. It’s got a lovely sunny terrace, bicycles and even its own sailing boat available for guest use. 

EAT

Try Cox for upper-end French cuisine and candlelight, Gao Kitchen for good value Vietnamese, or Badshah Imbiss at Bremer Reihe 24 for cheap, quick and tasty Indian with great samosas.

DRINK

With a waterfront location, live piano music and many the resident celebrity, the bar at the Hotel Atlantic Kempinksi is a popular point of cocktail pilgrimage, particularly for fans of German rock legend Udo Lindenberg who has lived in the hotel for decades. For a low key alternative, the barca jetty bar is a gorgeous spot for a sundown beer watching the sailing boats come in. 

DO

Check out the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, one of Europe’s leading museums of cultural history and applied arts, with excellent holdings in graphic design, fashion, photography and textiles, as well as a particularly rich Art Nouveau collection.

If you do just one thing...

Begin your day in hearty Hamburg style with a walk or run around the beautiful Outer Alster lake. A full lap or popular “Alsterrunde” is 7.4km.

Photograph: Flickr/Hannes Jähnert

Schanzenviertel

Once the beating heart of Hamburg counter-culture, the Sternschanze—also known as the Sternschanze or simply the “Schanze”—has followed a typical gentrification trajectory over the last decade. Once the home turf of punks, artists and activists, it’s become the neighborhood of choice for style-conscious media professionals who have largely priced out the original residents who gave the quarter its interest and edge. Nevertheless, the Schanze remains one of the most engaging neighborhoods in Hamburg, with elegant buildings and a number of great bars, cafes, clubs, record stores, antique shops and independent boutiques. The long-contested Rote Flora squat and cultural centre is a surviving token of Schanze activism, campaigning on issues including immigration, nationalism and the privatization of public space.

STAY

A couple of minutes from the Sternschanze S-Bahn station by foot, Fritz in Pyjama is hip, colorful and comfortable, with individually decorated rooms and studios for a good, mid-range price. It’s on a fairly busy street, so ask for a room at the back if you’re a light sleeper. 

EAT

An all-night neighborhood institution and post-party favorite, the no-nonsense Erika’s Eck promises chilled beer and huge portions of schnitzel from 5pm to 2pm the next day, or 9am on weekends. Offering simple breakfast and lunch staples, Café unter den Linden has an old-school charm, lovely terrace and a great selection of international newspapers, if underwhelming coffee.

DRINK

Neighborhood favourite Le Fonque promises ice-cold Astra and soul-filled tunes in a small, smoky and strictly vinyl locale, where live DJ’s play funk, soul and boogie seven nights a week. For cocktails, the retro-glam Bar Rossi offers a strong line in gin-based drinks and a club with balcony upstairs.

DO

Check out the Saturday Flohschanze flea market for vintage clothes, books, antiques and bargain bric-a-brac. 

If you do just one thing...

Get a good feel for the neighborhood with a short circular stroll via Schulterblatt, Susannenstrasse, and the Schanzenstrasse.

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Photograph: Simisa

Altstadt

Hamburg's Old Town is a hub of culture and activity. Running alongside the Elbe, it not only provides wonderful canalside strolling opportunities, but is home to many a beautiful building. They all look incredibly well-kept, but in fact a lot of them had to be painstakingly rebuilt after bombing during World War II. That doesn't detract any from the expereince though. Hamburg's Town Hall, which has been situated in the centre of Altstadt since 1897, is worth a visit. This sandstone giant dwarfs the surrounding structures with its towering spire and vast concrete platz. The Rathaus is the seat of the government of Hamburg and holds heaps of history and importance. Also within walking distance are the modernist marvel that is Elbphilharmonie and Kunsthalle, one of Germany's finest art museums that holds an astonishing 700 years worth of European art history within its walls.

STAY

Newcomer Henri is a cool yet homey boutique hotel, channeling midcentury design, top-comfort furnishings and laid-back flair. The communal kitchen includes a large retro fridge fully stocked with drinks, soups and snacks. The nearby Adina Apart Hotel is an unremarkable modern building but with a quiet central location and spacious, well equipped rooms as well as a small pool. 

EAT

Around the corner from the town hall, Café Paris has been serving up top brasserie cuisine since 1882 and remains one of the city’s most popular restaurants. From steak frites to bouillabaisse, you’ll find all the classic French dishes, as well as great service, a superb wine list and an impressive Art Deco interior.

DRINK

Treat yourself to one of Hamburg’s finest cocktails at Le Lion, a place of serious mixology and Mad Men style décor. For a more pared-down menu and quirky USSR vibes, check out Central Congress, a sleek conference room-styled locale popular with Hamburg hipsters. 

DO

Start the day with the likes of Holbein, Rembrandt, and Caspar David Friedrich’s Romantic showstopper, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, one of the best art museums in Germany. From there, wander along the pretty Inner Alster lake towards the Rathaus and on towards Deichstraße, where you’ll find some of the oldest houses in Hamburg.

If you do just one thing...

Go admire the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg’s spectacular new waterfront concert hall. Competition for tickets is still fierce, but you can get a good sense of the building, and great harbour views, from the public viewing platform.

St. Pauli

If you’re in town to let your hair down, St Pauli is your party ‘hood. With a legendary web of bawdy bars and clubs as well as one of Europe’s largest red light districts, this is where Hamburg’s harbour credentials come to the fore. The neighborhood centers around the lurid Reeperbahn, also known as “The Kiez”, a near kilometer-long thoroughfare of fast food chains, sex shops, live music bars and strip joints. It’s loud, proud and sleazy, but rarely shady, with so many merry revelers wandering the night that you’re highly unlikely to feel unsafe. Off the Reeperbahn, you’ll find a patchwork of lively side streets and cheap watering holes, including the Große Freiheit, where the Beatles famously found their feet—and fame—with gigs at the Indra Club and Kaiserkeller. 

STAY

The cheap and cheerful Pyjama Park Reeperbahn is about as close as you can get to the party strip, with bright and clean dorms and private rooms at superb value. The more expensive East hotel brings hip design aesthetics to a former iron foundry, with an on-site spa and restaurant.

EAT

Line your stomach with substantial Turkish mezze platters at Das Peace or a hearty plate of Knödel at cosy and candle-lit Marend. If you’re worse for wear the next day, head to Xeôm for a superbly restorative pho. 

DRINK

One thing’s for sure; you won’t go thirsty in St. Pauli. Hamburg’s highest bar Clouds will set you up in cocktail style, while Hans-Albers-Eck is a more down to earth locale with a cheerful mood and nautical decor. Later in the night, get into the groove at Rosi’s Bar, where you’ll find a young crowd, funk and soul soundtrack and ever-busier dance floor. 

DO

Follow in the Beatles’ footsteps with one of many Beatles walking tours, taking in their regular gig venues and favorite pub, as well as Beatles-Platz, where you’ll find life-size sculptures of the original Fab Five, not Four.

If you only do one thing...

Head to cult locale Zum Silbersack for a true neighbourhood Kneipe experience. It’s been serving up cheap beer, power ballads, and ebullient company since 1949 and has counted Hans Albers and Hildegard Knef among its devoted clientele.

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Photograph: Jan Peer Baumann

Blankenese

This lush riverside suburb is one of the most affluent and desirable districts in Hamburg. Situated on a hill to the west of the city centre, its winding streets boast a number of handsome villas, including the former residence of Karl Lagerfeld. A 20-minute drive or S-Bahn ride from the city centre, Blankenese is a little removed from Hamburg’s main sights and attractions, but makes a great choice for those looking for a little peace, quiet and luxury, with a number of excellent hotels and restaurants, elegant spas, rolling parks and serene Elbe views.   

STAY

On the Elbchausee approaching Blankenese, the historic Hotel Louis C. Jacob combines classic Hanseatic hospitality, outstanding comfort and Michelin-starred dining. Founded in 1791, its guest book includes many famous names, including leading German modernist, Max Lieberman, who painted the hotel’s charming leafy terrace. Breakfast is served in the chandeliered dining room with windows looking out towards Elbe. Right on the Blankenese waterfront, the gabled and turreted Strand Hotel Blankenese delivers modern chic behind an elegant historic façade. Its single, double and suite rooms are bright, peaceful and stylish, with luxurious toiletries and either a river or garden view.

EAT

With two Michelin stars and a lofty spot overlooking the Elbe, the Seven Seas is Hamburg dining at its finest and priciest. With renowned chef Karlheinz Hauser at the kitchen helm, the restaurant offers three- to eight-course dégustation menus, featuring arctic char with sea asparagus and king crab with lardo and buttermilk. The full eight-course menu with accompanying glasses of wine will set you back over €300 per person. For coffee, cake or tea-time elegance with a distinctly English charm (and a much softer bill), try Luhmans Teestube. 

DRINK

Beyond the elegant hotel bars, Blankenese is not a nightlife hotspot, but the relaxed Gastätte Linde has a hearty line of beers, as well as Glühwein and Grog for colder evenings.

DO

Head to nearby Jenisch Park, Hamburg’s oldest landscaped park, for a gorgeous leafy walk followed by a slice of cake and/or culture in Jenisch Haus, showing mainly 19th century German art, and the Ernst Barlach House, dedicated to Barlach’s powerful expressionist sculpture.

If you do just one thing...

Walk along the Strandpromenade towards the lighthouse, breathe in the fresh sea air and watch the ships go by.

Looking for more to do?

Hamburg
Photograph: Martin Abegglen/Flickr
Things to do

The best things to do in Hamburg

Only in Hamburg can you take a stroll down the infamous Reeperbahn Red Light district, glimpse a miniature world on a gigantic scale and drink a gin basil smash at the bar that claims to have invented it. 

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