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A beginner’s guide to Hamburg "the Venice of the North"

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Renowned for being home to one of the biggest harbours in Europe, Hamburg, aptly named the "the Venice of the North", is packed with German culture, delectable cuisine, and a cosmopolitan vibe.

But how do you navigate the city with the most bridges in the world?

Image credit: Chloe Connolly

During the day

Having visited Hamburg a number of times, I have spent many days pottering around Planten un Blomen, a large urban park which features a tropical greenhouse, a winter ice-skating rink, and the largest Japanese garden in Europe. During the summer months, you can end a jam-packed day by watching the water light show in which a water light organ is played in time with music, the perfect atmosphere to lay back with a blanket and a bottle of wine.

With water surrounding you everywhere you go, it is important that you do not leave the city without going on a boat trip on the Elbe or Alster rivers or on the extensive canal networks. There are many tours to choose from, however, they can be expensive so it may suit students to catch the number 62 ferry from Landungsbrücken instead. Included in the price of a day travel card, you can hop off at Altona, the Fischmarkt, and Strandperle, the city’s popular beach.

Image credit: Chloe Connolly

The Fischmarkt opens every Sunday morning. A bizarre but endearing place, the buzz starts very early in the morning, and shuts its doors by 9.30am because it is a hotspot for party-goers to grab a coffee and a fischbrötchen (fish sandwich) post night out. If you want to mix with local students and young people, as well as older generations doing their weekly food shop, this is the place to go at 6 am on a Sunday morning.

Nightlife

Supposedly less busy in recent years but still unrivalled as the best district for a night out, the Reeperbahn, once a major red-light district, is still lined with strip clubs, adult shops, and related establishments. Nevertheless, it is full with trendy bars, clubs, restaurants, and cabarets, proving there really is something for everyone.

Music

Any devout music fan will know that Hamburg is famous for its connection to the Beatles, where the group became established between 1960 and 1962. John Lennon famously said: "I might have been born in Liverpool but I grew up in Hamburg."

Image credit: Chloe Connolly

Nowadays, the city is renowned for the Reeperbahn Festival which welcomes hundreds of international artists for a weekend in September. Many events are free, although tickets are sold for bigger acts. One year, I was lucky enough to purchase a ticket for the day Liam Gallagher decided to rock up unannounced.

Peckish?

Hamburg boasts a huge selection of restaurants, many of which offer international cuisine. You have your typical German restaurants such as the Bavarian brewhouse style restaurant, Hofbräu Wirtshaus Speersort, which sells traditional currywurst, snitzel, and huge steins. I made many visits, especially for their jacket potatoes!

My favourite place for breakfast is Salon Wechsel Dich on Grindelhof. The cute, cosy café is renowned for its scrumptious waffles and many brunch options. If there are two or three of you, I would recommend getting the sharing breakfast.

Image credit: Chloe Connolly

As a port city, Hamburg prides itself on excellent fish, and a little restaurant called Karo Fisch on Feldstraße provides just that. It doesn’t look much more than an English chippy from the outside, but the choice, quality, and the prices on offer are outstanding.

Image credit: Chloe Connolly

A final tip

You need to remember that Sundays are taken seriously in Germany. The country has some of the strictest laws on retail opening hours and Hamburg is no exception with most shops closed for the entirety of the day. Some restaurants, bars, and popular attractions will remain open for tourists, but it will be a struggle to buy a picnic or quick supermarket snack.

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