Hamburg is the rising star of the city break scene. Foodie haunts galore, trendy crowds, buzzing nightlife...what's not to love? Basically, if Hamburg were a person, it would be the laid back, slightly better dressed cousin of Berlin. Sounds like someone you want to me, right? For a first visit is might be difficult to decide what to do first, so let my Top 5 picks start you off:
10 years after construction began and 860 million euros later, Herzog & de Meuron’s architectural and acoustic masterpiece, the Elbphilharmonie, is complete. Poised on the edge of the River Elbe overlooking the port of Hamburg, the 'Elphi' – as it is locally known – is an otherworldly sight to behold. If you haven't got tickets to a concert inside its carefully constructed walls don't worry, you can still marvel at its splendour by getting a ticket to the plaza area which is open to the public. Tickets cost a mere two euros and a time slot can be chosen in advance by booking online here. If you're a little more flexible, then you can turn up on the day and get one from the nearby visitor centre, but just be prepared to wait a bit. Picking up a ticket in person does have it advantages though – you may be lucky and get yours for free if they have already sold their necessary ticket quota for the next time slot.
2. VISIT THE PORTUGESE QUARTER
There's a Portuguese quarter in Hamburg? I know, I was surprised too. Hidden behind the Landungsbrücken quay is this lesser-known neighbourhood, which is a delight to wander through. For an authentic taste of Portugal, this is the place to go – there are several different restaurants and pastelarias for the avid foodie to dive into and try. And, while we're on the subject of pastelarias, make sure to get a Pastel de Nata hit whilst you're here (Portugese custard tarts). More on that in Eat: Hamburg. It's only a small area, so once you're done ambling around, make sure head over to the nearby St. Michael's Church, which is the largest and most revered church in the city.
3. GO ON A BOAT TRIP
To visit the port city of Hamburg without a trip on a boat would be, well, it would almost be a crime. Eschew the tourist offerings in favour of the public transport network. Included within the cost of all public transport tickets are several boat routes, some of which offer better sightseeing opportunities than the tourist trips! Head to Pier 3 of Landungsbrücken and look for Ferry 62, which will take you all the way along the Elbe River to Finkenwerder and back (if you don't get off, that is). If you don't have much time, then opt instead for the Elbphilharmonie route , which offers some of the best views of the concert hall from the water and only takes 5-10 minutes (Go to Pier 1, Route 72 to catch this boat). If the weather is bad? No worries – there's both indoor and outdoor seating on the ferries, so if Hamburg stays true to its rainy reputation then you can enjoy the views through the windows as well.
4. MEßMER MOMENTUM
If you've got a little while to wait before your Elbphilharmonie slot, then why not while away some time in a tea museum? Ok, perhaps calling it a museum is an exaggeration, as the exhibition only occupies a small amount of space, but nevertheless this flagship tea store is bound to be a delight for aficionados of this hot beverage. A store, a small exhibition and a cafe rolled into one, it's worth a short stop-off if you're a tea lover. If you fancy taking it a step further, then tea lessons can also be booked with Meßmer tea masters to learn more about the magic behind the leaves. And, did I mention this cafe has some of the best views of HafenCity from it's floor-to-ceiling windows?
5. KAROLINENVIERTEL + FLEA MARKET
Wondering where all Hamburg's hipsters go to hang out? Then look no further than Karolinenviertel – Hamburg's design district. Head up the Markstrasse main street to discover an array of little independent boutiques, which will keep trend seekers occupied for hours with their offerings. If visiting on a Saturday then you're in luck, as the 'Karoviertel' is home to one of Hamburg's biggest and best flea markets – the 'Flohschanze' – housed inside and outside an old slaughterhouse. Everything from art and furniture to musical instruments can be found here, and savvy shoppers are sure to sniff out a bargain or two to take home.