Saturday, November 2, 2013

A short October break in Hamburg

Towards the end of October we spent a couple of days in Hamburg, Germany's second largest city. In part it was an opportunity to see this impressive city however the main reason for our trip was to meet up with a friend who lives close by.


Having come across a good deal online, we altered our plans and stayed two nights in the impressive Sofitel on Alterwall. The staff are great, friendly and professional and the location is perfect, just a couple of minuites from the Rathausmarkt which puts you smack bang in the centre of the city. The only downside of the hotel is the price charged for breakfast; €14 for an express breakfast, €24 for a continental and €29 for the buffet breakfast. We chose the express breakfast which was ok but you have to stay seated whilst they serve it which feels a little bit like being at school.  Having experienced it once, the following morning we went across the road to Starbucks and paid less than €10 for the two of us, much better value for money.

Having driven from where we live in the Netherlands, we arrived in Hamburg early afternoon and set out to explore the centre of the city on foot. Our initial impression of the city was one of surprise as despite having a population of around 1,7m the city feels relaxed and not too crowded. The centre is elegant and full of lovely shops, so be warned. The city centre can be easily explored on foot, including the area between the main railway station and the lake (Binnenalster), along with the rest of the old town and the port. 

That evening we were looking for somewhere not too formal to eat, the hotel concierge recommeded one of the Block steakhouses of which there seem to be a few in Hamburg. The food was good, the service fine, our waitress spoke very good English, so worth a visit if you like a decent steak. The following day was our change to get a feel of the city and as always one of the best ways is to catch one of the Hop on/Hop off tour buses which we did at the stop in front of the Sofitel.

Hamburg Dungeon
Situated 104km inland along the Elbe river, the port of Hamburg is Europe's second largest after Rotterdam and our tour guide recommended taking a boat tour of the port. As our time was limited we stayed on the bus until we got to the impressively restored Hafen (Harbour) City where we hopped off to enjoy some of the impressively restored warehouses.

Maritime Museum

Waiting for the bus
Rejoining the bus tour we stayed on board and completed the tour hopping off back in the city centre with the plan to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the city on foot. By this time we needed a break and some lunch, so by chance we came across Restauant Alex in the Alster Pavilion on the edge of Binnenalster where we relaxed before setting out on foot.  

Fully recharged and ready to go we set off on our afternoons "walking tour", starting with a walk around Binnenalster, the lake at the centre of the city to enjoy the view back towards the city.


St. Petrikirche
That evening we met up with our good friend Norbert and he took us to the Fischmarkt area (Fish Market) for dinner. We had a delicious seafood dinner at L├╝hrs Fischmarkt Restaurant.  The actual fish market is an attaction for early risers as from 5am (7am in winter) on Sundays, the Auktionshalle and the nearby waterside turn into a colourful marketplace.

The following morning after a great evening out and a good nights sleep, we left Hamburg for the drive back to the Netherlands. We only really spent the best part of a day exploring the city of Hamburg, its a diverse city with lots to see from the Port to the Altstadt to the neon-lit Reeperbahn in St Pauli. So is it worth visiting? The answer is yes!