Guten Abend! In my last post detailing the first eurotrip of my Erasmus year abroad to Hamburg, I covered some of the best and most well-known cultural aspects of the city – however prospective ‘Hamburgers’ may also be looking for some things to do in between all the sightseeing, such as getting drunk on cheap German wine on an old boat, or losing your soul for the night in Hamburg’s notorious red light district. If so this blogger has you covered, so allow me to share with you some of my experiences with Hamburg’s famous and staggeringly varied nightlife, should you want to use this information for yourself next time you’re in the Tor zur Welt. During my time in the city I tried to experience the definitive aspects of the nightlife, as represented by Hamburg’s three central neighbourhoods, each with its own unique flavour.
Hipster Heaven – St Georg: This enclave-for-the-achingly-hip located in East Hamburg, comprised mostly of colourful and lovingly-restored prewar buildings is not only a mecca for European hipsterism (being the best place in town to pick up a rare craft beer or analyse the wide variety of man-buns on display), but it also comprises the nucleus of Hamburg’s thriving gay scene, should any LGBT travelers be interested. In terms of a night out in this eccentric and free-spirited area, your best bet would be to go to any one of the myriad of chilled-out, cosy pubs and cocktail bars that line the narrow streets, as the vibe here is undoubtedly more relaxed and casual than anything else. Whilst you are certainly spoiled for choice here, I was most taken by the always-busy Bar St Georg on Rautenbergstrasse, an intimate, unpretentious little establishment with a dive-bar feel, but a much trendier crowd, where the sole bartender (a surly looking German matron with a wild mane of red hair) will happily fix you a cheap and tasty drink whilst listening to your problems. If you’re in the mood for something more nourishing than a caipirinha, then simply turning any street corner in the area will confront you with a startling array of sushi bars, french bistros, and burger joints.
Classy and Flashy – Altstadt (Old Town): If you’re in the mood for an upscale vibe and have some euros to burn, then I would recommend a decadent night in Hamburg’s elegant Old Town centre, where all of the traditional Prussian-era buildings that were destroyed during the war have been painstakingly restored to their former glory. Whilst there are literally hundreds of widely-lauded restaurants adorning every sanitized street corner (several with Michelin stars), I would recommend booking a reservation (well in advance!) to mama, Hamburg’s hottest new Italian joint, which serves up fresh takes on traditional Italian cooking in generous portions and (fairly) reasonable price tags. If you’re wanting to have some after-dinner drinks in an elegant setting without breaking the bank, I would recommend doing as I did and strolling over to Speicherstadt (the canal district) and hopping on board the J.R.R Tolkien, an elegant jazz-age style boat docked next to the imposing Gothic warehouses, complete with gold fixtures and polished wood, where you can guzzle down a cheap bottle of sekt for about 10 euros.
Trashy, Seedy and Wild – Reeperbahn (The Red Light District): If sipping cocktails and nibbling on antipasti seems like your idea of a dull Friday night, then simply take it up several hundred notches by heading over to wild, wild West Hamburg. Here in the notorious Reeperbahn (loving dubbed by one travel blogger as ‘The Magaluf of the North’) you can find the answers to all of your tackiest, wackiest and most perverse prayers on the mile long neon strip, adorned with grimy Irish pubs, heart-pounding mega-nightclubs, glowing dive bars, and a dazzling variety of strip clubs that cater to every taste (which this author admits he did patronize, for research purposes). Much like the Mediterranean resorts, many of the establishments on the strip and the surrounding area specialize in cheap drinks, cheesy music, and petty crime (so keep your valuables and drinks in sight) – nevertheless a night in the Reeperbahn is one you won’t soon forget (I know I wont), and an absolute must for anyone going to Hamburg.
That’s all for now and I hope you’ve enjoyed this beginner’s guide to Germany’s second city – Tschus!