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24 May 2017Last updated
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Top things to do in Hamburg

The Elbphilharmonie concert hall put the port city in the spotlight, but there is a host of other attractions, plus great design hotels and totally delicious fish, says John Brunton

John Brunton
19 May 2017 | 08:15 am
  • Source:Alamy

Gastwerk hotel

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Hamburg has a great choice of stylish design hotels and hip hostels. The immense Gastwerk, in a 120-year-old red-brick former gasworks in Bahrenfeld, western Hamburg, falls between the two, with a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere, minimalist loft-style rooms and stark industrial decor of steel girders. The comfy leather sofas and Moroccan-inspired spa add warmth. Ten minutes’ drive from the centre, it is right by a bus stop and a few minutes’ walk from Bahrenfeld station. This innovative hotel group also offers other fashionable alternatives around town, such as Superbude in St Pauli and 25hours in HafenCity. Doubles from about Dh400, Bei Alten Gaswerk 3, 0049 40 890620, gastwerk.com

Brachmann’s Galeron restaurant

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The gritty St Pauli neighbourhood is the heart and soul of Hamburg, with its seething football stadium and fanatical supporters, a mix of seamen’s watering-holes and innovative bistros. Saskia Brachmann’s friendly diner is fabulous – Schwabian homecooking from south Germany. Hearty, well-priced servings of spaetzle pasta with anything from lentils to onion confit or deer ragout, plus vegetarian specials such as pumpkin and salsify gratin. Mains from Dh50, Hein-Hoyer-Strasse 60, 0049 40 673 05123, Mon-Sat 6.30-10.30pm, brachmanns-galeron.de

Flohschanze market

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The bohemian Sternschanze neighbourhood is Hamburg’s old meatpacking district, and every Saturday morning the cobbled alleyways between ancient abattoirs are taken over by hundreds of stalls selling vintage clothes, books and paintings, tatty junk and crystal chandeliers, expensive antiques and heaped boxes of bric-a-brac at €1 (about Dh4) an item. And there is a real flea market spirit because selling new goods is not permitted. Neuer Kamp Strasse 30, Saturday 8am-4pm

Miniatur Wunderland

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Housing the world’s largest model railway, this is Hamburg’s biggest eccentric surprise, and packed to bursting every day. The place seduces everyone, with kids staring open-mouthed at fire engines and steam trains whizzing past, teenagers snapping selfies against a backdrop of Las Vegas casinos or the Swiss Alps, and adults studiously examine Rome’s Colosseum or St Peter’s Basilica. The biggest crowds gather round a replica of Hamburg airport, where every few minutes a model Lufthansa plane glides along the runway, miraculously taking off. Don’t expect a quick visit – the exhibits are spread over several rooms with 16km of track and some 260,000 human figurines. Book online to avoid the lengthy queues, and afterwards explore the surrounding Speicherstadt, a maze of towering 19th-century warehouses and narrow canals that was once the heart of Hamburg’s port and is now a Unesco world heritage site. Adults about Dh52, children Dh26, miniatur-wunderland.com

Museum mile

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Hamburg’s museum mile, which takes in five major galleries, is bookended by two very contrasting art institutions. At the northern end, close to the main station, Hauptbahnhof Nord, is the venerable Kunsthalle (left) housing one of Europe’s largest art collections. At the southern end is the Deichtorhallen (below), two 19th-century market halls transformed into exhibition venues for contemporary art and photography. The original Kunsthalle is an imposing 1847 red-brick building that has just completed a massive €24m renovation, showcasing old masters such as Cranac as well as 20th-century artists such as Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Max Ernst and Picasso. Adjoining is a concrete and glass modern gallery, exhibiting the likes of Yves Klein, Warhol and Tracey Emin. The Deichtorhallen lies in the shadow of the towering glass offices of Der Spiegel. The bare, minimalist Art Hall features avant-garde artists such as Sigmar Polke, Baselitz and Beuys, while shows at the Haus der Photographie range from Martin Parr and Richard Avedon to Sarah Moon. Kunstmeile Pass for all five museums about Dh144 (discounts available), under-18s free, kunstmeile-hamburg.de

Eat seafood at BistrOcean

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One of the world’s busiest ports, Hamburg is defined by its waterside location on the Elbe river. The city side is now dominated by the flowing lines of the imposing Elbphilharmonie concert hall, but visitors can also check out a funky lightship restaurant, board one of the flotilla of boats that offer a fascinating harbour tour, or sunbathe and party at one of the impromptu summer beaches, such as Strand Pauli. But foodies and fish lovers in particular should take the 111 bus to the modern fish market at Kreuzfahrtterminal. The market is only open to professionals, but around it a host of seafood bistros have sprung up. BistrOcean is a buzzing, cheap-and-cheerful fishmongers that crams hungry diners round rough wooden tables and offers platters of smoked salmon, halibut and mackerel, soused herrings, grilled sea bass, pollack, plump scallops or monkfish. Dish of the day from about Dh40, Grosse Elbstrasse 139, 0049 40 391123, 6am-4pm, atlfisch.squarespace.com

Shop at Maison Suneve

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Although becoming slightly gentrified, the St Pauli neighbourhood of Karoviertel is one of Hamburg’s most laid-back, arty districts, especially Marktstrasse, which is lined with design boutiques, vintage fashion outlets, vinyl record stores, vegetarian diners and an irresistible cake shop, Gretchen’s Villa. The first shop on the street is Maison Suneve, showcasing the contrasting mix of minimalist black-and-white outfits and colourful graphic prints created respectively by local stylist Katharina Czemper and artist Mathieu Voirin. And customers can often get to talk to Katharina – she’s usually around the label’s atelier at the back of the boutique. Marktstrasse 1, open Mon-Sat 12-7pm, maison-suneve.com

John Brunton

John Brunton