"The Bars, The Bars..." Hamburg by johngayton

Hamburg Travel Guide: 1,502 reviews and 3,522 photos

A couple of years ago I'd intended to visit Hamburg by first crossing The Netherlands as far as Hengelo by train and then taking the trains further across Germany. That trip went a bit awry as first I was redirected to Maastricht (following a bar conversation) and then onto Aachen, Cologne and Berlin (all as a result of ensuing bar conversations).

This time round I hadn't intended going to Hamburg but was in Copenhagen with my final destination as Brussels. I had a week or so between the two and nothing planned and guess what happened? Yep I was in a bar in Copenhagen and a friend mentioned a very cheap Eurolines bus to Hamburg - 94 DKK including the ferry crossing.

OK That was Hamburg decided on. As I was arriving by bus and intended leaving by train I opted for a hotel close to the Hbf (where the bus station also is) and despite the fact that the hotel I picked was fairly unanimously slated by reviews on booking.com the price was right and me I'm not one to worry too much about the "seedy" location - HA! I like "seedy" ;-)

I'm usually not a big fan of bus journeys but this one I enjoyed. There were only four of us on the bus which meant we had plenty of space and with the five and a half hour journey being broken by the ferry crossing from Rodby to Puttgarden meant that we had a chance to stretch our legs about half-way - in my case read "have a beer and a fag break".

We arrived on time in Hamburg and I soon found my hotel which turned out to be fine and immediately opposite the main railway station which was ideal for my purposes.

It Was All The Railway Station's Fault!

Yep it was the railway station that started it. I needed to get some cash, a postcard and stamp and a quick bite to eat and the Hbf was ideal for all three. Then I discovered the Zapfbahn bar, complete with ashtrays. Asking for a beer the cheery barman drew my attention to the "special offer" of 50 cl of draught beer plus a schnapps for only 4.90 Euro - well who am I to resist such a bargain?

I've now taken a pretty much instant liking to this city.

Then it was bars, bars and more bars. My hotel was surrounded by them - some scummy (the best ones) and others quite plush (also good). My first night included a trip out to the St Pauli district, a short ride on the excellent U-bahn, where the Reeperbahn proved a pale imitation of Amsterdam's red light district but the bars were lively and friendly.

I got the U-bahn back to my hotel not long after midnight but got a bit diverted by the local bars and so didn't actually get back to my hotel until it was breakfast time and so breakfast became a very late supper and I spent most of the day in bed - then it was beer time again.

Being A Bit More Sensible

Night 2 was more relaxed - a few beers in what became my favourite pub, complete with guy handcuffed at the bar and being whipped by the barmaid. But an early-ish night enjoyed and so to the city's streets the following day.

This is my sort of city. It has a solidity which impresses rather than intimidates and for a modern city is surprisingly low-rise. The streets are wide and clean and a pleasure to randomly wander whilst the canals, rivers, lakes and green spaces magically appear unexpectedly. The neo-classical town hall is arguably the most ornate building in the city but despite its elegant facade it comes across as a working seat of local government rather than simply a tourist attraction.

Unfortunately I only had one full day for touristy stuff and spent half of that in the magnificent Maritimes Museum whose nine floors of nauticality really should have been a two day visit. But just walking the streets, and of course cruising the bars, left me with the feeling that this is a city that is confident with itself and that confidence exudes in the friendliness of everyone I met - even the guy that was handcuffed in Marina's Chaplin's bar.

Definitely a place on my list for a revisit (the city that is and maybe Marina's pub too).

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Very Friendly Bars
  • Cons:Bars TOO Friendly
  • In a nutshell:More Than Just Bars Tho'!
  • Last visit to Hamburg: Jan 2012
  • Intro Updated Jan 23, 2012
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