by Emma Faith (find the original blog post on The Halcyon Years)
Growing up, Germany always had a special place in my heart. My Aunt, Uncle and cousin lived just outside Frankfurt and my best friend lived in Berlin for almost a year so I’ve been lucky enough to visit on a couple of occasions and always found it a really vibrant and friendly country. Over the course of the next two blog posts I’m going to tell you all about our recent trip to Hamburg which came about following an invitation to take part in the #CometoHamburg project! It’s always such an honour to be invited places on account of my blog, but to be asked to sample a whole city was truly amazing and I couldn’t reply fast enough stating that we’d love to take part.
With it being the height of wedding season, we opted for a mid-week break (as opposed to a weekend) so that Stu didn’t have to miss an extra game of cricket (the struggle is real people!!). It worked out really well, the flights were cheaper, (around £60 each way from Gatwick) and all of the attractions were open when we got there – something we forgot to research to our cost in Stockholm. The city centre was also relatively quiet which was amazing with an over excited toddler in tow as I imagine it could have been a completely different story on a Saturday.
Prior to our visit, I think my impression of Hamburg was one of industry, grey buildings and beer swilling men stumbling out of bars dressed in Lederhosen. I know a few friends who chose Hamburg for their stag weekend and because of that its never really featured high on my list of places to take a small family. However having now visited the city in person, I realise how much of a mistake that actually was!
Hamburg is beautiful, green, interesting and we didn’t cross paths with a single stag throughout our entire trip!! It’s one of the friendliest cities I’ve ever visited with countless passers-by stopping to help us with directions and total strangers giving Ettie a little smile or pat on the head as they’ve walked on by!! Whatever’s in the water at Hamburg I think we should have brought some home because we had the loveliest time and a huge amount of that is down to the people!!
We stayed at the Appartello Smartime Living Hotel, in the green district of the city known as Alsterdorf and we loved it! The rooms were apartment style with separate living room and kitchen area, together with a master bedroom and wrap around balcony which was perfect because it meant we could sit and have a chat in the evenings once Ettie had gone to bed.
Everything was really clean, modern and fresh, with lots of space to spread out and feel at home. There was even a gym and launderette on site which would have been useful had we been staying for longer than two nights.
Located only a few stops on the bus from the airport, the apartments were really easy to find and because of the amazing public transport system, we were never more than half an hour from any of the sights we wanted to see. It was also really nice to stay a little bit out of the city centre as we got a taste for what real Hamburg living would be like. The city is so green and there are rivers and waterways everywhere. It was lovely to see people paddle boarding or out on canoes as we passed by on the bus. I imagine it’s a really healthy place to live.
The hotel was also super family friendly, with big rooms, lots of space for the buggy, a play area in the restaurant and lovely little finishing touches like a smaller toilet seat and step for Ettie in the bathroom so she could brush her teeth. The staff were also amazingly friendly, with the lady on reception giving Ettie a little frog as a present when we checked in. She was so happy with it, she carried it around the whole of Hamburg calling it Froggy!!! We even had to rescue it from the middle of the road in the Warehouse District as she was so distraught she’d dropped it!
Getting around in Hamburg is super easy as their public transport system is second to none, Everything is timed to absolute perfection and the buses and U-Bahn trains times all link up. We were given a Hamburg Card which provided unlimited access to public transport throughout this city and this proved to be invaluable as we were hopping on buses and trains left right and centre. One thing I would recommend if you are planning a trip is to download one of the city’s transport apps as this will tell you exactly which bus or metro train you need to take in order to get to a destination, and it will save you hours of time trying to navigate your way around the U-Bahn map. We used Citymapper, but there were others available too.
Our first day was a bit overcast and we knew the weather was set to improve on days two and three, so we chose to take our time getting to know the city rather than heading for any particular attraction and this worked well. Our first stop was to try to find somewhere to eat so we hopped on the U-Bahn and headed for Landungsbrücken which is the harbour-side area of the city. This area has a 700m long floating dock with little fish restaurants and cafes lining the riverside walk along the side of the River Elbe. It’s also the area where most of the boat tours depart.
On arrival at Landungsbrücken we walked over St. Pauli Piers bridge which is covered in locks similar to those found on the love lock bridge in Paris. Apparently this is a Europe wide tradition where lovers place locks on bridges because the moisture from the water is believed to rust the locking mechanism, thereby meaning one’s love is ‘locked’ for eternity. Whatever the reason the locks looked very pretty glistening in the sunlight and Ettie had the time of her life dancing with the street performers who were playing music close by.
It was around 4pm by this point and we didn’t want to venture too far before getting food so we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe which had a rooftop terrace looking out over the River Elbe. Ettie had a little accident as we went up in the lift, jamming her finger in the door. It was so scary, but the staff couldn’t have been more friendly, scooping her up to take her behind the bar as a distraction and then giving her a huge plate of strawberries and cream to take her mind off things. We were all so shaky, but thanks to the staff she was back to her usual cheeky self in no time and we were ever so grateful.
We always love walking around a new destination taking in the sights, with no particular destination in mind. Just over the road from the Landungsbrücken building we found some really colourful street art which I thought would make a cool backdrop for some photographs. Ettie and I had a play around chasing the pigeons that were painted on the wall while Stu became our photographer (thanks Stu).
After our walk, there were still a couple of hours of daylight left so we hopped back on the U-Bahn and headed for Rathaus which is Hamburg’s magnificent City Hall. The architecture in that area is so impressive, we almost crooked our necks looking up the ornate stone statues. In front of the Rathaus there is a large empty market square where Ettie decided she wanted to throw poor Froggy up in the air and chase him. It was lovely watching her run around and have so much fun.
We were really surprised to see how much water there was everywhere and had a lovely time just walking around taking in the sights.
I love this photo of Ettie and Stu together, I really love the way she chuckles at him and thinks he’s really funny.
The Rathaus area is also Hamburg’s main shopping area, with lovely bars and restaurants lining the canals. Had we been looking for a nice place to eat and have a drink that evening, it’s definitely the area we would have headed to first as I imagine it would have looked incredible all lit up in the evening.
Just around the corner from the Rathaus is Binnenlaster Lake, one of two artificial lakes within the city centre. There was a huge water fountain spraying up from the centre of the lake which was mesmerizing to watch and lots of people were gathered round, probably just having a bit of a chill after a long day at work. We both thought it would be a really cool area to watch the sun go down and so made a promise to return the next day when the weather was set to improve.
All in all we loved our first day in Hamburg. City breaks are by far our favourite type of holiday as we love walking around taking in new cultures, although it’s always pretty daunting arriving at a new destination, especially with a toddler in tow. The people of Hamburg made us feel really comfortable and welcome and we couldn’t wait to get home to have a good nights sleep so we could continue exploring the next day.
As promised the weather did improve the next day and we woke up to bright blue skies, fresh and revived. We covered so much ground in Day two (my favourite day), that I thought it better to split this blog post into two parts. The second part of our Trip to Hamburg will be published later this week and I cant wait to share it with you.
NB: ‘Come to Hamburg’ very kindly invited us to Hamburg, providing us with Hamburg Cards to cover the cost of public transport and complimentary accommodation. All flights and other expenses were paid for by us.