Music lovers need to add Hamburg to their hotlist of great music destinations around the world. The city has moved on a lot since the infamous days of The Beatles, and is now home to electro nights, jazz, indie – anything you like, any night of the week. There are also the festivals, the music bars and a thriving local music scene, all day every day.
Hamburg is creative – Hamburgers (the locals, love it) love a good rave. It’s long been a city known for it’s music – not in your face known like LA, London or Berlin, but bubbling along on the radar of the initiated. The new Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall, a 2,100-capacity venue, has given the city a new focal point for classical music and somewhere finely tuned and purpose built for musicians to play. And the locals I met are very proud of it – referring to it as ‘their Elbe’.
If, like me, you like to seek out the music scene anywhere you go, then here are a few suggestions for my fellow music lovers to enjoy in Hamburg.
7 Cool Things Music Lovers Must Do in Hamburg
1. Follow The Beatles
Ok, number one on the list. When in Hamburg you need to accept The Beatles in your life, even if you never have before. From 1960 to 62 the Beatles loved Hamburg, and the city loved them back. So much so you can find a statue dedicated to them at the start of the Reeperbahn, the Beatles Platz.
They gigged, they came here on holiday, and as John Lennon once famously said… (cue dulcet Liverpool accent in your head)
“I might have been born in Liverpool – but I grew up in Hamburg.”
You can join a Beatles tour with Stefanie Hempel, who’ll sing you round the city pointing out the hot spots. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to do this – next time!
2. Bar / Pub Crawl the Reeperbahn
Ohh, the Reeperbahn, a street full of sex shops, bars and clubs… the area isn’t particularly ‘desirable’ shall we say. But I went on a slow Sunday afternoon and I saw nothing untoward. Gutted.
The Reeperbahn is better known as the biggest Red Light District in Europe, yes, bigger than Amsterdam, but also as a great place to go for a night out. Well, if this pub crawl and party are anything to go by. If you’re travelling solo, or even if you’re not, pub crawl and party nights are a great way to explore a side of the city you might not ever see without the insider knowledge.
If you don’t fancy the pub crawl (yeah, I didn’t either) then there are option to go on a guided tour in the day too. There’s so much seedy music history in this one street, I’d definitely recommend going with a guide to learn more.
If you just fancy your own little boozey bar and club hop to soak up the atmosphere then Herzblut is a great spot for cocktails, Metallica apparently called Docks the best club in the world and Molotow is one of the best underground clubs in the city.
I used to be all about the clubs, but I think the last time I went ‘clubbing’ was over a year ago in Austin, Texas, so take a look at this post from Culture Trip for more on the best clubs around the Reeperbahn in Hamburg.
3. Go to a festival
There are so many festivals in Hamburg, so many. I’m just back from the super cool MS Dockville Festival (read all about it!) but there are loads more throughout the year to try out. You could try the Reeperbahn Festival, Hurricane Festival or Elbjazz. And a few years ago I went to Hamburg to go to the A Summer’s Tale Festival, watch the vid below. Sorry about the weird colour effect on the filming, don’t know what I was thinking.
A Summer’s Tale Festival video
4. Visit Hanseplatte at Schanzenviertel
This is no ordinary record shop, it specialises in records and other music forms from local artists, and only local artists.
There are many record shops around the Schanzenviertel. This area is where the real Hamburgers come out to play. The Rathaus and the Reeperbhan are more for the visitors, while the super cool Schanzenviertel is a chilled place to hang out and see what the Hamburgers get up to. The area has all the necessities for a super cool hangout with street art, innovative restaurants, bespoke breweries and cool spots to sit outside and smoke your hipster rollies.
There’s a slight competition in Germany, between Berlin and Hamburg, and Hanseplatte record shop supports Hamburgers in recording their music to keep the talent in the city.
5. Explore the Elbphilharmonie
It took 16 years to construct and a huge amount of planning and preparation (and £670 million – over ten x the estimate!), but the Elbhilharmonie finally exists. The glass and curves finally stand on top of one of the oldest, and some would’ve said ugliest, warehouses in the centre of Hamburg. The acoustics inside are apparently amazing, with each wall and ceiling designed especially to show off the artist’s music to the best it can be.
You can take have a guided tour around, or just buy a viewing ticket to go up there, or, if you time it right, buy a ticket to a performance and enjoy a look around in the price. Even entering the building was exciting, with a curved escalator and lights embedded in the ceiling. You can enjoy 360 degree views from the viewing platform, looking out over the entirety of Hamburg. Next time I go I’m getting a ticket to the roof. Looks awesome.
6. Go to Uebel und Gefaehrlich
‘Evil and dangerous’, if you’re wondering what that German means. Uebel und Gefaehrlich is a club created out of an old imposing overground bunker on Feldstrasse. For years it was an eyesore until the company came along and revitalised it into a ‘place to be seen’. Big name acts play here and the fourth floor
7. Hit the coffee shops and brunch stops
Any self-respecting music lover needs to know where the best brunch spots are for the next morning after a big night out. And in Hamburg you’ve got quite a choice. I went to Hatari the Corner, which is one of the most popular spots in the city for all meals. I was actually there for dinner and had a Mexican Healthy Bowl, which was a 10 out of 10 from me. I’d totally go back for breakfast, and would recommend you do too – the menu looks amazing.
Mexico bowl – red french wild rice with organic bbq pulled pork, chipotle-salsa, grained cheddar, marinated lettuce, tortilla chips, tomato avocado smash, red onions, kidney beans, sour cream
The Harbor Cake Shop on Markstrasse is another great option if you have more of a sweet tooth. We tried six cakes between the group of us, the tiramisu won for me, without a doubt.
Another infamous spot, which I haven’t tried, but thousands, if not millions, before me have, is Ericka’s Eck. It’s open from 6pm to 2pm, and is an absolute institution in Hamburg. Open all the important hours and serves huge portions – what more do you need to recover from a night in Hamburg?
Hamburg on Tour
I was in Hamburg as part of my role as a Hamburg Ambassador. I’ve actually been to the city before, two years ago when I went to the A Summer’s Tale Festival. Hamburg is a cool city, and one of the few European cities I could actually imagine living in. It’s more chilled than Berlin, prettier and of course, as the second biggest port city in Europe, it has that whole marine vibe going on, which I love so much I moved to Portsmouth in England for it.
If you fancy a trip over, but not just yet, Hamburg is actually coming to London (do you live near?) and I’ll be joining the team at a pop up event in Shoreditch, at the Boiler House on the 20th and 21st October.
From midday to 11pm, both days you can come down and listen to a few Hamburger bands, see a replica of the new Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall and enjoy some tasty food too. Learn more from the locals, from the people who’ve been, or just come along and have a real German beer in London.
Best of all, the pop up event is freeeee! To get in, not the drinks, this is real life guys.
What: Hamburg on Tour – they’re bringing Hamburg to YOU
When: 20th and 21st October, midday to 11pm
Where: Boiler House, Shoreditch
Why? To learn more about Hamburg, and to see meeeee!
Getting to Hamburg
More on Hamburg