EXPLORE WITH ME | HAMBURG, MY HOMETOWN

Hamburg, oh Hamburg… you have my heart.

Just about 2 weeks ago I went on a 5ish day trip to Hamburg, Germany and I liked it so much that I did not want to leave!

This trip has a little backstory! For those of you who do not know, I was born in Hamburg, Germany and lived there until I was 5 years old. After that, my family moved to the Michigan and 4 years ago we moved to Stuttgart! Throughout 17 years since we moved away from Hamburg we have been there sporadically to visit our dear former neighbor, Mosi. But I was still far too young or the trip was far too quick for me to get an impression of the city from where I come from. Since we have been back in Germany Mosi always said I was welcome to come visit, but I never found the right time… until now! In early September I texted her and asked her how the month looked for her and within a few hours, my train tickets were booked!

Today, I wanted to relive my trip with you, so let’s go!

If you just want to see all of my raw, unedited photos, check out this album!

Wednesday, September 27th – DAY ONE!

Travel

When my alarm went off at 5 a.m., I was less than enthusiastic to get up, but I had a 5.5-hour train ride ahead of me, so it was really important to me to get in a quick HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout 💪🏼 Afterwards, I showered, got ready, ate breakfast, and finished packing! I was out the door by 8:15 with a backpack and suitcase in tow. Off I go to catch the bus to the local train station. From there I took the subway to Stuttgart’s main train station and then got onto the high-speed ICE (intercity express) train to Hamburg, Germany!

I arrived in Hamburg at about 2:30 and Mosi was already on the platform waiting for me! Our first step was the visitors center in Hamburg’s main train station to get a public transportation ticket for the next couple of days. Hamburg has what is called the “Hamburg Card” which allows you to use all public transport in Hamburg’s network (which is huge). It is geared toward tourists as it also gives you several discounts on local museums, sight-seeing tours, among several other things. 10/10 recommend picking up on of those tickets for your own Hamburg trip!

We spent the rest of the day taking it easy. We went and got a bite to eat, went grocery shopping and spent the evening planning what all we wanted to do in the next couple of days. Prior to the trip, I did spend quite a bit of time on Pinterest getting inspiration of what I wanted to see on my visit. But, I totally relied on Mosi to show me everything that she found necessary. When I was little she would take me along to visit her mom, run errands, or I just spent a ton of time in her apartment! She knew everything that I did back then, thus she knew what places we needed to visit.

After a long day of travel, I was zonked but excited for the coming adventures! It was time to catch some shut-eye! 😴

Thursday, September 28th – DAY TWO!
Elbphilharmonie
Elbphilharmonie

At 8:30 I heard Mosi starting a pot of coffee in the kitchen and peeled myself out of the cozy covers and joined her in the kitchen. She was already preparing the breakfast spread – jam, lox, crabs (can you tell I was visiting a port city), meat, cheese, and toast. We had a long day ahead of us and had a lovely hearty breakfast, got ready for the day and out the door we were!

On today’s agenda: Speicherstadt, Elbphilharmonie, Miniature Wunderland.

The Speicherstadt is the world’s largest and historic warehouse district. It is a series of brick buildings situated at the side of several canals that served as transportation for goods until the container was introduced in the 1950’s. Nowadays, the Speicherstadt is UNESCO World Heritage, home to offices, hotels, shops, museums among other things!

Our first stop was the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg’s most controversial construction site in the past several years. Construction finally came to an end earlier this year. The result? An incredible piece of architecture formed to look like waves or a hoisted sail. A perfect fit for Hamburg as it is a vital waterway and port city! Visitors do not have to pay anything to go to the viewing platform and see the foyer. But for the concert halls itself, well good luck getting tickets 😂

After that, we spent the morning wandering through all of the buildings until we made it to the Wasserschloss, a favorite photo motif! First, we had a delicious lunch with a great pot of fruit tea in the Wasserschloss and afterward, it was time to get the shot that I had been dreaming of!

From there we walked back to one of Germany’s most famous sights, the Miniatur Wunderland, translated “miniature wonderland”. And it is exactly that. It is home to the worlds longest model train railway and is built within the buildings of the Speicherstadt. It is such an impressive place to visit. The people behind it do not skip a single detail. Whether it’s being able to push a button to watch little German men raised their beer steins or finding the couple having sex in the middle of a sunflower field… it is all there in the tiniest form possible! Landscapes of several countries have been interpreted in miniature form, they have created their own imaginary country, have a model airport, and also a few historical elements.

After walking through the Miniatur Wunderland for a few hours, we faced the 55ish degree, cloudy weather covering Hamburg and walked through several streets before hopping back onto the bus to head home to spend the evening chatting, eating, and laughing.

Friday, September 29th – DAY THREE!
Dockland
Dockland

Hamburg is known for not having the best weather. Rain and clouds are common and I came entirely prepared for cooler, fall, wet weather. But, we were checking the weather app frequently and praying for the weather to hold up. The forecast for Friday called for sun, but it was not until I woke up to spots of blue sky poking through that I believed I would actually have a sunny day in Hamburg! We had another hearty breakfast, got ready and headed to the Landungsbrücken, translated “landing bridges”, of the Hamburg harbor.

The first sight of the day was the Old Elbe Tunnel. The main waterway through Hamburg is the Elbe River. There is a tunnel that connects one side of Hamburg to the other that runs underneath the river! Nowadays there is a “new” tunnel where you only notice that you are driving under the river if you read the signs. This is the tunnel we take when we drive to Sylt! But, the old tunnel is still in use. It is special because drivers, bikers, and pedestrians take an elevator down, go through the tunnel and on the other end get in an elevator to go back up. The tunnel is beautifully tiled and seemingly endless.

We took the steps down and found ourselves in a perfectly tiled, seemingly endless tunnel. We walked a bit and turned back around as we did not have plans for the other side of the Elbe River, and took the elevator back to daylight. ☀️

Being that Hamburg is a very water-rich city, they actually have a ferry system built into their public transportation system! How cool is that?! We hopped on one of the ferries and it was almost like a tour of the entire harbor as we floated (at a pretty dang good speed) past the famous Hamburg Fish Market, Dockland, modern ship loading ports and more. We got off at Övelgönne, which is a harbor for museum ships! Here you can either look at the dock or board some of the ships and explore them on your own. We went on the Stettin, an icebreaker that was built in 1933 and calls the museum port home!

After exploring the ship, we found a restaurant serving Apple Strudel and couldn’t resist. Mosi and I both LOVE to eat! We ended up walking back a good part of the route that we had taken with the ferry earlier, all the way to the Dockland. The Dockland is “just” an office building. Architecturally though, it is built to look and feel like a ship. You can take the stairs up all the way to the rooftop, which I did, in order to get one heck of a great view of Hamburg. Dockland is also one of the ferries stops, so we hopped back on it to get back to the Landungsbrücken before heading into the Portuguese Quarter of Hamburg for a late lunch of grilled fish.

After a very tasty late lunch, we were off to the Krameramtstuben and the St. Michaelis Church. The Krameramtstuben are among the oldest residential homes in Hamburg. Back in the day, a guild for grocers built these apartments for the widows of deceased grocers as an incentive for them to leave the shops in order to welcome new members into the guild. Now, they are home to tourist shops and restaurants. One apartment remains in original condition though and serves as a museum. It was eye-opening to see how little it was and having to imagine those little old women living there many years ago.

The St. Michaelis Church is one of 5 churches who’s steeple marks the sky of Hamburg. It is the most famous of the churches and is most definitely a landmark to visit. Not only is the inside of the church beautiful, but the view from the top of the tower was incredible! And since the weather was so good, it was perfectly clear! For a peek at its distastefull thanksgiving decor, though, take a peek at my photos!

After leaving the church, it was time to get back onto the bus and zip through the streets of Hamburg and head back home. It was the most beautiful day that I could have asked for!

Saturday, September 30th – DAY FOUR!
Farmer's Market
Farmer’s Market

I woke up to the pitter patter of rain and was bummed that the lovely weather disappeared so quickly. But like my mom says, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!” We had another wonderful breakfast and quickly got ready because it was time to go grocery shopping! And on a Saturday, that means heading to the grocery store AND the farmers market!

My first order of business: find the juice bar! Trips and abnormalities often cause my body to feel run down. Knowing this, I made it a priority to dress for the weather every day and get enough sleep. But, a fresh pressed juice surely wasn’t a bad idea. I walked into Mad About Juice and quickly set my eyes on “lemon boost”, a juice made of lemon, mint, spinach, and apples. It was SO good and definitely gave my body the boost it needed. Off to the grocery store!

After getting the few groceries we needed, it was off to the farmers market! Fresh veggies, fresh fruit, fresh fish, fresh flowers – you name it, it was there. It was the most beautiful farmers market I have been too and it was so fun meandering through!

We made a quick pit stop at home to stow away the groceries. The forecast called for rain, so we dressed appropriately and headed back out!

The first stop was the Chilehaus, a building built in the 1960’s to replicate a ship. It is an impressive piece of architecture and certainly does have many ship like aspects to it! Sadly, it started raining on us as we stood admiring it. At the same time, we both agreed it was time to find somewhere to eat. Just around the corner, we found an Asian restaurant! There were almost only Asians eating there, so we figured the food must be authentic and gave it a shot. The food was AMAZING! So good that I totally overate, but I loved every single bite. Now we were ready to continue to the town hall and the Alster!

The Hamburg Rathaus (town hall) is a majestic piece of architecture situated near the Alster. Its construction was completed in the late 1800’s after the original town hall burnt down in the 1840’s. Sadly there were no tours being offered, so we could only go into the main foyer. But I presume that that was only a snippet of the beauty contained in this amazing building!

We wandered the streets of Hamburg and in and out of shops for a while. As the second largest city in Hamburg, it is also home to all of the stores a girl could want. Chanel, Lululemon, Apple, Calvin Klein, just to name a few. We went into several stores, but I did not buy a thing (even though I totally wanted too)! Being a frugal college student is beneficial sometimes!

From our window shopping, we walked to the Jungfernstieg, which is a docking spot for several tours of the Alster. The Alster is a tributary of the Elbe and runs through the midst of Hamburg, which I love! There were so many people rowing, sailing, paddle boarding or boating even on a cool cloudy day! But this also gives this hustling city such a lovely vibe. Something very important to me is living in a place near water and nature. Hamburg definitely fulfills that all while having everything such a large city has to offer!

We took one of the Alster ferries to the dock closest to home and from there we decided to go sit in a cafe. We ended up at Kafaya’s, a cafe we visited in May when we stopped in Hamburg to meet Mosi for breakfast. It is the cutest little corner cafe! It is so cozy and certainly serves all of the food and sweet treats that my heart loves. I don’t think any Hamburg trip will be complete until I stop by there! 😋

And from there, we headed home for the night and spent the evening watching movies and chatting!

Sunday, October 1st – DAY FIVE!

Cake

My last full day in Hamburg… it was cloudy as I woke up, but cleared up into the most beautiful day! Mosi’s sister came over for brunch and then we took a nice walk in Hamburg’s beautiful city park. There were people running, biking, playing soccer, walking their dogs and even playing QUIDDITCH!

We took a loop around the playground that I used to frequent and on our way home we stopped for coffee and cake. After bidding Mosi’s sister farewell, we went home and spent the afternoon quietly enjoying some rest. In the evening Mosi cooked us up fish and potatoes and then we had a great fruit salad. Balance people 😉We spent our last evening together watching cheesy TV romance movies and Germany’s Ninja Warrior until well past midnight. It was great.

Monday, October 2nd – DAY SIX!

Rain

For my final morning in Hamburg, the weather expressed exactly how I was feeling. It was raining cats and dogs. My train left at 11:30 so we had plenty of time for one last breakfast together. Before I could even get on the bus to the train station, an important stop had to be made. My dad would be SO sad if I did not bring him home fresh Franzbrötchen. These are a sweet pastry, sort of like a croissant, made with butter and cinnamon. They are delicious and 4 just had to make the trip home with me.

Off onto the bus to the main train station we go. The train came, Mosi and I bid each other farewell, but have a big to-do list made for my next visit, already. The ride home was easy and relaxing. I had gotten a sandwich at the bakery and also had to eat one of the Franzbrötchen along the way.

Upon arriving in Stuttgart I ran to make the regional train. My mom was waiting for me when I got to our town so I did not have to walk home in the rain. Right after getting into the car I told her that I would lie to my dad when I got home and tell him that I ended up not having the Franzbrötchen anymore, knowing that would devastate him. And it did… I told him I gave them away to hungry travelers on the train and he was sad and I think he actually believed me… until I pulled them out of my backpack. That was my last chance to even grab a bit because by the next day they were gone! 😅

My trip to Hamburg was unforgettable. It was so lovely getting to know the city that I am from better. Especially with Mosi since she toted me around as a child and knew exactly where my little feet had walked before. I so look forward to my next trip there, whenever it will be. For now, I will continue to peruse my photos, that I have put in an album for you all to see here and continue to dream about this magical place. All of the photos are raw and unedited! And for my favorite snapshots, be sure to follow my personal Instagram and for all things life-related, follow my “blog” Instagram!

Hamburg, you have my heart! I hope you enjoyed taking this trip with me! ❤️

With love,

Lena Marie 💕

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