Hamburg was the next and last destination on my 6-day romp in search of youth hotspots in Germany. It was the largest and possibly the most well known of the 3 destinations on my list; everybody who had explored Hamburg’s harbour and historical centre had loved it. But after falling for the less touristy neighbourhoods of Cologne and finding some surprisingly cool cafes and bars in Münster, I wanted to know what Hamburg had to offer off the beaten track (for want of a better cliché!)
My arrival in Hamburg coincided with an arts and music festival in the city’s notorious nightlife and red light district, the Reeperbahn. The Reeperbahn is famous for two main things; sex tourism and the Beatles (John Lennon is quoted as saying he was born in Liverpool but grew up in Hamburg.) The Beatles played over 230 gigs in Hamburg before hitting the big time and as part of the Reeperbahn Festival you could follow in their footsteps around the area with musician Stefanie Hempel, who sings as she guides.
But the St Pauli district, where the Reeperbahn resides, has more to offer than just entertainment for stag dos and music fans. This area appealed to the shopaholic side of me. The first place I stumbled upon just a few streets back from the Reeperbahn was the elegant showroom cum studio of Kathrin Musswessels. Musswessel’s designs are chic and unfussy, superb cuts in quality fabrics. The store combines her own pieces with vintage accessories and all come at very reasonable price points – 35 Euro for a vintage satchel, 69 Euro for a blouse.
Thanks to a tweet from a Hamburg local, there was something else to see on my list in this area too. I typed Schulterblatt into Google maps and made my way to Herr Max, a place the tweeter had described as ‘cake heaven’. I loved the Herr Max patisserie as soon as I walked in. With ceramic bowed tiles on the wall and ornate wooden chairs and tables hosting the china crockery, the shop looked as delicious as the cakes. On the counter was a range of homemade cakes – brownies, cheesecakes, vegan cupcakes – which you could see being prepared in the kitchen just behind. Herr Max also provides cakes for special occasions and you could see some of the impressive creations in the window. I treated myself to a Chai Latte (3.10 Euro for large) and squeezed onto one of the popular tables to work out my next move.
From prior research I has drawn a ring around Marktstrasse on my map, all my reading on vintage shopping had pointed to this street. From Herr Max on Schulterblatt it was only another 5 minutes walk away so I finished my drink and set off.
The first rabbit’s warren of vintage clothes I ended up lost in was The Vintage Gallery. Owner Dierk came over to introduce himself and his goods. “Everything is high quality vintage goods,” he explained, “items from 1920’s onwards. You will see we have labelled them with the dates they are from, where known. We stock everything from everyday labels to Chanel. If you like vintage sunglasses you must check out my collection.”
I do and I did.
Dierk also has a large collection of retro furniture he had driven all over Europe to source as well as many vintage shoes that are still unworn. The prices were reasonable considering the quality (I picked up bags ranging from 30 to 80 Euros depending on their age.)
Further down the road was Hot Dogs. If you are looking for original boxed sneakers from the 80’s then Hot Dogs is the place for you. The store also had a large collection of Adidas jackets and vintage leather bags, as well as another very helpful storeowner. I’d heard rumours of a Flea Market near Marktstrasse at the weekends and asked Noah the storeowner where I could find it.
“I’ll show you,” he said, leading me out the front of the store and pointing towards a bridge at the end of the road.
And so it was, that on my final day in Hamburg, with a few hours left before I had to catch my flight home, I was rummaging around Hamburg’s answer to a car boot sale. Flohschanze is an antiques fair and flea market where private sellers turn up with all sorts of treasures. Covering two plazas off Neuer Kamp and several more surrounding roads, the stalls literally had all sorts of items; dolls, clothes, glasses and globes. The atmosphere was friendly – serious antique dealers mixing with local bargain hunters and this inquisitive visitor from England. A busker did a bad rendition of the Beatles hits in one corner whilst a truck sold crepes in another – it was the perfect end to my time in this quirky neighbourhood.
On the train back to my hotel near central station we passed Landungsbrucken, the dock in St Pauli where harbour tours depart. Whilst regrettably I hadn’t seen much of this side of Hamburg I was happy with the hotspots I’d uncovered. And at least now I have a great excuse to go back and explore more.
For more information on any of the hotspots mentioned in this article (plus many more) visit germany.travel/youth. Thanks to the German National Tourism Board for inviting me to take part in this project and to Easyjet and Rail Europe for supporting it. My accommodation in Hamburg was at Motel One. Motel One have 4 sleek and basic hotels in convenient locations across Hamburg and rooms rates start from just 60 Euro per night.