A night out in Hamburg: Schanzenviertel, Reeperbahn and Fischmarkt

After our great visit to most of the sights of Hamburg during the day, we caught a quick nap to get ready for a night out on the town. Hamburg is a late night party city – dinner at 10pm and out to the bars around midnight seemed the norm. And drinking and partying continued on until well after sunrise the following morning. Of course, finding the party at the various points in time meant knowing a bit of where to be and when, and we had some great advice from a local to help us out on that front. We hit three main areas through the night – Schanzenviertel, Reeperbahn and the Fischmarkt – and couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.

A cheese shop in the Schanzenviertel neighborhood

A cheese shop in the Schanzenviertel neighborhood

First up was dinner in Schanzenviertel. We noticed during the day that this neighborhood was way more casual and easy-going than the Reeperbahn. There were dozens of restaurants and pubs to choose from in the couple blocks surrounding the train station. Good looking food and reasonable prices abounded. We found a nice Greek place and settled in for dinner and drinks.

After dinner we wandered about Schanzenviertel a bit more. The dessert places we were looking at were closed by midnight but pretty much all the bars were still open and hopping. We visited a couple of those and slowly made out way down the main street connecting Schanzenviertel to the Reeperbahn, where the fun continued.

The Reeperbahn is best known as the red-light district in Hamburg, and that is certainly a very visible part of the nightlife in the neighborhood. They have strip clubs, a street with the women in the windows and a secondary crew of prostitutes that work right around that street. Having just heard this afternoon of another friend in Amsterdam being confused by which women were prostitutes and which were not, I felt that it might be useful to share some observations from our time in the Reeperbahn. From what we could see the prostitutes who were not in the windows all had fanny packs. And generally they weren’t dressed particularly provocatively, but the fanny packs were a dead giveaway. Once I noticed that I couldn’t stop laughing at it every time I saw one of them walking by.

There is also a very vibrant “normal” bar scene in the Reeperbahn. That’s where we spent the next few hours of the night (really the early morning) following dinner. Most of the bars have music and dancing – a significant change from the NYC scene – and we were out partying until after 4am. Drinks weren’t horrendously expensive, but I think that comes from my familiarity with the NYC bar scene where drinks are ridiculously expensive to begin with. Still, at €2-4 for a beer or glass of wine, things weren’t too terrible.

The key to a Saturday night in Hamburg, however, is not limited to dinner in Schanzenviertel or to the nightlife in the Reeperbahn. The key is a visit to the Fischmarkt at the end of the night.

Inside the Fischmarkt building - live music and a buffet breakfastThe Fischmarkt has been operating on the banks of the Elbe and the Hamburg port for over 300 years and it is a landmark in many regards. The party starts up at around 4:30am in the summer (7am in the winter) with merchants, meals and – if necessary – more alcohol available. The “official” Fischmarkt building is no longer used as a market or a warehouse; it is now used as a banquet hall. They have live music, a dance area and many tables set up inside. There are balconies around the outside of the room providing space for a couple full-service restaurants, in addition to a couple coffee-shop places on the ground floor.

They actually sell fish in the Fischmarkt, too.
Early morning breakfast in the Fischmarkt They actually sell fish in the Fischmarkt, too.

Outside the market building there are more good times to be found around. Dozens of merchants set up shop on the waterfront, selling everything from food to tchotckes to drinks to a few merchants that are actually selling fish in the fish market.

In addition to the shopping and the flow of crowds from the bars to the Fischmarkt, there is also the fact that you get to watch the sunrise over the harbor at 5:30am. It is truly phenomenal.

Sunrise on the Elbe and Hamburg harbor
Sunrise on the Elbe and Hamburg harbor
The S-bahn station at Hamburg airport
The S-bahn station at Hamburg airport

Finally, the clock was ticking onwards and it was time to head back to the hotel, collect my bags and travel buddy (he skipped the Fischmarkt and sunrise) and head out to the airport for the flight home (and bedtime).

Sure, the commute is a bit longer than I’d normally otherwise endure for a night on the town, but the overall experience and getting to see the beauty of Hamburg, both during the day and at night, made the Trip completely worthwhile.

And all the miles I collected didn’t hurt either.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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