Now I know May is a strange time to blog about Christmas, however, it's the ideal time of year to start thinking about and booking your weekend Christmas break so I thought I would share my one and only abroad Christmas market experience.
Having fallen in love with the German Christmas market whilst living in Leeds for Uni and following this on with the likes of Winter Wonderland and the South Bank Christmas offerings in London my sister and I decided it was time to experience a REAL German Christmas market and chose Hamburg as our destination of choice. We flew from London Gatwick to Hamburg direct with Easyjet and then took the train from the airport into the center. Our hotel of choice was Hamburg Centrum, which is less than a five mins walk from the main train station.
The hotel is spotless and the staff friendly and helpful. Our twin economy room was teeny tiny but with comfy beds and a clean en suite shower room so we were happy. We went on a room only basis so I cannot comment on food or drink but the price of accommodation was reasonable and the central location meant everything was walking distance. One very cold afternoon the hotel even warmed up the sauna for us so we could have a free private session sweating it out and basking in the warmth. All in all this was a good little 4* hotel and I would recommend it for those that simply need a base in the city and plan to be out and about exploring.
Our three short days and two nights in Hamburg were mainly spent visiting all of the markets on offer. The markets begin at the end of November so take this into consideration when deciding on dates for your trip. There are also several throughout the city and they are all a little different from one another so it's nice to have a few days to explore and try them all. They are open from early in the morning to grab a waffle or kinder crepe breakfast fix but continue well into the evening, which is the ideal time to visit these lit up, magical places.
The main market is in front of the town hall, make sure you have a little nip into the hall as well as it's beautiful. It is distinguished from the others by a giant Christmas tree and is the biggest market in the city. All types of food and drinks are available here as well as stall after stall of amazing Christmas decorations and other German delights for sale. Santa even rides over head on a sleigh in the evening, which is insanely magical and amazing watching the kids faces light up! Food and drink is reasonable here, which makes your stay much cheaper than if you were dining each night in restaurants. Plus there is something very festive about eating a hot dog with onions in a baguette washed down with a Bailey's hot chocolate in the cold, under the stars and surrounded by fairy lights.
Whilst in Hamburg we did take advantage of some of the culture on offer. We took a little boat tour around the port, which was interesting and the warehouses here are quite attractive in their own right. It's the second largest port in Europe with loads going on, plus there is a cheeky Hard Rock Cafe here! Take a little wander as well through the engineering marvel of Alter Elbtunnel, it was something different for us to do and we weirdly enjoyed this short, free activity. Make sure you also take a trip to the Reeperbahn with it's bars, clubs and restaurants. This place comes alive at night and shouldn't be missed. There is also a quirky more adult themed Christmas market here. Have a quick peek down Davidstrasse for a little eye opener into the legal street prostitution, although women aren't really allowed in! Whilst in this area make sure you queue up for a couple of cocktails at the busy and popular bar 20 UP at the Empire Riverside Hotel, which has smart dress and insane views over the city.
Shock horror, I am not a massive Beatles fan, however, when in Hamburg it seemed rude not to take the tour and learn more about this famous band. We used the company http://www.beatles-tour.com/ who offer experiences in English and German. The guides were great and very helpful. We learnt a lot about the Beatles rise to fame but also a little about Hamburg and what it's like to live in the city. The tours are small groups and take just under 1.5 hours. They are walking trips and you will see all of the major Beatles sites such as where they lived and the clubs they first played in.
Hamburg is a beautiful little city and an ideal place to get stuck into Christmas market heaven. This trip will definitely put you in the festive mood but make sure you wrap up warm as temperatures are very, very cold. Flights, accommodation, food and drink are not too expensive and we rarely needed cabs or transport as most things were walking distance so you can enjoy a weekend without breaking the bank account. This would be an ideal little couples or girls weekend but also would be an amazing stag do destination due to the night life on offer. There is something for everyone in Hamburg and it's well worth a little exploration trip.