As Germany’s second largest city, there’s no shortage of ways to get to and from Hamburg – whether from within Deutschland, across Europe or further afield. The city has an international airport in Fuhlsbüttel, four railway stations (Hauptbahnhof or Central Station, Dammtor, Altona and Harburg), a long-distance ZOB coach station and, as Germany’s most famous port, a cruise terminal too. Hamburg is connected to the rest of Germany by autobahn making travel to the city super speedy. In fact, if you were to drive the 147 mile A24 section to Berlin at the ‘recommended speed limit’, you could make it in only an hour and ten minutes!
Getting out and about in Hamburg is both fun and easy. The city has a cheap and effective public transport network (HVV) made up of four U-Bahn underground train lines; six S-Bahn suburban lines; nine regional rail services; metro, express, sprinter and regional buses; and six ferry lines which serve the harbour and the River Elbe. You can buy single, daily and weekly tickets which cover a combination of bus, train and ferry rides – day passes are cheaper to buy after 9am. But if you’re on a tight budget, try walking or cycling. Hamburg is a very bike-friendly city, with wide avenues, parks and bicycle lanes aplenty. With StadtRAD Hamburg you can hire one from any of the 120 service points around the city… and the best news is that the first 30 minutes are free of charge! After that, your ride will cost a very reasonable €0.08 per minute or €12 per day. To sign up, you simply need a debit, credit or HVV customer card.
Food and drink
You can’t say you’ve truly lived in Hamburg until you’ve tried a fischbrötchen – the city’s traditional herring and gherkin sandwich, best enjoyed overlooking the North Sea for extra ambience. BistrOcean is a great option for fish, with platters of smoked salmon, mackerel, halibut and more on the menu.
The city has plenty of cheap eats options for all tastes – from €2.20 currywursts at Mö-Grill in Jungfernsteig, widely regarded as the best in town, to gyros and bratwurst washed down with Lowenbrau in the area surrounding Hauptbahnhof… or simply a sugar-glazed pastry snack – a franzbrötchen – from one of Hamburg’s many bakeries.
The area backing onto the Reeperbahn in St. Pauli is always fun to frequent, with memorable nights you might live to forget, downing €2 rum shots at dive bars like Old Sailor and Jolly Roger. Or if it’s craft beer you’re into, try the Ratsherrn brewhouse which has half a dozen ales on tap and a tasty comfort food menu for both vegetarians and carnivores alike.
Where to shop
Hamburg has something for everyone when it comes to shopping. If it’s traditional large department stores and fashion boutiques you’re after, you can’t go past the Mönkebergstrasse in Altstadt… but if you like more quirky browsing, there’s plenty to keep you interested. Try the St. Pauli flea market on a Saturday morning near the old cattle slaughterhouse for clothes, antiques, books, musical instruments and chic retro furniture. Or a midweek market on Wednesdays at Bahrenfelder Trabrennbahn for a whole assortment of knick-knacks, trinkets and treasure.
To get up to speed quickly on the Hamburg music scene, visit the record store Hanseplatte which specialises in Hamburg-based musicians and bands and also sells all kinds of Hamburg-themed memorabilia. Michelle Records is another vinyl institution, with a special section for Hamburg record labels, and it often hosts gigs by visiting bands in its shop window.
If second-hand fashion is your thing, make your way to Hip Cats in St. Pauli for styles from every decade for both men and women, along with matching accessories. And who said fruit and vegetable shopping had to be boring? At St. Pauli’s weekly Night Market in the heart of the Reeperbahn on Spielbudenplatz you can buy meat and fresh veg from 4pm until 11pm, with much-needed strategic breaks for beer and live music.
While not quite as cheap to live in as Berlin, Hamburg still represents good value for students compared with many other European cities. Accommodation will be your most expensive outlay and could range from €250-800 per month depending on type and location. Living expenses, including utilities, food, clothing, public transport and entertainment, could set you back anywhere between an additional €300 to €500 per month depending on your tastes. A great way to save money is by cooking at home, as a restaurant dinner for two can cost between €30 to €60 a pop. Student discounts on sights, accommodation, food, travel and transportation are available with an International Student Identity Card (ISIC); perfect for helping to stretch your budget as far as possible.