I recently hit the big three-oh. (Gasp!) Although – contrary to popular belief – my life didn’t drastically alter the second the clock ticked over into my thirtieth decade on this Earth, I admit that I’m already ruing the loss of the ability to state vaguely that I’m “twenty-something”.
To help me
commiserate celebrate this milestone birthday, a few friends and I headed to Germany’s second-largest city for a long weekend of eating, drinking, and touristing.
Much like Berlin, which I visited a couple of years ago, Hamburg is a very veggie-friendly city and I didn’t struggle to find decent vegetarian and vegan food.
From cafes to bars to restaurants, I thought I’d share my top finds.
Wandering around Altstadt (old town), an inner-city district of Hamburg, I stumbled upon Urban Foodie; a bright, modern cafe boasting a menu full of natural ingredients and dishes to suit all diets, from protein junkies, to calorie counters, to veg-lovers.
I went for the Moroccan soup, which – served in a jar, proving the trendiness of the cafe – was fresh, filling and delicious.
The prices were decent and the staff were super-friendly and very accommodating of my lack of German-language skills!
This Turkish restaurant in the centre of the trendy Sternschanze quarter of Hamburg (or just “Schanze” to those in the know) was perfect for cheap eats. With a menu laden with falafel, pide, vine leaves, and cheese pastries, it was super-easy to find a veggie-friendly meal.
I went for the falafel plate and salad. Our food came out in record time, so pretty sure everything was pre-cooked in bulk but it was tasty enough. Accompanied by the local beer Astra, this was a perfect start to our night on the town.
We popped back one afternoon for a coffee and some sweet treats. The coffee was pretty average but the amazing baklava made up for it!
Surfkitchen is one of the many restaurants in the recently developed Hafencity (harbour city). Surprisingly quiet for a weekend, the harbour-side cafes and bars were perfect for a sunny evening drink or boozy lunch. Naturally, we tried out both.
After enjoying a quiet glass of wine one evening, we popped back the next day for pizzas and beer. They had a decent vegetarian section on their relatively small menu and this huge pizza was a bargain at less than €8!
When in Hamburg, it’s pretty much the unwritten law to eat a hamburger. I complied.
Okay, so technically I had a vegan burger but I’m still counting it!
Cafe Piya was a little hole-in-the-wall cafe-bar also in the Schanze area. Though it didn’t look much from the outside, I was drawn-in by the mention of vegan meals on the chalkboard menu, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food.
After a midnight rendition of “Happy Birthday” by my friends, our waitress, and the table next to us, we headed out to explore more of Hamburg’s nightlife.
Open until 3am at weekends and serving food until “late”, Piya is the perfect place to line your stomach before a night out (birthday or otherwise).
hangover birthday lunch we headed back towards Shanze to a nearby neighbourhood that my friend lived in during her student days. Since that time, the area has undergone some serious gentrification and upgraded itself from student digs to the natural habitat of yuppies and yummy mummies.
Gloria was one of several trendy cafes in the area serving tasty brunches, lunches and light meals well into the late evening.
I have no shame in saying I got another burger. It was my birthday after all! Though not on the menu, the staff were nice enough to whip up a soya iced coffee for me as well.
Balzac is a coffee chain that you see in Hamburg as frequently as you see Costa or Nero in London. Though it may not be anything remarkable or unique, it’s worthy of a mention as it has a surprisingly good range of vegan-friendly food options on offer!
In the mood for something sweet and distinctly German, I went for the apfelkuchen (apple cake) with a soy latte. The coffee was pretty good and the apple cake was delicious!
For a quick lunch on our final day, we stopped at La Prego in the inner-city district of Hamburg-Neustadt (new town). Italian is usually pretty safe for vegos (if you avoid the Parmesan) but La Prego was particularly good with its large menu filled with veggie options.
All breaded out from the pizza-and-burger-fest of the previous few days, I opted for a “lighter” pasta dish with tonnes of veggies.
Being in the inner-city, it was slightly over-priced but decent food.
It’s not a holiday without ice-cream and I managed to find vegan gelato at an ice cream store in Schanze. Nom!
Pastries featured in our diet pretty much daily. At the end of the street our Airbnb was on, was a cute little cafe with cheap coffee and massive apple swirls. Worth all the calories.
And being a birthday weekend, there was of course wine, cocktails, beer… and more wine!
Hamburg is a beautiful city which mixes its maritime heritage with modern culture.
I loved exploring the newly-developed Hafencity district, with its seemingly endless maze of bridges and canals (apparently Hamburg has more canals than Venice and Amsterdam combined!) and beautiful old port warehouses.
Central Hamburg combines the Altstadt and Neustadt as its main shopping and business district, and is home to the imposing Hamburg Rathaus (town hall) as well as several of the city’s major streets and squares.
We stayed in the Eimsbüttel borough, a short U-Bahn (underground) ride north of the city centre. With its leafy parks, friendly independent cafes and beautiful suburban houses it was a very “liveable” area.
With its mix of history, culture, nightlife and – of course – great food, Hamburg was the perfect place for a birthday getaway.
And hey, so far this whole “thirty” thing ain’t so bad…