Hamburg Selfie with a perfect view
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Hamburg Selfie with a perfect view

You can climb 452 steps or sit with a cocktail in your hand; Hamburg has a variety of places to enjoy the city from up above… and snap a modern postcard with a view.

Hamburg looks great from above. Unfortunately, Hamburg’s highest restaurant closed over 15 years ago and we haven’t had the same views. In 2001, the Restaurant in the iconic television tower closed for good. The food may not have left an impression, but the views were unparalleled, especially with being located on a turning platform which gave diners a full 360° sky-high perspective of the city. While we can’t go back in time, here are some contemporary alternatives, some classics and some fresher choices.

This list must start with the observation deck in St. Michael’s (“The Michel”), sitting atop of the Harbour and the whole city, really. The platform on the tower is more than 100 metres up and gives you two dozen superb photos ops. If you want to do good or have something to prove, you take the stairs all the way up. But if you had a beer or a cigarette in the last 48 hours, the last of the 452 steps will hurt you – be warned! There is an elevator option on the first floor… which you can reach after just 52 steps.
Since the view is that great and The Michel is a true beauty, this is a tourist favourite. So, you will not be alone and you might just wait in line because the space in the tower is limited.

Although it’s recently opened (in 2017), the observation deck of the Elbphilharmonie is already a classic. Even, if you are not fortunate enough to get the (very rare or very pricey) tickets in one of the two fantastic concert halls, you may enjoy some great new vistas when taking the incredibly long escalator ride up to the “Plaza”. You can circle around the triangular outline (sorry… geometry is hard) of this triumphant building, just at the base of the glass construction. It is not as high as the Michel, but the views, especially of the Harbour, are still breath-taking… and it is very relaxing, no hassle. You can take your time, grab a drink and a snack and take a break… or a selfie. And if you did indeed score some tickets, you have hit the jackpot. Up on the small balconies or even through the windows, you can really get the best glimpses of the city and a grasp just how awesome this architecture is. A tip: Subscribe to the Newsletter of the NDR Ticket Shop and be one of the first to know when the new tickets are online. Good luck.

Another free and easy option is located a bit further down the Elbe. The famous steps of the Office Building Dockland invite you to a little climb that is well worth the effort. The Dockland is right at the riverfront, so you might have to challenge the seagulls for the best spots. Enjoy the afternoon sun, rest on the wooden steps and watch the ships roll in and out. The building has its own Ferryboat stop, so you can easily come here by boat. The Dockland is ideally located among some of the finest Restaurants in the city, so you may plan a whole afternoon or evening around this neighbourhood. Namely, the Fischereihafen Restaurant (which is arguably the best seafood place in Hamburg), the Rive Bistro or the Henssler & Henssler are excellent choices. But if you are on-the-go and just want to grab a quick bite, a short strip of the Große Elbstraße is filled with rather inexpensive but very good, small seafood joints.

One of the first sky bars in Hamburg – and perhaps still the best – is 20Up in the Empire Riverside Hotel, right in St. Pauli and conveniently located just atop the Harbour. Great views of the Port and the St. Pauli area through the all-window walls are guaranteed. The general atmosphere is elegant, drinks are consistently good and the staff knows what they are doing. There is a lot of the after-work crowd swinging by for 1-2 drinks.
A new acquisition in the sky bar department is CLOUDS; a bar (and a restaurant) atop the new high-rise at the start of the Reeperbahn, which has been dubbed the ‘dancing towers’ (tanzende Türme). The Restaurant is an upscale place with a focus on steaks and high prices while its neighbouring classic-style bar offers a good range of snacks and a fine wine selection. The view through the windows is great, but the real stunner is the ‘Heavens Nest’ rooftop terrace which is part of the bar. If the Hamburg weather permits, these are the best outside seats in town; the windows will guard you from the wind but allow you to hear the Reeperbahn buzz.

A fine alternative to all that Harbour & Elbe watching is the Campari Lounge, sitting atop the George Hotel and overseeing the beautiful Alster. This design hotel already has one of the best Bars in Hamburg, the Dacaio which is located right beside the lobby. But if you want some extraordinary vistas and a nice variety of bar food with those drinks, you should head right to the roof. Weather permitting, this place can be all you were looking for. The Alster view is much calmer and cool than the constantly moving Harbour. The music is nice and the lighting is enchanting (being a design Hotel and all). The crowd is young, relaxed and well-dressed. This is the ideal spot for an aperitif…. or two. But if the weather is good, it can get quite crowded, so a reservation is always a good idea.

Hadag Operating since 1888; all ferry traffic in Hamburg’s harbour, in and around the docks.
Elbphilharmonie Plaza Open daily, 9:00 – midnight. Book tickets online.