When I started traveling independently, I thought it was fun to have no plans whatsoever. I loved the romantic idea of an old car, a paper map and all the freedom in the world.
I quickly learned that traveling with no plans at all is often a stupid idea — especially in Europe during peak season. A spontaneous road trip through Southern France sounds great until you realize that showing up at a camp ground without a reservation in July is not the smartest idea.
Learning from these major travel fails, I developed into a “vacation dictator” (that’s what the boyfriend used to call me): I wanted to do and see everything in the shortest amount of time possible. I dragged my poor travel companions everywhere (and didn’t care about their blisters and exhaustion), and was annoyed when they actually considered a little park nap when we only had a few days to explore all of Paris!
I’ve eased up on my vacation dictatorship a lot lately, but I’ve also learned that being spontaneous often costs extra money. So I’m usually trying to find a balance in-between going with the flow and at least researching a few free sights or insider tips to save a little money.
But no matter how little I research in advance these days, there’s one thing I simply cannot leave to chance: Coffee!
The best coffee shops are almost never on the big shopping streets, and most likely you won’t find the world’s best coffee by just popping into a place that looks nice. Finding good coffee takes a lot of research and this kind of research that has become my favorite part of preparing for a trip nowadays.
And while it’s easy to just google a list of coffee shop recommendations for Europe’s coffee capitals like Paris, London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, or Berlin — finding good coffee in the second cities is sometimes a bit trickier. That’s why I decided to write a useful blog post for a change again (sometimes even I want to be a proper travel blogger), and share the results of my recent coffee research in Hamburg.
I know that Hamburg doesn’t get the amount of international visitors it deserves (yet), but with a newly declared UNESCO Site and an up and coming third wave coffee scene, Hamburg definitely belongs on your (coffee) travel radar for fabulous European cities that you just shouldn’t miss.
The following six coffee places are my favorites in Hamburg to have coffee at — because their coffee tastes great, but also because they come with something extra like a great neigborhood, a unique view, or a fabulous breakfast buffet:
the coffee shop
Located right next to the gorgeous iconic town hall and the famous river arcades, you still wouldn’t find the coffee shop if you didn’t know it was there. On the second floor of a shopping mall building, only small sign points up to the stairs — meaning although this spot is right in the center of everything, only very few people end up here by accident. But the ones who appreciate good coffee while sightseeing definitely should!
My favorite thing about this coffee shop: The great view over one of Hamburg’s famous canals from the second floor, the delicious bagels, and “oh, we don’t do large cappuccinos, we just do a second shot of espresso”.
This is also the kind of blink-and-you-will-walk-past-it kind of places, especially since it’s integrated into one of Hamburg’s most famed burger restaurants (so convenient!). I loved that Playground Coffee is so low-key and artsy though. With the university next door, everything felt very student-y — although the coffee was way better than anything I had had somewhere near a university thus far!
My favorite thing about this coffee shop: The outdoor patio right next to the university creates a great dynamic atmosphere. Also, totally not coffee-related, but they literally have the world’s cutest puppies hanging out there regularly (at least that’s what their geotag on Instagram implies!) and I nearly cried, because that one tiny pup was SO adorable.
heimat küche+bar at the 25hours Hotel HafenCity
Filter coffee doesn’t have the best reputation, but I still believe good filter coffee is the perfect breakfast companion and I can’t imagine starting my day without one, umm okay, three, mugs of cozy filter coffee. Considering how common filter coffee is in cafés and average households, it’s still surprising that finding a really good filter coffee is not always an easy task.
But Hamburg didn’t let me down: Several cafés in Hamburg use the beans roasted by the sustainable, fair trade, local roastery elbgold Kaffee. Their filter coffee tastes amazing and I was glad it was served at the insanely rich breakfast buffet at heimat küche. They even offer two kinds of filter coffee there: A mild one and an extra strong one — I don’t think you have to guess which one I chose.
My favorite thing about this coffee shop: This restaurant/bar in the harbor-themed 25hours hotel definitely is the most stylish place for a delicious, hour-long breakfast with a great view of Hamburg’s newest neighborhood, HafenCity. I only wish I could have eaten more! (FYI: This is also the only coffee place in this list that actually has reliable Wifi.)
This is not just your average coffee shop, but also a roastery and a historical sight all in one! I adore the Speicherstadt, the old warehouse district with its long Hanseatic history and the many beautiful bridges. (Did you know Hamburg has more bridges than Amsterdam and Venice combined?!)
Many of the old warehouses have become stylish media agency loft offices, which are just as impossible to access as the few storages that are still used for oriental rugs. But in the Speicherstadt Kaffeerösterei you can experience what an old harbor storage house looks like on the inside: The traditional red brick is super pretty and it smells SO good in there that I just wanted to bottle up that coffee smell and take it home with me.
My favorite thing about this coffee shop: It’s a sight and a coffee shop at the same time! Drinking coffee inside a building that was just declared part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site — it doesn’t get better than that, right? Moreover: Latte art on point and the best place to buy unique coffee-related souvenirs from Hamburg!
Public Coffee Roasters
This small coffee shop has been on my radar for over a year and I’m so glad I finally made it there, because it was the first place that popped up in my semi-professional Instagram-third-wave-coffee-scene-stalking. I was thrilled to find this place and I couldn’t wait to go try what many consider the best hand-roasted coffee in Hamburg. And I was definitely not disappointed! Succulets, retro hipster furniture, and witty third wave coffee scene merandise on point, Public Coffee is a tiny slice of a metroplolis-style work coffee shop in the middle of Germany (minus the Wifi, of course).
My favorite thing about this coffee shop: I’m a sucker for pure design and window seats. Public Coffee is also somewhat close to the Michel church tower, one of Hamburg’s major sights, so it’s a great place to relax and refuel after climing the tower.
Even though it’s pretty touristy by Hamburg’s standards, you never have to convince me to go to the Portuguese Quarter. Located right by the famous landing bridges, it’s right in the center of everything and it has so many cute restaurants and bakeries with all the delicious treats from Portugal, Spain, and Italy. I found Milch Feinkost on Instagram and knew that I definitely would make it there, because its location is so convenient. Little did I know that this coffee shop would also serve me one of the best flat whites I had in Hamburg!
My favorite thing about this coffee shop: It’s in the Portuguese Quarter! Do I need to say anything else? I also love that this place actually was a milk shop way back and the interior is a modern minimalist version of a milk shop memory in white and blue.
If the gorgeous city with its Hanseatic history, the giant harbor, the artsy hipster vibes, and the fresh seafood weren’t a good enough reason to add Hamburg to your list of top cities to visit in Germany, I hope this glimpse into Hamburg’s delicious coffee scene will do the trick. I’m considering to move to Hamburg now more than ever!
Has Hamburg been on your coffee (and travel) radar before?
PS: Thanks to Amanda for being a good sport and joining my coffee shop hunting without a single complaint. And thanks to the 25hours Hotel Hamburg HafenCity for inviting us to try their fabulous breakfast — as always, all opinions are 100% my own (you know that I take my coffee and breakfast very serious).
PPS: I haven’t tried less political and Stockholm Espresso Club yet, but they are definitely on the list for my next trip to Hamburg. Let me know if you have any further recommendations for me!