With its lovely bridges and its rowdy nightlife, Hamburg is one of the most interesting and fun places I’ve visited in the last few months.
Hamburg has a lot of character and a lot of beauty. I need to be around water, so the gorgeous harbor really makes me feel at home. The rusty metal bridges and the brick warehouses makes the city look like an industrial version of Amsterdam. Farther inland, you’ll find a variety of different neighborhoods, so you can get a little crazy in St. Pauli or have a picnic at Lake Alster, and it feels like you’re in completely different cities. It’s quaint and clean, but also gritty and a little crazy. But not Berlin crazy, which is nice. I usually keep my nightlife mayhem to a minimum. There are some dodgy places, like the Hamburg bus station at 6 am, but for the most part it’s quite safe.
After almost two months of terrible Czech versions of food, being in Hamburg was like heaven. Having just arrived in the city, I went to a beer festival, and they had every kind of food you can imagine from Spanish to Indian to melted raclette on ciabatta bread (Yeah, food porn). On my second day, I had an intense sushi craving and to my delight, there were at least three Japanese restaurants nearby. And it was delicious. Outside of that, traditional German food is also amazing. I was born in communist Cuba, so I have a soft spot for any cuisine that emphasizes cabbage and potatoes; it reminds me of childhood.
The people of Hamburg are beautiful and friendly. They’re fun, but extremely respectful. The bars are full of people singing and dancing. The locals are generally helpful and inquisitive. So they’ll always offer to help in exchange for friendly conversation about your background. And if you find yourself at the bus station at 6 am, you might encounter some less-than-put-together folks, like a shirtless man with a full cup of beer sitting on the floor. But he’s not a threat. He just wants to drink his beer and have a cigarette. And when he asks a nearby college girl for one, she will give it to him. She’ll even sit down on the floor and help him light it, because that’s how people are.
Hamburg is nice and affordable. You can get a beer for 2 or 3 Euro and some bratwurst for about double that. You can get by on very little if you have to. And if you want to splurge, the city has spectacular restaurants. An apartment in city center is anywhere from 700-900 Euro, which is commensurate with salaries in the area. Overall, it’s not terribly expensive for such a great city.
Total Livability Score 8/10
I would love to live in Hamburg. And the great thing about the city is that if I fall on hard times, I can always take up residency on the streets of the Reeperbahn. You know what they say… if you’re good at something, never do it for free.