1. Where to Stay
Chicago architect Jordan Moser designed the full-on visual assault that is East (from 150 euros). The high-heeled locals and the visiting jet set congregate in the rollicking, multistoried lobby, where you can choose from 250 drinks.
Bed down at the Park Hyatt (from 250 euros), a brilliant conversion of a handsome fin de siècle warehouse in the city centre where you will be happily subjected to discreet service and access to the city’s best wellness facility, Club Olympus Spa & Fitness.
The lakeside Raffles Vier Jahreszeiten (from 220 euros) has nineteenth-century elegance and an obsequious Swiss-trained staff to go with its four restaurants and reputation as the country’s best hotel. Eat at Haerlin, which has one Michelin star.
By contrast, it’s all willfully 21st century at the nearby Matteo Thun–designed SIDE (from 215 euros), where an eight-story asymmetrical atrium sheathed in frosted glass and backlit with azure neon tubes lurks behind a gray steel-and-glass façade.
Equally minimalist but far less pricey are the rawboned, high-design digs (Brionvega TVs, Flos lamps, Living Divani daybeds, Philippe Starck Eros chairs) at 25hours (from 101 euros; from 61 euros for guests under 26), located in the burgeoning Ottensen district.
2. Where to Eat
With more Michelin-starred eateries than any other German city, Hamburg is a mecca for gastronomes. One of them is Poletto— an elegantly appointed, ocher-colored Mediterranean spot. The chef cooks with seasonal ingredients, and her sommelier husband parses the wine list. Hope to see fried scallops on a bed of purple artichokes with aged balsamic on the menu.
Scenesters eat at the new brasserie Die Bank; observe them from the bustling bar before moving into the double-height dining room. Under striking Swarovski chandeliers, feast on chef Fritz Schilling’s handiwork — standbys such as steak-frites or fillet of sole with clams and ginger.
On the harborfront, the new Schauermann opened in a bright space with clean, distinct lines. The New German food served here — like rack of lamb with an olive-goat-cheese crust and tomato risotto wrapped in a wine leaf — will dispel any doubts about the native cuisine.
La Bottega Lentini (Eppendorfer Weg 267; 40-4696-0263) is among Hamburg’s best Italian restaurants, where the pasta (try the spaghetti vongole or spaghetti with black truffles) is as good as the thin-crust pizzas (get a slice of ruccula or parma).
3. What to Do
Thirtysomething partiers now eschew the hard-core clubs that line the Reeperbahn and opt for these restaurant-lounge combos. Start at Bereuther a classy bi-level canal-side spot in leafy Eppendorf. Relax on street-level banquettes, or nosh on specialties like New Zealand mussels in the downstairs restaurant. Next, make your way to Die Welt ist schön, a triple-tiered townhouse in the pulsating Schanzenviertel quarter, where D.J.’s spin a soothing mix of house. The city’s usually buttoned-up execs reserve tables at arch-modern Golden Cut where the tunes are chill and the cuisine Pan-Asian. The trendy favorite, however, is the harborfront River-Kasematten an outré bolt-hole where you can relax on boxy suede banquettes or sway to the sounds of R&B.
4. Insider’s Tip
Loud, logo-laden street chic may fly in the bridge-and-tunnel mosh pits of the meatpacking district, but it doesn’t work here. At the clubs, men wear closely cropped monochromatic outfits reminiscent of Hugo Boss or preppy J.Crew duds. Women go for sexy but not over the top; more Gisele Bündchen and less Paris Hilton. No matter what, ditch the baseball cap, nighttime shades, and sneakers, even those limited editions.
5. An Oddball Day
End your night or start your day at Fischmarkt. What looks like an standard outdoor market on a cobblestone stretch of harbor is actually a late-night party venue. Arrive at 4:30 a.m., just in time for a raucous rock or pop show inside a covered building with first-rate catering and drinks.
The city’s site has detailed, printable maps of Hamburg.
Armchair urban planners can pitch their development ideas to Hamburg: The Growing City.
Hamburg’s HafenCity district is part of a citywide renewal effort.