What springs to mind when you first think about the food in Hamburg? Is it Bratwurst, sauerkraut, or Spaetzle? While these are famous German foods, they are most commonly found in Southern Germany. Hanseatic cuisine, food from Northern Germany, is in a league of its own. Our guide details several Hamburg specialties worth trying when you visit Hamburg.
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What To Eat In Hamburg
Amber and I heard Hamburg is one of Germany’s best food cities. So naturally, we had to visit. Food in Hamburg centers around fish. After all, Hamburg is located on the Elbe River and a stone’s throw from the North Sea. The selection of Hanseatic dishes that feature fresh fish and prawns is stagging. So if you are a seafood lover, Hamburg is a must-visit.
So, what’s there to eat in Hamburg? Like other great food cities, there’s food everywhere in Hamburg. From traditional German food to a wide range of international cuisines, you won’t go hungry in Hamburg. During our week in Hamburg, Amber and I ate at street stalls and the 2 Michelin Star bianc restaurant.
Traditional Hamburg food is more focused on much lighter dishes featuring fish and vegetables. That said, there are still plenty of places to eat in Hamburg where you can get giant plates of meat and potatoes.
It’s handy to know where to eat in Hamburg before you go. This food guide only captures some of the incredible dishes available in Hamburg. So, whether it’s dining in a Michelin restaurant in Hamburg or traditional Hamburg dishes, you’re going to eat well in Hamburg.
When you ask around about Hamburg food, people will quickly tell you about Fishbroctchen. Loosely translated to fish bun, Fishbroctchen is the most popular thing to eat in Hamburg. Fairly self-explanatory, Fishbroctchen is fish or prawns, served in a bun. You’ll find different types of Fishbroctchen in Hamburg. One of the more popular versions of Fishbroctchen is pickled herring, raw onions, pickles, and remoulade. Not exactly my favorite. You’ll find Fishbroctchen at food kiosks near the Elbe River. You’ll also find them at various Hamburg food trucks scattered around the city. We tried a couple of different Fishbroctchen at Bruecke 10 down on the riverfront.
Currywurst is a German sausage smothered in a special curry sauce and served with a roll. You will find Currywurst everywhere in Germany. It’s such a big part of German food culture and one of my favorite German snacks. One of the best things about currywurst is where you eat it. The best currywurst can be found on the street in little kiosks. In Hamburg look for Mö-Grill Mönckebergstraße. Here you can eat currywurst like a local.
If you are a vegetarian, Rundstück Warm is so not the Hamburg dish for you. Rundstück warm is a hot open-faced roast beef sandwich. It typically consists of slices of warm beef or pork piled high on a wheat roll. The entire sandwich is drenched in a rich gravy. When I first learned about Rundstück Warm, I couldn’t wait to try it. This is exactly the type of dish I think of when I hear German food. Rundstück Warm is usually served with a side of pickles, mustard, and a small salad. Amber and I tried the Rundstück Warm at a quaint little restaurant called Laufauf.
This plaice dish was named after a district in Hamburg called Finkenwerder. It’s prepared by stuffing the Plaice fish with fatty bacon, crab meat, and onion. This is then placed in an oven and baked. Some chefs prefer to cook their version in a pan, not an oven. Finkenwerder Scholle can be found at most restaurants in Hamburg.
Aalsuppe is a traditional Hamburg dish that translates to eel soup. However, when it first came about hundreds of years ago, it actually contained no eel whatsoever. It was then called aol suppe, which means all soup. These soups would have been made using anything leftover, from ham bones to vegetables. Over time, the eel was introduced to the soup and this is what we eat today. Aalsuppe is on everyone’s “must-try” list for Hamburg. Having tried it, I’m not a fan, not necessarily because of the eel, just not a fan.
This dish was a surprise hit for me during our visit to Hamburg. Hamburger Pannfisch is a traditional fish dish made with chunks of fish filet covered in a tangy mustard sauce. We were told by locals that restaurant Daniel Wischer had the best Hamburger Pannfisch. It certainly did not disappoint. The Hamburger Pannfisch came with a typical serving of boiled potatoes. Even if you don’t like fish, I’d highly recommend this dish.
If you are in Hamburg in winter, keep an eye out for Gruenkohl. Gruenkhol is a hearty winter dish loved by locals. It is made of stewed kale, German sausages, vegetables, and fried potatoes. This combination makes Gruenkohl filling, warming, and highly nutritious.
Brathering is enjoyed in Hamburg and across most of Germany. It is made by marinating fresh herrings for several days before dredging them in flour. The marinated herring is then deep-fried to a golden brown and served with fried potatoes. Brathering is often served at Hamburg cafes as a lunch with a side of pickles. Some restaurants will serve their brathering with cold potato salad instead of warm potatoes.
Knowing Amber as well as I do, it’s no surprise this was her favorite dish in Hamburg. Hummersuupe is what we know as lobster bisque. Being a port city, hummersuupe is a very popular food in Hamburg. And with lobster as the main ingredient, it’s no surprise to its popularity. Like most soups, hummersuupe is ordered as a starter before the main course. It was rich but not overly rich. The flavor of the lobster was strong while the soup itself was creamy. The version Amber ate came with a dollop of crème fraîche and cilantro.
Labskaus originated in North Germany, more specifically, Berlin. It’s not yet known why it’s got the name it does, but some say it could mean hotpot. Labskaus is prepared similarly to a hot pot. Meat such as corned beef is minced with beetroot, boiled potatoes, and pickled herring. The meaty mixture is then fried in lard before being served with sides such as rollmop and fried eggs. Not our favorite dish in Hamburg, but worth trying for yourself.
Almost any Hamburg German restaurant you visit will likely have Kartoffelpuffers. Kartoffelpuffers are considered a German staple and a popular Hamburg street food. These famous Hamburg potato snacks compare to what you might recognize as a rosti or a hash brown. They are made using grated potato, flour, and eggs before being shaped into patties and deep-fried. Enjoy them on their own or on the side of Hamburg dishes such as stews and heavy grilled meats.
I have a weakness for all things meatballs. And thankfully while in Hamburg we came across Königsberger Klopse. Traditionally made from ground veal, Königsberger Klopse can also be made from ground beef or pork. The minced meat is mixed with breadcrumbs, onions, eggs, and white pepper. The result is a moist yet firm meatball. The Königsberger Klopse we ate at Restaurant Brodersen Hamburg were served in a white caper sauce. The dish was accompanied by roasted beetroot and boiled potatoes.
Hamburg has a great cafe culture. There’s great coffee everywhere. When enjoying a great cup of coffee, make sure to order a Franzbrotchen. Similar to a cinnamon roll, Franzbrotchen is buttery, flakey, and irresistible. Trust me. Franzbrotchen is typically enjoyed at breakfast. However, Amber and I found ourselves enjoying Franzbrotchen throughout the day. You’ll find a few variations of Franzbrotchen including some with chocolate chips or raisins.
Amber and I are not huge dessert people, but we did try a few while in Hamburg. Preferring fruit desserts over chocolate desserts, Rote Grutze was a welcomed treat. A classic North German fruit dessert, rote grutze, is a popular dessert in most Hamburg restaurants. The traditional rote grutze recipe is similar to a fruit compote. It’s made using pureed red berries, typically raspberries, redcurrants, or strawberries. After a filling main course of meat and potatoes, our rote grutze was light, refreshing, and the perfect palate cleanser.
Nothing screams my kind of dish more than Bratkartoffeln. Essentially fried potatoes with bacon, bratkartoffeln is primarily a side dish. Bratkartoffeln is served alongside sausages, meatballs, and even fish. Bratkartoffeln is made using parboiled potatoes, bacon, caraway, and onions. The mixture is fried until golden and crispy. While usually a side dish, some Hamburg street food vendors serve this as a dish on its own. Amber and I enjoyed Bratkartoffeln as a side at Restaurant Brodersen Hamburg.
Butter Bei Die Fische
If you love butter, this is the dish for you. A typical North German dish, butter bei die fische, is a baked fish dish accompanied by a generous serving of butter. Made using various white fish, some versions of butter bei die dische are fried not baked.
Birnen, Bohnen & Speck
Birnen, Bohnen und Speck or pears, beans, and bacon, is a typical North German dish. It’s a very popular dish in Hamburg as well as other cities in Northern Germany. As you can probably guess, Birnen, Bohnen und Speck, is a seasonal dish. You’ll typically find it available after the pear harvest in the Fall. More commonly found in homes versus restaurants, some versions include a large serving of potatoes.
FAQs – What To Eat In Hamburg
The food in Hamburg is heavily influenced by its proximity to the North Sea. Fish and shrimp are two of the most common ingredients used in Hamburg dishes. One of the most famous foods from Hamburg is Fishbroctchen. Translated to “fish bun” fishbroctchen are a popular snack dish enjoyed throughout the day.
The simple is yes. People in Hamburg do eat hamburgers. You will find a wide variety of restaurants including McDonald’s, serving hamburgers in Hamburg. While popular in Hamburg, seafood is the most popular food to eat in Hamburg.
Hamburg has a lot to offer visitors. From great museums to exceptional food and drink, the city is special. Situated on the Elbe River and near the North Sea, Hamburg is mild in the Summer. The city features tons of outdoor activities including many watersports. Hamburg has a lively night scene for those looking to cut loose.