Fischmarkt, the bustling Sunday market
The kitchen has always been the soul of a home… and the markets the heart of the city. And yes, the Fischmarkt, Hamburg’s fish market, may well be considered the beating heart of Germany’s second most populous city – at least, every Sunday morning.
Eccentric, fun, bustling, authentic… Every Sunday, up to 70,000 visitors go to this unique, ephemeral labyrinth on the banks of the river Elbe in the Altona-Altstadt district to buy fruit, vegetables, spices and, of course, fish. But this place is also a curious meeting point, with live music performances, for those who, for example, have spent a night out at the famous nearby Reeperbahn. Night owls and early risers cross paths and share a tasty snack and a joyful moment.
In any case, the Fischmarkt in Altona is a must on your next visit to Hamburg.
- History of the Fischmarkt, more than 300 years of trade
- The Fish Market, from herrings to jazz
- What to buy at the Fischmarkt
- The Port of Hamburg, the ‘Gateway to the World’
- Where to eat in Hamburg
- Where to stay in Hamburg
History of the Fischmarkt, more than 300 years of trade
Hamburg’s fish market is a legend and certainly one of the city’s main attractions. Since it was first set up in 1703, its stalls have seen all manner of goods come and go, from porcelain bowls to bananas from far-flung tropical destinations. After all, the market is practically the culmination, the final destination, of the countless goods that enter the impressive port of Hamburg, the second largest in Europe (behind Rotterdam in The Netherlands).
A curiosity related to the origin of this market has to do, precisely, with its own celebration. Since in the 18th century the church forbade any action on the day of the Sunday service, the fishermen were only allowed to offer their fresh produce until 8:30 in the morning, so that everyone could be on time for mass. Today, 300 years later, the timetable and spirit of the Fischmarkt remain virtually unchanged.
The Fish Market, from herrings to jazz
The ‘official’ heartbeat of the market is the old fish market which, with its century-long history, vaulted ceiling, red brick walls, iron structures and original stained-glass windows, has traded the fish auctions that crowded its long halls for a succulent brunch and live performances of everything from jazz and skiffle to country and pop every Sunday morning.
Founded in 1894 and solemnly inaugurated by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1896, the building was a key point in the riverside trade of the then independent city of Altona. Almost half a century later, the bombs dropped by the Allied air force almost completely wiped it out and, after a partial reconstruction which was unable to halt the decay of the site, in the early 1980s the city finally saw this iconic building re-emerge, fully restored and converted into a venue used for all kinds of events, including, of course, the Sunday market.
What to buy at the Fischmarkt
Fruit, flowers, vegetables, meat, clothes, souvenirs… and fresh fish, of course; you can find almost anything at Hamburg’s fish market. And browsing the aisles between the different stalls not only means discovering a thousand and one wonders, it also means being captivated, or not, by the heated voices of the stallholders, who try to capture the attention of customers by loudly announcing the quality of their products and the attractive discounts they offer.
While some go to the market for the week’s groceries, others simply pop in for a typical fish sandwich and a hot coffee; there is nothing like a chat with friends while enjoying breakfast and taking in the spectacular views of the port. More than one will end up entering the Fish Market to enjoy the music, the food –from waffles to sausages– and, perhaps, have the first pint of the day… or the last one of the night.
During the summer months (1 April to 31 October), the Fischmarkt is open every Sunday from 5 to 9.30 a.m. In the winter season (1 November to 31 March), the hustle and bustle begin two hours later (from 7:00 to 9:30 a.m.). The popular brunch at the Fish Market takes place every Sunday until 12:00 p.m.
The Port of Hamburg, the ‘Gateway to the World’
The river Elbe merges into the North Sea, but some 100 kilometres before its mouth, thousands of ships, from huge cargo vessels to small fishing boats and spectacular cruise ships, are at work every day in countless quays and harbours, watched over by the swinging arms of cranes. It is no coincidence that the Port of Hamburg is known as the ‘Gateway to the World’.
In that sense, in addition to the daily hustle and bustle and the Sunday Fischmarkt, the port is also a great place to explore and enjoy everything that makes the city a unique destination, from its rich historical heritage to the new proposals that project it into the future. The docks are lined with interesting historical ships that can be visited, as well as world-class museums and cultural facilities such as the Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest miniature model railway, and the spectacular Elbphilharmonie, among many others. There are many sites of historical interest: the old Alter Elbtunnel connecting both banks of the river and the Speicherstadt, the largest port warehouse complex in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are just two good examples.
In addition, the Port of Hamburg is also a regular venue for all kinds of artistic and cultural events, from music festivals to literary gatherings. In short, it is a place where the rich seafaring culture of this corner of Germany can be breathed and, at the same time, very diverse cultural manifestations converge, giving rise, as a whole, to an absolutely seductive panorama for any travellers who visit the city.
In the same vein, all kinds of boat trips, romantic sunset cruises to hop-on hop-off tours and guided tours of the area allow you to explore the port in its entirety and enjoy unique views of the city.
Where to eat in Hamburg
Besides enjoying a delicious Sunday breakfast at the Fischmarkt, Hamburg is a real foodie’s paradise. From the fish restaurants in the port area to the more eclectic offerings in districts such as Sternschanze, Karolinenviertel and St. Pauli, from the ‘classics’ of Deichstraße and the banks of Alster Lake to the new haute cuisine offerings of HafenCity and Rotherbaum, the city offers something for every taste and budget.
A ‘lighter’ snack? It is always worth having a picnic at Planten un Blomen, looking for a fun food truck, visiting a quaint kebab or falafel place, or having a typical currywurst. After all, the dishes from around the world have always come to Hamburg via its enormous port.
Where to stay in Hamburg
An urban and avant-garde 4-star hotel, located in the heart of the historic centre and very close to the main attractions of the city; this is the Barceló Hamburg hotel (https://www.barcelo.com/es-es/barcelo-hamburg), the perfect option to enjoy an unforgettable stay in Hamburg.
The 193 fully equipped rooms at this Barceló Group hotel offer everything you need for leisure and business travellers, couples, families and groups of friends, from free Wi-Fi throughout the building to amenities of all kinds. In addition, the Barceló Hamburg offers a surprising gastronomic proposal of fusion cuisine in its 1700 restaurant and winery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the Fischmarkt?
Hamburg's fish market is located in the Altona-Altstadt district on the banks of the Elbe, close to the eclectic St. Pauli and the city centre.
How do I get to the Fischmarkt?
The market can be reached on foot from the city centre, as well as by public transport (taxi; bus 111 and 113; ferry 61 and 62 to the quay of the market itself; U3 to Landungsbrücken; S1 and S3 to Reeperbahn). There are also several guided visits and tours that include the Fischmarkt in their itineraries.
What can I buy at the Fischmarkt?
Fruit, flowers, clothes, souvenirs... and fresh fish, of course; you can find almost anything at Hamburg's fish market. In addition, several stalls sell typical fish sandwiches, coffee, cakes and pastries, and other local delicacies.