Living in Hamburg

Local Cuisine

German food

German food is arguably one of the most underrated and under-appreciated of all world cuisines. With an open mind and some curiosity, you'll see that German cuisine offers more than just cooked potatoes.

Food in Hamburg

Given Hamburg’s proximity to the North and Baltic Seas as well as its proud maritime traditions, it is only natural that fish is a staple in the Hanseatic city. Whether the ubiquitous Fischbrötchen, a fried or pickled fish sandwich, Matjes, a northern style pickled herring or Labskaus, a hearty sailors’ hash consisting of preserved ingredients suitable for long sea voyages without refrigeration like potatoes, corned beef, salt-cured herring, fried eggs and pickled beets, fish is a staple on Hamburg tables.

Seasonal specialties

German cuisine also celebrates seasonal produce with traditional dishes that are prevalent during particular times of the year. As many of these traditional dishes are more on the hearty side, they are mostly eaten in the colder months.

Spring and summer are dominated by Spargel and many different kinds of fruits. Spargel, or white asparagus, even has its own season, referred to as Spargelzeit. The first asparagus are usually found in the market in late March or mid April and will be served, alongside cured ham and boiled potatoes and covered in hollandaise sauce or melted butter, until mid-June. In summer and early fall, supermarkets and farmer's markets are flooded with produce from the Altes Land, an area with many orchards just outside of Hamburg. Favorites at the height of summer are strawberries, cherries and plums, while apples and pears start coming to market in August. Fruit growers in the Altes Land are dedicated to saving older breeds of apples that only grow in this particular region, so students should make sure to try as many different kinds as possible.

The colder seasons are dominated by hearty, warming soups and stews as well as Christmas favorites like Glühwein and Feuerzangenbowle, two kinds of hot mulled wine, various cookies or Plätzchen and Stollen, or German fruitcake, as well as traditional meals like Gans mit Rotkohl und Klößen, or roasted goose with braised red cabbage and dumplings.

Regional dishes

Every region in Germany has its own specialties. While it would make sense that Hamburg specializes in Hamburgers, and while some accounts do claim that the beef patty has origins in the city, burgers, originally known as Rundstück, are not as prevalent as one might think. In the southern region of Baden-Württemberg, specialties include a cheesy egg noodle dish called Spätzle. Bavarians love their Weißwurst, a white sausage with Süßer Senf, or sweet mustard, for breakfast. In Frankfurt and the state of Hessen, Grüne Soße, a creamy sauce made with seven different herbs covers hard-boiled eggs and vegetables; and in Berlin, people line up to eat Currywurst. Berlin even has a museum dedicated to these hot dogs covered in spicy ketchup. The fast food of choice is the Döner Kebab, introduced by Turkish immigrants and now ubiquitous throughout Germany.

International Cuisines

In addition to a wealth of regional German dishes, Germany - and especially a large city like Hamburg - is home to many immigrant communities who brought their local dishes with them. Hamburg offers a wide range of different restaurants that are waiting to be explored - either with classmates or with an organized tour.

Hamburg gingerbread hearts
Spargel or White Asparagus
Altes Land orchard