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Hi.

Welcome to my blog. I’m a Traveller of the Continents and within these pages I am trying to capture the things I see and experience.

Acoustic (and other) pleasures in Hamburg

Acoustic (and other) pleasures in Hamburg

Once upon a time the government of Hamburg announced to build the most beautiful concert hall the city has ever seen: the Elbphilarmonie (or Elbe Philarmonic Hall). People would come from far away, Hamburg would have a new landmark with a high cultural value. And people came.

Many controversies, budget and time overruns, and a few complications later all the critics were silenced after hearing the first sounds in the great hall, acoustically designed by renowned Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota. While I got tickets for the Dresdner Festspielorchester I can not only confirm that, I can also attest that people are coming - many people are coming - if only to stand on the plaza, the area between the piece-of-the-ocean, wave-like glass building and the old red-stone warehouse building.

Combining local history and modern design by architects Herzog & De Meuron

I always like it when new architecture is intertwined with the old and local traditions and specialties are considered. Herzog & De Meuron definitely nailed that here. 

The Westin Hamburg

We stayed in the new Westin Hamburg for a most convenient access to the concert. They could actually fit a 200-room-hotel inside the glass-part of the Elbphilarmonie (even some residential apartments can be rented for a very high price).

Lobby

One of the two balconies of the spa area - pretty cool

The main problem with the Westin was that most of the "public" spaces were too small for a fully occupied hotel. We had to stand in line in the morning to get a table for breakfast, the spa area was too small and so was the bar. I strongly recommend to reserve a table at the bar after a concert well in advance, which we did, fortunately. But the staff always seemed overwhelmed from the masses both at breakfast and in the bar - everything took ages to arrive at our table.

On the other hand, the Saffron, the hotels fine dining restaurant, was actually pretty good. We had the pre-concert menu and taste and presentation of the three courses as well as service were as expected for a five star hotel (I sometimes forgot that fact in this Westin).

Hotel The Westin Hamburg
Brand Westin from SPG
Good
  • Location directly inside the Elbphilarmonie
  • Brand new (so clean and carpets not worn out, etc.)
  • Large rooms with a lot of daylight and harbour or city views
Bad
  • Public areas too small for the large number of hotel guests
  • The furnishings look cheap to me (this may be the Westin-style, and it's a matter of taste, but some furniture looked like Ikea...)
  • Too expensive for what they offer (apparently, the location allows them to charge whatever they want)
CT Points 85

The concert hall

The actual concert in the great hall was fantastic. The very interesting design continues inside the building. Winding stairs, up to balconies with a lot of space between the rows and also the back walls, which look like uneven honeycombs, apparently helping the acoustics. And it did help: the acoustics have been perfect, in spite of our seats behind the orchestra.

Jacobs Restaurant

It's worth to take a 20-minute ride down the Elbchaussee along the Elbe river for a culinary experience you won't easily forget.

Tasteful interior, fantastic staff, delicate fine food presented in a common theme throughout the meal - I agree with the critics from Michelin that this deserves two stars. Look at the pictures and believe me that the taste buds have been satisfied as the eyes have. Or better yet, go there to taste for yourself.

The natural theme was expressed throughout the whole dining experience

Light and understated interior

The terrace will be great in summer to get a first row for viewing cruise ships going by

Rollan de By Médoc 2000, smooth as silk (though the sommelier warned us that not every Rollan de By is this good)

The very cosy (fireplace in the back) lounge of the Jacob's Hotel and Restaurant

Restaurant Jacobs Restaurant
Brand LHW and others
Michelin Two Stars
Gault&Millau 17/20 / 3 Hats
Verdict Impeccable all around without being too formal, more like Nordic simplicity and understatement
CT Points 98

Other good places

  • Coffee roaster and shop in one in a building where coffee was traded in the old days: Kaffeerösterei
  • Great restaurant in one of the UNESCO world heritage buildings: Vlet in der Speicherstadt (Michelin Plate and 2 Hats and 15 Points Gault&Millau)
  • Countryside opposite of the river Elbe with huge plantations of apple trees and beautiful old villages: Altes Land

Summary

Hamburg, the pearl of the North, is always worth a trip, especially if you combine it with a concert in the Elbphilarmonie. Next time I would probably stay at the Jacobs (they'll offer a private shuttle boat to the concerts). That hotel has the same prices but seemed much better regarding service, food and public spaces (the Park Hyatt might be another option). I'd gladly trade the Westin's direct concert hall access for the Jacobs' warm and understated luxury.

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