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.
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).
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|
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.
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.
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
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.