Navigating the Turbulent Waters: The Impact of OTAs on the Tourism Industry

Navigating the Turbulent Waters: The Impact of OTAs on the Tourism Industry

In the ever-evolving landscape of travel planning, online travel agencies, or OTAs for short, like TripAdvisor have emerged as powerful players, reshaping the way travelers explore, book, and experience destinations around the world. While these platforms offer undeniable conveniences and benefits, their dominance comes with a host of challenges that are reshaping the very fabric of the tourism industry.

What are Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)?

City Park in Hamburg

Online travel agencies (OTAs) are digital platforms that allow travelers to search, compare, and book various travel services such as flights, accommodations, tours, and activities online. These platforms serve as intermediaries between travelers and travel service providers, offering convenience and accessibility in trip planning. Some popular examples of OTAs include Expedia, GetYourGuide, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and Airbnb. OTAs have revolutionized the way people plan their trips by providing a one-stop destination for all their travel needs, offering a wide range of options and facilitating seamless bookings with just a few clicks.

OTAs have significantly impacted the traditional model of direct bookings for operating partners in the tourism industry. These platforms act as intermediaries between travelers and service providers, often diverting bookings that would have otherwise been made directly through the operator’s website or storefront. This shift not only reduces the operator’s control over their pricing, branding, and terms but also cuts into their profit margins due to the high commission rates charged by OTAs. Despite the added layer of intermediary, OTAs often do not contribute to the utility or quality of the service offered. Instead, they merely facilitate the transaction, taking a substantial portion of the revenue without necessarily enhancing the overall customer experience. This phenomenon results in a scenario where operators are forced to relinquish control and revenue to OTAs without receiving commensurate benefits in terms of improved service quality or customer satisfaction. As a result, many operating partners find themselves grappling with the dilemma of balancing the reach and convenience offered by OTAs with the erosion of their autonomy and profitability.

Advantages of OTAs:

Niendorfer Gehege in Hamburg
  1. Convenience: OTAs provide unparalleled convenience, allowing travelers to plan and book their entire trip from the comfort of their homes or on the go, eliminating the need for multiple bookings across various platforms.
  2. Plurality of Offers: With a vast array of options available on OTAs, travelers have the freedom to explore and discover destinations, accommodations, tours, and activities they may not have considered otherwise, enriching their travel experiences.
  3. Price Comparisons: OTAs simplify the process of comparing prices across different providers, empowering travelers to find the best deals and make informed decisions that suit their budget and preferences.
  4. Customer Reviews: Real-time reviews and ratings from fellow travelers serve as invaluable resources for gauging the quality and suitability of travel services, helping customers navigate the vast landscape of options and make confident choices.

Disadvantages of OTAs:

Harburger Berge Park in Hamburg
  1. High Commission Rates: The exorbitant commission rates charged by OTAs significantly inflate the prices of travel services, ultimately burdening customers with higher costs and diminishing the profitability of tour operators or just in general discouraging customers from booking in the first place due to the high cost of the product.
  2. Lack of Control: Tour operators face a loss of autonomy and control over their offerings when partnering with OTAs, as they often have little say in pricing, branding, or terms and conditions, limiting their ability to provide tailored experiences.
  3. Reduced Revenue: The substantial portion of revenue siphoned off by OTAs through commissions leaves tour operators with diminished profits, hampering their ability to reinvest in enhancing the quality of their services and maintaining sustainable operations.
  4. Deceptive Rankings: The ranking algorithms employed by OTAs to prioritize certain activities or services often have little correlation with the quality of reviews or customer satisfaction. Instead, these rankings may be influenced by economic incentives or promotional deals, deceiving customers into believing that top-ranked listings are inherently superior.
  5. Monopolistic Dominance: Expedia.com commands a staggering 95% share of the OTA market. This monopoly status discourages open competition and innovation, as smaller operators struggle to compete with the vast resources and market influence of conglomerates like Expedia. As a result, consumers are left with fewer choices and less diversity in travel options, leading to increased expenses and reduced utility. The lack of competition fosters an environment where OTAs can dictate terms and conditions to their advantage, further eroding transparency and fairness in the industry. Ultimately, the monopolistic control exerted by dominant OTAs stifles innovation, limits consumer choice, and contributes to a less dynamic and competitive travel market.

A Case Study:

Take, for instance, our Hamburg Craft Beer Tasting Tours offered by Robin and the Tourguides. Initially priced at 44€ per person, we were compelled to raise the price to 59€ per person solely to offset the astronomical commission demanded by an OTA.

This drastic price increase not only affects our customers’ wallets but also undermines the integrity of our tours. With less revenue flowing back to us, we’re forced to make compromises on the quality of our experiences, leading to a diminished customer satisfaction and ultimately tarnishing our reputation.

The drastic price raise of our Hamburg Craft Beer Tasting Tour from 44€ to 59€ per person, driven by the hefty commissions demanded by an OTA, had profound repercussions on the perceived value and quality of the customer experience. With the significant increase in cost, many potential customers found themselves questioning the justification for the higher price tag, which ultimately diminished the perceived value of the tour. As a result, sales plummeted drastically, and numerous prospective customers who would have otherwise eagerly booked the tour opted out due to the inflated cost imposed by the OTA. This stark decline in sales not only underscored the detrimental impact of OTA commissions on operating partners’ profitability but also highlighted the adverse effects of price hikes on customer engagement and satisfaction. Ultimately, the higher cost imposed by the OTA not only compromised the affordability of the tour but also eroded the perceived value and desirability of the experience, resulting in a tangible decline in customer interest and bookings.

Doing it better:

the Ohlsdorfer Cemetery in Hamburg

In essence, while OTAs offer undeniable conveniences and advantages, their detrimental impact on pricing, control, and transparency within the tourism industry cannot be overlooked. As consumers become increasingly aware of these drawbacks, there’s a growing need for greater transparency, accountability, and fairness in the relationship between OTAs, tour operators, and travelers alike. As we navigate the turbulent waters of the tourism industry, it’s imperative that we strive for a balance that preserves the integrity of travel experiences while harnessing the benefits of technological innovation.

One effective strategy is to bypass the intermediary and book directly with local suppliers of services. By doing so, travelers can support local businesses, maintain transparency in pricing and terms, and potentially access exclusive offers or personalized experiences. Additionally, prioritizing purchases from local operators over corporate players can contribute to the preservation of authentic, community-driven tourism, fostering a more sustainable and equitable travel ecosystem. Ultimately, by making conscious decisions that prioritize quality, authenticity, and local empowerment, we can navigate the challenges posed by OTAs and collectively shape a more resilient and rewarding future for the tourism industry.

Why You Should Take a Free Tour with Robin and the Tourguides

Why You Should Take a Free Tour with Robin and the Tourguides

In the past years, many travelers have gained a deep appreciation for free tours throughout the world. They love the concept and motivation of the companies and guides that lead them through new and exciting cities. However, there are many companies out there and not all of them have the best reputations and practices. It can be difficult sometimes to discern which company to choose from as well as factors of quality, reliability and sustainability. That is why we feel it is important to highlight the main reasons why you can’t go wrong with a tour with us, Robin and the Tourguides.

Great Way to See and get a Good Overview of what the City has to Offer

We offer two free tours of the city: the Historic City Centre Tour and the Harbour & St.Pauli Tour. Both are completely different from each other and offer great overviews of the different districts in the city.

Our Historic City Centre Free Tour focuses on the main sight-seeing spots here in the inner city and delves into the history of how Hamburg became what it is today. From the early fortifications of the Hammaburg to the early twentieth century ports, you will discover this city’s rich history while seeing the main attractions.

Our Harbour & St.Pauli Free Tour focuses on the more modern up-to-date aspects of the city. From the container ports and ferries to the alternative, red-light and party district here in the city.

On both tours, you get a great insight of things to do, places to enjoy some local cuisine, great photo opportunities and personal anecdotes into Germany’s largest port city. You will definitely have a lot of recommendations for after the tour for activities and places to visit!

Nr. 1 Rated Tour Operator in Hamburg

We here at Robin and the Tourguides give a lot of care for the quality of our guests’ time while on our tours. We ensure that the guides have a deep understanding and connection with the city.

Many times free tour companies are associated with maybe exchange students or expats that haven’t been living in the local community for a long time. This is not the case with us. Our guides know the city very well and love to show the city to their guests. They have also passed a quality certification exam from us and have a deep knowledge of the city. They are experienced and professional tour guides that will do their best to take care of you on the tours!

This is very well reflected in our vast number of high quality reviews and feedback from our guests. In fact we are rated the nr. 1 tour operator in all of Hamburg by TripAdvisor for the past several years now*. We also enjoy a perfect 5 star google rating* from over 1,300 customer reviews*! So why risk it going with another free tour operator that maybe doesn’t have as high standards as we do?

*(as of 14.12.2022)

No Matter your Budget you can Come Along on a Free Tour

One great thing about us is that we truly believe that everyone should have a great time here in our city no matter what their budget is. Even if you are a Backpacker, student, traveler on a shoe-string budget, free tours allow everyone to come along and enjoy the city. We, of course, realize that everyone has hard times sometimes and don’t believe in excluding people based solely on their socioeconomic status. That is why we offer free tours.

Will some people take advantage of this concept?… Of course, but we have noticed overall, people are decent and honest people. Those that can afford to pay what they think it is worth tend to do so which makes up for those that can’t.

Please note though, that groups of 8 or more people will not be allowed on our public free tours. This is so as not to overwhelm our guides and other members of the group with unexpectedly large groups. We kindly ask that groups of 8 or more book a private tour with us.

No Hidden Sponsoring or Sales Pitches

When traveling to other countries many people take tours and halfway through they are bombarded with a stop at maybe a company that highly encourages them to buy souvenirs or gifts from them. Many times with free tour companies they might also make a stop at a cafe to push their guests to buy paid tours that they offer later. Mandatory stops are also many times made at cafes or restaurants where the guests are encouraged to buy food or drinks while the tour company cuts a commission from the cafe or restaurant for every sale they make despite the quality. We here at Robin and the Tourguides do not believe in this practice.

We don’t have any hidden sales intents or commissions we get from stopping at certain places. Of course, if it is very cold in winter or very hot in summer, our guides will often offer the group a nice cafe to get some refreshments or to warm up a bit, but because we don’t have hidden arrangements this allows the guides the freedom to stop at really great local and maybe small hidden places that are a lot better than chain cafes or franchises such as Starbucks. Our guides have the flexibility to go to the places they really feel comfortable with and think you deserve as a guest to really get to experience the true Hamburg feeling.

Meet other Travelers

Traveling many times is a great adventure and opportunity to discover new places and cultures, making great memories and meeting new people. However, especially for lone travelers, breaking the ice or having the opportunity to meet new people in a city you don’t know can be intimidating and sometimes overwhelming.

There are countless examples of people meeting and discovering a new city together on free tours. Many times it is not uncommon to hear of such great friendships that travelers decide to travel together or meet up in other cities or even their hometowns.

On free tours, people meet a lot of other enthusiastic travelers to share and exchange their personal travel experiences with. You can get a lot of great tips from other travelers about where to go next on your journey or what to watch out for.

Also, it is great to spend some time with others in the evening together in a maybe a nice bar or restaurant and planning activities together with others that are still anxious to discover the local scene. Free Tours allow for you to make connections with others to plan for some great interactions!

We are a Local Company and Support the Local Community

Evermore, with free tours, there are conglomerates of multinational companies that are on a mission to expand to every major city in the world. These companies are usually highly influenced in maximizing their profits from mass tourism on the backs of their workers and guides. The owner usually sits in New York or London and has little direct knowledge of the other cities his company does business in and relies often  heavily on low paid City-Managers or regional managers, usually who are desperate students, to manage several cities or countries… all the while making a hefty profit from their exploitative practices.

Robin and the Tourguides believes in giving their employees, guides and partners a living wage with respectful and fair conditions. We are a truly local company and will stay that way. We are based in Hamburg and only offer tours in Hamburg. This means our taxes also go to the city and don’t wander off to tax havens or other dodgy countries.

Our Partners are also locals businesses and not just franchise chains that are based in other countries. This means we support local entrepreneurs and small businesses helping the local economy and offering a more personal experience for our guests.

We also believe in self-empowerment for our workers and were founded by guides themselves. We are still managed and run by guides that call Hamburg their home. This allows for a much better understanding and ability to adapt to the local tendencies and an incredible flexibility to care for the needs of our customers in a responsible and sustainable way. We are just not a cookie cutting, one-size-fits-all company copying their free tours and cheap pub crawls all over the world.

We are also a proud member of the Free Tour Community and the local Tourism Association of Hamburg (Tourismusverband Hamburg e.V.). The Free Tour Community is a non-profit organization of independent and local free tour operators from all around the world with excellent reviews. For more information you can visit their website at: www.freetourcommunity.com .

Reliability

We have also noticed over the years that many companies open tours here in the city and just don’t show up to the meeting point. With us you can be certain that we will be there with our yellow umbrellas for the tours!

We Believe in Sustainability

We are a company that strongly believes that everyday actions have a big impact on the world around us and are willing to act responsibly for our environment. From everything to using 100% renewable energy for our office actions, co2 neutral Flyer printing, sustainable banking with the GLS Community bank (Germany’s first ecological bank), to yearly donations to charities, we do our best to preserve the wonderful planet that we all want to explore!

Also, our free walking tours are the most sustainable way of seeing a city. So instead of taking a diesel double-decker bus or an exhaust blustering cruise ship feel free to come along on a walking tour with fresh air and a little bit of exercise for the environment and health.

Our Tours are Fun!

Not only are our free tours a great way to get to know the city but they are also really fun and entertaining! We all know the feeling of paying for a normal tour and having to listen 2 or 3 hours to maybe an elderly professor reciting a memorized script of the city as if it were interesting. Our free tours are not like that at all! We don’t, for example, have scripts that our guides learn by heart. Our tours are individual to every guide and often no two tours are the same.

Our guides are highly motivated to give you a great experience here in the city because if you don’t like the tour, let’s be honest, you probably won’t want to give them a rewarding pay at the end. The free tour concept is just too rewarding for the guides to give fond and memorable experiences for the guests each and every tour!

Top Free or Almost Free Things to do in Hamburg

Top Free or Almost Free Things to do in Hamburg

Hamburg is one of the most expensive cities in Germany. It is also known for its many attractions for tourists and locals alike. Many people think that you have to allocate a substantial amount of money for a trip to Hamburg to have a good time, but as many insiders will tell you, Hamburg also has a lot to offer for those traveling on a shoe-string budget. Here are our top free activities to enjoy while here in the beautiful city of Hamburg!

Free Tours with Robin and the Tourguides

If you are looking for a great opportunity to get an overview of the city go on the free tours from Robin and the Tourguides. We offer two free tours of the city, one through the historic city centre and another through the harbour & St.Pauli district. The two tours are completely different from each other and offer different views of the city. Discover the beginning of Hamburg’s rich history and how it became what it is today and in the afternoon learn of the economic power-house of the city, the ports. Also, delve into the night life and hear of how St.Pauli, the red-light and party district, is constantly changing.

With free tours you get to decide yourself what the tour is worth or what your budget allows. So everyone is welcome to come along no matter how much or little you have in your pocket. Please note, that groups of 8 or more persons should book a private tour with us for fairness reasons. You can book directly with Robin and the Tourguides at: www.robinandthetourguides.de .

Elbphilharmonie Plaza

One of the most impressive contemporary buildings architecturally in the city is the Elpphilharmonie, the new symphonic concert hall here in Hamburg. It is located in the modern Hafencity area and is a bekon of Hamburg’s intent to be known internationally in the music world over. It is an amazing building not only from the outside but also on the inside and offers a wonderful 360 degree view of the harbour and city 37 meters above ground. You can go spontaneously to the front desk to get a ticket to visit the Plaza for free. Opening hours are from 12 p.m. till 12 a.m. and there are also nice cafes, a restaurant and Craft beer bar to have a nice bite to eat or drink while visiting the plaza.

A Nice Stroll along the Elbpromenade

After a nice visit to the Elbphilharmonie, one can take a nice stroll along the waterfront on the Elbpromenade. Not only will you see the historic harbour and the many historical ships along the way but will also get to see the historic Landungsbrücken, where millions of immigrants left on their journeys to the New-World.

Some of the beautiful museum ships that you will see along the way are for example, the fire–ship, a wonderful little lighthouse boat that served off the coast of England for decades. Today it has been turned into a restaurant, hotel and event location for jazz combos. Which is also a great way to get some free music while enjoying a nice house beer or drink.

The Cap San Diego is also a wonderful freight ship from 1962 that is housed along the promenade. The Swan of the sees sailed for several decades between Germany and South America before being forced into retirement due to the age of the containers.

If looking for a beautiful tall sailing ship, the Rickmer Rickmers is the ship to staun. This museum ship from 1896 is a testament to the Rickmer’s family, with their Grandson, as the figurehead at the front of the ship. You can also for a small fee go on board the Rickmer Rickmers and get a feeling of how the sailors lived and worked at that time.

The Old Elbe Tunnel

Once completing a nice walk along the Elbpromenade, be sure to go through the Old Elbtunnel located at the Landungsbrücken Nr. 6. This tunnel from 1911 still has its beautiful original glazed tiling which has recently been restored. From the other side of the Elbe river you will enjoy a wonderful view of the harbour, Landungsbrücken, city centre and Elbphilharmonie in the distance. You can also see all of Hamburg’s 5 main churches on the horizon!

Be sure to take the historic lifts which once took horse buggies and cars in and out of the tunnel. And if you need a snack along the way be sure to visit Captain Schwarz right next to the entrance of the tunnel for some wonderful Fischbrötchen-fish rolls!

The Harbour from the Water with the Ferry 62

Although it is technically not free, many people while here buy a day ticket for the excellent public transportation system while visiting Hamburg. If you have a day ticket for the metro, be sure to take a ride on the Ferry 62, which is included in the HVV day ticket.

The ferry starts from the Landungsbrücken Nr. 3 and takes about an hour to go around the harbour and back. Along the way, you can also get off at different stops, for example, Övelgönne/Neumühlen where there is a nice museum harbour for historical boats, nice cafes and restaurants. Iif the weather is sunny and warm be sure to visit the Elbstrand, Hamburg’s most famous beach with a beach bar.

The ferry goes all the way to Finkenwerder and if that isn’t enough for you, quickly change Ferries on to the 63 for a quick trip to Teufelsbrücke (devil’s bridge). There you can enjoy some nice chips or a sausage on the docks at the Engel (Angel) kiosk or maybe even enjoy a nice walk through the idyllic Jenisch park.

Enjoy the Water Fountain Show in the Planten un Blomen Parks

The newly renovated water fountain show located in the Planten un Blomen is a must see for everyone looking for something very special! It is a mix between water jets shooting water 36 meters into the air and a light show of 566 LED light projectors choreographed to the music of Copeland, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak and other famous composers. The shows start every day at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Parksee located in the north of Planten un Blomen. Not much to say other than to visit it if you do have the chance!

Visit the 5 Main Churches of Hamburg

Of course, Europe and Hamburg are really known for the abundance of medieval churches that seem to be every few hundreds of meters apart from each other… Sometimes, one can definitely get a little bit church-out from all the historically important churches. Here, though, are the main churches in order of beauty to visit while here in the city:

    The St. Michealis Church: the largest and main church here in the city. One of the best examples of baroque architecture in Germany. It is wonderfully decorated with gold, marble, and ornamentations. Also, every day at 12 o’clock they have their sermons with live concerts of their many different types of organs free of charge. Of course, they do ask for donations for the upkeep and maintenance of the church, so if you do decide to give a Euro or two, they are very grateful for that.

    The St. Petri Church: The oldest still standing church here in the city. Originally built in 1195 it is a testament to the gothic styles and still has many reliques, paintings, and artifacts inside. During the Nepolianic wars, Napoleon Bonapart use this church as a horse stable for his infantry. Can you discover the mineral sediments on the walls of the church where the horses peed? Also, for a small fee you can climb the 544 steps to enjoy the highest look-out point in Hamburg 123 meters above the ground. Opening hours for the steeple is from 10 a.m. till 4:30 p.m.

    St. Katherinen Church: this small but impressive church was recently renovated so it is also definitely worth a visit. It also has the oldest still standing structured wall in the city. There are many concerts here of the organ which dates back to 1543 and many famous musicians have performed on it including Georg Philip Telemann and Johann Sebastian Bach. So it is a great way to hear how music sounded back then at that time. Also, the golden spire is, according to legend, the gold of Germany’s most famous pirate, Klaus Störtebeker!

    St. Jakobi Church: This church is mostly known for its organ… the largest baroque organ in the world. But there are also many paintings and sculptures inside which are of significance. It is a famous pilgrimage church that many pilgrims visited on their way to Santiago de Compostela located along the oldest paved street in Germany. Johann Sebastian Bach actually auditioned for the position of organist and music director here, but turned it down when he realized that the congregation wanted him to pay for the honor of playing their organ!

    St. Nikolai Church/Memorial site: The ruins of this church today are what is left over from the church after the Operation Gomorrah bombings during the Second World War. Today this somber site is a memorial against the horrors of war and persecution. It is a reminder of what might come if we let brutal dictators rule over us and the consequences of tyranny. In the crypt there is an excellent exhibition that only cost a few Euros about the bombings of Hamburg and also the Nazi bombings, for example, the bombings of Coventry, London, Rotterdamm, Warsaw and many other cities. Every Thursday at 12 p.m. there is also a live concert of the corellian (the bells) that takes about 45 minutes and is free of charge.

Public Parks in the City

There are many beautiful parks in Hamburg to enjoy a nice stroll through. One of them is the Planten un Blomen (Plants and Flowers) located where once the city walls defending the inner city used to be. There are many different types of flowers, trees, lawns, streams, playgrounds and activities to enjoy at this park. Be sure to walk through the largest Japanese Gardens in Europe here with their Minka houses and ponds filled with koi fish large and small. Here they also have sushi courses or tea ceremonies. Also, there are live concerts and workshops taking place at the Planten un Blomen almost on a daily basis. In winter you can also enjoy Europe’s largest outdoor ice skating rink, or in summer they turn it into a skating rink. Or how about a round of minigolf?

The Stadtpark (City Park) located north of the alster lakes is also a nice place to take a jog or enjoy a nice picnic. Many people flock to the Stadtpark on the weekends if the weather is permitting to bbq on the large lawn. But be sure to visit the rose gardens and the planetarium which was once a large water tower for the city. You can also go up the planetarium to enjoy a nice view of the park with the city in the background 70 meters above ground. Many open air concerts take place there and for a small price you can also go for a nice swim or stand up paddle on the lake there.

The Volkspark is the largest park here in the city and although most Hamburgers don’t know it too well, it also has a lot to offer. There are many forests to hike through with little hills and unexpected path crossings but also amazing cultivated gardens. Be sure to visit the Dahlia gardens, the largest Dahlia collection in the world. Or the wonderfully pruned rose garden. Also worth a visit is the geometrical Tutenberg arena in the parks. A wonderful place to study, relax or practice some acting for the next school play!

Although the Ohlsdorfer Cemetery isn’t technically a park, it is still a great place to visit if looking for peace and quiet in an idyllic surrounding. In fact, it is the world’s largest cemetery garden. It is a great place to have a nice bike ride or walk around and also discover many famous former people from the city. It is still in use as a cemetary so one is asked to be respectful of the graves there.

Discovering the Street Art in St.Pauli and the Schanzen Quarter

Always changing, always fresh is the paint on the walls in St.Pauli, Hamburg’s alternative district. Even as a local, there are always new provocative, rebellious and thought provoking pictures graffitied everywhere here. In fact, St.Pauli is visited by some of the most famous street artists from around the world. It is a wonderful place to discover the artwork of inner courtyards, small alleyways, abandoned buildings, and bustling boulevards. Every corner you turn there is a new piece of art revealing the next… truly an impossible feat to justly document, but maybe just to enjoy for the moment and reflect on while constantly discovering the public underground scenes.

Live Music Bars and Clubs

You can find a lot of live music in Hamburg. Sometimes you have to pay for it, sometimes you can get in for free. Some places where you can enjoy free entry are on the Hans-Albers-Platz at the Academy, Drafthouse and Molly Malon. The good thing about these places are, if you don’t like one place you can just go next door, or even two doors down. The prices are also average prices. 

Go down the Reeperbahn a few meters to the Lehmitz bar. Here you can listen to some local St.Pauli rock. A lot of the times it is so packed here that the band members actually have to play on the bar counter. The drinks are very well priced here so it is a lively place to listen to some good local bands.

If looking for jazz clubs, Every Thursday at 8:30 p.m. you can enjoy the open mic improv sessions for free. It can get very crowded so it is recommended to be there when they open at 7 o’clock to get some places for the gig.

Also not to be forgotten is the Haus 73 located in the Schulterblatt. They regularly have concerts and events free of charge to go along with their excellent craft beers.

The Altona Fish Market

The fish market starts every Sunday at 5:00 am and goes till 9:30 am. If here on a Sunday, absolutely try to make it to the fish market. A lot of people in fact go out Saturday evening to the Reeperbahn and party the whole night through. When the sun starts to rise in the morning they go to the fish market and the partying keeps going. Here you can listen to live music, get a nice Fish-roll for breakfast as well as your morning beer… yes, that is a thing here in Germany!

Here you can find hundreds of stands of people trying to sell you stuff. A lot of times they will be throwing fish, bananas, or smoked eels through the air. You can find typical market things here, for example, fruits, vegetables, flowers, clothing, souvenirs but also very strange and odd things as well like live chickens, pet ferrets or rabbits but also sometimes things like used denters… Oh course, you can try them out before buying them to make sure they fit properly!

The main thing the Fish market is known for though are the Market yellers! People yelling into the market doing whatever possible so you will buy their stuff. With their salty and humorous sayings it is like a show every 10 meters!

Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial Site

In the south of the city, you can also visit for free the former concentration camp, Neuengamme. It was a forced labor camp used by the SS in Germany’s dark Nazi past with around 500,000 forced laborers working there and around 50,000 people who were murdered there.

Start off with seeing some of the original livestock train wagons that brought the prisoners to the camp. Sometimes in the middle of winter in the open and how groups of 50 persons were cramped into these small waggons for sometimes there days long journey without even room to sit. Also visit the work rooms and hear of the dangerous and strenuous work conditions forced on the people with little or no protection or the gas chambers where many were executed with zyklon B gas.

There is an excellent museum building where you can learn about some of the forced laborers and their horrible conditions they had to live in.

For any WWII historian, this is a must do place to visit explaining in incredible detail this morbid and dark history and the perversions of such a destructive, oppressive, murderous regime under Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. It is a massive memorial site so do plan a good day or so to visit it.

You can reach the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial by first taking the S21 to “Bergedorf”. From Bergedorf take either the bus 127 or 227 to “Neuengamme Gedenkstätte” ( www.kz-gedenkstaette-neuengamme.de/en/ )

Free Concerts at the Hamburg Hochschule for Music and Theater

For all classical or jazz music lovers, a hidden secret here in the city are the free recitals and concerts performed by the music students at the Hamburg Hochschule for Music and Theater located directly on the beautiful outer alster lakes (Harvestehuder Weg 12). With recitals playing almost every day, one can listen to an array of solo instrumentalists and vocalists displaying their skills in recitals. But there are also symphony concerts, operas, jazz combos and bands showing off these students’ hard diligence and practice. 

Also, enjoy the wonderful concert halls, sometimes historic as in their Budget Palais and sometimes new and modern as in their new jazz hall. It is a wonderful mix of old and new halls to showcase the best of these up and coming musicians!

You can find the schedule of concerts at:

www.hfmt-hamburg.de/veranstaltungen

This blog was written by Brent Foster, a tour guide and manager of Robin and the Tourguides. Visit our website for great tours of the city! www.robinandthetourguides.de

Robin and the Tourguides is a member of Free Tour Community. If looking for great free tours for your next trip somewhere in the world, visit www.freetourcommunity.com for some of the best independent companies that have an emphasis on fair conditions for their workers and partners!

6 Authentic Local Craft Beer Bars in Hamburg

6 Authentic Local Craft Beer Bars in Hamburg

As Covid-19 restrictions are starting to ease, many more Bars and restaurants are starting to open up here in Hamburg. Now, finally, it is possible to visit our favorite craft breweries and bars after such a long exodus. Hamburg, being the craft beer capital of Germany, has many places to choose from, but only a few places deserve the recognition of truly being an authentic local craft beer bar. Maybe not as hyped or marketed as much as the others, but these are truly the regional craft beer heros that are not afraid of making a statement with their extraordinary beers. Here is our list of the 6 most authentic local craft beer bars to visit while in Hamburg!

Oorlam Bar

Located in the center of the city, Oorlam Bar is the official tap-room for Buddelship brewery, a brewery run by Brewmaster, Simon Siemsglüss. They have a total of 15 taps to choose from and are constantly changing taps to make for a never ending variation to their sortiment. Also expect collaboration brews from other breweries to be served here along with Simon’s excellent barrel aged beers, wonderful IPA series and delightful sour beers among other styles. There is always something for everybody here at this bar.

It is a cozy and local bar in every sense of the word. Here you can enjoy high quality beers as well as snacks. They have an excellent menu of French salamies or Dutch cheeses along with locally fresh baked breads and soups among other snacks. With all the different beers and snacks, it is truly an explosion of flavours to enjoy while visiting!

If that weren’t enough, Oorlam bar also boasts an excellent variety of genevers… an old style of gin. Simon just happens to be married to a wonderful genever distiller who also presents her fine genevers in the bar or on request give craft beer and genever pairings as well as tastings. This bar is for real craft beer connoisseurs!

Oorlam Bar
Buddelship Brewery
Baby Goat Bar in Hamburg, Germany
Goat Beer

The Baby Goat Bar

This delightfuly cozy bar is located on the wonderful Street of Grindelhof in the student district of Rothenbaum and unlike many restaurants on the street, it has space for a nice beer garden in front of the bar. With 8 Taps and bottled beer you will be sure to find a beer style you like. You can also order chips, onion rings or other wonderful dishes and they even have food for vegans!

Their beers are well tempered and blended. For those that want a drinkable pilsener or session there are no worries that they will beat it down with massive bitter hops! But for those looking for a nice IPA, they will also be delighted with their creations. Alcohol free beers are also offered in bottles from the fridge.

This craft beer bar started with an incredible friendship between Chris and Thomas, who met each other while playing field hockey here in Hamburg. They started brewing beer in their garage and thought it was such a great idea that they made their way all the way to Edinburgh to study beer brewing. 

While studying they went once to Spain for a vacation and asked a local where the best bar in the city was. The local said they should definitely visit the “Baby Goat Bar”. They searched for the bar the whole night while asking every passerby if they knew where the bar was… But to no success. 

The next day they happened to see the local who recommended the bar and told him their story from the night before. The local couldn’t stop laughing and admitted he made the story up sending them in vain the whole night on an adventure. Back in Hamburg they decided to then make the Baby Goat Bar a reality with a meaning of always searching and seeking for something that maybe isn’t there.

This is a great bar to relax and enjoy the weather if it is nice out as well as drink a few splendid craft beers.

Malto Shanghiat Bar

This bar is also a very cozy bar, or in fact the Taproom of Shanghiat Brewery, a nano brewery here in the city. They have just renovated the bar which has added a nice touch to the atmosphere and sometimes they also invite restaurants as guests to do food pairings with their beer. Located in the frequented Max-Brauer-Allee in Altona it is very centrally located.

Francesco, the brewer, is always trying new beers with a twist and sharing his creations with the community. They also have delicious food if no beer tastings are going on and it is always interesting to listen to Francesco explain his inspirations for his beers. He is one motivated brewer that puts a lot of fantasy into his craft.

They also have a beer garden in summer when the weather is permitting. So a great place to enjoy a fantastic beer in the sun!

Shanghait bar

Galopper des Jahres

Located in the heart of the infamous Schanzen quarter, this bar is as true to craft beer as it is rustical. It is in the Schulterblatt street right next to the squated Rote Flora theater. The have 12 different taps and a dozen or so bottled beers. They are a cooperation between a bakery during the day and bar with club at night time as well as a cinema among other functionalities.

You can often find events here as well like live music, pub quizzes, Meet-the-Brewers gatherings, and many other events. There are also many famous restaurants in the area so it is very convenient to visit before or after a nice meal in the area.

You will find many local beers here as well as regional breweries. However, they do tend to stay away from the many international corporate breweries which helps the local brewery scene. Many times you can meet brewers from these local breweries enjoying their evening off here. A great place for insiders and novices to meet with each other.

Craft Beer Flight
Alles Elbe Bar

Alles Elbe Bar

Alles Elbe or translated “Everything Elbe”, gets their inspiration from the Elbe river that flows through Hamburg, starting in the Czech Republic and eventually flowing into the North See. They host an ever changing tap list from local breweries as well as many times Czech breweries and have many regional snacks that go perfect with their beers.

Located in the heart of St.Pauli it is only a short stroll from the Reeperbahn, and for the same price as getting a mass produced boring beer on the Reeperbahn, one can enjoy the great flavors of craft brewed beer brewed along the Elbe river.

It is a great cozy place with friendly service with a home-style touch. with 8 taps and several fridges with bottles, you will definitely get to try some great local as well as Czeck beers!

Landgang Brewery Bar

This craft beer bar is located directly in the Landgang brewery and offers an excellent backdrop for a few great beers. Their bar container is outfitted with repurposed woods which give it an old maritime feeling. With 10 different taps, you can try many different styles of their beers. They also have tasting flights with 5 of their most popular beers to choose from.

Probably known as Hamburg’s only democratic brewery. Every time the brewery is ready to brew another style of beer they brew 5 different recipes of it and when ready, invite the community in to rate the different beers. Of course, the recipe with the most votes is the one they brew in the end. But everyone is still a winner with the free drinks and fun of being able to participate in the brewing process!

This brewery touts a great selection of hoppy beers, from their Lager or Pilsner to sours, IPAs, Stouts and barrel aged varieties. The Brew master, Sascha, is always seen working his craft in the background or enjoying his after-work beer in the evening… Just don’t mistake him though for an intern due to his young looks 😉

Also, they do have a lot of events at the brewery taking place. For example, comedy nights, bingo evenings, pub quizzes, bbq and other food events, brewery tours as well as brewing courses among other things. There is a lot enjoy at this brewery!

Landgang Brauerei
Landgang Brewery Beers

This article was written by Brent Foster. Robin and the Tourguides encourages responsible enjoyment of alcohol. Join our Hamburg Craft Beer Tasting Tour to get an insight to Hamburg’s unique craft beer scene. Tickets are available at: www.robinandthetourguides.de

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The 5 best Craft Breweries in Hamburg

The 5 best Craft Breweries in Hamburg

Germany and Hamburg have a great tradition of brewing beer that goes back millenia and the beer that is brewed today in Germany has an extremely high standard of quality enjoyed all around the world.

Hamburg even use to have the nickname “The Brewing House of the Hanseatic League” in the medieval centuries with over 500 Breweries in the city in the 16th century. Everyone drank beer because it was much safer to drink than unpurified water and had a lot of vitamins as well as calories. Slowly over the centuries though this number dwindled due to the invention of Schnapps, coffee and hot cocoa, as well as the industrial revolution and the invention of refrigeration machines which helped the brewing process so larger breweries started to buy up smaller ones and close them. Not to forget the Second World War destroyed much of the city along with many breweries which ultimately were not reopened after the war. All in all, just about two decades ago there were only 3 Breweries left in Hamburg: Holsten, Astra (Bavaria-St.Pauli Brauerei) and Gröninger, the oldest brewery in the city.

Germany is a major beer exporter of beer. Last year exporting over 850 million litres of beer and the number is constantly growing. It is no wonder that German beer is so well loved throughout the world due to the infamous German Purity Law of 1516. Its high standards are well cherished around the world. In fact, millions of visitors come every year to celebrate the world’s largest beer festival in Munich, the infamous Oktoberfest!

With such a rich beer history it might come as a surprise to some that the craft beer scene in Germany is relatively young. twenty years ago one would have looked in vain for an IPA or Imperial Stout in Germany. The same is true for Hamburg, now the craft beer capitol in Germany right up there with Berlin.

How could this be, one of the most Beer affluent countries in the world with a beer drinking capita of around 100 litres per person per year? Is Germany so cut off from the rest of the world that it missed out on the craft beer trend from America? The answer is no, of course not. Germany’s beer just has such a high quality that Germany didn’t, till recently, see a need for craft beer. Germans are also incredibly proud of their beer as well as their German Purity Law. So there has always been a distrust in beers that experiment too far away from a standard German pilsener or helles. But things have turned around and slowly over the past decade or so, more and more Germans are taking to loving the newly found craft beer scene that has been becoming more and more popular.

The first craft beer brewery to open here in Hamburg was the Kehrwieder Brewery which opened its doors in 2011. Ten years later there are a total of 20 craft and micro breweries and the number is constantly growing! Some craft breweries are more famous than others with strong marketing teams, located in popular and trendy locations, and more well known than others, so it might be confusing to figure out which craft breweries are the best here in the city, especially if only visiting the city for a short amount of time. 

Here are, in our opinion, the 5 best craft beer breweries in Hamburg that show an extraordinary quality and variety in their craft brewing techniques.

Kehrwieder Brewery 

This brewery is rated “Hamburg’s favorite brewery” for several years in a row from the followers at the popular craft beer rating site, RateBeer.com. And once you try their many different types of beers it will come as no surprise why. Kehrwieder Brewery is run by brewmaster Oliver, along with his lovely wife, Julia, who helps with the organization. The brewery boasts over 100 different beers and has won over 50 different international beer awards. Not only that, but Oliver was also the world beer sommelier champion in 2013 from the renowned Doemens Academy. So he definitely knows his stuff. Oliver is also a founding member of the Society of German Creative Brewers.

In 2011 Kehrwieder Brewery started brewing their first beer in the very south of Hamburg in a small village called Sinstorf. The “Prototyp” came about which is a dry hopped lager. Lager doesn’t sound that spectacular but once you try it you will know why it has won so many international awards!

The name of the brewery, Kehrwieder, or “return again”, comes from a part of the Hamburg ports known as Kehrwieder where historically the wives of the sailors going out to see would stand and call to their husbands to return safely home. Oliver’s idea when he founded the brewery was that Hamburg should return to its roots with a vast assortment of beers being offered here in the city… And ten years later one could say that he has started something incredible here in the creative beer scene, not only in Hamburg, but all over Germany!

One speciality that Oliver has been working on very successfully is his diversity of alcohol free craft beers. Oliver has developed a special one of a kind process for his alcohol free series. Instead of filtering the alcohol out, which also filters out a lot of flavour, Oliver has developed a special technique which gives these beers an extremely full flavour but without the alcohol. The result is uncanny and one would not believe that it is actually alcohol free beer!

Wildwuchs brewery 

Wildwuchs brewery opened in 2014 and is the first completely organic craft brewery in Hamburg. Of course, being an organic brewer the quality of their beers is second to none. Located in Wilhelmsburg south of the Elbe River and a bit off the beaten path, a visit to their brewery tap room is always a great way to spend a weekend evening!

Wildwuchs is run by the Brewmaster Fiete, who is a native to Hamburg and has a degree in beer brewing and is a professional beer sommelier. Every aspect of the brewery takes the environment into account and you might even see the workers throughout the city delivering the beer on their electric transport bikes, of course run only on green electricity.

Not only does Wildwuchs use organic ingredients, but also they focus on ingredients that are grown locally and have even planted a hops garden here in the south of Hamburg to help them with sustainability in their supply chain. 

The brews have won dozens of awards and recently their delicious Bock O’range line won the title of favourite beer from the German Beer Consumers Union, a well deserved honor for Fiete’s Bock creation. However, there are many other wonderful beers to choose from at Wildwuchs, from the standard IPAs, wit beers, lagers and pilsners, and even a delicately crafted smoked beer among many others! If you haven’t tried craft beer from Wildwuchs already, you are definitely missing out on some excellent brews!

Buddelship Brewery

Buddelship Brewery was started in 2014 by Brewmaster Simon. They were located for a long time in a former fish canning factory, but don’t worry, there is nothing fishy about this brewery.

Buddelship means ship in a bottle and stands for some great hanseatic traditions. Simon is an expert brewer that one can tell his affinity towards barrel aged beers, whether it be amazing imperial stouts, to “Barrique” Pilsners or his barley wines among others. After trying many of Simon’s beers, one starts to realise his true passion for barrel aged beers. One also might ask themselves where does he get all of those wonderful port, wine and liquor barrels to make such a diverse and great variety of beers?. It might be no wonder that his wonderful Dutch wife, Nienke, is a genever distiller and sommelier who also sells, together with Buddelship, her amazing types of old styled gins. Together they make a great team and also offer insightful tasting pairings.

The barrel aged beers are highly commemorated, but Simon’s other beers are also an incredible delight! He, of course, has his standard beers, but also experiments a lot with sour beers, gose, lambics and has an incredible IPA series which he names the “Mr. (one letter)” series. Probably the most famous of his is Mr.B IPA. An incredibly flavourful and hazy New England India Pale Ale.

You can try the amazing beers at Buddelship’s own tap room, Oorlam, located in the middle of the city, Kohlhöfen 29. It is a cozy tap room with a great atmosphere and snacks such as amazing dutch cheeses and french salamis with locally fresh baked breads, among other delicious snacks. They also often have collaborations with other breweries so it is always an interesting mix of beers and with 15 taps and dozens of bottled beers, you are sure to find some incredibly wonderful beers that suit your taste!

Landgang Brewery

Landgang is the youngest brewery here in our list. But it has been flooded with success and now boasts to be the third largest brewery in Hamburg. With so much success, their beer has to be good!

Sascha, the brewmaster of Landgang founded the brewery in 2015 together with Lars, who organises the marketing and back office side of the brewery. They have proven to be an amazing team that has created many great beers together. And it is no surprise that the brewery is still growing today after winning dozens of international beer awards.

Landgang loves to make hoppy beers. From their Lager to New England IPAs, expect a lot of hoppy flavour in their beers. This can range from their typical north German pilsner which is as expected on the bitter side, to an array of citrusy aroma in their American IPA, or the fruity flavour of their Double IPA… Sascha likes his hops and the customers love his beer!

But Landgang also has unusual beers, for example, their tutti frutti series. Every half a year or so they produce a sour beer with a different fruit injected into the beer. Sometimes black currant, tropical fruits, gooseberries or even cucumbers. It is always interesting to taste the different aromas that are created in this refreshing series.

Interesting fact about the brewery is that before they brew the new beer style, they invite the community to try 4-5 different prototypes of the beer recipe and the community votes which recipe should be brewed. This is always an incredibly fun event for the community and also ensures the best recipe will be brewed… Or Hamburg’s only democratic Brewery 🙂

They also open their tap room on weekends located directly in the brewery for guests to come by and enjoy some great beers on tap in a modern brewery atmosphere. If you haven’t been, it is always worth a visit!

Bunthaus Brewery

Bunthaus brewery is located on Bunthaus island in the south of the city and is by far the smallest brewery on this list… yes it is really a nano brewery with a 2 hektor litre brewing facility. It doesn’t have an incredibly large assortment of beers, but for that, the quality and flavour of their beers are marvelous.

Because the brewery itself doesn’t have a license to serve alcohol they have a tap room, located in the south of the city in Wilhelmsburg. It is in the beautiful gardens of Island Park and is a former water purification facility where you can still see the nano copper pigments from the water that used to flow through the building on the walls (located at Kurdamm 24). It is an imposing monument to the decades-long function of the building.

The brewmaster, Jens, started as a hobby brewer about 10 years ago and has made incredible strides throughout the few years he has been brewing. He has keeped his brewing process small but at the same time gratifying his trustworthy craft beer drinkers. He is constantly trying new things out which make his beers unique to say the least… How about a gose with instead of salt a vietnamies fish sauce, or an Ale with beetroot infused in it? All under the motto, don’t dis it till you’ve tried it!

Bunthaus only has about 5-6 beers at a time, if not sold out before then, but the variety ranges from dry hopped pilsners, of course alluring IPAs, to imperial stouts and even wonderful gose. So everyone is bound to find a style that suits them.  Jens, is a low key brewer but with high ambitions for the quality of his beers. A good reason to try them before they are sold out again!

If you are looking for more information about the best craft beers here in the city, feel free to join the original Hamburg Craft Beer Tasting Tour! With our expert guides we will learn about the craft beer scene here in the city and try some of the best craft beers Hamburg has to offer. Don’t settle for second best rather book directly at: www.robinandthetourguides.de

This blog was written by Brent Foster from Robin and the Tourguides in July of 2021. We welcome you to comment or share your thoughts and experiences about Hamburg’s craft beer scene below!