One of the most delightful German traditions is Kaffee und Kuchen, or coffee and cake, which is the Teutonic version of afternoon tea. German people still treasure this ritual, and I must admit that it was quite irritating to see so many slender locals indulging in slices of decadent torte. In the name of research, I risked my waistline in order to find the best places to enjoy Kaffee und Kuchen in Hamburg.
Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten: Whether you stay at this hotel or not, do not miss the chance to have coffee and cake or afternoon tea in the ornate and historic Wohnhalle. The torte selection is dreamy, but since we had a substantial food-and-beverage credit at the hotel, we opted for high tea, complete with savory finger sandwiches, flawless scones with clotted cream and exquisite little pastries.
Neuer Jungfernstieg 9-14. Tel. (49) 40-3494-0
The Westin Hamburg: With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the harbor, this ranks among Hamburg’s most dramatic locations for Kaffee und Kuchen. The quality of the baked goods matches the view; each torte and tart is a work of art.
The Bridge Bar
Platz der Deutschen Einheit 2. Tel. (49) 40-8000-100
In the Levantehaus, below the Park Hyatt Hamburg, this café calls itself “historic,” even though it opened in 2015. It feels classic, at least, with crystal chandeliers, bentwood chairs and leather booths upstairs. The café offers a wide variety of cakes, both traditional and modern. I opted for a moist, sweet and slightly tart torte with mango and crème fraîche. Our overworked waitress had far too many tables; expect slow service.
Roncalli Grand Café
Mönckebergstrasse 7. Tel. (49) 40-3003-4943
The name of this establishment translates as “Water Palace,” and indeed, it occupies an exceptionally beautiful historic building on the tip of an island in the Speicherstadt neighborhood. The shady front patio is inviting, but I preferred the terrace at the rear, with better water views. The tortes are merely passable — the setting is the draw — so I opted for an Earl Grey tea-infused crème brûlée to go with my pot of Rote Grütze fruit tea. Tea is the specialty here; inside is one of the largest and loveliest tea shops I’ve ever seen.
Dienerreihe 4. Tel. (49) 40-5589-8264-0
Located in the magnificent Säulenhalle (Hall of Columns) in the Hamburger Kunsthalle, this café provides a wonderful atmosphere in which to refresh your appetite for art. The tortes and service are less formal than the architecture, but a break here is still a delight. Open only to those who purchase tickets to the museum.
Glockengiesserwall 5. Tel. (49) 40-3037-5196
I didn’t have time to try this café in the heart of Hamburg’s gay neighborhood, but more than one local told me it has some of the best cakes in Hamburg. Any LGBTQ visitor with a sweet tooth should put Gnosa on their itinerary.
Lange Reihe 93. Tel. (49) 40-2430-34
Should you find yourself in the western Blankense suburb along the Elbe, don’t miss the chance to have coffee and cake at Witthüs, a historic villa with a large garden patio. Its specialty is “Jellyfish on Sand,” a composition of homemade nut cake, fresh fruit, rum-soaked cherries and whipped cream.
Elbchaussee 499a. Tel. (49) 40-8601-73
This café in the elegant Jenisch Haus, a villa-turned-museum surrounded by gardens, is operated by Hotel Louis C. Jacob. As you might therefore suspect, the torte selection is of high quality. The space is small but bright and elegant, with high ceilings and suitably serious oil paintings, and in good weather, outdoor seating is also available.
Museumscafé im Jenisch Haus
Baron-Voght-Strasse 50. Tel. (49) 40-8229-0822
Just down the street from the Jenisch Haus, this restaurant floats on the Elbe River, giving patrons a front-row seat when the occasional massive container vessel or cruise ship passes by. The cake selection isn’t large or fancy, but I very much enjoyed watching the river traffic while nibbling a slice of strawberries-and-cream torte.
Fähranleger Teufelsbrück. Tel. (49) 40-8241-87