The Famous Hamburg Fish Market

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It wasn’t until 1934 that there was a single Hamburg fish market. Altona at the gates of Hamburg had its own fish market until then. Between the Hamburg and Altona fish market there was a centuries-long rivalry. Today, the fish market attracts many early risers and tourists every Sunday morning. In 1900, sculptor Paul Türpe created the Stuhlmann fountain in front of the Altona railway station. He depicts the rivalry allegorically as a fight of two centaurs for a fish.


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From the fish auction hall to Schellfischposten

Fish Auction Hall - Foto Susanne Goldschmidt

Altona fish auction hall

The original fish auction hall of 1895/96 was built long and narrow, 103mx22m for different use. It was to have rooms for auctions, storage of equipment, and packing and shipping of fish. Nets were to be mended here, and there was also to be accommodation for traveling merchants.
The fish auction hall is a steel and glass structure, which allows a lot of light into the rooms through numerous windows. Inside it should not only be bright, and so the many windows also served as ventilation.
During the war, the hall was badly damaged. From 1982-84, the fish auction hall was restored after long discussions and has since been a popular venue.
The Hamburgers, on the other hand, built their first fish auction hall on St Pauli in Hafenstraße as early as 1871. The hall was inconveniently located. The fish had to be carried down slippery steps. The coal steamers from England docked nearby. The often blowing west wind sometimes showered the fish with coal dust.
In 1898 a new large hall was built of iron lattice and brick. Already in 1906 this hall had become too small. From 1915 on the Altonaer and Hamburg fishermen wanted a common fish market, this came however only 1934 off.
The Hamburg fish auction hall was 1971/72 completely torn off.


Hamburger Fischmarkt - Foto: Mediaserver Hamburg

Hamburg fish market then and now

Not only fish, but also fruit, vegetables, plants and live small animals, such as chickens, carrier pigeons and rabbits were and are sold on the Altona fish market to supply the citizens.
So that the caught fish did not spoil, this was allowed to be sold on Sundays before going to church. Traditionally, the fish market begins until today in the summer in the morning at 5.00 o’clock and in the winter at 6.00 o’clock. At 10.00 o’clock is then all over.
Here meet Sunday morning night owls, tourists or just those who are looking for the Sunday breakfast especially fresh fish.
Popular are the market screamers, who advertise their eels (eels Dieter), bananas and plants and give the customers the feeling for little money to get a lot of goods, even almost as a gift.
Who is looking for beautiful bouquets of flowers, good fish and fruit at low prices, will find here only after 9.30 o’clock, when then really everything must “out”.
A detour to the old fish auction hall is always worthwhile. For the morning pint/brunch bands play a loud, colorful program and maybe you can find a place to warm up, because Sunday morning it can be very cold on the fish market.


Filmkulisse Fischmarkt - Foto: Susanne Goldschmidt

Hamburg fish market as a film set

The fish market and the surrounding area have been immortalized in many films and series. If you want to see what the fish market and its surroundings would have looked like 30 years ago, take a look at Wim Wenders’ “American friend”. Or, even better: in the film “Taxi” based on the book by Karin Duve, the Hamburg fish market steals the show from the actors all the time, day and night. The fish market is also not missing in the detective series “Großstadtrevier” and “Hamburg Hafenkante”. Hamburg is attractive as a filming location for many national and international filmmakers not only because of the scenery, but also because they don’t have to pay to use the public spaces. The “Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein” (FFHSH) supports film and television productions of all genres, the main thing is that they are shot in Hamburg. And so Hamburg and the fish market can often be seen in films.

Fish Market - Harbour Birthday - Foto: Mediaserver Hamburg

Fish market and harbor birthday

Fish market and Hamburg Harbor Birthday at the beginning of May belong inseparably together. Particularly impressive is the entry and exit parade of ships from the fish market directly on the water to observe. One is here in the middle of the hustle and bustle.
Each year, more than 300 ships from all over the world and all ages and construction methods to the largest port festival in the world.


It is a special experience when you get on a ship at the fish market itself and take part in the parade. You spend almost a whole day on the Elbe and meet small sailing ships that have their home port in Hamburg to large sailors, such as the Alexander von Humboldt, the advertising ship of Beck’s beer or the Kruzenshtern, a Russian four-masted barque. 

The cruise lines ensure that one or the other cruise ship can be there.
General cargo ships, fireboats, lightships, ewers and bow tugs are also not missing. A dense, coordinated crowd on the Elbe.

Many of the ships have their berth in the traditional ship port or in the museum port Övelgönne and can be visited there.

Fish market during storm surge - Foto Susanne Goldschmidt

The fish market and the storm surge

In some years, the fish market is flooded more than once by a storm surge. Between October and March, the Elbe can burst its banks during stormy weather. The fish auction hall and all the buildings around it are appropriately secured against the flood. Flood gates are closed, bulkheads to basements and garages are closed, and parked cars are moved to safety.

On most houses, you can see markings indicating how high the flood rose in which year. The current highest water level due to a storm surge that occurred was in 1976. Climate change is unfortunately making itself felt – or rather, it is already a reality. The fish market is for some years more often and higher by storm surges “under water” than still in the last century.

Fish Market - Schellfischposten- Foto Susanne Goldschmidt

and after visiting the fish market in Hamburg...

…one goes a piece further the large Elbstraße along and lands on a Frühschoppen with a Heringsbrötchen with the “Schellfischposten” or the “Haifischbar”.
The Schellfischposten is one of the oldest Seefaherkneipe in Hamburg. The taproom is tiny and used to be the waiting shelter for workers going to the fish market. The stop was called Schellfischposten because the Schellfischbahn transported fish from the port to Altona station nearby.
Today you can rent the pub for private parties. If not just the NDR late night show “Inas Nacht” is recorded or a celebration takes place, it is a quaint old pub. Under the ceiling hang numerous souvenirs brought by sailors from all over the world.
In summer, you can sit well in front of the door and look at the business on the Elbe and on the shore.


The shark bar just around the corner has borrowed its name from the entertainment show “Shark Bar”. For this purpose, the NDR television studio was transformed into the typical setting of a Hamburg harbor bar. Oh yes, this show ran from 1962-1979.
The Haifischbar itself is larger than the Schellfischposten, just as old and also decorated with a lot of maritime flair.


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