Business travel: Frequent flyer - Paul Molyneux's guide to Hamburg

HOW TO GET THERE: I normally fly with BA. It takes an hour and 20 minutes from Heathrow.

by Paul Molyneux, managing director of Sharp UK
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

AIRPORT TO TOWN: Taxis take 25 minutes and cost about EUR27. The drivers are very friendly.

BEST HOTEL: I like the five-star Dorint Sofitel Am Alten Wall (Alter Wall 40, 0049 40 369500, A 'design' hotel, it's in the heart of the city, but near a quiet canal. It contains works by conceptual artist Martin Mlecko and has a relaxing atmosphere. The Japanese bath in the health suite is an added attraction. It's not the cheapest, but nor is it the dearest. It's smart and stylish - just the place for a C-level exec. The luxurious Raffles Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten (Neuer Jungfernstieg 9-14, tel +40 34940,, by the Inner Alster Lake and 10km from the airport, is within walking distance of Hamburg's most exclusive shopping and the business district. Built in 1897, it's consistently rated as one of the world's finest hotels and contains three restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Haerlin.

BEST BUSINESS RESTAURANT: Tucked down a side street is Matsumi (Colonnaden 96, Neustadt, +40 343125), an authentic Japanese restaurant serving traditional dishes. Guests sit at long, low tables, while waitresses follow the traditional serving etiquette. Groups can book a private room with sliding paper doors - but remove your shoes before entering. The Sushi master at the Matsumi is authorised to prepare blowfish. The Feuerschiff restaurant (City Sporthafen, tel +40 362553, is a floating lighthouse, now permanently berthed and transformed by its owner, Captain Wulf Hoffmann, into a restaurant and bar. The menu features locally caught fish. Monday night is 'Blue Monday', with live jazz.

A FEW HOURS TO KILL? Beatles fans should visit Grosse Freiheit 36 in St Pauli, site of the Kaiserkeller, where the group started to gain momentum, and where they first met Ringo Starr. Across the road is Gretel & Alfons (Grosse Freiheit 29), where they had breakfast, running up a tab until the end of the week, when they got paid and settled it. Apparently, they left once without paying a $20 bill, but Paul McCartney settled it in about 1990, with interest. St Pauli is also the tube stop for the world-famous (or infamous) Reeperbahn district. Alongside its most obvious attractions are many bars and restaurants, and it's buzzing at night as revellers fill the streets. A centrally located police station ensures there is never any trouble. In fact, the whole area has an excellent vibe. At the other end of the cultural spectrum is the Alster Lake. Featured in every guidebook, it's the true centre of Hamburg. On one side is the peace and quiet of stately lawns and mansions, with the vibrancy of a shopping district and cafes on the other. The adjacent areas are full of museums, clubs, restaurants and performing arts venues.

BUSINESS ETIQUETTE: German business managers like to get straight to the point. Even when small talk is made in the workplace, it's rarely more than a few comments. On the other hand, at more relaxed events like a meal, Germans love to gossip, although family questions or politics tend to be avoided. Topics like cars and technology, travelling and foreign cities, hobbies and sports are more popular because they do not get too personal. The Germans might think you're arrogant if you keep your hands in your pockets while conversing.

SECRETS OF THE JET SET: It's easy to spend the whole night in bars and restaurants on the shore of Alster Lake. Matsumi is just a five-minute walk away and there are plenty of lounge bars in the area. Getting around on the U-Bahn (the underground system) is cheap, safe and efficient. It runs 24 hours at weekends and until 1am on weekdays, but taxis are a cheap alternative.

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