Seven years ago, the first Vogelball took place in the city of Hamburg, Germany. What started as a small, underground electronic music festival quickly grew to a popular event. So much so, that the festival needed to relocate to Europe's biggest river island, Hamburg's district Wilhelmsburg.
A festival on an island? That sounded cool, so when Visit Hamburg invited me to attend, I gladly said yes.
- Vogelball Hamburg: what to expect
- What to bring to the Vogelball
- More on Hamburg
- How to get to Hamburg?
- Where to stay in Hamburg
- Pin for later
Vogelball Hamburg: what to expect
1. Feathers and glitter
Vogelball translates as “Bird Ball” so yes, a lot of people dress up like birds. In some cases that means a lot of glitter and feather makeup. In others, it means wearing a giant flamingo hat or even a beak.
The dressing up reminds of another event taking place the same weekend as the Vogelball – the Hamburg Pride – and the festival has happily been embraced by the LGTBQ community. Did you know, by the way, that Hamburg is known to be very LGBTQ-friendly? The first same-sex marriage in Germany didn't happen in spunky Berlin. Nope. It took place in Hamburg!
If you want to have your makeup done professionally, you can visit the makeup artists working at the Vogelball. That's what our group did and we got feathers around the eyes, lots of glitter and sparkly stones.
Well, the others did. I asked the artists to keep it basic and I'm glad I did because as the night progressed, some people who had a lot of glitters around their eyes and on their eyelids ended up getting it in their eyes so a first tip: make it sparkle but apply some fixation.
And if you're not feeling it, don't worry: not everyone dresses up and you'll enjoy the festival just as well without an outer transformation.
2. Music and more
While the Vogelball is mostly a music festival, it isn't just a music festival. Especially in the afternoon, you can see comedy, theater and other types of performances on the no less than eight different stages.
Yup, there's more than one stage and I have to honestly say I'm not even sure I've seen them all because what's fun about the Vogelball is that it has all kinds of little, hidden corners and smaller stages tucked away behind other bigger stages.
When we headed home, for example, we discovered that there was a small stage with a DJ playing hip-hop music (my kinda music!) right next to the exit. We hadn't been there all evening because, why would you check the spot right next to the exit?
Well, at Vogelball, you should make your first hour an exploratory one. Have a look at the festival map and see if you can find everything that's on there.
3. Decently priced food and free water
That includes the food court. Instead of having food trucks scattered around the festival, the Vogelball has them all in one area surrounding a bunch of picnic tables. This makes it easy to actually have a sit-down meal and talk to your friends while you can still hear all the fun that's happening around you.
I had a chicken burrito there for dinner and a pancake with Nutella (so bad but so good) as a midnight snack. The burrito was €6, the pancake €3.5 – reasonable prices for a festival, I thought.
I don't know what the drinks cost because I had a water bottle that I refilled at the festival's drink water taps.
So next tip: bring a refillable bottle! It's allowed.
And also: bring cash! It's not possible to pay by card anywhere at the festival.
4. All night long
Vogelball is a night festival. It starts at 4 in the afternoon and goes on until 7 a.m. That's some proper clubbing right there! Apparently, those are normal festival times for the Germans but they surprised me a bit as music festivals in Belgium tend to start around noon and only last until 1 or 2 a.m.
I didn't last until 7, though. As I still wanted to see a bit of the city (it was my first time in Hamburg) and didn't feel like going back to the hotel by myself, I joined a blogger from our group when he went back to the hotel around 1 a.m. That was a good call because we got back at around 1.50 a.m. and by that time, I was pretty tired.
This brings me to…
5. Free shuttle buses
From 10.30 p.m. onward, there are free shuttle buses taking festival goers back into the city and they run all night long. They take you to an S-Bahn station from where you can travel onward. The S-Bahn and U-Bahn in Hamburg run non-stop during the weekend.
There are no shuttle buses to the festival. You have to make your own way there by public transportation, car or bike. We've also seen some locals arrive by bike so if you're feeling sporty and you got a rental bike for you the duration of your stay in Hamburg, that's an option too.
Make sure to check the route beforehand, though, as the festival is located away from the city center and you probably won't feel like an hour-long ride when you go back in the wee hours of the morning.
Toilets? Yes, because I want to mention that the Vogelball has actual proper toilets. They also have a lot of those plastic toilets, but there are also real toilers. Reaaaaaal toilets! Sorry, I'm a woman. It's always nice when there are real toilets.
And even better: they're free!
They do ask you to leave a tip, which I did, but they don't make you pay to use a proper toilet. Bless them.
Tickets for the Vogelball can be bought beforehand online. This year, they were around €21. I say “around”, because I saw prices range from €21 up to €27 on pre-sale sites.
You could also buy tickets the night of the festival at the cash register for €30 but I heard there weren't that many left, so it's probably best to buy them in advance if you definitely want to go.
What to bring to the Vogelball
To enjoy your time at the Vogelball to the fullest, I recommend bringing the following items.
- a refillable water bottle: there are taps with free drink water at the festival grounds
- a light cardigan or sweater: it was super hot during the day, but walking home at night things got chilly so if you're not someone who dances all-night-long or if it hasn't been that warm during the day, definitely bring an extra layer
- sunscreen: if you plan to be there when it all starts at 4 p.m., make sure to bring sunscreen. There is some but not a lot of shade at the festival
- cash: you cannot pay by card at the festival
- wet wipes: because it can get dusty and you can get dirty :-)
- ear plugs: I do have to say the music wasn't absurdly loud at the Vogelball, as sometimes is the case at festivals, but I did wear my custom made ear plugs most of the night. You only have one pair of ears.
- a power bank: because you don't want your phone to die
- paper tissues
More on Hamburg
We didn't just go to the Vogelball when we were in Hamburg. Check out this cool video Will from Going Awesome Places made and see if you can spot me! :-)
How to get to Hamburg?
I flew from Brussels Airport to Hamburg and then took the S-Bahn directly from Hamburg Airport into the city center. Visit Hamburg provided us with a Hamburg City Card so we could use public transportation for free. You can get a Hamburg City Card for as low as €10.5 for a day.
If you still need to book your flight to Hamburg, I recommend checking Skyscanner for a good overview of your options with different airlins.
It's also possible to travel to Hamburg by train. Check here for train timetables and prices within Europe.
Where to stay in Hamburg
There are barely any places to stay at Wilhelmsburg so I highly recommend staying in Hamburg city center as that'll make it easier for you to make the most out of your trip and see some sights as well.
1. Design budget hotel Motel One am Michel
I stayed at the Motel One am Michel for two nights while I was in Hamburg. I'd stayed at a Motel One before when I visited Salzburg in Austria, and the room in this one was practically identical. It probably was identical.
The Motel One is a modern design hotel at very reasonable prices. You can get a soundproof double room here with air conditioning, a desk, a little couch, and a flatscreen tv for as little as €96/night. I say “little” because I think that's a great price for this kind of hotel right in the center of a big city like Hamburg.
The Motel One am Michel lies right by the famous Reeperbahn and the creative St Pauli district. It's also walking distance from the Old Town, the Elbphilharmonie, and the big Planten un Bomen park.
There's free WiFi and you can get warm snacks and drinks at the bar by the lounge area. The breakfast buffet costs extra, but at the time of writing it's only €9.5, which is a fair price for all you can get.
This hotel also has its own underground parking. It costs extra but no reservation is needed.
You do definitely need to reserve ahead if you want to stay here, though. The Motel One am Michel is super popular as it offers such great value and is frequently fully booked.
Want to stay at Motel One am Michel too? Check here for more reviews, prices, and availability.
2. Hostel Jugendherberge Hamburg Auf dem Stintfang
The hostel Jugendherberge Hamburg Auf dem Stintfang is located in the vibrant St Pauli district, just 500 meters from Hamburg's nightlife center, the Reeperbahn, and a mere 200 meters from the Landungsbrücken underground station. It offers free WiFi and a panoramic view of the city.
Guests can choose between private rooms, all-female dormitories, and mixed dormitories. A free breakfast buffet is included in the room price and the hostel also organizes a warm evening buffet at an extra cost.
Want to stay at Jugendherberge Hamburg Auf dem Stintfang? Check here for more reviews, prices, and availability.
3. Boutique Hotel Wedina an der Alster
Hotel Wedina an der Alster lies – exactly – by the Alster Lake and just an eight-minute walk from the main train station. Every room is uniquely decorated and equipped with free WiFi, a safe, and an en-suite bathroom.
The rooms are spread out over five themed buildings, in which you can find the house library, avant-garde architecture, literature from Hamburg and an exhibition space.
The breakfast buffet consists of organic produce and homemade foods. In the summertime, it's served in the Tuscan-style garden of the hotel.
Want to stay at the Hotel Wedina an der Alster? Check here for more reviews, prices, and availability.
4. Luxury Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten
The five-star Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten is located by the Alster Lake in the center of Hamburg. All of its air-conditioned rooms are richly decorated and are equipped with an espresso machine, a flat-screen tv, and a DVD player, among other things.
The hotel's Haerlin restaurant has two Michelin stars and serves gourmet cuisine. It's Nikkei Nine restaurant serves a mix of Japanese and South American specialties. And at the Biedermeier-style Café, guests can enjoy the breakfast buffet as well as afternoon cakes.
For some exercise, head to the on-site gym or let yourself be pampered at the hotel's luxury spa.
Want to stay at the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten? Check here for more reviews, prices, and availability.
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I was invited to attend the Vogelball by Visit Hamburg. The decision to have a blast was all mine.
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