In every city there is something, that you “must to see”, and Hamburg is no exclusion. The Hamburg Altona fish market is one of the places, that you can’t skip. There is even a saying, that if you did not go there, you weren’t in Hamburg at all. The place started to be as a market more than 300 years ago and was established in a small village Altona, which at that time was even not a part of Hamburg City and just situated nearby. Normally the market was open from Monday to Friday, but in 1703 local fishermen were allowed to sell fish also on Sunday. The reason was very simple – there were no cooling installations at that time and without them the fish were spoiled very fast, especially during the summer period. In ability not to waste the products it was decided by the local government to open the fish market also on Sunday. But the time was very limited – it was allowed to sell fish only from 5 a.m. to 9.30 a.m., so to be able to buy something really fresh and good, people had to wake up very early.
Nowadays it is not necessary anymore to start the market so early; nevertheless, the tradition of opening the fish market at 5 a.m. is kept for more than 300 years. But is the fresh fish so important? Not really. It was just a reason, that forced people to organize something together, to create a place, where they can give and receive something, and it is not only about goods or money. The market is a place of communication, exchange of information, thoughts and ideas. The variety of goods has also changed – now you cannot just find fish or other sea products there, but also fruits, vegetables, clothes and different hand-made things.
In addition to the high economic profits, the market has a very important social meaning. The Hamburg Fishmarket was almost destroyed during the Second World War since it was situated near the Hamburger port, which was bombed very often. Despite the fact, that it wasn’t so necessary, in 1948 the market was opened again, first of all, because of the strong people’s will to have new ordinary life at the same time not forgetting about old traditions. It was opened again, each Sunday at 5 o’clock.
Now there is a big concert hall, where different bands are playing concerts from Saturday’s to Sunday’s night; a lot of festivals are also taking place there and,- it is also a place for “after party”,- people from the Saint Pauli district (club and bar district in Hamburg) before 5 a.m. slowly moving to the market to eat Fischbrötchen and to chat with each other.
But the most important – tradition of selling fish did not disappear. It became more like a show: here a fish-seller is calling the fish “you are my princess” and other guy is counting the small crabs in 5 different languages and suggests the tourist buys all of them. Now it is something more, than just the process of selling – it is an old tradition in a new vision, still preserved, but also modernized with a big aim to unite people and make their Sunday morning more positive and energetic.
Nowadays Hamburger Fish Market has more than 1 million visitors each year.