When most people want to visit Germany, they immediately think of going to urban Berlin or beautiful Munich, but maybe next time you should think of visiting Hamburg.
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and has so much to offer, including shopping, charming canals, harbor boat tours, interesting museums, and beautiful architecture. I've put together a list of the top 15 things to do in Hamburg, Germany, so you know where to start when visiting the city.
Travel Tip: If you know in advance that you will be visiting multiple tourist attractions and traveling around the city a lot, you should consider getting a Hamburg Card. It gives you access to free travel by bus, train, and ferry, and discounts on more than 150 tourists attractions and restaurants.
You can check it out or buy it here.
While visiting Hamburg you have to make sure you try the local soft drink "Fritz-kola", which is known for containing the maximum allowance of caffeine in Europe. So one of these will keep you energized all day, so you can go explore Hamburg. 🙂
1. Hamburg Rathaus and the Alsterarkaden (Hamburg City Hall)
The Hamburg City Hall is iconic, and the 112-meter tall tower is visible from most of the city center. The city hall was built from 1886 to 1897 and still houses its original governmental functions.
Make sure to visit the courtyard behind the building - it has a fountain crowned with a statue of the goddess Hygieia and is a very beautiful little area.
If you are interested in entering the building, you can pay a small fee and take an hour-long tour. It is open Monday to Sunday from 8:00 to 18:00.
The Rathausmarkt in front of the City Hall is a popular venue for fairs, markets, and concerts, and right next to the city hall you will find the Alsterarkaden. The arcade is an exclusive shopping street following the canal, and it is definitely a must-visit whether you love shopping or just want a nice place to have lunch and enjoy the view.
2. City Bus Tour
People have very mixed feelings about the standard hop-on/hop-off tourist bus tours. Some people hate them and others do them every time they arrive at a new place. Personally, I think it's a great way to see what a city has to offer and get an introduction to its history, and then I can decide for myself what I find interesting and want to explore further afterwards.
While visiting Hamburg we did a tour with "Die Roten Doppeldecker" busses on a rainy day, which let us see some of the city without having to walk around in the rain for hours.
The bus leaves from the central station (Hauptbahnhof/Kirchenallee) or Landungsbrücken in St. Pauli, but you can get on or off at any of the 29 stops along the way.
You can buy your ticket on the bus or in advance here.
The Speicherstadt area is also called the City of Warehouses. It is the largest warehouse district in the world, and even though most of the old warehouses are turned into apartments, offices, or visitor attractions, it is still a very special feeling walking through the narrow cobblestone streets and small waterways.
The area is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you can either explore it by foot or take a canal tour to see it from the water.
4. Harbor Boat Tour
If you want to explore Speicherstadt by foot, but still want to feel the ocean breeze, consider doing a Harbor Boat Tour.
Hamburg has the third largest port in the world (after London and NYC), and the many boat tours will bring you up close to HafenCity, the famous Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg's very own beach, and the many container ships.
I did the tour with Barkassen-Meyer, and it showed us all the highlights of the harbor. The tour has a live German guide, but if you prefer English, they give you a phone and a pair of headphones, so you can follow along.
They have hourly tours between 11:00 and 15:00 every day and you can buy a ticket here.
If you decide to do one of the tours mentioned above you will be getting onboard at the Landungsbrücken in St. Pauli, but even if you don't it's definitely worth a visit. This floating platform is filled with seafood restaurants and ice cream places and is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the view of the harbor on a sunny day.
6. Old Elbe Tunnel
While you are at Landungsbrücken, don't forget to take the stairs down to the Old Elbe Tunnel. The people of Hamburg are very proud of the 426-meter long tunnel under the harbor, and it was revolutionary when it first opened in 1911.
Even today it's a weird feeling knowing that you are walking under the river, and the beautiful Jugendstil architecture makes this tunnel worth a stop.
7. Planten un Blomen
If you prefer greenery to being on the water, make your way to Hamburg's most famous park: "Planten un Blomen" (meaning "plants and flowers").
This 47 hectares park is home to a botanical garden, a rose garden, the largest Japanese garden in Europe, and multiple greenhouses. Throughout the summer months, you can enjoy free water/light concerts, theater performances, and festivals.
It is no secret that I love chocolate! So when I heard about Hachez Chocoversum, I knew that I had to go. In this 1,200 sq meter exhibition space, you can partake in a 90-minute guided tour that takes you through the process of making chocolate. Don't worry, though, as there are plenty of samples during the tour, and they even let you decorate your own chocolate bar that you can bring home.
Chocoversum is perfect if you are traveling with kids or if you are just interested in spending a few fun hours tasting some delicious chocolate.
The Chocoversum is located in Hamburg's old town, in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a 10-minute walk from Hamburg Central Station and only 5 minutes from the Speicherstadt. They are open all week from 10:15 to 16:00, and an adult ticket will cost you 15 euros.
You can skip the line, by buying a ticket here.
9. Miniature Wunderland
Another place you have to visit while in Hamburg is the Miniature Wunderland. An old warehouse building has been turned into the museum and is now housing the world’s largest model railway. As of 2017, there are 15.4 km (9.57 miles) of railway track, surrounded by miniature versions of famous landmarks. While you move around the 3 floors the lights change from day to night in 15-minute cycles, and you can push more than 200 buttons to activate lights and movement.
Even for someone who is not interested in model trains, Miniature Wunderland is a must do when in Hamburg! You can spend hours looking at all the details of the models and spotting the hidden gems.
Miniature Wunderland is open 365 days a year and an adult ticket ranges from 13-20 euros depending on the timeslot you choose.
You can skip the line and buy your ticket in advance here.
Right behind the Speicherstadt, you will find Hamburg's newest quarter HafenCity. It officially opened in 2008 and was built to create apartments near the city center. It is the largest urban building project in Europe in the 21st century, and the plan is that this area will continue to grow over the next 15 years and create homes for more than 12,000 people.
The entire area is built next to the water, and the architecture is creative and modern. Even though there is still a lot of construction going on, it is definitely worth it to go for a walk in HafenCity and admire the many cool buildings.
The newest attraction in HafenCity is the concert hall Elbphilharmonie. It was opened in 2017 and is now the tallest inhabited building in Hamburg, with its more than 100 meters. When opening it had been delayed for more than 6 years, but the finished result was worth the wait, and this landmark definitely stands out in the Hamburg skyline.
The new glass facade consists of around 1,000 curved windows, and at the top of the building is an observation deck and cafe - both are open to the public.
Fun fact: The bottom half of the building used to be a storage room for cocoa beans, and part of the delay in the building process was because they had to find a way to get rid of the smell.
12. St. Pauli
The St. Pauli quarter is one of the most famous parts of Hamburg. It is known for the Reeperbahn street and its very loyal football supporters, but St. Pauli has so much more to offer. It is home to a large population of artists, musicians, and students, which creates a young and vibrant atmosphere, filled with bars and restaurants.
And if you like street art, St. Pauli is the place to be too. I did a free walking tour with Alternative Hamburg which shows you all the hidden gems of St. Pauli, where the locals hang out, and the coolest street art the city has to offer. It is a great alternative to the more touristy activities in central Hamburg and definitely worth a few hours of your day. Read more about the tours here.
13. The Reeperbahn
St. Pauli's most famous street is the Reeperbahn. It is one of Europe's biggest Red Light Districts and is filled with neon light, erotic theaters, and strip clubs. However, the street is said to be completely safe and is also home to plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants, where you can experience the street in a less sinful way. 🙂
The Reeperbahn is also very popular among Beatles fans, as they started their international career here in the 60's.
Another top St. Pauli attraction is the Hamburg Fischmarkt ("Fish Market"). It is a must for every foodie and the 300-year-old open-air market is open from March to November, every morning at 05:00. You can experience everything from live music to stands selling flowers, fruit, and fresh fish.
The market is known for attracting a mixed crowd of early risers and people who are on their way home from a night out, and even though you have to get up early to experience the market, more than 70,000 visitors walk the many stands along the Elbe every day.
15. Hamburger Dom
If you are lucky enough to visit Hamburg in November, April, or August, you can spend a night at the Hamburger Dom. It is a classic fair with carousels, roller coasters, and sideshows. But it also offers more than 100 stalls selling everything from Currywurst to roasted almonds and candyfloss.
The fair is located in St. Pauli, right next to a huge bunker from the war, and with the fireworks display on Friday nights, it's the perfect place to start a night out on the Reeperbahn.
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Thank you to Come to Hamburg for hosting me while visiting the city. As always, all thoughts and opinions in this post are completely my own.
I really hope you enjoyed these reviews and tips for Hamburg. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know if I missed something. 🙂
Thank you for reading!
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