Hello Hamburg, you beautiful maritime city in the far north. It was love at first sight between Hamburg and us. We have been paying the Hanseatic city a visit every now and then for years. Now it was time to pack our tips for Hamburg into a detailed travel guide.
In this blog article we will show you what to expect on a city trip to Hamburg. We introduce you to the most beautiful sights and reveal our personal tips for cafés, restaurants and activities. By the way, you can find all our recommendations for Hamburg on a map at the end of the article.
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1. Hamburg: First tips & FAQs at a glance
What awaits you in Hamburg: Exciting facts about Hamburg
When we think about it: We have probably never met anyone who didn’t like Hamburg. The fact is: If you like maritime flair , you will love Hamburg. Water is omnipresent throughout Hamburg – be it at the port on the Elbe, in the Speicherstadt or on the Alster.
- Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city after Berlin. Around 1.8 million people live in Hamburg.
- Hamburg is very spacious and a comparatively sparsely populated city. Nevertheless, the most important sights in the center of Hamburg are not too far apart. You can even reach many sights on foot or very comfortably with the subway and S-Bahn.
- Hamburg = water! Although Hamburg is not located by the sea (the North Sea is about 100 kilometers away), its location on the Elbe gives Hamburg an exceptionally maritime flair.
- Hamburg is actually the city with the most bridges in Europe! There are 2,500 bridges in Hamburg – more than in Venice or Amsterdam.
- The weather in Hamburg doesn’t exactly enjoy the best reputation. With around eight to ten rainy days per month, this prejudice is no coincidence.
How much time should I plan for a Hamburg city trip?
Hamburg is a great city for a weekend trip. In 2 nights (3 days) you can already explore the most important sights in Hamburg without having to stress yourself too much.
Of course, more time is always better, so we would recommend a stay of around 3 to 4 nights to all newcomers to Hamburg . So you still have enough time to explore a few corners away from the classic highlights.
What time of year is best for a trip to Hamburg?
We have actually gotten to know Hamburg at almost every time of the year and can confirm: Hamburg is always worth a visit. Good to know: The climate is characterized by maritime influences. There is therefore a relatively large amount of precipitation throughout the year. An umbrella or a rain jacket should definitely be in your suitcase.
We personally think summer in Hamburg is great: the temperatures are pleasant and the days are long. Usually it doesn’t get too hot, but exceptions prove the rule. (In fact, we’ve already twice had a really hot period with temperatures around 30 degrees.) Spring and autumn are also very nice times of the year for a trip to Hamburg.
What should I not miss in Hamburg?
Before we introduce you to the individual sights in Hamburg in more detail in the next chapter, we would like to present you with our small but excellent bucket list for Hamburg . Here are a few specific tips:
- Enjoy the view from the Michel, Hamburg’s most famous church.
- Admire the Elbphilharmonie – and ideally even attend a concert.
- Take a harbor tour and marvel at the large container ships.
- Eat a fish sandwich .
- Stroll through the Speicherstadt or, even better, take a boat trip through the canals.
2. The most important sights in Hamburg: Our tips
Jungfernstieg & Rathaus: Hamburg’s old town
If you are in Hamburg for the first time, then the area around the Jungfernstieg is a good starting point for a tour. You land here directly at the Binnenalster – an artificial lake that is fed by the Alster (a river). Some magnificent buildings are located along the banks of the Binnenalster.
One of the most beautiful buildings in Hamburg, in our opinion, is just a few minutes’ walk from Jungfernstieg: the town hall. The Neo-Renaissance building is not only surprisingly large, but also surprisingly impressive. We recommend that you also enter the inner courtyard of the town hall. It’s also very worth seeing.
St. Michaelis main church: The Michel
The most famous church in Hamburg is nicknamed Michel. You can reach it on foot from the town hall in about 15 minutes. The church interior is well worth seeing, but the Michel is best known for its church tower: from the viewing platform of the 132 meter high tower you can enjoy a wonderful all-round view.
You can reach the platform either on foot (453 steps) or very comfortably with the lift – the price is the same for both variants. The 360-degree view from above over Hamburg is really fantastic, although unfortunately the viewing platform is behind bars. But you can take good photos of it.
A visit at night must be a special experience. This activity is called Nachtmichel and is possible on many days of the year after regular opening hours. However, the price is a bit higher.
Information on the view from Michel
Price: 8 euros (during the day) or 11.50 euros (at night)
Opening times: November to March from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., April and October from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., May to September from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (last admission one half hour before closing time); You can find the opening times for the evening here: Nachtmichel
Elbe Philharmonic Hall
Hamburg has had a new landmark since November 2016: the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall of superlatives and now one of the most important sights in Hamburg. It sits enthroned on the banks of the North Elbe. Despite all the controversy, in our opinion the Elbphilharmonie fits very harmoniously into the cityscape.
The ultimate, of course, is if you manage to attend a concert in the famous Great Hall . (We were able to experience that on our last visit to Hamburg.) Popular concerts usually sell out within minutes, so it’s not that easy.
Alternatively, you still have the option of visiting the Elbphilharmonie as part of a public concert hall tour , which also takes you into the Great Hall. This guided tour lasts about 90 minutes and costs 20 euros per person. Important to know: If you would like to see the Great Hall, we strongly recommend booking your tour via the official website of the Elbphilharmonie (or on site). With guided tours that you can book through other sites, you will not get into the concert halls!
The cheaper alternative is to visit the viewing platform, which is 37 meters high between the brick base and the glass structure. This viewing platform is called the Plaza. You can get your ticket for the same day free of charge in the Elbphilharmonie Visitor Center – provided there are still enough tickets available for that day! If you prefer to buy your ticket online in advance, it costs 2 euros.
Information on visiting the Elbphilharmonie
Price for official concert hall tour: 20 euros
Price for the plaza (viewing platform): free (on the same day subject to availability) or 2 euros (for tickets in advance)
Speicherstadt & HafenCity
Near the Elbphilharmonie you reach the unique warehouse district. This historic brick ensemble is actually the world’s largest historic warehouse complex. The Speicherstadt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, in our opinion, one of the most beautiful places in Hamburg.
Thanks to the many bridges, you can easily explore the Speicherstadt on foot. It is also very worthwhile to visit the Speicherstadt from the water. This is possible as part of a harbor tour. There are countless providers, each with different routes. Night trips are also offered. We will give you more information about the harbor tours further down in this blog article.
A very worthwhile stopover that we can recommend to you in the Speicherstadt is the Speicherstadt coffee roastery. There you can enjoy delicious coffee made from home-roasted coffee beans. Incidentally, one of the best-known photo motifs in the Speicherstadt is the crossing at the moated castle, which you can see in the first photo.
The modern HafenCity borders on the Speicherstadt . The Elbphilharmonie is located in this district. We don’t know of any other place in Hamburg that is changing as much as HafenCity. New buildings are constantly being completed. HafenCity is said to be completed by 2025.
Landungsbrücken & Old Elbe Tunnel
The so-called Landungsbrücken on the North Elbe are your starting point if you want to explore the port of Hamburg. This is where the countless harbor tours start.
The Landungsbrücken are generally a very touristic but also really worth seeing place in Hamburg. The maritime flair is hardly felt anywhere else in Hamburg than here.
There is also an exciting sight at the Landungsbrücken: the Old Elbe Tunnel. Opened in 1911, this tunnel crosses the North Elbe at a depth of 24 meters and connects the Landungsbrücken with the Elbe island of Steinwerder.
The Old Elbe Tunnel is exactly 426.5 meters long and can be used both on foot and by bike (although no longer by car) free of charge . Elevators bring you comfortably down. It’s a cozy 15 to 16 degrees down here – a pleasant cooling off in summer.
Nikolaifleet & Deichstrasse
A so-called “Fleet” is a canal and there are a lot of them in Hamburg. One of the most famous canals is the Nikolaifleet. Here you will find Hamburg’s oldest preserved town houses and with them probably the most beautiful building ensemble in Hamburg. You have a nice view of the houses from the High Bridge.
Once upon a time there were of course many more of these characteristic houses in Hamburg. Unfortunately, countless of them fell victim to the great fire in 1842 that destroyed two thirds of downtown Hamburg.
Deichstrasse, one of the most picturesque streets in Hamburg , runs along the back of the town houses . You should definitely take a walk through here.
Memorial St. Nikolai
Another well-known sight in Hamburg is not far from the Nikolaifleet and can be seen from afar: the St. Nikolai memorial. If you initially suspect a church tower here , you are absolutely correct.
The ruins of the main church of St. Nikolai now house a memorial dedicated to the victims of the war between 1933 and 1945. Large parts of the church were destroyed during the air raids of World War II. Only the tower, part of the southern outer wall and the walls of the chancel have survived.
You can enter the memorial itself for free, but there is a fee for the museum on the lower floor. If you want, you can also take the glass panorama elevator to the viewing platform at a height of 76 meters.
Hamburg art gallery
The perfect tip for rainy weather! The Hamburger Kunsthalle is one of the most famous museums in Hamburg. It is home to works from the Middle Ages to modern and contemporary art. Art from seven centuries can be admired here.
One focus is on works from the 19th century and paintings by the old masters. Because the Kunsthalle is really spacious and the collection is extensive, we recommend a stay of at least two to three hours.
Information on visiting the Hamburger Kunsthalle
Price: 16 euros
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday to 9 p.m
Karolinen and Schanzenviertel: alternative scene in Hamburg
The Schanzenviertel and the adjoining Karolinenviertel (Karoviertel for short) together form one of our favorite corners in Hamburg. Both are something like Hamburg’s trendy districts. Here you will find great boutiques as well as nice cafes and restaurants.
A good starting point for exploring the area is the Sternschanze S-Bahn/U-Bahn station. For a first caffeine boost, you should stop by the Café Elbgold right away. In our opinion, the coffee at Elbgold is one of the best in Hamburg. You can also find nice bars and shops along Susannenstraße and thepauler. (Not an insider tip, but definitely worth a visit is Café Herr Max.)
From the Schanzenviertel it is only a stone’s throw to the adjacent Karoviertel. There you will find an exceptional amount of exceptionally great street art. Just walk along Marktstraße and dare to take a look at one or the other courtyard.
Hamburg Fish Market
A visit to the fish market in Hamburg is quite an experience. It takes place every Sunday on the banks of the Elbe. Unfortunately, you have to get up early for this: in winter the market starts at 6 a.m., in summer even at 5 a.m. At 9:30 a.m. the spectacle is already over.
At the crack of dawn, the barkers fight for the attention of the guests. Surprisingly, you will not only find fish stalls at the fish market, but also lots of fruit and vegetable stalls and much more. So you shouldn’t expect a pure fish market.
A huge brunch with live music is offered every Sunday in the fish auction hall . The price per person is 22 euros. If you want to experience this, you should definitely make a reservation. Brunch goes until 12 p.m. You can find more information here: Fischauktionshalle (official website).
Reeperbahn in St Pauli
For a long time we thought about whether the Reeperbahn should appear in our list, but somehow it just belongs to Hamburg. To explain: The Reeperbahn is a synonym for Hamburg’s red light district in the St. Pauli district. This notorious street is the number one entertainment district in Hamburg and is therefore definitely not a sight in the classic sense.
You will find countless bars and nightclubs along the Reeperbahn (and in the side streets) – most of them are not necessarily what we would personally describe as “inviting”. But if you really want to party, you’re in good hands in this district.
3. Boat Tours & Activities in Hamburg
Classic harbor tour
A harbor tour is usually part of the typical sightseeing program for Hamburg. We too have (several times) taken part in one. Getting to know Hamburg from the water is a very special experience that we can highly recommend.
There are countless providers of harbor tours, each with different ships and different routes. Most ships start at the so-called Landungsbrücken. When you get there, you’ll be overwhelmed by offers for harbor tours.
The classic is the so-called “Big Harbor Tour”. This lasts two hours. As the name suggests, here you can take a long tour of the port of Hamburg and get very close to the gigantic container ships, for example.
Depending on the water level (and of course the provider or the chosen route), the big harbor tours also lead through part of the Speicherstadt. But if you are primarily interested in the Speicherstadt or the canals in Hamburg, you are better advised to take a canal trip. (We’ll tell you more about that in a moment.)
Our tip: Make sure to be at the Landungsbrücken in good time (preferably 30 minutes before departure). You have to find your way around the many docks and find the right boat.
Here you can book your ticket in advance: Harbor tour (incl. Speicherstadt)
Fleet ride through the Speicherstadt (+ part of the port)
The center of Hamburg is criss-crossed by a number of small canals (“Fleete”). Probably the most prominent corner is the so-called warehouse district. If you prefer to focus your boat tour on this part of Hamburg, then we would recommend a so-called canal trip.
The trip lasts about two hours and starts at Jungfernstieg (Binnenalster) in a different way than the classic harbor tours. From there it goes through the canals in the center of Hamburg in the direction of the Speicherstadt. Then you get to know the port of Hamburg and drive past the Elbphilharmonie. You usually only see the big container ships from afar, ie if you are more interested in this part, you are definitely better off with a classic harbor tour.
The canal trips depend on the tide, ie they only take place when the water level allows it. The route may also change depending on the tide. Good to know: During a canal trip you will pass several locks. This is quite exciting to witness, but you have to be prepared for a little waiting.
You can find more information about prices and opening hours here: Fleetfahrt . Our tip: It is best to check the departure times directly at the ticket counter on Jungfernstieg the day before and ideally reserve the ticket for the next day.
Another popular boat tour in Hamburg is the so-called Alster tour. We personally find the harbor tour and the canal tour more exciting, but we can still recommend an Alster tour.
The classic Alster tour starts at Jungfernstieg and takes you across the Inner and Outer Alster in about an hour . You drive along the shore and learn some background information about Hamburg and individual buildings on the way.
You can book your ticket in advance here: Hamburg Alster Tour
City tours in Hamburg
A few years ago we experienced a really great city tour in Hamburg. Although we often prefer to discover cities on our own, we have to admit that we still have fond memories of this city tour. So if you want to take some background knowledge with you, we can highly recommend taking part in a guided tour of the city.
Free Walking Tours in Hamburg
There are several providers of free city tours. Those from SANDEMAN’s New Europe Tours should be highly recommended and entertaining. A guide will take you through Hamburg for around 2.5 hours and show you the most important sights. The tour is free, but of course you should leave a reasonable tip.
You can find more information here: FREE Tour from Hamburg
More city tours in Hamburg
In addition to these free walking tours, there are countless other offers for city tours in Hamburg. Most focus on a specific topic (e.g. Reeperbahn or Speicherstadt).
4. Tips for eating & drinking in Hamburg
Mr. Max: Very nicely furnished café in the Schanzenviertel. Our recommendation: try the cheesecake, it’s damn good. Breakfast is also said to be delicious here.
Café Elbgold: In our opinion, the best coffee in Hamburg is served at Café Elbgold. It is roasted by itself. Meanwhile, the Café Elbgold has several locations in Hamburg. The largest café (including the roastery) is located in the Schanzenviertel.
Coffee roastery Speicherstadt: This coffee roastery is located in a historic brick building in the Speicherstadt. No longer an insider tip, but really recommendable for a short coffee break.
North Coast: Very popular cafe that claims to serve delicious breakfasts. Unfortunately, the line in front of the restaurant was too long, so we didn’t try it personally.
Hoppe’s Restaurant: A popular, down-to-earth fish restaurant by the water with fair prices. The restaurant is located outside the center at the Elbe beach. It is highly recommended to take the harbor ferry (line 62) from Landungsbrücken.
NENI Hamburg: In every NENI you know what you are getting – Israeli cuisine at a very high level in a relaxed atmosphere. We like it very much and can recommend a visit.
5. Our hotel tips for Hamburg
25hours Hotel HafenCity
This very hip, individual boutique hotel is located in HafenCity. The rooms are designed like ship cabins, very comfortable and well equipped – as you are used to from 25hours Hotels. The breakfast is excellent, if a bit pricey.
The location of this hotel is very central: you can reach the Elbphilharmonie in 10 minutes on foot, for example, and the underground station is right on the doorstep. Conclusion: If you want to stay in a young boutique hotel, you are in good hands here.
You can book the hotel here: 25hours Hotel Hamburg HafenCity
AMERON Hamburg Hotel Speicherstadt
This 4-star hotel particularly impresses with its location. It is in the middle of the Speicherstadt . The rooms are relatively small for a city hotel, but comfortable.
The location is excellent: The Speicherstadt is one of our favorite places in Hamburg with so much flair. From many rooms you have a direct view of the canals of the Speicherstadt. It’s just a pity that you can’t open the windows completely, you can only tilt them. Our conclusion: Very friendly staff, pleasant ambience and great location.
Here you can book the hotel: AMERON Hamburg Hotel Speicherstadt
6. Map: All tips & sights at a glance
For better orientation, we have included our tips for Hamburg on this interactive map. The red dots are sights, the green cafés/restaurants and the blue dots our two hotel tips.
Transparency: Affiliate links
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!