Besides Berlin, Hamburg is definitely my favourite German city. Maybe I´ve chosen these two because we live relatively close to both of the cities and I have visited them oh so many times. I´m not counting but I´ve probbaly been to Hamburg 15-20 times on different occasions and in different seasons. So I can say I know it quite well, at least for someone who has never lived in the city. The thing I love the most is the mixture between luxury, modern, posh buildings, restaurants, museums & bars and alternative, cult, artistic neighbourhoods. Being an important port city gives the place a special vibe as well, the vicinity of the sea makes it even more attractive, there are also surprisingly many green areas and parks to relax in nature. After so many visits I guess it is about time to finally write about it – so in this new post I´m presenting the most known attractions and sights of Hamburg. If you are headed to northern Europe soon, Hamburg is definitely a “must stop” on the way.
HAFENCITY | modern urban neighbourhood on Grasbrook island
One of my favourite parts of the city is this huge FORMER PORT AREA which is developing into one of THE MOST MODERN AREAS IN EUROPE, since they started building on site back in 2001. Magnificent residential homes, business offices, museums, hotels, restaurants but also the famous SPEICHERSTADT warehouses area – this mix of extremely modern architecture with renovated historical buildings is simply unique and very special. In this “city within a city” as I like to call it, 80 projects have been completed and another 60 are on the list for the next decade.
If it is your first time visiting Hamburg, I suggest you pick a hotel in this area, as you can easily reach many tourist attractions on foot (Speicherstadt warehouses, some of the best museum and the Elbphillharmonie concert hall for example). Other sights are also not too far away as everything is good connected with public transport or rented bicycle.
SPEICHERSTADT | the largest warehouse district in the world
In HAFENCITY you cannot miss this HISTORIC WAREHOUSE DISTRICT, which is actually THE LARGEST IN THE WORLD and therefore also on UNESCO´s World Heritage list. In these rows of red brick houses built between 1883 and 1927 on timber wood pillars (mostly oak) you can visit many interesting MUSEUMS (Hamburg Dungeon, Spice Museum, Maritime Museum, German Zoll Museum, Dialoghaus Hamburg, Speicherstadtmuseum, Automuseum Prototyp and Miniature Wunderland), but even if you are short with time to make it into one of these museums, make sure you at least walk around the area.
SPEICHERSTADT district is around 1,5km long and 150-250m wide and stretches over 6 WATER CHANNELS, everything is connected with 8 BRIDGES. Most of the almost 20 BUILDINGS inside this area (each with 7-10 storeys) have been damaged between the WWII, but they are beautifully restored today. Some of them have actually been in use up until recently for storing coffee, tea, spices, carpets and other goods.
MARITIM MUSEUM | international maritime musem
In the OLDEST WAREHOUSE BUILDING in Hmaburg, the Kaispeicher B, you can visit the INTERNATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM with displays of various ship models and historic artefacts such as old maps, uniforms, weapons, books, photographs and more. This awesome museum has 9 floors so make sure you have enough time and energy planned in for this visit.
There is something FOR THE KIDS too – at the entrance they can grab a special paper guide with tasks and riddles. In each floor they will find kids corners where they get to find the answers to those questions. It might take you over 2 hours to see all the floors, at the end there is also a nice shop.
MINIATUR WUNDERLAND | the largest model railway in the world
In one of the most POPULAR AND FAMOUS MUSEUMS in Hamburg, located in Speicherstadt district you can see the LARGEST MODEL RAILWAY IN THE WORLD, besides all the other amazing features of course. We´ve heard so much about this museum so that our expectations were quite high – we were not disappointed. It was a strange time to visit, just a few days after it has opened its doors to the public after months of being closed due to the Covid situation. So we had to have our masks on during the whole visit, but there was absolutely no waiting time to get in and also not all that many people were inside. This is surely not the case otherwise as there is always a ridiculously long line in front of the museum.
Ever since the year 2000 this MINIATURE WORLD is being built here on site and as of today, you can admire the scenes from Germany, Hamburg, Switzerland, Italy, Venice, Austria, USA, Scandinavia and other. One of the most known areas of the museum is the so-called KNUFFINGEN AIRPORT where 52 model planes make around 250 flights a day – it took 6 years to built this 150m² large airport area with all its details. In general there are soooo many details in the museum that your head almost starts to hurt if you want to see them all. Just to give you an impression, there are 130.000 trees, 4.340 buildings, 1.040 trains, 263.000 persons, 9.250 vehicles and so on. Really impressive work and it is not even finished. They have big plans for new areas, so I think a new visit in about 5 years will be interesting for us again.
ELBPHILLHARMONIE | modern concert hall & more
One of the most infamous projects in Germany recently (regarding the costs, which were almost 4x higher at the end), ended after 9 years of work and is today one of the most recognizable features of the city. This magnificent CONCERT HALL on the Elbe river is not only looking great, it is also one of THE LARGEST AND ACOUSTICALLY MOST ADVANCED HALLS IN THE WORLD. Built ON THE TOP OF AN OLD WAREHOUSE building with its typical brick facade, the new designed upper part resembles the waves, sails, iceberg and also crystals. With 108m this is also THE HIGHEST BUILDING IN HAMBURG.
Otherwise there are 26 FLOORS inside the building and besides the 3 CONCERT HALLS, there is also a LUXURIOUS HOTEL with 244 rooms, PLAZA VIEWVING DECK on the 8th floor (open for public), RESTAURANTS, SPA and a larger GARAGE for the visitors.
After around 15min of walking you reach the floating docks area called LANDUNGSBRÜCKEN, from where there is a nice view back on the HafenCity area.
MUSEUM SHIPS | Cap San Diego, Rickmer Rickmers & others
Besides visiting the Maritime Museum you can also visit a couple of MUSEUM SHIPS around the town. The most famous two, CAP SAN DIEGO and RICKMER RICKMERS are located close to the Landungsbrücken area. You can also spot Anna Lisa, Bergedorf, Bleichen, Eldorado, Fortuna, Frieda, Sedov, Queen Elisabeth 2, Otto Lauffer and others.
159m long BOAT CAP SAN DIEGO (on the left), built in 1961 is one of the 6 sister cargo ships which sailed between Germany and South America – the ship made 120 return journeys up until 1981 when it sailed under the Spanish flag but ended up back in the hands of Hamburg City where it was proclaimed as one of the most interesting museum ships. You can visit the ship and even spend a night. A few times a year it also sails out on the Elbe river. Close by we find another famous museum ship, RICKMER RICKMERS (on the right), named after a shipbuilder from Bremerhaven. This ship first sailed on the route to Hong Kong, was then owned by the Portuguese, English and Brazil, was renamed a few times and sailed between Europe and South America, but found her way back to Hamburg port eventually.
St. PAULI LANDUNGSBRÜCKEN | the longest floating piers in Hamburg port
THE LARGEST FLOATING PIER in Hamburg is a busy vibrant place and overall one of the biggest attractions in the city. It used to be a pier for old steamships, today it is an important linking piece between railways, U-Bahn net, bus, ferry and other transport services. The PROMENADE on the Elbe river between the famous St. PAULI and ALTONA FISCHMARKT area comes alive also in the evenings when it´s a popular spot for a drink or two, during the day you can have a bite to eat and of course there are also shops.
If you want to take a 1- or more hours BOAT TRIP you will have to come here anyway, but even if you don´t have the time for a boat trip or the weather is not at its best, it is still a nice thing to come see this pier. On the way you can check out the museum ships I´ve mentioned above and you can also enjoy a nice VIEW ON THE PORT on the opposite river banks from here. Sometimes you can also see the CRUISE BOATS coming in or out.
HAFENFAHRT & BOAT TRIPS | sailing & cruising in Hamburg port area
The word Hafenfahrt is describing BOAT RIDES IN THE PORT AREA on one of the smaller or larger tourist boats, most of which leave from the Landungsbrücke area (piers have number 1-10). Some leave from Speicherstadt area or elsewhere. You can choose between longer or shorter cruises, some will take you all the way to the container port and far out towards the coast, others will cruise more in the city channels.
Each boat is a bit different but usually you can have something to drink and eat and there is often an amusing voice guide on the speakers. If you have enough time you can also make a DAY BOAT TRIP TO HELGOLAND ISLAND – this is such an amazing place and I absolutely recommend it. We did a boat day trip to it from Cuxhaven, read more about it HERE.
If you don´t want to spend your money on a boat tour, there is a solution as well – it´s called a WATER TAXI or the HVV FÄHRE ferry (take the line 62, leaving about every 15min from Pier 3 at the Landungsbrücke). It will be a bit different but the views are the same. I used this often when going to the ELBSTRAND BEACH (get off at Övelgönne stop), if oyu continue to the last stop before turning around, you also see the container part of the port from up close.
I took the longer 2hrs boat cruise three times already and it has always been a fantastic journey, especially on a sunny day. I highly recommend taking a boat of any kind during your first visit to the city.
CONTAINER PORT | the 3rd largest in Europe
The largest German and THE THIRD LARGEST CONTAINER PORT IN EUROPE with 4 terminals, connected with railways is one of the most advanced and modern ones in Europe. If you take a boat trip around the harbour you will see it from up close and if you are lucky some cargo will be (un)loaded in that moment so you can observe the massive cranes in action.
There are also TERMINALS FOR SRUISE SHIPS, there are so many starting and / or ending their journeys right here in Hamburg.
PIER 10 | traditional fish sandwiches
Med obiskom tega dela Hamburga ne smete zamuditi tudi tradicionalnega prigrizka na enem izmed pomolov in najbolj znani so prav tile ribji kruhki čisto na koncu plavajočega pomola, na PIER10.
They all come in a white bread bun and you can choose between different ones: with fried white fish (BACKFISH), with cold sour herring (KRÄUTERMATJES), classic herring (BISMARCK), with fried herring (BRATHERING), with crabbs (KRABBEN), with smoked salmon (STREMELLACHS), with fish balls (FISCHFRIKADELLE), with cod (SEELACHS), smoked mackerel (MAKRELE). You can also try a very special rolled marinated fish (ROLLMOPS). You can add some Remulade sause to your sandwich and order a bottle of famous local ASTRA BEER to go with.
ST. PAULI ELBTUNNEL | historic underwater tunnel
426m long UNDERWATER TUNNEL, built back in 1911, is connecting central Hamburg with the port area on the other side of Elbe river. You can always enter it on foot or with your bicycle, but there are also special hours and days for entering it with your motorised vehicle. You can enter the tunnel via stairs or different lifts (some modern ones and also those old ones).
Inside this historic tunnel you can admire interesting terracotta ORNAMENTS resembling life in and around the Elbe river, there is also an EXHIBITON part in the tunnel. Scenes from various MOVIES and video clips were shot in this tunnel as well and there is a MARATHON TRACK running throug it too. Even if you don´t have the time to walk all the way to the other isde and back, it´s great to at least peak into it.
FISCHMARKT | the famous fish market
If you are here during a weekend do not under any circumstances miss the SUNDAY FISH MARKET which takes place between 5 and 9:30AM (summer time) and 7 in 9:30AM (winter time). Hundreds of stands selling fish and other goods are not all that far from the Landungsbrücken floating pier and this over 300 years old market place is a great place to visit even if you don´t buy anything.
If you are more of a night than a morning bird – don´t worry, there is a solution too. The fish market is a great place to visit after a long Saturday night as well. The cult Reeperban area is very close and the fish market is a great place to visit before going to sleep on a Sunday morning, In the old hall called FISCHAUKTIONSHALLE, which used to be the trading place for the fish, you can have a nice breakfast or a brunch, often accompanied with live music to keep the Saturday night party going on.
ELBSTRAND | city beach
Another great place to spend a couple of hours on a hot summer sunny day (also while chasing the hangover away) is the Elbstrand city SANDY BEACH AREA. Although it is not the sea, but you can also swim here, plus you get this awesome view on the container part of the city port.
Of course, no city beach would be complete without restaurants and bars and also here, there are plenty. The most known one must be the STRANDPERLE. On some spots you can also make your own BBQ, just make sure you clean the area before you leave. You can come here with either the ferry, with your bicycle, car, U-Bahn and other means of transportation. There is one more attraction on the beach, a massive stone called ALTER SCHWEDE, which was discovered during excavations in this area in 1999. In NEUMÜHLEN, not far form here, you can check out more museum ships.
BLANKENESE | the posh side of Hamburg
This POSH NEIGHBOURHOOD is full of history – it used to be a fishing village which eventually grew bigger and bigger and because its own city, but was later on “forced” to be joined with the city of Hamburg. It has still kept its special character and today hosts one of the most exclusive homes in the city of Hamburg. If you´re on a sailing / boat cruise around here, do look in this direction, such nice houses.
RATHAUS | city hall
Of course there are many interesting spots and places in Hamburg which are not situated directly at the river banks but more central. One of them is the CITY HALL which is also the SEAT OF HAMBURG PARLIAMENT – if you haven´t heard about it, Germany has 16 federal states and Hamburg is one of them, even though it is “just a city”. One part of the city hall is opened to the public so do look inside, sometimes there are nice exhibitions as well.
On the square in front of the city hall there is a great CHRISTMAS MARKET held every December which is famous for one really cool attraction – THE FLYING SANTA. Yup, you heard it right, on certain days / hours (check online before you visit) a real Santa is flying over the market in a sleigh full of presents. He tells stories that especially kids will love and eventually disappears again.
Great for kids and everyone else, although it can get really really full over the weekends so if you can come during the week. Otherwise this is for me one of the best bigger Christmas markets with many yummy things to eat and drink and lovely things buy.
BINNENALSTER AND AUßENALSTER | 2 lakes of Alster river in the heart of Hamburg
ALSTER RIVER is the second most important river around here, just after Elbe. It originates in Schleswig-Holstein in the north and runs through a major part of Hamburg, creating lakes and pockets through many parks and neighbourhoods. The most known lakes in the center of the city are BINNENALSTER and AUßSENALSTER, connected with a narrow water channel.
BINNENALSTER is a popular meeting place surrounded by LUXURIOUS SHOPS, RESTAURANTS and BARS – head to the JUNGFERNSTIEG AREA if you want to mingle with the locals. There is an iconic fountain approximately in the middle of the lake. Also good to know – if you order an ALSTERWASSER (in translation “water from Alster river”) you will get a beer mixed with lemonade. It´s kind of a drink to order here.
AUßSENALSTER is the larger lake connected to the one mentioned above, The area around it is slightly more peaceful and relaxed. It´s a great place if you like walking or cycling (you can go all around it) and admire exclusive housing on the way, as well as some of the most expensive and known hotels in Hamburg. For example the HOTEL ATLANTIC.
ST. MICHAELIS | the most famous church in the city
This EVANGELIC CHURCH built in BAROQUE STYLE is the most important church from this time in the whole northern Germany. Since it was built it was hit by a lightning, partially damaged in a fire and during the WWII, but is nicely renovated today. You can of course visit it and also climb up to the VIEWING PLATFORM on the top of the church tower (which is over 130m high btw). There is a great view on the harbour and the city form up here.
NIGHTLIFE | St. Pauli, Reeperbahn, Sternschanze, concerts and festivals
As a proper port city there is of course great nightlife here as well. And yes, there is of course also s RED LIGHT DISTRICT – you will find it in St. PAULI area and it comes alive around midnight. The most famous PARTY STREET is called REEPERBAHN, but don´t forget to peek into the side streets as well. There are some really cool bars out there. Depends on your music preferences, but you will find something you like, I´m sure. For a more ALTERNATIVE SCENE head on to STERNSCHANZE and if you prefer a cocktail evening check out KAROLINENVIERTEL.
Also outside these areas you will find a bunch of interesting places, bars, exclusive restaurants and events like FESTIVALS. For example ELBJAZZ, SPEKTRUM, OPEN AIR STADTPARK and probably the most known one, REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL.
Hamburg is also famous for being the MUSICAL CAPITAL OF GERMANY. Today and in the near future you can see the following musicals: Lion King, Pretty Woman, Tina Turner, Mamma Mia, Cirque du Soleil, Wicked and Frozen. Of course there are also many CONCERTS here, the last time I´ve been to one was 2 years ago – Ed Sheeran between 85.000 other fans on the huge hippodrome near the airport was just awesome.
CITY PARKS | Stadtpark, Volkspark, Hamburger Grünverwaltung & others
There are lots of parks and green areas in Hamburg, in fact, the city was voted THE EUROPEAN GREEN CAPITAL in 2011. The largest park is ALTONA VOLKSPARK, followed by WINTERHUDE STADTPARK and others.
I´ve visited many of the parks but the one I know the most is the STADTPARK in WINTERHUDE area. There are so many possibilities for recreation, from CHILDREN´S PLAYGROUNDS, to MINIGOLF, SWIMMING, SUP, KAYAKING and PADDLING on water and more. If you have enough time you can also visit the PLANETARIUM, which is located in an old water tower. Spending a few hours in this park is a great thing to do especially if you are visitng Hamburg with your children.
PLANTEN UN BLOMEN | botanical gardens and a beloved green area
Probably the most known park in terms of tourism, in translation its name simply means “plants and flowers”, is also famous for great SUMMER CONCERTS WITH SPECIAL LIGHT EFFECTS. There is no entry fee and it´s a great place to relax, there is also a CHILDREN´S PLAYGROUND and of course a great BOTANICAL GARDEN with a JAPANESE PART and much more. In the winter, they put up a great ICE SKATING RING too.
As you can see there is so much to see and do in Hamburg, I think I´ve mentioned all of the most important ones but there is so much more to explore. Fort he first visit I recommend having 3-4 days (possibly in the summer time), but even if you only have a weekend you can still see a lot. If you only come for one day, you better make a plan of the things you really want to see because there will not be time for everything. We´ve ticked off this year´s visit just last weekend but I´m sure we´ll return soon again.
PIN FOR LATER