Hello Hamburg, you beautiful city! For us, it was love at first sight with this northern port city of Germany. Over the years, we visited this Hanseatic city on several occasions. Now it’s time to collate all our tips and recommendations for Hamburg into this detailed travel guide.
In this travel guide, we will share with you what to expect on a city trip to Hamburg and where to find the best things to do and see. Plus, you’ll find our best tips for cafes, restaurants and things to do. At the end of the travel guide, you will also find an interactive map with all the recommendations we’ve mentioned here.
1. Hamburg: Things to Know when Planning your Trip
Interesting facts to know about Hamburg
Honestly, we don’t think we have ever met anyone who did not like Hamburg. If you like Port Cities and maritime scenes, then you will love Hamburg. There is water everywhere around and throughout the city: whether it’s by the harbour on the Elbe, or the very pretty Speicherstadt, or at the Alster.
- Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city after Berlin. Around 1.8 million people live in Hamburg.
- Hamburg is very large and a rather sparsely populated city. You can get around the city rather quickly and many of the highlights are either within walking distance or can be reached via the U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains.
- Although Hamburg is not located by the sea (the North Sea is about 100 kilometers away), its location on the Elbe gives Hamburg a 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 can be quite variable with a lot of rain. There are about eight to ten rainy days per month.
How much time should you spend Hamburg?
Hamburg is a great city for a weekend trip. You can explore most of the important sights in Hamburg in about 2 nights (3 days).
However, if you have more time to spend, then we would certainly recommend you stay longer. In our opinion, 3 to 4 nights is the ideal period to really experience Hamburg for the first time. That way, you will also have enough time to explore more local places off the beaten track.
When is the best time to visit Hamburg?
We ourselves have visited Hamburg in each of the four seasons and can confirm that no matter which season, Hamburg is always worth a trip. Good to know: the weather here is heavily influenced by its geographical location, therefore, it experiences quite a large amount of rainfall. We would suggest bringing an umbrella or a rain jacket with you just in case.
Personally, we love summer in Hamburg: the temperature is super nice and the days are long. It’s usually not too hot, but you do get the odd exceptions now and again. (Even we got caught in a decent heat wave during one of our visits.) Spring and Autumn are also very beautiful seasons for a trip to Hamburg.
Hamburg Bucket List: What shouldn’t I miss?
For those who want it short and sweet, here is a small best-of list for Hamburg. (Of course, more detailed tips about these things to do will follow throughout this travel guide.)
- Enjoy the view from the Michel, Hamburg’s most famous church.
- Admire the Elbphilharmonie – and ideally even attend a concert.
- Take a harbour 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 Beautiful Sights and Places in Hamburg: What to see
Jungfernstieg & Town Hall: Hamburg’s Old Town
If this is your first time in Hamburg, then a good starting point would be the area around the Jungfernstieg. You will find yourself by the Binnenalster – an artificial lake, which is fed by the river Alster. There are some magnificent buildings along the shores of the Binnenalster.
Just a few minutes walk from the Jungfernstieg is one of the most beautiful buildings in Hamburg: the town hall. This Neo-Renaissance building is not only surprisingly large, but also incredibly beautiful. The courtyard of the town hall is also very worth seeing if you’re in the area.
Main Church of St. Michaelis: The Michel
The most famous church in Hamburg is nicknamed the Michel. You can get here from the town hall in about 15 minutes by foot. The inside of the church is well worth seeing, but the Michel is best known for its church tower: high up at the observation deck of the 132-meter-high tower, you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the city.
You can either walk up the tower (453 steps) or choose to go up with the lift – the price is actually the same for both options. The 360-degree view from high above Hamburg is just stunning and although you are behind safety bars, you can easily photograph through them .
For a super unique experience, you could also visit at night. They call this Nachtmichel (or Night Michel in English) and you can visit in the evenings, past regular opening hours, on many days of the year. However, the prices are a little higher.
Information about the lookout point from the Michel Church
Price: 8 Euros (during the day) or 11.50 Euros (at night)
Opening hours: November to March from 10am to 6pm, April and October from 9am to 7pm, May to September from 9am to 8pm (last admission half an hour before closing time); The opening times for the evenings can be found here: Nachtmichel
Since November 2016, Hamburg has a new landmark: the Elbphilharmonie – a modern concert hall enthroned on the banks of the Norderelbe. Despite the many controversial opinions, we think that the Elbphilharmonie fits in very well with its surrounding cityscape.
The dream would be, of course, to attend a concert in the famous Great Hall. We were able to experience that on our last visit to Hamburg. Coveted concerts are usually sold out within minutes, so it’s not that easy.
Alternatively, you still have the opportunity to visit the Elbphilharmonie as part of a public concert hall tour, where you also get access to the Great Hall. This tour takes about an hour and costs 20 Euros per person. Important to know: If you want to see the Great Hall, then we would strongly recommend you book your tour through the official website of the Elbphilharmonie (or at the actual ticket office). This is because most guided tours booked through other sites won’t include access to the concert halls!
The cheaper alternative is to visit the viewing platform, which is located 37 meters high between the brick base and the glass structure – this viewing platform is called Plaza. If you go to the Elbphilharmonie visitor centre, you can receive a ticket for the same day free of charge (if there are still enough tickets for that day). If you want to buy your ticket online in advance, it costs an extra 2 Euros.
Information about the visit to the Elbphilharmonie
Price for official concert hall tour: 20 Euros
Price for the Plaza (viewing platform): free or 2 Euros (for tickets in advance)
Speicherstadt & HafenCity
Nearby the Elbphilharmonie is the very unique and photogenic Speicherstadt. This historic brick ensemble is indeed the world’s largest historic warehouse complex. The Speicherstadt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in our opinion one of the coolest places in Hamburg.
Thanks to the numerous bridges, you can explore the Speicherstadt by foot. It is also very worthwhile to see the Speicherstadt from the water and you can do this as part of a harbour tour. There are countless tour providers, each with different routes – some even offer trips in the late evening. We will share with you more information about these harbour tours later in this travel guide.
One of our highly recommended stopovers in the Speicherstadt would definitely be the Speicherstadt Kaffeerösterei, where you can enjoy delicious coffee from their special house-roasted coffee beans. Incidentally, one of the most famous photo opportunities in the Speicherstadt is at the intersection of the moated castle, which you can see in the first photo.
The Speicherstadt is bordered by the modern HafenCity. This district is also home to the Elbphilharmonie and there is no other place in Hamburg, which evolves as fast as the HafenCity. New buildings are constantly being constructed and the HafenCity is said to be completed by 2025.
Landungsbrücken & Old Elbe Tunnel
The so-called Landungsbrücken on the Norderelbe are your starting point if you want to explore the port of Hamburg. This is where the countless harbour tours start. The Landungsbrücken are generally a very touristic place but also really worth seeing in Hamburg.
One of the most famous things to see at the Landungsbrücken is the Old Elbe Tunnel. Opened in 1911, this tunnel crosses the Norderelbe 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. 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.
Of course there were 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 not miss this street.
Memorial St. Nikolai
Another well-known thing to see in Hamburg is not far from the Nikolaifleet and can be seen from afar: the St. Nikolai memorial. If you are thinking of a church, you are absolutely right.
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 World War II. Only the tower, part of the southern outer wall and the walls of the chancel have survived.
The memorial is free of charge, 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.
Hamburger Kunsthalle (Art Museum)
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 about the visit to the Hamburger Kunsthalle
Price: 16 Euros
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm, Thursday from 10am to 9pm
Karolinen- and Schanzenviertel: Hipster District of Hamburg
Together, the Schanzen and its neighbouring district – Karolinenviertel (or Karoviertel as it’s often called) come to form one of our favourite areas in Hamburg. They are both considered the trendy, hipster districts of Hamburg and you will find plenty of great boutiques here, as well as nice cafes and restaurants.
A good starting point to explore this area would the S-Bahn or the underground station Sternschanze. Should you feel like it’s time for a coffee hit, then you should stop by Café Elbgold. In our opinion, the coffee here at Elbgold is one of the best in Hamburg. You will also find nice restaurants and shops along Susannenstraße and the Schulterblatt. (Café Herr Max is another cafe worth visiting – although it’s not exactly a secret.)
From the Schanzenviertel district, you are just a stone’s throw away from its neighbouring district of Karoviertel. There you will come across some amazing street art. Just walk along the market street and perhaps peep into the odd courtyard here and there.
Fish Market Hamburg
A visit to Hamburg’s Fish Market is quite an experience and it takes place every Sunday on the banks of the Elbe. Unfortunately, you have to get up rather early: In winter, the market starts at 6 am, and even earlier than that in the summer – 5 am. By 9:30 am, the spectacle is already over.
You will see sellers fighting for the attention of the buyers. Many stalls also sell fruits and vegetables, so don’t expect just fish and seafood as the market offers much more than that.
Every Sunday, there is a huge brunch offered with live music in the Fish Auction Hall. The price per person is 22 Euros and the brunch goes until 12 pm / noon. If that’s something you would like to experience, then we would highly suggest making a reservation. You can find more information here: Fish Auction Hall (website in German only).
Reeperbahn in St. Pauli
We weren’t sure whether or not to include the Reeperbahn in our list, but somehow it just belongs to Hamburg and we couldn’t leave it out. The Reeperbahn is a synonym for the Red Light District of Hamburg in St. Pauli. This notorious street is the number one entertainment district in Hamburg.
You will find countless bars and nightclubs along the Reeperbahn (and in the back alleys) – most of them are not what we would personally call “inviting”. But if you really want to party hard, then this is a place to consider.
3. Tours & Activities in Hamburg: Our Tips
A typical sightseeing activity for Hamburg usually includes a harbour cruise. We ourselves have experienced this several times. Exploring Hamburg from the water is such a unique and special experience – we can only highly recommend you experience it for yourselves.
There are countless providers offering harbour cruises with a variety of ships and routes. Most ships depart from the Landungsbrücken and when you get there, be prepared to be overwhelmed by the amount of harbour cruise offers.
The classic cruise is the socalled “Große Hafenrundfahrt” which takes two hours. As the name suggests, you will get very close to the harbour and you will see the gigantic container ships, for example.
Depending on the water level (and of course the chosen route), the big harbor tours also lead through parts of the Speicherstadt. However, 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 preferably 30 minutes before departure. You have to find your way around the many docks and find the right boat.
You can book the tour here: Harbour Cruise
Tip # 1: Fleetfahrt from Jungfernstieg
The centre of Hamburg is intersected by several canals, known as the “Fleete” and these historic canyons can be explored as part of a cruise. The journey takes about two hours and unlike most other harbour cruises, they actually start on the Jungfernstieg (Binnenalster). From there it goes through the canals in the centre of Hamburg and towards the Speicherstadt. After that, you will get to see the port of Hamburg and go past the Elbphilharmonie. You usually won’t get close to the container ships.
However, the Fleetfahrten are tide dependent – meaning they can only take place when the water level is at an appropriate level. The route may also change depending on the tide and you might pass through several locks or channels. It’s quite an exciting experience, but you have to be prepared to wait a while.
You can find more information about the prices and the departure times here: Fleetfahrt. We recommend that you check the departure times directly at the Jungfernstieg ticket counter the day before and book the ticket for the next day.
After the harbour cruise, the second most popular boat tour in Hamburg would be the Alsterrundfahrt Tour – along the Alster River. Personally, we found the harbour cruise more exciting, but can nevertheless recommend a boat tour along the Alster.
The classic Alsterrundfahrt starts at the Jungfernstieg and takes you across the Binnenalster and the Außenalster for about 1 hour. As you cruise along the shore, you’ll learn some background information about Hamburg and specific individual buildings along the tour.
You can buy your ticket in advance here: Alster Boat Trip
City Tours in Hamburg
We had a fantastic city tour a few years ago in Hamburg and although we often like to explore cities on our own, we have to admit that this city tour made quite the impression on us. So if you want to know a little more information about Hamburg, we can highly recommend you to take part in a city tour.
Free Walking Tours in Hamburg
There are several providers for free city tours in Hamburg and one of the more highly recommended (and entertaining) tours can be found by SANDEMAN’s New Europe Tours. You’ll get a guide that takes you through Hamburg for about 2.5 hours and shows you the most important sights. The tour is free, but of course you should give a reasonable tip.
You can find more information here: FREE Tour from Hamburg
Extra 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 (for example, Reeperbahn or Speicherstadt).
With the Hamburg CARD you can get a discount on certain city tours. To find out exactly which ones, you can find the information on the official website of the Hamburg Tourism Board: City Tours with the Hamburg CARD.
4. Cafes and Restaurant Tips in Hamburg
Herr Max: Very nicely furnished café in Schanzenviertel. Our recommendation: Try the cheesecake, which is ridiculously good. The breakfast is also said to be very delicious here.
Café Elbgold: In our opinion, the best coffee in Hamburg can be found at Café Elbgold, with special house-roasted beans. The Café Elbgold actually has several locations in Hamburg, but the largest café (and where they roast their beans) is located in Schanzenviertel.
Kaffeerösterei Speicherstadt: This coffee roasting house is located in a historic brick building in the Speicherstadt. Not exactly a secret, but can definitely recommend for a quick coffee break.
Nord Coast: Very popular café that supposedly serves amazing breakfasts. Unfortunately, the queue in front of the restaurant was a bit too long for us, so we did not get the chance to try it out.
Hoppe’s Restaurant: A popular fish restaurant by the water with fair prices. The restaurant is located outside the center at the Elbe beach. We recommend you to take the ferry (line 62) from Landungsbrücken.
NENI Hamburg: No matter which NENI you go to, you just know what you’re going to get – high quality Israeli cuisine with nice chill vibes. We really liked it here and can definitely recommend you stop by too!
5. Our Hotel Recommendation in Hamburg
25hours Hotel HafenCity
This very hip, individual boutique hotel is located in HafenCity. We love the design of the rooms. They are designed as ship cabins, which are very comfortable and well equipped – as you would expect from 25hours hotels. The breakfast is excellent, albeit a little expensive.
The location of this hotel is very central: you can reach the Elbphilharmonie in just 10 minutes by foot and the subway 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 view and book the hotel here: 25hours Hotel Hamburg HafenCity
AMERON Hamburg Hotel Speicherstadt
This design-hotel is located in the middle of the Speicherstadt. The rooms are quite small, but very cozy and we found the atmosphere very pleasant.
The location is amazing: The Speicherstadt is one of our favourite places in Hamburg, it just has so much character. Many of the hotel rooms here also overlook the canals of the Speicherstadt. If you are looking for a stylish, exceptional hotel, then this is the right choice for you.
You can view and book the hotel here: AMERON Hamburg Hotel Speicherstadt
Disclaimer: Affiliate Links
This travel guide contains our personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links, then we will receive a small commission. But this does not change the price for you at all – it’s just an awesome way for you to support this blog. A million thanks from the both of us!
Have you ever visited the beautiful Hanseatic city of Hamburg? What did you think of it? What are your top things to do and see in Hamburg? If you have any personal tips for Hamburg, we would love to hear them! See you in the comments down below!