Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and I never really planned to visit until last April. Now I couldn’t be more excited to share my trip with all of you! The weather was great and I had my first taste of the summer while relaxing and exploring the city.
With so many beautiful canals and lakes, the harbour, museums, shopping and great food it’s not actually hard to convince you to visit Hamburg. So please, if you do have some time stop in the city for a walk around or maybe spend some days there.
Before my visit I had little idea how was Hamburg and the rich history as a port city with trading from all over the world. As soon as I arrived I noted straight away that there are so many bridges. Little did I knew at the time that the city has over 2,500 bridges, more than Amsterdam, Venice and London combined and more than any other city in Europe! How cool is that?!
So I hope you enjoy this mini guide and follow my steps around Hamburg, I promise it will be worth it!
GETTING THERE BY CAR
I drove off from Copenhagen early morning on a Friday with my husband straight to the get the ferry in Rødby which took us directly into Puttgarden, Germany. The total drive was about 4h30m.
If you’re thinking to rent a car to drive around Germany don’t hesitate because the roads are good and easy to drive around. Also driving in Hamburg was really straightforward and in most places you could park for free.
I was also very lucky with our hotel where we parked for free the all weekend.
WHERE TO STAY IN HAMBURG
For my two nights away in Hamburg we stayed at the Heikotel Hotel Am Stadtpark. I had two excellent nights of sleep on a beautifully decorated hotel with lots of natural light plus a sweet breakfast. You can read more about my stay here.
EXPLORING HAMBURG BY PUBLIC TRANSPORTS
Hamburg is a really easy city to walk around within certain areas but for some you will want to take public transports. They are really frequent, reliable and easy to use.
If you’re thinking to do so and you are spending 2 days or more I definitely recommend you to get the Hamburg Card because it includes unlimited travel in buses, trains & harbour ferries plus 50% discount at more than 150 tourist attractions.
St. Pauli ♢ Landungsbrücken ♢ Elbphilharmonie ♢ Reeperbahn
I arrived to Hamburg by lunch time on a Friday. The sun was shining and the weather predictions could not be better. After a quick check in at the hotel we took the underground straight to St. Pauli Landungsbrücken pier where Hamburg harbour is located.
This Hamburg landmark was built in 1839 as a terminal for steamships refill their coal reserves. Nowadays things are a bit different serving as a public transport hub and as a stop for big commercial cruises.
As soon as I got there I was immediately convinced by the positive vibes with both locals and tourists enjoying the weather and the many shops and activities around this area.
We walked on the pier along the river while enjoying an ice cream. It’s quite scenic and it shows you just how beautiful and easy going is Hamburg.
The new Elbphilharmonie concert hall, opened in 2017, can be seen from here too. Is the tallest inhabited building in Hamburg with more than 100 meters. With a unique design made up by a glass facade with curved windows its definitely something you’re going to want to see.
With lots of seafood restaurants along the harbour you may feel the temptation to try the Fischbrötchen, a traditional Hamburg fish sandwich made normally with fresh herring. I was not brave enough!
We finish our visit to Landungsbrücken by doing like the locals and enjoying a drink in one of the busy bars while watching the sunset.
As the night was coming we were not sure what to do for dinner. We were intrigued to explore other areas of St. Pauli like the famous Reeperbahn, the ‘Hamburg Red Light District’.
It was already starting to get busy when we arrived with many people drinking around in the streets. Lots of sex shops and strip clubs fill the Reeperbahn but also more modern bar and restaurants.
The area is famous mostly because street prostitution is still legal during certain times of the day. There is a small area with prostitutes behind windows just like in Amsterdam’s Red Light District but has large blocks with signs prohibiting the entrance of women and underage teens.
I felt safe to walk around and really enjoyed this area of St. Pauli which was also full of artists with lots of people on the streets and lots of music too with a vibrant atmosphere. We end up our night having dinner in one of the steak houses there.
Landungsbrücken ♢ Old Elbe Tunnel ♢ Speicherstadt ♢ St. Nicholas’ Church ♢ St Michael’s Church ♢ Alster Lake ♢ Rathaus ♢ HafenCity ♢ Deichstraße
The second day could not start the best way with the best breakfast ever at Heikotel Hotel Am Stadtpark. From there the easiest way to be in town was to take the underground again to Landungsbrücken as my plan was to do a hop on/off bus tour during the day.
Before I venture around the city I wanted to see the Old Elbe Tunnel, a 24 meters tunnel beneath the surface that connects St Pauli to the other side of the city across the Elbe river. Opened in 1911 this 426 meter long tunnel under the harbour has a unique structure with lots of details that you can only note by walking across it.
You should really do this walk because the views over the city that you get when you cross over to the other side are stunning! We were surprised with clear blue skies and a shining sun that continue throughout the day.
We crossed back ready for our bus tour across Hamburg. We opted by the Die Roten Doppeldecker red double-decker buses that departs straight off the harbour.
When I don’t have a long time in a city and have no idea where to start from I always take one of these buses to give me an idea of the history and the main sites to visit so I can then go an explore further some of these areas.
The bus covers the main attractions within Hamburg with 28 stops and if you don’t want to stop it lasts for 90 minutes. I have checked all the stops and planned where to I wanted to get out before I went on it so I could make the most of the day. The buses depart every 20 to 30 minutes so the waiting times are small and you can hop on/off as many times during the day.
Our first stop during the bus tour was the Speicherstadt Warehouse District, one of the most picturesque areas in Hamburg. Just on the port (you can walk directly from Landungsbrücken as it is quite scenic) this is the largest warehouse district in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built along the canal between 1883 and 1927 was a customs free zone to store goods coming into and out of Hamburg’s port. If there is one area you want to see in Hamburg this is it. Most of the old warehouses are now used as offices, apartments and museums but the old iron bridges with the red bricks that are characteristic still make it really beautiful to walk around.
We continued to our second stop, St. Nicholas’ Church which was at one point, the tallest building in the world!
During the World War II the building was heavily raided and nowadays only the tower remains intact. It stands as a tribute to all the innocent people who suffered during the Nazi regime.
You can enjoy the views of the city by going up in a glass elevator to the top of the church.
The next stop was St Michael’s Church, a 17th century church that features Germany’s largest clock tower and it gives beauty to the city cityscape. Just like St. Nicholas’ Church you can also get good views from the top of the 132m high tower but you have to endure the 453 steps. Good luck!
After this stop we spend a little bit inside the bus listening about more of Hamburg history until the Alster Lake. Known as the Außenalster or Outer Alster Lake, this is the larger one of two artificial lakes formed by the Alster River. The other lake is the Binnenalster.
I recommend you to walk around this area because it’s such a pretty site in Hamburg and you could see that locals agree. There were a lot of people sitting down in the grass enjoying the sun and doing picnics. You will also find that the views towards the city centre are very scenic and you can spot some of the main buildings from there.
After enjoying a really nice walk by the lake it was time for lunch! The Better Burger Company was just the place to go for a super filling burger. With each burger you have up to five toppings and with some fries on the side we were in for a treat.
With our energy levels re-established we walked towards the Hamburg City Hall or Rathaus in German. It’s not far at all and you get to see more of Hamburg city centre by walking around there.
It’s also one of the busiest places to see in Hamburg but I really recommend you to stop even if it’s just to admire the beautiful neo-renaissance architecture that the building preserves.
We decided to hop on the bus again at this point and go back towards the harbour where I knew I wanted to have dinner later on the day.
Exploring HafenCity was the next stop. This area by the harbour, just near Speicherstadt, was made up recently with modern buildings compared to other parts of the city. It’s a really nice place to sit in a cafe and watch the sunset.
We also stopped to admire the Deichstraße houses, dating back to the 14th century this is the oldest remaining street in Hamburg.
The day could not end better with a stop for dinner in Portugiesenviertel, the Portuguese neighbourhood. It’s a quick 10 minute walking distance from Landungsbrücken. The energy in the area is contagious, everyone in good spirits eating outside in the restaurant terraces. There is lots of selection of seafood and the Portuguese dishes and I was one very happy girl with my choices!
Miniatur Wunderland ♢ International Maritime Museum ♢ Planten un Blomen ♢ Kunsthalle
On my last day I planned to visit some of the best museums in Hamburg.
I was really curious to go and see the Miniatur Wunderland, a display of miniature versions of famous landmarks from mostly Europe plus the world’s largest model railway. It was truly impressive to see the amount of details within the models, they were so accurate. With three floors you can easily spend hours there admiring it, great stop for families!
From there we walked towards the International Maritime Museum. It’s not a long walk and you can enjoy the views over the many canals along the way.
As Hamburg has a long maritime history it was only important for me to stop at this museum. I was truly impressed with the amount of things to see. Inside you will discover 1000 large and 36000 miniature model ships, 5000 paintings, graphic art pieces, water colours, films, photographs and uniforms that tell the stories of Hamburg’s many discoverers. How amazing is that?
You will easily spend there a couple of hours and there are even some areas where you can test your sailor skills!
Lunch time came really quick! I had planned a picnic in Planten un Blomen and I’m glad the weather was incredible to do so!
Hamburg has many green spaces and parks spread across the city but I choose Planten un Blomen because I wanted to see the Japanese garden which is the largest Japanese garden in Europe together with a botanical garden, a rose garden and multiple greenhouses.
It was nice to just sit there and enjoy the weather while having fresh fruit bought that morning from a local market.
After lunch we headed to our final stop in the city, the Hamburger Kunsthalle, an art museum and one of the largest museums in the country. Founded in 1850 it features art collections covering seven centuries of European art from the Middle Ages to our current days.
I loved my visit to Hamburg and think is a hidden gem in Germany that not many people are aware. Can’t stop myself to tell everyone to visit as I had such a great time! It’s an easy and relaxing city with a lot of beautiful places for sightseeing and interesting places to stop and learn about the pass. Have you ever been to Hamburg? What did you like the most?
** I visited Hamburg in collaboration with the project Come to Hamburg and all activities mentioned in this article were sponsored. As always thought and opinions remain my own.