This post is also available in: German
With this list of free things to do in Hamburg you are busy for 2 full days and you have only to pay for the public transportation system! There are a lot of opportunities to enjoy the city even with a small budget.
This article is part of the free Backpacking in Europe Guide where you find more great information, resources and destination guides to plan & organize your trip to Europe! Checkout the Packing List for City Breaks – a great tool to save some time while preparing for your trip!
Let's start with the only thing you have to spend money for in this List: the public transportation system. Also in Hamburg this is the cheapest way to get from one point to the other – but it's also great to discover the city:
1) A roundtrip with the U3
…is the name of the transport Association in Hamburg. On the website you have the chance to download the network plans, you can checkout the prices and you have a tool to create your personal schedule.
More info at HVV.de.
First you need to get an overview – with your day ticket (i'd recommand the 9 a.m. Day Ticket for 6,00€, it's valid until 6 a.m. the following day) you have the opportunity to use the Metro(“U-Bahn”), S-Bahn, Busses and even the harbour ferries unlimited. The Subway in Hamburg is not like in other cities, because most of the time it drives above the ground and you can see a lot of the town just by leaning back and look out of the window. One more advantage: you drive like the locals and get in contact with them or just watch them on their daily hustle and bustle.
So: enter the yellow subway with the number 3 (U3) and make a roundtrip! This line is the only circle line in Hamburg and crosses all interesting sights in the innercity e.g. the central park, the alster, the harbour, st. pauli…
2) Free Harbour Roundtrip
Enjoyd the roundtrip with the subway? Ok, now it's time to get out of the train and see the harbour! Luckily the U3 has a station directly at the touristic spot in the harbour: the Landungsbrücken. As mentioned above you can also use the harbour ferries with your day ticket, so keep away from the expensive touristic boat trips and got to the waterside where the ferries have their stops.
Just watch out for the “HVV” signs and take the boat with the number “62” and the destination “Finkenwerder”, after entering the ship you'll drive through the harbour area of Hamburg and you come to see big docks, refurbished warehouses, the fishmarket, the historical harbour “övelgönne” and of course the big container terminals. After your arrival at Finkenwerder don't leave the ship, because mostly it'll drive directly back to the Landungsbrücken after a short break.
3) a Walk through Speicherstadt & Hafencity
You like to see where goods were stored in former times and you're interested in modern architecture? Then this walk is a must do. It starts not far away from our last stop, the Landungsbrücken. Move on to the old Warehouses located not far away from the station “Baumwall” and make a walk through the quarter. Directly next to it you enter the area of the “Hafencity”, a complete new quarter of Hamburg builded up from scratch with very modern architecture.
At the moment it is the biggest european urban construction project. I come to this area nearly every 3 months to see how the work is going on and i come to see new buildings every time i'm there ;)
Use also the chance to visit the free museums, here you get more information about the project and you can see models of the building that are under construction: the Kesselhaus, the Überseequartier Info Pavillon and the Elbphilharmonie Information Pavillon.
4) Old Elbe Tunnel
This tunnel was the technical sensation of the year 1911: the first time people in Hamburg were able to cross the Elbe underwater through a tunnel. Today there is a even bigger one located a few kilometres away from this place but the old one is still in service. Nowadays it is popular by tourists and is used for special events like the Elbtunnel-Marathon or art exhibitions.
The entrance is not far away from the Landungsbrücken station: go there and cross the elbe underwater! On the other side of the tunnel there is a nice viewpoint where you have a beautiful view to the skyline of hamburg with the touristic harbour in front of it.
5) Relaxing at Stadtpark and Planetarium
Fed up with water and ships? Ok, my next recommendation is to see the green area of hamburg! For this you need to take the U3 again, this time to the station “Borgweg” – directly next to it you can access the central park, called “Stadtpark”. Big grass areas, nice designed gardens and a little lake are a perfect surrounding for a recreation break.
But don't miss out to visit also the Planetarium located in an old watertower on the western edge of the park. You can access the plattform on the top of the building for free – from there you have a fantastic overview of hamburg!
6) Walk around the Alster
Mohan P J via Compfight
7) The Michel
As mentioned in this article hamburg has a lot of nice churches to visit. The most popular is the St. Michaeliskirche a.k.a. the “Michel”. You can enter it for free and admire the opulent interior. For a fee of 4€ you can enter the plattform at the top of the tower where you have a stunning view over the harbour and the innercity.
Accommodation, Transportation & Must Eat
Hamburg has some very cool accommodation options – my favorites Hostels are the Superbude (a funny design concept!) and the Generator Hostel (brand new, very stylish and big), both are very good located in the very center.
An ubercool Hotel to stay in, though it‘s pricey, is the 25hours Design Hotel – yes, it‘s a splurge but the interior design is awesome. If you‘re not able to stay: check it out on your walk through the Hafencity!
Get in & around
As germanys „gate to the world“ getting to and around Hamburg is easy and convenient
by plane – the main airport (HAM) is located right in the city and has a direct connection to the SBahn. A lot of low-cost carriers fly to and from here regularly. Check the cheapest connections via Skyscanner.
by train – the main station is called „Hauptbahnhof“, located in the very center where you‘ll find most hotels/hostels, there are lockers as well – you can start exploring right away! Check the best connections with RailEurope or the local carrier Deutsche Bahn.
by bus – recently long-distance bus services are available, they are the cheapest way to get around in Germany. Flixbus is one of the largest companies. (Book a Flixbus ticket online)
Hamburger? Yes, you‘re right – legends have it that the Hamburger actually has it‘s origin in a traditional snack from Hamburg called „Rundstück“. My favorite Burger place is „Otto's Burger“, which can be found close to the Hauptbahnhof.
Another very typical snack to try is the „Franzbrötchen“ a pastry made with cinnamon and raisins – you can get it in every bakery in Hamburg (go for the ones from „Hansebäcker Junge“ they are my favorite!)
You know more free things to do in Hamburg?
I love to hear them! Just share it below in the comment section – I will add the additional tips from time to time.
About the Photographer
All the stunning pictures of this post are taken and edited by Jan, a friend of mine. If you like to see more of his work checkout the post “In Pictures: the Cook Islands” and visit his Flickrstream!