I'm living in Hamburg for over 14 years and put together the best things to do in Hamburg as well as insider tips by locals in this comprehensive travel guide which gets updated regularly. Apart from my personal tips I used recommendations from my friends and hamburg experts to offer a wide selection of activities and must see places in Hamburg you can use for your visit.
As Hamburg is my hometown I put a lot of effort into creating and maintaining this post which means it get's updated on a regular base – considering your comments, recommendations and new things I discover!
This guide is part of a selection of city guides, make sure to check out my Europe overview page.
6) Theatre & Entertainment
7) Nightlife – Pubs, Bars & Clubs
8) Accommodation & Transportation
1) Sights & Things to do in Hamburg
In this section I show your the highlights of the hanseatic city. I tried to find the right balance between major tourist attractions and off the beaten path recommendations.
If you are planning to stay for more than just one day you should consider the Hamburg Card, with this you get discounts for all major sights and museums as well as a day pass for the public transportation system including harbour ferries!
a) See the major sights – my tour for you
No matter if you're in Hamburg for the first time or just want to show your friends around: this route is the best way to see the top attractions. Depending on how long you want to spend at each stop it'll take you between 2-4 hours to complete it.
I always start at the Jungfernstieg: enjoying the view to the inner alster and the fountain before heading over to the Rathausmarkt. The Rathaus (town hall) itself is very impressive, also the inner courtyard with the fountain is worth a visit. Afterwards we continue to the St. Nicholas' church where you can opt in for the ride to the top of the memorial (5€ admission).
Next stop is the historical Deichstraße where you can find carefully restored 17th–19th-century houses, all that is left of the old harbour district. If you are hungry the restaurant “Zum Brandanfang” is a great spot to have lunch!
At the end of the Deichstraße we go for a side trip to the old warehouse district “Speicherstadt” by using the wooden footbridge leading to the warehouses across the inner harbour. If you continue you can also have a look into the HafenCity district. Now we head in the direction of Baumwall and go up to the St. Michael's church. The so called “Michel” is extraordinary and you should use the chance to go up to the platform to enjoy one of the best views in town (5€ admission).
Before we continue we go over to the Krameramtsstuben (Grocers' Apartments) around the corner. Similar to the Deichstraße these houses are the last of its kind in Hamburg.
Now our way leads us through the Portuguese quarter to the Landungsbrücken, simply follow the promenade where you come to see the white Cap San Diego and the green Rickmer Rickmers vessels. The last stop is the viewpoint on top of the Landungsbrücken station – for this simply go over the bridge to the station, turn immediately left and head up the stairs next to the station to the top level and enjoy the view!
b) Harbour tour with harbour ferries
The cheapest and one of the best ways to get to know the harbour is to use the harbour ferries starting from Landungsbrücken. Due to the fact that they are part of the public transportation network you can use them with your standard day pass. The only downside: you won't have a guided tour and chances are high that it is quite crowded on sunny weekends.
If you want to go for the big tour you should take the ferry number 62 to Finkenwerder which runs every 15mins. The route leads to the fish market, Dockland, the museum harbour of Övelgönne and finally to Finkenwerder. On this 30min ride you come to see all the important spots such as the dry docks of Blohm & Voss, the big container terminals, big container ships, the Köhlbrand Bridge, the elbe beach and the mansions of Blankenese. After arriving at Finkenwerder you can simply stay on the boat as it goes back the same route to the Landungsbrücken after a short break most of the times.
Maybe you don't have the time for the big tour, then you should take the ferry number 75 to Steinwerder which is just across the river. The viewpoint over there is a great spot for pictures and not as packed as the Landungsbrücken. If you take the ferry number 72 from the Landungsbrücken you'll have a short ride to the new Elbphilharmonie Hamburg (one of the largest construction projects of the city, costing about €789 million).
c) Old Elbe Tunnel
Another important historic landmark of Hamburg is the Old Elbe Tunne. Today it is mostly in use for pedestrians and bicycles, only a few cars are taking this route as various faster ways to cross the river have been built. The usage of the Tunnel is free of charge and a great way to cross over to the viewpoint of Steinwerder where you have a great view to the Landungsbrücken.
If you're tired of walking you can use the ferry number 75 to head back to the Landungsbrücken afterwards.
d) Modern architecture at the Hafencity
When I moved to Hamburg nothing has been built at this spot yet. Nowadays you find a newly constructed district – one of europe's largest rebuilding projects. The modern buildings, the new subway line and the interesting architecture are worth going for a stroll in this part of town.
If you're keen to learn more about the whole process and the ongoing constructions taking place you should checkout the Infocenter at the Kesselhaus as well as the Infopavillon Überseequartier which are free of charge. At the Überseequartier you'll often find open air exhibitions in summer.
e) Streetart at the Schanze & the Karoviertel
The quarter at the Sternschanze and the Karolinenviertel are the hippest spots in town although it's quite controversial (due to the gentrification taking place). Beside alternative shops and restaurants you can find some really cool street art in many variations.
From Paste-ups, tiles and stencils over to styrofoam cut outs you are able to spot some great pieces. The most popular local street artist are Zipper die Rakete (cool styrofoam cut outs in form of rockets), Los Piratoz, Tona and Rebelzer – but also international artists like Banksy, Boxi, El Bocho and Alias left their marks here.
I already guided some tours and recommend following the self-guided tour suggestions of Björn. Though the articles are in German you can use the maps he created to walk the tours on your own:
f) Paddle the canals
One of the best things to do in Hamburg when it's sunny is to rent a boat – be it a canoe, a paddleboat or a rowboat. Hamburgs inner city is home to many waterways and canals making it possible to discover the city by boat. You'll get a map of all canals handed out when renting a boat, the only thing you should take care of is sunscreen and some cool drinks.
If you come well rested you can go for a big trip through the canals on to the Outer and Inner Alster. Beside the many boat rentals at the Outer Alster my favorites are:
- Bootsvermietung am Stadtparksee (U-Bahn station Borgweg or U-Bahn station Saarlandstraße)
- Bootsvermietung Dornheim, Osterbek-Kanal (U-Bahn station Saarlandstraße)
- you can find all boat rentals listed in this overview
g) BBQ & Relax at Stadtpark or Schanzenpark
The Stadtpark (central park) is the largest park in the inner city and a popular spot in summer – here you are allowed to have a barbecue, there is a large adventure playground, an open air pool, several beer gardens and a mini golf pitch.
On top of all that you can find an Open-Air stage which is home to many concerts of popular international acts in the summer season. So: check the schedule and head to the area next to the fences to have a nice picnic, hearing great music but saving the money for a ticket (though you won't be the only one if the act is well known).
The Schanzenpark next to the old water tower is way smaller but also less crowded, located directly at the S/U station Sternschanze it's easy to get there.
h) Go for a walk or a run at the Outer Alster
The 7,4km loop around the Outer Alster is my favorite running trail – a paradise right in the center of Germanys 2nd largest city. If you go for a walk here you'll enjoy the many green areas, small parks and a stunning view over to sailing boats and the silhouette of the town.
Along the way you have numerous boat houses, small restaurants and Cafés where you can take a seat and grab a drink. If you happen to be in town in winter and you're lucky you might have the chance to walk across the frozen Alster – I experienced this happening twice: in 2010 and 2012 (if it's cold enough for a few weeks the city will prove the ice structure and announce it).
i) Water Light Concert and Fountain Show at Planten un Bloomen
Yes, another park! Hamburg has been the green capital of Europe 2011 for a reason ;)
This park is located right in the center and has a lot of playgrounds, an ice-skating (skating in summer) arena and is also very beautiful. The special thing about this one: from May to October the Water Light Concert and Fountain Show takes place at the lake of park every evening and lasts around 30mins.
On the website you can find the dates and the program.
j) Go for a bike tour in the city & the urban hinterland
Hamburg has numerous bicycle paths and a city bike system which makes it easy to explore the city by bike. Just register online and you're able to use the many bike stations in the city center.
Beside cycling in the center you can also go for a tour to discover the hinterland, you can find various routes on the website of Hamburg Tourism.
k) Elbe Beach
Though Hamburg isn't right at the sea it also has a beach – at the Elbe river. It's a great spot for seeing big ships passing by, going for a swim or simply relaxing at the parks or Cafés around.
To get there you can simply take one of the harbour ferries from the Landungsbrücken or cycle down from Altona.
l) Enjoy great views
This Hamburg Guide wouldn't be complete without a list of the best viewpoints in Hamburg – almost all of them are even free of charge. Unfortunately the Television tower is not part of this list as it is closed since 2001.
Planetarium at the Stadtpark: This former water tower is now home to the planetarium and offers a viewing platform at the roof during the opening hours which is free of charge. From here you can observe the wide Stadtpark, the City Nord and the nearby airport.
Altonaer Balkon: This one is actually a small park in the district of Altona with a great view to the Elbe and the port area – a very popular spot in summer!
Dockland: Close to the Altonaer Balkon, down by the river you can find this modern structure – a building which looks like a ship. Use the many stairs to get to the observation deck on top of the building and enjoy one of the best views across the harbour!
Platform at the Landungsbrücken: On top of the S/U Station Landungsbrücken you can find this platform which also offers great views (see title picture of this article).
Michel: Though this is the only one which isn't free it's worth spending the 5€ as the view from the St. Michael's church is possibly the best view in town as you are able to enjoy a 360 degree view to all parts of the city. I'd say in combination with the interior of the church it is definitely one of the best things to do in Hamburg. Every now and then there is an event called “Nachtmichel” where you are able to access the platform at night, a ticket is 10,50€.
m) Explore the Neustadt & Gängeviertel districts
The Neustadt is another district which calls for a stroll. Start your tour at the St. Michael's church and head to the Großneumarkt, one of the few parts in town which hasn't been affected by the big fire and the second world war. Afterwards move on to the Peterstraße with it's beautiful houses.
On your way to the concert hall Laeiszhalle you'll pass by many nice little Cafés – the Laeiszhalle itself has once been Germanys largest concert hall when it was opened in 1908.
Finally you should checkout the Gängeviertel where you find some old houses dating back to the same period as the ones at the Krameramtsstuben. Furthermore the area around Valentinskamp is quite interesting too as this complex has been squatted in 2009 by 200 artists. This is why the area is pretty colorful and lively, you'll find many street art pieces of well known local artists as this place turned into a cultural center over the past years.
n) HSV & St.Pauli
If you're a fan of football you'll find two “cathedrals” to go to in Hamburg depending who you're cheering for. One of the clubs is the FC St.Pauli which has it's home stadium right in the center, the other one is the Hamburger SV which has it's arena a bit out of town and is also the bigger club in matters of fan base and trophies. Both clubs are very popular even though they haven't won any titles in the past few years.
The national football association always manages to schedule the match days that only one of both clubs has a home match per weekend, the other one plays away. This way you're able to see a big football match almost every weekend in Hamburg. You can order tickets on the website of each club, if you're lucky you are even able to purchase tickets on the match days in front of the stadium.
2) Guided Tours in Hamburg
You can find a wide range of guided tours in Hamburg. Though I prefer to explore the city on my own I opt-in for a guided tour every once in a while – this way you get to know many facts and stories behind in a relatively short time and get to see places you wouldn't have access to otherwise.
I selected a few recommendable activities in this list and included links to the tour operators and their online booking options via GetYourGuide.
a) Hamburger Unterwelten (Bunkers of Hamburg)
Even most locals don't know about this place: right next to the central station there is a huge underground bunker. The Tiefbunker Steintorwall has been built as a nuclear shelter during the WWII and has been even renovated during the time of the cold war.
The non-profit association Hamburger Unterwelten is researching and documenting the subterranean buildings in Hamburg and offers guided tours from time to time. The most interesting one ist the mentioned shelter which covers 2700 square meters (approx. 29,063 sq. ft.) – at the tour you get to know more about the history, the function and you'll see many rooms including the technical equipment.
As the tours are very rare they are often sold out but you're able to book individual group tours:
b) Harbour Tours
Apart from the free options mentioned above you can go for a few guided tours at the harbour – from the classical version over to interesting combined tours you can find various options from local tour operators via GetYourGuide:
- Traditional Harbour Tour in Hamburg
- City & Harbour Tour With Hop-On, Hop-Off Ticket
- Hamburg Shore Tour: Warehouse District, HafenCity and Harbour
- Port of Hamburg: High-Speed Boat Ride
(Powered by GetYourGuide)
c) Red Light District Tours
As a local it's quite weird to go for a tour like this but they are very popular amongst visitors to get introduced to the history of Hamburgs red light district around the famous Reeperbahn. The following 3 tours are the most popular ones:
- Reeperbahn 2.5-Hour Guided Tour
- Sex and Crime in St. Pauli – tour for ages 18+
- St. Pauli Ahoy – Nighttime Tour – Plus Beer and Shot
(Powered by GetYourGuide)
Another great option is a St. Pauli tour by the St. Pauli Tourist office, where you are guided through the neighborhood by locals (Thanks Nina!):
3) The best Museums in Hamburg
The list of museums in Hamburg seems to be endless – therefore I forced myself to select the best ones for you. If you want to visit more than just one I highly recommend to get the Hamburg Card, a city pass which gives you up to 50% discount to most of the museums and will safe you a lot of money this way.
a) Miniatur Wunderland
This is by far one of the most popular things to do in Hamburg. The Miniatur Wunderland is considered to be the worlds largest model railway attraction and full of interesting details.
Apart from the trains also cars, trucks, cable cars and even planes come alive in this huge miniatur world. As the exhibition spans 6,400 square metres you should plan to spend some time there. Due to its popularity you should be aware of long waiting lines – if you want to skip this you should buy your ticket online:
Address: Kehrwieder 2-4/Block D, 20457 Hamburg
b) International Maritime Museum
Also for this one you should take some time. The international maritime museum is a very good one and goes well together with a visit to the Miniatur Wunderland as you can find a big number of model boats in this exhibition.
The collection shows more than 36,000 items on 12,000 m2 but also the building itself is impressive as the Kaispeicher B (quay warehouse B) is the oldest preserved warehouse in Hamburg. Find all information and opening hours on the website of the museum.
Address: Koreastraße 1, 20457 Hamburg
c) Hafenmuseum (port museum)
If you're interested in ships and the history of the port of Hamburg this museum is the right one to go to. At the Hafenmuseum you get to see huge exhibits such as cranes and ships and you're able to go aboard of the museum ship MS Bleichen.
Find opening hours and more information at the official website.
Address: Kopfbau des Schuppens 50A, Australiastraße, 20457 Hamburg
d) Deichtorhallen (House of Photography)
Located right next to the central station this exhibition halls are one of Europe's largest art centers for contemporary art and photography. Beside temporary exhibitions the Deichtorhallen are home to 2 large photography collections such as the photo archive of the german news magazine “Der Spiegel”.
Find admission, opening hours and the current exhibitions on the official website.
Adresse: Deichtorstraße 1-2, 20095 Hamburg
e) Chocolate Museum
If you like chocolate this is the right place for you: at the Chocoversum by Hachez you get to know everything about the history, the origin and the manufacturing of chocolate.
You'll take part in a 90min guided tour where you will create your very own chocolate bar which you can take home or eat it right there ;)
Address: Meßberg 1, 20095 Hamburg
Admission: 14€ (guided tour & chocolate included)
f) Holsten Brewery & Beer seminars
While the girls are enjoying chocolate heaven at the chocolate museum the boys can go for a brewery tour, don't you think?
Located next to the S-Bahn station Holstenstraße you get to know everything about the brewing process, filling process and you get the chance to try some good german beer. Hmm!
The tours take place from Monday to Friday and you need to register beforehand. If you want to take it to the next level you can even attend a beer seminar!
Find all information and prices on the website.
g) Rickmer Rickmers
Alright, let's head back to the harbour and to one of the landmarks of Hamburg: the vessel Rickmer Rickmers. Aboard you'll explore the rich history behind the ship and you're able to walk through the whole ship including the deck. Moreover you happen to see various exhibitions every once in a while.
A visit to the Rickmer Rickmers is easy to combine with a visit of the port, the admission is 5€.
h) BallinStadt – Port of Dreams
Would you have known that Hamburg is the counterpart of Ellis Island in New York? Explore the history behind at the The Emigration Museum of Hamburg, a big exhibition which has been built at the former emigration station in the Port of Hamburg.
More than 5 million people from Europe emigrated via Hamburg to the “new world” between 1850 and 1939. The exhibition has been opened in 2007 – find more information on the official website.
Address: Veddeler Bogen 2, 20539 Hamburg
i) Hamburg Dungeon
The Hamburg Dungeon is located next to the Miniatur Wunderland and is an exciting way to experience the dark side of Hamburgs history with a mix of horror chamber, show and fun rides.
Similar to the Miniatur Wunderland it is very popular amongst tourists, therefore you should consider booking your tickets online to prevent long waiting times:
j) Hamburg Museum
As the name implies you get to know everything about the rich history of Hamburg in this museum. The exhibition is beautiful and very interesting – also popular by locals!
Address: Holstenwall 24, 20355 Hamburg
k) Hamburger Kunsthalle (Art Gallery and Gallery of Contemporary Arts)
This is the right place for art lovers as it houses the most important public art collections in Germany. The art museum focuses on painting in Hamburg in the 14th century, paintings by Dutch and Flemish artists of the 16th and 17th centuries, French and German paintings of the 19th century, modern, and contemporary art (Source: Wikipedia).
Address: Glockengießerwall 5, 20095 Hamburg
l) Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (Museum of Art and Industry Hamburg)
You are more into fine, applied and decorative arts? This museum is one of the top museums of its kind in Europe, moreover its one of the largest and most popular museums in town.
Address: Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg
l) Dialog im Dunkeln (Dialogue in the dark)
Have you ever asked yourself how it is to experience the world as a blind person? In this exhibition blind guides help you finding your way through pitch-black rooms in which everyday situations are experienced altogether differently, without eyesight.
Address: Alter Wandrahm 4, 20457 Hamburg
Admission: 21€, find more information on the official website
4) Restaurants & Cafés in Hamburg
During your time in Hamburg you shouldn't miss out on the local dishes: beside fish I highly recommend trying the “Franzbrötchen” (sweet pastry, baked with butter and cinnamon) from the Hansebäcker bakery, the traditional Hamburger “Labskaus” (isn't as bad as it looks like!) at the Old Commercial Room and of course the best Hamburger in Hamburg from Most Wanted Burger.
By the way: the Hamburger has its roots in Hamburg with the traditional dish called “Rundstück warm” (read the whole story here).
Beside restaurants where you get those traditional dishes you will find all my favorite places to eat very soon here in a very own article.
5) Beach Clubs in Hamburg
In summer we have quite a selection of great places to hang out by the water – my Hamburg Tips for the summer will show you the best places to enjoy your sundowner with a view.
Right now I'm re-editing the list for this season but what I can highlight already is my favorite beach club named Strand Pauli – even though it can be quite crowded and it's a bit pricy it's a great place right at the harbour!
6) Theatre & Entertainment
As for Museums you could spend weeks in Hamburg also for experiencing the wide range of cultural activities. The city offers many great options ranging from musicals, poetry slams, concerts, laser shows, comedy events over to classical stage plays.
Very soon a list of the best events and theatre will be published here.
7) Nightlife – Pubs, Bars and Clubs
For many visitors enjoying the nightlife is one of the most important things to do in Hamburg. Believe me, you can dance the night away in Hamburg properly at really cool places at the Reeperbahn but also beyond.
There are also numerous big clubs and venues – right now my favorite ones are the MS Stubnitz (which is an actual ship) and the clubs inside the Bunker (a former WWII bunker)!
Until I extended my list with many more pubs, bars and clubs use this older article for some recommendations featuring spots at the Reeperbahn!
8) Accommodation & Transportation
Hamburg has some very cool accommodation options for each kind of traveler. Following I list my favorite Hostels/Hotels in each category.
Budget & Design Hostels
- Generator Hostel – this is one of the biggest Hostels in Hamburg and is perfectly located (next to the central station), offers great value for the money spent and has various room options. Rates are starting as low as 13€ (Dorm) but there are also privates with bathroom ensuite.
- Superbude in St. Georg or Superbude St Pauli – the 2 hostels by Superbude are one of the coolest places to stay in Hamburg. This Design Hostels have their very own style and are a true attraction itself, even though the prices are a bit above the average Hostel prices.
AirBnB (+ Promo Code)
If you want to stay a few days in the city AirBnB could be another great option for you as the selection for Hamburg is very big and you can find some very nice apartments in the area.
Hotels (mid-range, 3*)
- MyPlace – this cozy family owned hotel is popular for its individually designed rooms, good prices and central location inside the cool Schanzenviertel district.
- Motel One Alster – Motel One is known for its stylish design concept and low rates as well as a wide breakfast selection – great package!
Design / Boutique Hotel (4*)
- East Hotel – if you are a fan of upperclass design hotels you'll love the East, plus it is located perfectly for those who want to enjoy the legendary nightlife of Hamburg!
- 25h Hafencity – the 25h is known for its outstanding interior design concepts, the Hafencity property is another great example as it connects the maritime flair with modern, urban design. A great place to stay in style!
Luxury Hotels (5*)
- Hotel Atlantic (Kempinski) – this 1909 opened Grand Hotel is a true institution in Hamburg. Its excellent location right at the Alster lake led to many appearances in movies e.g. in “James Bond – Tomorrow Never Dies” with Pierce Brosnan.
- Vier Jahreszeiten (Fairmont) – also the four seasons looks back on a 100 year history in the city and is located right at the banks of the Inner Alster lake. Many well known actors, rock stars and politicians happened to stay a this elegant hotel in the beautiful inner city!
Hamburg offers a wide selection of accommodation options for each budget – use the filters and recommendations at the Hamburg-Overview page of Booking to find the right one for you!
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)
The public transportation network in Hamburg is called “HVV” and is one of the best in Germany – on friday, saturday and if the next day is a public holiday all S and U Bahn lines are running all night long (apart from that you have nightbuses during the week ensuring connectivity).
You can find a PDF of the whole network plan here. If you want to check your connection you should use the Geofox or download the HVV App.
If you don't go for the Hamburg Card mentioned above I recommend using a 9 a.m. day ticket which is valid from 9am to 6am of the following day!
Your favorite Tips & Things to do in Hamburg?
I wrote this guide for you based on my experience living in Hamburg for 12 years. My goal is to provide one of the best guides about my hometown with the help of friends and the community. If you know any cool tips & things to do in Hamburg I should checkout and list here: simply leave a comment below!
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This post is also available in: German
Thanks for sharing this guide! It is the most elaborate and interesting guide to Hamburg I found! Loved reading it and will use a lot of your tips during our travels! Thanks :)