Let’s head to Hamburg, a port city located in northern Germany. Found at the bottom of the Elbe estuary, at the confluence of the Alster and a few short kilometers from the North Sea, Hamburg is the second-largest city in the country in terms of the number of inhabitants. If it is recognized for its huge port – the largest in the country and third largest in Europe – famous museums, historical monuments, green spaces, and especially its nightlife make it a city you must explore. If you are visiting the north of Germany, here is what you should do in Hamburg.
🗺️ But why not Bonn? Located in the west of Germany, the former capital is waiting for you, filled with beautiful things to see. Here is our guide.
🗒️ What you need to know before your trip to Hamburg
Before we start our list of things to do in Hamburg, here is some information you need to know for your next trip.
What do you call people from Hamburg?
In French, the inhabitants of Hamburg are Hamburgeois. In German, Hamburgers. And yes, it is here that the famous sandwich was born, though it has been part of the image of the United States for a long time.
What is Hamburg’s specialty?
Other than, of course, the hamburger. The specialties of the city revolve around fish, especially herring, salmon, and dab, which seems logical. It is also a good place to get crab and shrimp. You also have to taste Matjes, salted and preserved herring with a unique taste and tender texture. Or Bismarckhering, herring marinated in vinegar.
Which hotel to choose in Hamburg?
Hamburg welcomes many visitors throughout the year. The accommodation on offer is accordingly varied, but the prices are often quite high.
So let’s start with a budget hotel that visitors are sure to remember: the CAB20. Everything here is modern and very well thought out. It offers small but comfortable rooms with integrated music stations, super friendly common areas, and beautiful terraces, all in the city centre.
We do the splits with a very well-located establishment that will amaze you: the Grand Elysee Hamburg. Spacious and tastefully-decorated rooms, three restaurants, two bars – this palace has everything. But you will love it above all for its 1000m2 wellness area. However, beware, there are no room available for below 200 euros.
However, since hotels are quite expensive in Hamburg, you might as well treat yourself and look at The Fontenay. This five-star hotel located on the shore of Lake Alster, a few steps from the famous shopping district of Jungfernstieg, has a wellness center on its roof. The rooms are luxurious with relaxing decor, and some even offer a view of the lake. A haven of peace which comes at a price but which will leave you with unforgettable memories…
🔝 Top 10 things to do in Hamburg
Let’s get to the heart of the matter. The heart of your stay. Without further ado, here is our selection of unmissable things to do in Hamburg.
Explore the Port of Hamburg
You will certainly be left with a feeling of dissatisfaction if, during your walk in Hamburg, you did not have the opportunity to visit its mythical port. A commercial port specializing in container traffic, it is one of the top two in Europe in this area. You might be saying to yourself, “blah, visiting a port, how boring!” You would be wrong! You will find several tourist places there such as the fish market, the old tunnel under the Elbe, and the Speicherstadt, which we will tell you about below. Going north up the Elbe, you will also come across the Blankenesse, an upscale district of Hamburg filled with rustic charm.
Admire the Speicherstadt
Located 850 meters from Hamburg’s town hall, the Speicherstadt is a 19th century warehouse district which was once the largest in the world. Built near the Elbe, it stretches as far as the eye can see with buildings imbued with a neo-Gothic architectural style. Most of these buildings have now been transformed into museums, cafes, or restaurants. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Speicherstadt can be visited by foot or by boat during a cruise.
Immerse yourself in childhood at Miniatur Wunderland
Children and adults alike will be captivated by the Miniatur Wunderland or, in English, the “Wonderful world in miniature”. Built by brothers Gerrit and Frédérik Braun, it is a miniaturized representation of a gigantic network of electric trains. Along these thousands of kilometres of railway tracks, you will recognize some emblematic cities as well as fictitious ones like Knuffingen. You can also admire mountain ranges from several countries. The city of Hamburg is obviously represented along with some of its most famous attractions, such as Tierpark Hagenbeck (read below) and St. Michael’s Church. A day out that is both entertaining and instructive.
Gather at the Saint-Michel church
Protestantism is the main religion in Germany and they gave back to God through the construction of the Saint-Michel church, a large Hanseatic building built in the Baroque style from the 17th century. With its 2500 seats, you are sure to find one. You will also have the opportunity to contemplate its marble sculptures and its organs. A huge bell tower, standing at 132 meters high, distinguishes it from its surroundings.
Fill your stomach at the Fischmarkt auction
Here is another must-do thing in Hamburg. We spoke a little about this famous fish market above, counted among the many attractions offered by the port of Hamburg. If you are a fan of fresh produce, street food, flea markets, or even souvenirs, you absolutely must visit this market, which was first built in 1703, making it the oldest in Hamburg. After your walk and especially after taking tons of beautiful photos, you can relax and rest with a delicious brunch of, for example, Fischbrötchen (fish sandwich) washed down with a good beer.
Culture at the Kunstmeile
Located right in the centre of Hamburg, the Kunstmeile (official site) is the ideal place to admire paintings, photographs, and sculptures, most of which are very old. It is a complex dedicated to art and made up of five museums: the Bucerius Kunst Forum, the Deichtorhallen, the Kunsthalle, the Kunstverein in Hamburg, and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg.
Walk the Jungfernstieg promenade
Walking along the promenade to browse the shops, luxury boutiques, cafes, and restaurants that overlook the Alster Lake. This lake, surrounded by magnificent parks and beautiful villas, sees many tourists and Hamburgers alike indulge in activities of all kinds, whatever the season. In winter, the Alster freezes over, creating an opportunity for skating enthusiasts to shine. In summer, it is the turn of cyclists, hikers, and kayakers to circulate on and around the lake.
Take a deep breath at Planten und Blomen
In English, this means “plants and flowers”. We mentioned the green spaces offered by this beautiful city of Hamburg a little earlier. Planten und Blomen is a famous botanical garden located in the old quarter of the city walls. A must-see in Hamburg!
Experience nature at Tierpark Hagenbeck
If you are an animal lover, we cannot recommend a visit to the Tierpark Hagenbeck (official site) highly enough: you will simply love contemplating all you can find in this zoo. Tierpark Hagenbeck is a zoological park located within the district of Hamburg-Eimsbüttel, in Stellingen. It was created in 1907 by Carl Hagenbeck. The zoo and the tropical aquarium opened next door in 2007 are both a family business today.
Stop at Hamburg City Hall
Built between 1886 and 1897 in the neoclassical style, Hamburg’s town hall houses the city’s parliament – remember that Hamburg is not just a city but also one of the 16 states of Germany! This building has 647 rooms, all adorned with ornate tapestries, paintings, and chandeliers. You will have the opportunity to admire innumerable sculptures and portraits of notable citizens. Opposite this large building is a square that hosts festivals, seasonal markets, and concerts throughout the year.
Spend the night on the Reeperbahn
We mentioned it in the very first lines of this article, but Hamburg is also known for its nightlife and the Reeperbahn is the perfect example of this. Nearly a kilometre long, it is nicknamed “the avenue of sin” because of its many sex shops, strip clubs, and sex museums. There are also many bars, restaurants, and night clubs. Also found nearby on the Spielbuden Square are the city’s theatres.
🎸 Did you know? From 1960 to 1962, the Beatles gave more than 280 concerts in Hamburg. This is where it all started for them. The young musicians, originally from Liverpool, began at the Indra Club on the Reeperbahn. Their number of concerts in the city multiplied rapidly under the name of “Silver Beatles”.
Rob the shops on Monckeberkstrasse
Located near Hamburg City Hall, Monckebergstrasse is a shopping avenue lined with antique stores and fashion boutiques. You will find a wide range of exotic clothes and souvenirs to take home. A visit to this avenue, alone, as a couple, or with the family, will punctuate your trip to Hamburg perfectly.
Well, we hope that this selection of things to see in Hamburg has helped you to prepare your trip to this whirlwind city a little. Any other ideas? Share them in comments.