This guide about things to do in Hamburg has been written in collaboration with Come to Hamburg. Our visit to Hamburg was sponsored by them but all suggestions mentioned in this post are ours.
Have you ever made an “instant connection” with a place and left a piece of your heart there? We left ours back in Hamburg because it’s lovely.
We spent a few days in Hamburg in June to celebrate my birthday and absolutely fell in love with this city. This city has more canals than Amsterdam and Venice combined, and yet it doesn’t receive as many visitors and gets slightly ignored.
There are many fun things to do in Hamburg that can keep you busy for a week. The weather in Hamburg can be unpredictable and it can rain anytime, so we have included a few Hamburg attractions that you en enjoy even when it rains. If you’re visiting Hamburg with your family, you will find a lot of things to do in Hamburg with kids on this list.
Things to do in Hamburg:
1) Walk Around Hamburg Harbor + See Magnificent “Museum Ships”
You can’t visit Hamburg and skip the Harbor because it’s hard to miss. Even if this is not on your list, you will end up doing this if you explore Hamburg by foot.
Hamburg has the second largest seaport in Europe and more than NINE MILLION containers are handled here in a year. Even if you don’t care about the numbers, you will surely enjoy walking along the harbor and checking out the sights.
You can expect to see Rickmer Rickmers and Cap San Diego – Hamburg’s magnificent historical ships that are permanently moored here by the harbor. Both the ships are now turned into museum ships.
2) Check Out Nikolaifleet – Hamburg’s Prettiest Canal
While Hamburg is gorgeous and has a lot more to offer than Amsterdam, the canals are not everywhere. You need to get to certain parts of the city to see the canals. If you’re in Hamburg for one day and want to make the most of it, this is one of the canals that you should surely see.
Nikolaifleet in Hamburg is one of the oldest spots of the city. We reached here just by chance while we were exploring Hamburg by foot and didn’t want to leave. To give you the exact location, this is very close to Hamburg’s miniature wonderland.
3) Explore St Pauli and Look at the Street Art
St. Pauli is Hamburg’s coolest neighborhood and it is so for a reason. Literally every single wall or door is covered with colorful artwork here. The streets are lined with little artsy stores and quirky cafes where you can spend an entire day.
Yes, art is the first thing that will hit you when you enter St Pauli but this neighborhood has a lot of history. You can see it in the architecture, old houses and churches. You can check this for booking a walking tour of St. Pauli that costs €12.
If you want to make the most out of your Hamburg trip, then I highly recommend you stay in St. Pauli. We stayed in Superbude Hotel and Hostels, which is the most loved place to stay in Hamburg. I’m not just saying this because I stayed here, but you can read the reviews on TripAdvisor and decide for yourself.
They have dorm beds and amazing private rooms. If you’re visiting with friends, then you can book their Rockstar suite. Everything here is fantastic, especially the breakfast.
4) Make your own Chocolate the Chocolate Factory – Chocoversum Chocolate Museum
The purpose of our visit to Hamburg was to celebrate my birthday and visiting Hamburg’s Chocoversum Chocolate Museum was the highlight of that day. I’m a chocoholic but my husband is not. Seriously, he is the only one in the world who doesn’t like chocolates, but even he had a lot of fun here.
We entered the world of smiles as soon as we stepped inside this place. A gentle chocolate aroma acted like a drug and made me a sudden burst of happiness for no reason. It felt like Christmas inside!
Chocoversum Chocolate Museum has English and German tours that are around 90 minutes long. We opted for the English tour and were lucky to have the funniest guy in the building – Haldor as our tour guide.
The tour was around 90 minutes long and was full of laughter, interesting facts about chocolate, a bit of history and tasting the chocolate. We got to taste chocolate many times throughout the tour and we even got to make our own!
They gave us the ingredients and asked us to be creative. I picked dark chocolate as my base and added caramel and hazelnut. San also picked dark chocolate and added pretty much every ingredient he found – even salt and chili.
Hamburg weather can be strange and it can rain just about anytime. Chocoversum Chocolate Museum and chocolate factory is one of the best places to see in Hamburg when it’s raining. Now that we have checked a chocolate factory visit off our list, the next on our wish list is a cheese factory tour in Switzerland.
5) See Reeperbahn – Hamburg’s Red Light District
Do you know which city in Europe has the biggest red light district? No it’s not Amsterdam, it’s Hamburg. I did not know this as well.
Hamburg red light district is in and around Reeperbahn, which is the name of a street near St. Pauli. This street is also called “the sinful mile” and is full of brothels, sex shops, sex shows and similar things.
It’s not like Amsterdam where girls actually stand on the windows. In fact, you probably won’t see any sex workers but only massive posters. Strangely, there is a little side street that says, “women are not allowed”. I was standing somewhere, minding my own business and suddenly a man, who was probably an employee asked me to move away and said this bar is only for men.
Why should you visit this area? Well, it’s an experience just walking on the streets and getting drunk on the road here.
6) Go Check Out Elbe Tunnel – an Underground River Tunnel
Elbtunnel is the longest river tunnel in the world and it flows under Hamburg’s river Elb. You can access the entry point from the harbor and reach the other side. When you enter, you can walk from one side to another in less than 10 minutes and explore the area on the other side of the harbor.
Of course the view from the other side of the harbor is marvelous but as per me, the tunnel looks gorgeous from inside. You can also go inside with your bicycle.
7) Visit Miniatur Wunderland for the Largest Model Railway
Hamburg’s Miniature Wonderland is a place that brings the inner child out in everyone. The detailing here is like no other and everything looks very real. There are cities, countries, massive landscapes, and more!
Actually these are mini models of a few selected geographical areas and every effort is taken to ensure the model is a pure replica of the original in every detail.
There is a tiny version of literally everything – houses, cities, roads, volcanoes, stations, airports, festivals, beaches, swimming pools and little people. There are buttons that you can press to play around and move the trains, make people dance and move other things around.
Miniatur Wunderland is the largest model railway and airport in the world. The exhibit has 1300 trains with multiple carriages and many other moving vehicles. That’s not it, the exhibit keeps increasing as more pieces are added on to it periodically.
Our favorite was a festival set up with a massive sound system, campervans, food stalls, dixie toilets and many people. After every few minutes, the light patterns change to show the miniature world in nighttime and then daytime. Miniature wonderland also has the most elaborate train model in the world.
8) Climb on Rickmer Rickmers – Hamburg’s beloved sailing ship
Rickmer Rickmers is Hamburg’s famous floating landmark and you will definitely see it when you visit the port. Guess what, you can now climb on the top of this ship and check out the view.
You can’t and should not try this alone. However, you can try this with Schnurstracks Kletterparks Adventure Company where their experienced instructors guide you. You can climb and be 35 meters above the water level and enjoy a panoramic view of Hamburg. This costs € 39 and can only be done on Saturdays.
9) Enjoy Shopping in Hamburg at the Best Vintage Shop – Pick N Weight
I hate shopping in Europe because most of the clothes look the same as per the latest trends. Living in Europe, I really miss shopping in India’s flea markets where you can find one-of-a-kind handmade things.
Hamburg is the FIRST place in Europe where I had the desire to shop. It has many artsy shops where you can buy unique things. Out of all the stores, we found a gem of a place where they sell beautifully preserved vintage things.
One rainy afternoon in Hamburg, San and I found this cute shop Pick n Weight where they sell premium vintage clothes, shoes and hats by weight. This store was very close to our room at Superbude St Pauli, so we went back here everyday. I don’t think you will ever be able to guess what we bought here.
You can find vintage rock and roll tee shirts, 60s, 70s and 80s wardrobe, kimonos, hats, boots and so much more. San and I bought Kimonos – not sure where we will wear them but I love them.
Before you ask, no I’m not getting paid by them to promote their store on my blog.
10) Visit Alster Lake to Watch the Sunset with Swans
Alster Lake is an artificial lake that’s formed by Alster river. In fact, there are two of them, one is inner lake and the other is outer Alster Lake. As the evening approaches, the local students bring their beer and sit on the benches next to the lake.
We visited this lake twice but the best was when we saw the sunset here next to the swans. Hamburg is gorgeous but it is an amazing experience seeing how everything lights up as the sky darkens. The skyline looks beautiful and you can see the famous TV tower in the distance.
If you’re visiting Hamburg in the summer months, keep in mind that the sunset can be as late as 11 pm.
11) Visit Hamburg’s Famous Fish Market – Der FischmarktEvery Sunday morning from 7 am to 9:30 am, the fish vendors in Hamburg set up one of Germany’s oldest markets – der Fischmarkt. It’s a place where the locals and visitors come together, not only to buy fish but also to enjoy the atmosphere. There is food, live music and an atmosphere like no other. A visit to Hamburg’s fish market actually one of the most popular things to do in Hamburg.
12) Go to Sternschanze for a Taste of Nightlife in Hamburg
If nightlife at Reeperbahn is too sleazy for you, you should check out the scene at Sternschanze. This street is my favorite part of Hamburg and is dotted with the most amazing bars, cafes and restaurants. You can book a pub crawl tour to experience nightlife in Hamburg that costs € 12. In this price, you will visit 5 pubs and get 1 shot in each pub.
My personal recommendation is to eat fish at Fischimbiss schabi or Schabi’s Fischimbiss as it’s popularly called. This restaurant has an outdoor sitting area where you can enjoy your meal. This restaurant is not exactly on Sternschanze street but us near it. For location and more information about this restaurant, you can visit this page.
There is a supermarket that is right opposite Fischimbiss schabi, where you can buy beer. You can walk around; drink your beer while you decide which bar to go to. Our personal recommendation is Kulturhaus 73.
13) Visit St. Michael’s Church and Enjoy a View from the Top
Along with Hamburg Rathaus and Rickmer Rickmers, St. Michael’s Church is also one of the most famous landmarks of Hamburg. This church has a tower that is 132 meters high and is visible from many parts of Hamburg.
There is an observation deck on this tower where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Hamburg. While the tower actually is 132 meters high, the observation deck is at the height of 106 meters above river Elbe.
You can either go up by steps or by a lift – the choice is yours. Hamburg has many interesting churches, but let’s face it – you can’t visit all. If you want to visit one, then let St. Michael’s Church be the one.
14) Visit Speicherstadt – the world’s Largest Warehouse District
One of the most popular photos of Hamburg is of Speicherstadt. This area is the reason why Hamburg is called the city of warehouses. This is the first spot in Hamburg that was awarded the status of UNESCO world heritage site.
Most of the buildings were built here between 1880 and 1920 and stand on oak poles. The architecture is definitely stunning, even on a rainy day in Hamburg.
The best time to visit Speicherstadt is when it’s dark because the entire area gets illuminated by lights. Of course, the most romantic way to experience this is from the water. You can book a special “illuminated” boat ride through this area that starts when it is dark.
Speicherstadt is a part of HafenCity and you can combine this with a visit to Miniature Wonderland, which is also in the same area.
15) Rent a Bicycle and Explore Hamburg like a Local
If you like to blend in with the locals, then you should rent a bicycle and explore Hamburg on your own. Like most of the German cities, Hamburg’s roads are bicycle friendly.
There are many places to see in Hamburg and you can cover most of them in just a day or two on a bicycle. If you do rent a bicycle, then this map of Hamburg city will come in handy.
The weather in Hamburg can be unpredictable, so carry a rain poncho if you’re planning on explore Hamburg on a bike. Here are a few bicycle tours in Hamburg that I have handpicked for you:
- 3.5 Hour Bike Tour in Hamburg: begins in St. Pauli and from there goes to the inner and outer Alster Lakes, the Rathaus, Speicherstadt, HafenCity, St. Michael’s Church, back to St. Pauli and then head to the red light district – Reeperbahn.
- 3 Hour Bicycle Tour with Elbphilharmonie: this tour goes through many famous landmarks and also Elbphilharmonie, where you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the city.
- 3 – 4 Hours Cycling Tour of Hamburg’s Surroundings: Unlike the other tours, this one doesn’t go inside the city’s busy areas. This is a green tour and the idea is to see Hamburg as a green oasis. Note: this tour doesn’t include bicycles.
- 3 Hour Bike Ride around the outer Alster Lake: goes around the famous Alster Lake, on many bridges and through the parks.
- 3 – 4 Hour Bike Ride along the Elb River: Also includes cycling inside the Elb Tunnel, which I have mentioned in point 6. This tour is in German.
The above are my recommendation but please check all the details before you book. Some tours are only in German and the others are only in English. One of them (as mentioned in the description) doesn’t include bike rentals.
16) Visit Hamburg Rathaus – One of the Biggest Hamburg Attractions
Rathaus is a German word that means “town hall” and Hamburg Rathaus is an impressive building in the center of the town. The construction of this building took 44 years and there were seven architects that were involved in the project.
Don’t just admire this from outside but take a few minutes to go inside also. The main lobby is a public area and is often used for exhibitions. There was an art exhibition inside the Rathaus when we visited it in June 2017.
17) Get Adventurous at Schnurstracks Kletterpark Hamburg-Sachsenwald – Climbing Park
There is a climbing park in Hamburg where you can try a lot of adventurous activities. This park has five climbing routes in the lap of nature. You can also experience a free fall from the height of 13 meters if you dare.
Not just adventure, but you can also enjoy a picnic lunch and relax in the area around the tipi. This park is just 30 minutes form the Hamburg center and is directly on the route of S-Bahn (S-21). You can check this for reviews and more info about this place. Or, you can visit their official website.
18) Take a FREE Walking Tour of HafenCity
HafenCity is on Elbe River Island and this part of Hamburg has some seriously old buildings along with some new ones. You can do a guided tour of this area that is free, but you have to book in advance here.
This is one of those things I suggest you do if you’re in Hamburg for a short time. Please note, that some of the places to visit in Hamburg that I have suggested in this article (Miniature Wonderland, Speicherstadt, etc) are a part of HafenCity. For your benefit, I have put these attractions in separate points so that you don’t miss them.
19) Be a Child at Hamburg Dungeon
Hamburg Dungeon is right under the Miniature Wonderland (Miniatur Wunderland). It is an interactive journey through Hamburg’s history in a way that makes it scary as well as funny at the same time.
It has a virtual boat ride, special effects, battle scenes and a lot of things that will give you a history lesson about Hamburg that you will remember for life. If you book in advance, a ticket costs around € 25.
If you’re visiting Hamburg with kids, then they’re going to LOVE a visit to the dungeon and learn history at the same time.
20) Go for a Boat Tour and Experience Hamburg Sightseeing from Water
If you want to check out Hamburg’s attractions from a different perspective, you can opt for a boat tour. Almost all the tours will take you through Hamburg’s many canals as well as Alster Lake and Speicherstadt Lake.
There are many kinds of tours and some can be for as long as three hours, but I recommend you check out either a historical canal tour or a night cruise. Literally all the boat tours will take you around Speicherstadt and cost around € 10 – € 25.
Where to stay in Hamburg – our suggested Hotels in Hamburg
While we were in Hamburg, we stayed in two hotels: Superbude St. Pauli and Superbude St. Georg. We’re so impressed with these two hostels cum hotels that we have written a separate blog post about our stay here.
Superbude St. Pauli and Superbude St. George both have private rooms as well as dorm beds. Our rooms in both the places were cozy with contemporary décor. The beds in both the rooms were super comfortable and made us feel like we were sleeping on a cloud.
I was happy to see a hairdryer and a lot of toiletries in the bathroom. The room had a lot of interesting knick-knacks that made us laugh. There was a singing fish in our toilet that made us laugh.
St. Pauli is our favorite neighborhood in Hamburg you can experience the best of Hamburg’s nightlife in the areas around. St. Georg is near Hamburg’s Außenalster Lake and has a lot of historical attractions nearby.
The breakfast in both the places was insanely good. We could make our own waffles, salads, sandwiches, juices, coffees, muesli and more. You won’t believe but we actually spent 90 minutes every morning at the breakfast table and ate a lot.
Anyway, here are the booking details (yep, hotels in Hamburg are expensive but these two are one of the most affordable ones):
Superbude St. Pauli
Price range: $80 – $120
Superbude St. Georg
Price range: $70 – $100
Like this post? Share it with your friends if they’re heading to Europe. If you have been to Hamburg already and have a few tips to share, let us know in the comments.
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