Hamburg, a city brimming with history, culture and energy, is waiting to be discovered by you. From picturesque waterways to lively markets and architectural masterpieces, Hamburg has something for every traveler. I would spend at least 3 days here to explore them sufficiently.
Here are some of the best spots you absolutely must explore during your visit to this enchanting German port city:
Visit the cultural heart of the city in Sankt Pauli
A good place to start your exploration of this area of Hamburg is the 'Landungsbrücken', also a metro stop, so you can easily get there from all corners of the city. With a public transport day pass or Hamburg City Card, you can also take the ferry, line 62, between Landungsbrücken and Finkenwerder for free. A fun and inexpensive way to explore the harbor and the Elbe River. Be sure to go through the pedestrian tunnel under the Elbe. This tunnel from 1911 is really worthwhile, via the elevator you reach this tunnel covered with beautiful tiles. Enjoy the view of Hamburg from this side of the river. If you are in Hamburg on Sunday you should definitely visit the famous Fish Market here. Continue your way towards the Reeperbahn up to the Beatlesplatz. Here you can find a statue of these world-famous artists. Did you know that the Beatles started their career in Hamburg? They stayed there from 1960-1962 and gave their first performance in the still existing "Indra Club" at the Grosse Freiheit. This lively entertainment district is a must visit in Hamburg.
Admire the old buildings in historic downtown
In the historic city center, I recommend starting at the Rathaus (also a subway stop). For an interesting tour I would recommend Freetour.com. With Freetours you pay a fee of your choice depending on the quality of the tour and your budget. Unfortunately they never visit buildings inside. So if you also want to visit the Rathaus inside (what I definitely would recommend), you can do so for only 5€ (as from 15 years of age). You will get a guided tour in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian or Chinese of your choice. The English-language tours start at 11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. You do not need to book in advance.
Afterwards, continue towards the Tröstbrucke, this bridge is the oldest connection between the old city (9th Century) and the new one. Near this bridge you will also find the 'Laeiszhof' in this building there is a paternoster elevator, where you have to jump in and out at the right floor. The elevator never stops. Fun to do, especially for kids.
Also visit the Nikolai and St Michael's Church in this district. By the way, the latter church offers the best view of the city.
TIP! Visit the old 'Krayerkamp' district
Here you will find the oldest still existing houses of Hamburg, dating from the 17th century.
Enter the enchanting world of Speicherstadt
This magical warehouse district is the largest warehouse complex built on stilts in the world. A whopping 260,000 m2 in size. You can see the beautiful old red brick buildings, winding canals and bridges. This economic free zone in Hamburg, where until a few years ago no tax had to be paid, is also on the Unesco list. You can now find numerous attractions in the old warehouses including: Miniatur Wunderland (the largest model railroad in the world), Hamburg Dungeon, the Maritime Museum and Automobile Museum Prototyp.
Discover HafenCity, an example of modern urban design.
Here you will discover beautiful contemporary architecture, of which the Elbphilharmonie is the finest example. This iconic concert hall rises like a glass sailing ship above the harbor. You can go up there for free on the 82-meter escalator (just ask for a ticket at the ticket office). From the panaroma deck, you can walk around the building, admiring the harbor and surrounding buildings from above.
Stroll through the Plants un Blomen park
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, go enjoy peace and greenery at the Plants un Blomen Park. Stroll past lush gardens, relax by the water features and admire the beautiful Japanese garden. In summer, enjoy free outdoor concerts and water light shows.
Go rowing on the Alster Lake, also one of the best spots in Hamburg!
The Alster Lake is the heart of Hamburg and offers plenty of opportunities for water sports and relaxation. Rent a boat and paddle the calm waters, enjoy the green surroundings or take a leisurely stroll along the banks.
Getting around in Hamburg
Hamburg is definitely a city where you can easily walk. But public transportation (consisting of buses, metro and ferries) also has an extensive network and is user-friendly. Just download the hvv app and you will find your way to all the sights very easily. So for a 3-day visit, the above-mentioned Hamburg City Card is ideal.
Hamburg is also a place to be for foodies
Besides all the sights, Hamburg also offers a gastronomic experience; you'll find plenty of delicious restaurants. Our favorites:
- Parkview restaurant:
This beautiful restaurant is located in the luxurious Fontenay hotel near Alstermeren. There you have a beautiful view of the lake and the numerous sailing boats. When the weather is nice, you can take a seat on the terrace. If you love Haute Cuisine this is definitely recommended!
- Skyline Bar 20up:
This rooftop bar is located on top of the Empire Riverside hotel, and as the name suggests, it is located along the river and thus close to the harbor. Try to get a table there around sunset and enjoy a spectacular view of the Elbe and the harbor.
You can order tasty cocktails here and enjoy delicious Sushi!
- CARLS Brasserie an der Elbphilharmonie
This brasserie is also mentioned in the Michelin Guide. Its location near the Elbphilharmonie is fantastic. Especially when the weather is nice, you can enjoy the refined dishes on the terrace overlooking the Elbe and Hamburg's most iconic building.
Where to stay in Hamburg?
There are obviously plenty of hotels to find in Hamburg. Since Destination explorer focuses on luxury hotels and/or unique places to stay, I would definitely recommend the following hotels:
The Westin in the Elbphilharmonie building is the place to stay if you like luxury.
Also The Fontenay Hotel near Alster Lake is a beautiful and recent hotel, this hotel also has a beautiful rooftop poll and also houses 2 of the best restaurants: The Lakeside (2 Michelin stars) and Parkview.
We stayed at Hotel Louis C. Jacob located on the Elbe. As such, we had a beautiful view of the river from our room. The hotel exudes luxury and has classic decor. Spectacular is the restaurant with terrace on the Elbe. Breakfast is very extensive and the staff extremely helpful and friendly. The only drawback is the location, it takes about 45 minutes by public transport to get to the center of Hamburg. On the other hand, it is then very quietly located in a nice suburb of Hamburg.
Whether you are interested in history, architecture, nature or just want to enjoy the local atmosphere, Hamburg has something for everyone. These spots are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring this fascinating city. So pack your camera and your curiosity and head out to explore Hamburg's hidden gems!