Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city (after Berlin) and is its main port. It’s a very cosmopolitan city with a small historic section (Altstadt) – most of the city was destroyed during the Second World War – and large portions that have been redeveloped. The city is hemmed in by two lakes (the Binnenalster and Aussenalster) and the Elbe River – this unique geographic location is also one of its biggest attractions. Hamburg (map) is a vibrant and prosperous city with great shopping, world-class restaurants, beautiful parks and many worthwhile sights. For the first-time visitor, I’ve listed below my recommendations for things to do in Hamburg.
Things to do in Hamburg, Germany
1. Explore the Altstadt
Stroll around the Altstadt (the historic Old Town) and admire the gorgeous historic buildings. I recommend going on a tour inside the beautiful Rathaus (City Hall). Join a 2.5 hour private walking tour of historic Hamburg.
Shop till you drop: explore the many arcades and galleries around the Neuer Wall in the Golden Triangle (including the splendid, blindingly white Alster Arcade).
3. Stroll around Speicherstadt and HafenCity
Admire the neo-gothic architecture of the historic Speicherstadt & the contrasting 21st century HafenCity. Make a small diversion to the controversial Elb Philharmonic Hall. Then head to the Deichstrasse to see some of Hamburg’s oldest homes. Don’t miss the stunning Chilehaus near the Messberg U-Bahn station.
Join a 2.5-hour walking tour of Speicherstadt, Hafen City and the ElbPhilharmonie.
4. Join a harbour cruise
Take a harbour cruise around the wharfs where some of the world’s largest ships are built. Join a 1-hour harbour cruise.
5. Experience the Fishmarkt
Get up early on a Sunday morning (5am – 9:30am) and head for the Fischmarkt (fish market). It’s colourful, boisterous and uniquely Hamburg!
6. Visit Reeperbahn
Stroll down Hamburg’s most notorious street: the Reeperbahn (the red light district). Join a Reeperbahn tour with a local.
7. Enjoy panoramic views of Hamburg
Climb 453 steps to the top of the St. Michaeliskirche (St. Michael’s Church) tower for magnificent views of the city and the harbour. This is arguably the best place for a panoramic view of Hamburg.
8. Enjoy the lake views
Have a drink or meal at one of the terraces along the Alster Arcade for unbeatable views of the Rathaus; or the historic Alster Pavilion and enjoy the views across the Binnenalster.
9. See the suburbs
Head out to the suburbs. Take the S-Bahn to Wedel, walk down to the Elbe river and hop onto the boat to Blankenese, passing the Airbus plane factory along the way. Blankenese is a picturesque hillside village with quaint houses and gorgeous views of the Elbe. Read about my visit to the Airbus factory.
10. Visit the Miniatur Wunderland
Connect with your inner child at Miniatur Wunderland! This miniature museum is an absolute wonder, with elaborate city and mountain landscapes, trains and an entire airport! The detail in the models is simply phenomenal. Read about my visit to Miniature Wunderland.
One more tip: if you enjoy beer, I can recommend joining a tour of the local craft beer scene.