The unique things to do and places to visit in Hamburg include a diverse range of attractions, from its stunning architectural marvels like the Elbphilharmonie concert hall and the historic Speicherstadt warehouse district to the lush green spaces of Planten un Blomen. This enchanting city along the Elbe River in northern Germany is an absolute gem that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. It combines modern design and urban street art with rich historical heritage, making it a captivating destination in Germany. Continue reading to learn more about the best things to do in Hamburg.
How to get to Hamburg?
Hamburg, the vibrant port city in northern Germany, is well-connected by air, rail, and road, making it easily accessible for travelers from all around the world.
For international travelers, flying into Hamburg is a convenient and time-efficient option. Hamburg Airport (HAM) serves as the main gateway, welcoming flights from major cities worldwide. Numerous airlines offer direct flights to Hamburg, making it accessible from various corners of the globe. Once you touch down, the airport’s proximity to the city center ensures a seamless transition to your Hamburg adventure.
If you prefer a more scenic and leisurely journey, hopping on a train is an excellent choice. Germany boasts an extensive and efficient rail network, with Hamburg being a major hub. Traveling by train provides a picturesque experience, passing through charming landscapes and picturesque towns along the way. Additionally, it allows you to arrive directly in the heart of the city, surrounded by its unique attractions and the best places to stay in Hamburg.
For those coming from neighboring European countries or simply looking to embark on a road trip, driving to Hamburg is a great option as well. Germany’s well-maintained highways make road travel comfortable and relatively quick. The country’s central location within Europe allows for straightforward access by car from various directions. Driving to Hamburg also offers the flexibility to explore surrounding regions and small towns, adding a touch of adventure to your journey.
Why Hamburg is worth visiting
Hamburg, an enchanting city situated along the Elbe River in northern Germany, is an absolute gem that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. This vibrant metropolis effortlessly blends modernity with rich historical heritage, making it a captivating destination for all.
The allure of Hamburg lies in its diverse range of attractions, from its stunning architectural marvels like the Elbphilharmonie concert hall and the historic Speicherstadt warehouse district to the lush green spaces of Planten un Blomen. Art enthusiasts will find solace in the array of museums and galleries, while food lovers can indulge in the city’s delectable cuisine, including fresh seafood and delightful Hanseatic dishes.
Moreover, Hamburg boasts an extensive harbor, offering scenic boat tours and a glimpse into its maritime past. Whether you’re strolling along the picturesque Alster Lake, exploring the vibrant neighborhoods, or soaking in the lively atmosphere of the Reeperbahn nightlife district, Hamburg promises an unforgettable experience. With its welcoming locals, efficient public transportation, and many attractions, Hamburg promises an unforgettable travel experience.
The 10 best places to visit in Hamburg
Hafencity is a fascinating district that should not be missed on your visit to Hamburg. This area has a rich history, as it was once the site of the old free trade zone of the Hamburg port. Take a step back in time and learn about the origins of this bustling city. Make sure to explore the remnants of the old harbor on the former rivereiland Grasbrook, known as Großen Grasbrooks. Back in the 18th century, this very spot served as a hub for shipyards and port-related businesses.
Today, Hafencity has transformed into a vibrant and modern urban district, attracting visitors from all around the world. It is worth visiting not only for its historical significance but also for its contemporary architectural marvels and cultural attractions. Stroll along the waterfront promenades and take in the stunning views of the Elbe River and the imposing structures. One of the most iconic buildings is the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall renowned for its outstanding acoustics and distinctive architecture.
Hafencity is home to a diverse range of museums, galleries, and theaters. One of the best places to visit in Hafencity is the International Maritime Museum. It houses an impressive collection of maritime artifacts, allowing you to delve deeper into the seafaring heritage of Hamburg. For a more leisurely experience, enjoy a relaxing boat tour that cruises through the canals, providing a different perspective of the city.
#2 Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall
When visiting Hamburg, one must not miss the architectural marvel that is the Elbphilharmonie, a world-renowned concert hall that has quickly become an iconic symbol of the city.
Perched atop a historic red-brick warehouse, the Elbphilharmonie’s modern glass facade glistens against the backdrop of the Elbe River and the bustling port. This stunning venue not only offers top-notch acoustics. It also provides an unparalleled panoramic view of the city from its Plaza, which is accessible to the public free of charge.
Whether you’re an avid music enthusiast attending a performance in one of its state-of-the-art concert halls or simply seeking breathtaking views of Hamburg’s skyline, the Elbphilharmonie is a must-visit. Be sure to check the concert schedule in advance and book your tickets early, as this popular attraction tends to draw visitors from around the globe.
#3 The Elbtunnel
Discover the historic marvel of St. Pauli-Elbtunnel, also known as Alter Elbtunnel, nestled beneath the River Elbe in Hamburg. Built in 1911, this tunnel served as a crucial traffic route beneath the river, connecting the city center to the bustling shipyards and docks on the southern bank.
Its significance lies not only in its functional purpose but also in its architectural and engineering brilliance. Stretching nearly 450 meters in length and reaching a depth of 24 meters, the tunnel consists of two separate tubes allowing for smooth two-way pedestrian and cyclist traffic. A fascinating piece of history, it stands as a testament to the city’s industrial past and development.
Today, it remains an attraction worth visiting for its historic charm and unique experience. To experience the Elbtunnel firsthand, visitors can easily access it on foot or by bike, with the convenience of four elevators on each side of the river to facilitate their passage. Best of all, this gem is entirely free to explore, making it a must-see destination for anyone seeking a glimpse into Hamburg’s rich heritage and awe-inspiring architecture.
#4 Unique street art in Hamburg
One of the more unique things to do in Hamburg is hunting its captivating street art. The flourishing urban art scene has become a unique attraction for both locals and tourists alike, making Hamburg one of the best street art cities in the world.
For the best places to witness this mesmerizing art form, head to neighborhoods like St. Pauli, Karoviertel, and Schanze. These areas are the epicenter of Hamburg’s street art movement, where walls become canvases for artists to showcase their creativity. In St. Pauli, particularly around Paul-Roosen-Straße, Talstraße, and Wohlwillstraße, you’ll find many pieces.
One renowned street artist whose work you shouldn’t miss is El Bocho, famous in Berlin but also leaving his mark in Hamburg. Recognizable by his recurring characters, El Bocho’s pieces add an element of familiarity and uniqueness to the city’s streets.
Grindelviertel holds a remarkable mural, “Jewish Life in the Grindelviertel”, created by Cecilia Herrero-Laffin, an artist from Argentina. This mural pays tribute to the neighborhood’s Jewish history and can be found on the campus of Hamburg’s university.
In the heart of Hamburg’s street art collective is Innerfields, a group of artists known for their captivating sailor mural, “FischersNetz”. The mural, a collaboration between Jakob Tory Bardou, Holger Weißflog, and Veit Tempich, adorns the wall of a social media agency’s backyard since 2014.
The Backpackers Hostel in St. Pauli boasts a striking north facade painted by Philip Kabbe, a prominent urban artist known for his early start in comic strips and subsequent transition to legal façade decorations. The hostel’s exterior showcases the evolution of street art from its underground roots to an acknowledged and celebrated art form.
Another must-see mural adorns the facade of the St. Pauli stadium, created by two talented female artists, including Ledania from Bogotá, renowned in Colombia’s contemporary graffiti scene. The mural’s bold colors and lyrics from the iconic song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” make it a powerful representation of art, football, and community spirit.
#5 Hamburger Kunsthalle
One of the best attractions in Hamburg is the Hamburger Kunsthalle, a must-visit location for art enthusiasts and culture lovers. What makes it truly special is its unique setup spanning three different buildings. The main building, which dates back to 1869, forms the heart of the museum and houses the majority of its expansive collection. In 1921, the striking Kuppelsaal was added, and later in 1997, the contemporary Galerie der Gegenwart complemented the ensemble.
With a total exhibition area exceeding 6000 m², the Hamburger Kunsthalle boasts an extensive display of art from various periods, showcasing a remarkable focus on nineteenth-century art, as well as exhibiting old masters, classical modern art, and a fascinating print room.
#6 Hamburger Rathaus
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Hamburg is the Hamburger Rathaus, located at the Rathausmarkt. This historical landmark is probably the sixth city hall to grace this spot since the medieval era. Constructed between 1886 and 1897, the Rathaus continues to serve its original governmental functions, making it a living piece of Hamburg’s administrative history.
After the previous city hall succumbed to the great fire of 1842, it took nearly 44 years to build the new Rathaus. The building’s exterior showcases an exquisite Neo-Renaissance architectural style, a testament to the period of wealth and prosperity during its construction. It was a time when the Kingdom of Prussia triumphed over France in the Franco-German War, leading to the formation of the German Empire. The city hall’s opulent appearance not only expresses this newfound wealth but also symbolizes the independence of the State of Hamburg and its republican traditions.
#7 The churches of Hamburg
When exploring the vibrant city of Hamburg, Germany, one cannot miss the awe-inspiring churches that dot its skyline. Among these architectural gems, three stand out as must-visit destinations for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the city’s rich history and spiritual heritage.
Hauptkirche St. Katharinen holds a unique location on one of the islands of Altstadt, and it once served as the spiritual haven for Hamburg’s seafarers. Originally constructed in the mid-13th century, the church was later rebuilt in the awe-inspiring Gothic style during the 15th century. Despite facing the devastation of bombings during the Second World War, the church stands proudly today, having been restored to its former glory.
Another awe-inspiring sight is Hauptkirche St. Michaelis, ranking among Hamburg’s most renowned churches. Dominating the skyline, it proudly claims the title of the city’s largest church. The soaring bell tower, reaching an astonishing 132 meters in height, provides breathtaking panoramic views that visitors can enjoy by ascending its heights.
Stepping back in time, Hauptkirche Sankt Petri emerges as the oldest main church in Hamburg. This Gothic beauty exudes an aura of centuries-old history. Its tower spire, soaring to an impressive 132 meters, adds a touch of grandeur to the cityscape, leaving an indelible mark on Hamburg’s skyline.
In the heart of Hamburg lies the remarkable Speicherstadt, an architectural marvel that stands as a testament to the city’s rich maritime history. Constructed between 1883 and 1927 on a cluster of small islands in the Elbe River, this storage district is an integral part of Hamburg’s ancient harbor. The first warehouses came into operation in 1888, marking the beginning of a legacy that continues to captivate visitors from around the world.
Originally developed on these narrow islands, Speicherstadt underwent partial reconstruction from 1949 to 1967. Today, it stands as one of the world’s largest coherent historical collections of harbor warehouses, encompassing an astounding 300,000 square meters of space. The warehouses themselves stand gracefully above the water, creating a picturesque scene that has become an iconic symbol of Hamburg. Notably, Speicherstadt holds the esteemed honor of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a recognition of its exceptional cultural and historical significance.
Among the highlights of a visit to Speicherstadt is Spicy’s Gewürzmuseum, an extraordinary museum where visitors can explore an array of unique spices and herbs from all corners of the globe. The museum also showcases ancient machinery that was once employed in spice processing, offering a fascinating glimpse into the area’s industrial past. Immersing oneself in the history of this captivating “warehouse city” is made possible at the Speicherstadtmuseum. Here, visitors can delve into the stories and events that shaped Speicherstadt’s evolution into the enchanting destination it is today.
#9 Planten un Blomen
Nestled within the vibrant city of Hamburg, Planten un Blomen is an enchanting urban park that spans an impressive 47 hectares. Its roots trace back to 1821 when the first plane tree was planted, a living testament still visible near the Dammtor entrance.
This park exudes tranquility and boasts an array of beautiful gardens. Wander through the Rosengarten, where 300 different rose varieties bloom in a harmonious symphony of colors and scents. Delight in the serenity of the Japanese Garden, featuring an inviting teahouse that transports visitors to the Far East. For those seeking a taste of the Mediterranean, the Mittelmeer Terrassen showcases an assortment of plants and flowers from the region. Additionally, the Apothekerstuin beckons with its collection of herbs and medicinal plants.
#10 The Dockland building
One of the most unique places to visit in Hamburg is the astonishing Dockland building. Situated on the picturesque banks of the Elbe in Altona, this ‘shipshape’ office building stands as an impressive and engaging attraction.
Designed by the esteemed Hamburg architecture firm Bothe Richter Teherani in 1995, the building was inaugurated on 31 January 2006 and has since received praise for its award-winning design. A visit to Dockland is a treat for the eyes and legs, as you can ascend the 136-step wood and glass staircases to reach the public viewing platform.
From the Dockland platform, visitors are rewarded with a breathtaking view that encompasses the serene waters of the Elbe, the iconic Hamburg skyline, the neighboring Cruise Center Altona, and even the occasional sight of a grand cruise ship docked nearby. Particularly during sunset, the platform offers one of the most beautiful photo opportunities in the city, capturing the essence of Hamburg’s stunning waterfront and architectural prowess.
For a fun and enjoyable way to reach the Dockland building, consider taking the Hamburg ferry, specifically ferry line 62, which stops conveniently at Dockland (Fischereihafen).