There are so many amazing things to do in Hamburg Germany. Whether you are looking for a top-notch night out, incredible music, great food, a bustling art scene, or interesting museums, you can find it all on a trip to Hamburg.
Hamburg is home to wonderful festivals and amazing museums not only of art but of quite unique interests. It has an incredible music hall, a cool waterfront, funky cafes and bars, and a history that dates back hundreds of years.
I just returned from my second trip to this incredible city and I fell in love with it even more. There is truly so much to do in Hamburg, you can easily spend four or five days exploring every corner. However, a quick weekend trip is still enough to see tons of great Hamburg attractions.
Getting to Hamburg
Hamburg Airport Helmut Schmit (code: HAM) is located about 30 minutes from the city center by public transportation and is the best hub for coming in and out of the city.
Whether you are arriving on a budget European airline or you are arriving from further afield like the USA or Canada, you will find plenty of flight options that allow you to arrive directly to Hamburg.
I prefer to use Kiwi.com to check flight prices and book directly through their website. They show tons of route options and always the lowest prices. Check flights to Hamburg on Kiwi.com here or check in the search box below.
Once you arrive at the airport, the best and cheapest option is to hop straight on the S-Bahn which takes you to the main train station in Hamburg in less than 30 minutes. The train operates every 10-15 minutes and costs €3.50.
If you are already in Germany or you are arriving in the country from a different airport (Bremen is nearby, Frankfurt is a great hub, and Cologne is only a short 3-hour train trip away), then you will want to arrive to Hamburg by train.
Through the app, you can check train times and book tickets in advance, which usually saves you a significant amount of money on inter-city trains.
Getting Around to Hamburg Attractions
Hamburg has a fantastic public transportation network. It’s quite a big city and if you want to get around to see all of the best things to do in Hamburg in just a few days, you’ll want to utilize the network.
The best option if you’re only visiting for a few days is to get a Hamburg Card. Hamburg cards give you unlimited access to public transportation as well as 50% discounts at museums and other tourist attractions around the city.
It’s also incredibly affordable compared to other city cards around Europe at only €10 for the 24-hour card and under €20 for a 48-hour card.
You can also get a three, four, or five-day card. Purchase your Hamburg card in advance here and you can have it right on your smartphone with the Hamburg App to show on public transportation and to see where you can use the discounts around the city.
Where to Stay in Hamburg
There are so many great places to stay in Hamburg and which neighborhood you choose depends hugely on the main Hamburg attractions you want to check out while you’re here.
If you are here for a fun night out or for the Reeperbahn Festival which happens each September, then you’ll want to stay around the St. Pauli neighborhood.
I like the City Hotel Monopol in this neighborhood for its great buffet breakfast, quiet rooms, and incredible location right on Reeperbahn. Rooms start as low as €55 per night. Book a stay at Hotel Monopol here.
For something a little bit more stylish in the St. Pauli neighborhood, East Hotel Hamburg is a fantastic option. It’s located inside an old iron foundry that has been completely renovated into a unique design hotel.
The rooms are beautifully furnished, it’s tucked off of the main street so it’s nice and quiet, and there is a rooftop spa where you can enjoy some relaxing treatments after exploring all of the best things to do in Hamburg. Rooms start at €110 per night. Book a stay at East Hotel here.
The city center is where you will find the majority of the best things to do in Hamburg and is a great base while exploring the city. It is a transportation hub, so you can easily get out to other cool neighborhoods to explore more, but you can also walk everywhere within the downtown area if you prefer to stay here.
There aren’t a lot of budget hotel options in this area, but there are plenty of mid-range options which include breakfast and feel far more expensive than they really are.
Scandic Hamburg Emporio is one of those hotels. It is an eco-friendly design hotel with a gym, an excellent breakfast, and a fantastic location. Rooms start as low as €110 per night. Book a stay at Scandic Emporio here.
If you have a little bit more of a budget, the Fraser Suites are a wonderful option as a base for sightseeing in Hamburg. There is a fitness center, sauna, and onsite bar. The rooms are beautifully designed while still feeling comfortable and relaxing. Rooms start at €175 per night. Book a stay at the Fraser Suites here.
The St. Georg neighborhood is probably one of my favorite places to stay in Hamburg. You are well connected through public transportation, but still only a short walk from the main train station. You get to wake up and go to sleep in the neighborhood with arguably the best restaurants in Hamburg and that is worth it in my opinion.
The Archotel is a fantastic budget option, especially if you are traveling as a couple or two friends. You can get a double room at this clean and comfortable hotel for as little as €60 per night. Book a stay at Archotel here.
For a little bit more luxury, but still at an affordable mid-range price, the Reichshof Hotel is well located at the edge of St. George and close to tons of great restaurants.
The hotel was renovated in 2015 and making it feel modern and stylish as well as comfortable for a fantastic night’s sleep. Rooms start as low as €115 per night. Book a stay at the Reichshof Hotel here.
Things to do in Hamburg Germany
There are so many fun activities in Hamburg that you won’t want to miss. Whether this is your first time in the city or you’ve been sightseeing in Hamburg before, you’re sure to find new things to do in Hamburg in this list.
1. Visit the Rathaus
The Hamburg Rathaus or Town Hall building is one of the most extraordinary buildings in the entire city.
It was built between 1886 and 1897. It is one of the few completely preserved buildings of this time period that remains in Hamburg after the heavy bombings the city experienced during WWII.
The Town Hall building is home to the local Hamburg city government as well as being the seat of one of the 16 state parliaments of Germany.
The lobby of the Rathaus is open to the public and you can enter without a tour to see some of the interior architecture. It is open every day of the week from 7am to 8pm.
If you want to learn more about the building, you can have a look at the #2 thing to do in Hamburg!
2. Go on a Historical Tour
If you are visiting for the first time, taking a tour is one of the best things to do in Hamburg. Especially for history lovers like me.
I absolutely loved taking a tour of the downtown area of Hamburg where I learned not only about the different functions of the Rathaus, but also about the history of the port which has played such a huge role in the city’s development over the centuries.
A tour will also take you to some unique Hamburg attractions that you may not have stopped in front of if you were simply wandering the city on your own.
The free walking tour with Sandeman’s is one of the most well-known in Hamburg and definitely the best budget option for taking a tour of Hamburg. If you have never taken a free tour before, they run on a “pay-what-you-want” basis of tipping.
You don’t have a set price for the tour, instead, at the end of the tour, you can tip the tour guide based on your experience. Depending on the length of the tour you can tip anything from €5-20. Be sure to bring cash on the tour.
If you would prefer a pre-booked tour that includes more than the basics, this bike tour around the city is a great way to explore and learn about the history of the city on a fun and active tour. At under €30 per person, it’s also a fantastically affordable option for exploring. Book that tour here.
3. Take a Ride on a Paternoster
Have you ever heard of a Paternoster?
I hadn’t before my recent trip to Hamburg.
It’s a type of elevator, which doesn’t sound like the most riveting thing to do in Hamburg, but it’s quite a sight to behold if you’ve never seen or been on one before.
They were first invented in 1860 by a British architect named Peter Ellis. They were the world’s only continuously moving elevators. They have no doors and you simply hop on when it comes to your floor and hop off when you read your destination.
The elevator has two sides, one that is going up and one that is going down and they are linked at the basement level and the top level where the elevator runs along a track that allows it to continuously move without ever stopping.
You can see an example of the elevator in the video that is at the bottom of this article.
The paternoster elevator is located inside the Laeiszhof building here. It is still a normally functioning office building, but you can pop inside for free and take a ride on the elevator to experience it for yourself.
4. Visit St. Nikolai Memorial
The first church at this site was built in the 12th century and was dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors. The remains of the current church of St. Nikolai which you can see today, however, were built much later in 1874.
When the 147.4-meter (484 ft) spire was completed, the church was the tallest building in the world for just over two years.
However, in July 1943, the British Royal Airforce along with the US Air Force dropped a series of bombs over Hamburg in what was called Operation Gomorrah. Nearly the entire city and surrounding area were left in ruin.
The spire of the church of St. Nikolai remained almost completely intact. It took many more years for both the city and the church of St. Nikolai to rebuild, but it is now a memorial that you can visit and learn more about WWII and how it affected Hamburg.
The crypt here is particularly interesting. It shares stories of the war and forces the museum-goer to contemplate the true impacts of war, both past and present.
You can finish by taking an elevator (just a normal one, not a paternoster, unfortunately!), up into the spire to a viewing platform that sits at a height of 76 meters (250 ft).
5. Go Up the Bell Tower at St. Michael’s Church
St. Michael’s or Michel’s Church is located only a few blocks away from St. Nikolai, so if you’re up for more viewpoints and seeing quite a different church, they are two Hamburg attractions that you can see in the same area.
There has been a Protestant church in this location for centuries. The current St. Michael’s Church was built in 1912 and then heavily repaired after WWII.
From the outside, it looks like quite a large brick church with a tall tower, but inside is even more incredible. In fact, the acoustics of this church are so wonderful, you can often attend concerts here, especially during the Reeperbahn Festival.
One of the main reasons to visit this church is to go up the bell tower, but before heading inside, take a good look at the tower and bell, which is Germany’s largest clock bell.
Inside the church, you can pay €5 to go up the tower which is 132 meters tall (433 ft), however, the viewing platform sits at a height of 106 meters (348 ft). You can also pay an additional €4 to go into the crypt where 2,000 people have been laid to rest.
You can simply enter the church for free where you can spot five different organs, a 20-meter (65 ft) tall altar, and seating for nearly 2,500 people.
I would put St. Michael’s Church up there as one of the best things to do in Hamburg, even if you aren’t particularly religious.
6. See a Show at Elbphilharmonie
The Elbphilharmonie is one of the most spectacular things to do in Hamburg. It is a defining monument on the Hamburg skyline and while seeing it from the water is a wonderful way to get the full view of it, going inside it even more incredible.
If you don’t have the budget or time to see a show inside (or even if you do), you can take a tour of the interior of the building and learn all about the history and design ideas behind this wonderful piece of architecture. The story of the acoustics and tiles of the grand hall are absolutely fascinating.
Tours last about an hour and include a visit to the plaza, which is a wraparound balcony in the middle of the building which offers views back over Hamburg and HafenCity. There’s a small bar inside where you can grab a drink to enjoy the view. Book that tour for a group of up to five people here.
There’s nothing better than really experiencing those acoustics for yourself. Check out the schedule on the Elbphilharmonie website here to find out what is going to be on while you’re visiting Hamburg and grab yourself some tickets.
7. Walk under the Old Elbe Tunnel
The Elbe is a large river that runs along the port of Hamburg and feeds into the North Sea.
Just near the Landungsbrücken piers (and metro station) is the entrance to a tunnel that was built back in 1910. The tunnel runs under the Elbe and over to the Hamburg Port.
It was originally built to be a direct route for dock workers to go to and from work and the city center. Then in the 70s, a tunnel that allowed cars to cross under the river was built and the old Elbe Tunnel became a tourist attraction.
You can walk through the tunnel for free. Many people ride their bikes over to the port and then hop on trails that wind around the area over there, so be cautious as you’re walking that you don’t step into the bike lane.
Along the walkway, you’ll find plaques in both German and English that explain the history of the tunnel and what an incredible feat of engineering it was when it was built.
Once you reach the other side of the Elbe, there is a viewing area that looks back over the city center. In the warmer months, people hang out here with beers and there is even a branch of the beloved Brücke 10 fish sandwich shop here if you’re feeling hungry.
8. Go to Elbe Beach
If you’re visiting Hamburg in the summertime and you want to enjoy the sunshine like a local, head on a local ferry from Landungsbrücken to one of the sandy beaches along the river.
It’s certainly not a Caribbean beach, but it’s a fun place to hang out and there are several little restaurants and bars along here that are a nice place to hang out on a sunny day with a cold beer and delicious (albeit slightly overpriced) food.
You can see the location of the nearest Elbe Beach here.
9. Explore the BinnenAlster and AußenAlster
The Binnen and Außen Alsters are inner city lakes that are really fantastic places to visit in Hamburg.
BinnenAlster is the inner Alster and AußenAlster is the outer Alster. The BinnenAlster is smaller and only a few blocks away from the Rathaus building, making it a very easy Hamburg attraction to visit during your city center tour.
You can actually hop on a little boat cruise here for €20 and enjoy a tour of both the inner and outer Alster where you will have an audioguide in your preferred language to explain the history of this manmade reservoir as well as do some water-based sightseeing in Hamburg.
There is a cafe onboard so you can have a coffee, tea, or cold drink while you tour the waterway. Book one of those boat tours here.
Alternatively, you can explore the Alsters on foot. The AußenAlster is a wonderful place to go for a jog or a walk, with a huge path that leads around the outside of the reservoir.
10. Take a Harbour Cruise
Hamburg is above all else, a port city. The port has defined its existence for centuries and getting out on the water to explore it is really one of the best things to do in Hamburg if you want to connect with the past.
You have a few options to explore the harbor depending on what your budget is.
The cheapest option is to simply hop on one of the ferries located at Landungsbrücken. If you have a Hamburg Card, you don’t have to pay anything. If you don’t have a Hamburg Card, you can pay €2.50 each way for a ticket that will take you all the way to Finkenwerder which is located a few stops west and through some of the port area.
The second option is to take a harbor cruise which is a boat that has up to about 30 people on it. The tour is an hour and a half long and takes you past some of the most iconic Hamburg attractions like St Pauli Piers, HafenCity, the Elbphilharmonie, and the Hamburg Fish Market. The tour is €25 per person and you can book it here.
The third option is to take a private boat tour around the harbor. This is, of course, the most expensive option. If you are traveling with a group, then this is actually not a bad deal. It costs €270 for a boat that includes up to 6 people.
The tour includes a welcome glass of prosecco for each guest, a car that will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel before and after the boat cruise, and a knowledgeable guide who will share the history of the port and places of interest that you are passing as you wind your way around the harbor. Book that tour here.
11. Check out the Art at the Jupiter
Housed in an old department store, Jupiter is a brand new art concept that only opened in June of 2022. It is located right on Mönkebergstrasse, which is Hamburg’s main shopping street.
Housed on six floors, this once-vacant space is now free to the public and home to tons of rotating art exhibits.
In addition to gallery space, there is also a podcast studio, dance studio, photography space, and a rooftop bar with a dance floor that is perhaps one of the coolest club spaces I’ve seen in a long time. It is housed on an old rollerskate rink with the DJ booth right in the middle.
12. Take a Beatles Tour
On my most recent trip to Hamburg, I took a Beatles tour with Stefanie Hempel. She started this tour nearly 20 years ago and it has grown into perhaps one of the most interesting tours I’ve ever taken.
Now, it may seem strange to take a Beatles tour in Hamburg, but the band played here more than any other city in the world.
They also played in Hamburg for the first time as the Beatles (they previously played in Liverpool under different names).
They came to Hamburg because it was really the first place where they could play and get paid well enough to live. Although they slept in tiny rooms inside an old movie theater and sometimes played six-hour sets for their money, Hamburg is where they really got their start.
The tour takes you to the first club they played as well as several other locations around the St. Pauli neighborhood where the band frequented. Hempel is full of interesting stories about the band and all of the people that they hung out with during their time here in the early 60s.
She also has a ukelele which she plays along the way at different locations and sings some of the Beatles’ biggest hits beautifully well. You can learn more about her tour and book it here.
This is an alternative tour option to Hempel’s Beatles tour that is a little bit easier on the wallet. It offers much of the same sightseeing and the tour guide of this tour also plays music throughout the tour. Check it out and book it here.
13. Wander Around HafenCity
HafenCity is a neighborhood in Hamburg which is located right in the middle of the Elbe River and was once the main port area in Hamburg.
The area is still relatively new in the way that you see it today having been fully established in 2008.
HafenCity is the largest urban development project in Europe (based on the size of the landmass) and where there were once warehouses and ports now sit artisan coffee roasters, bakeries, cafes, and restaurants.
There are a few museums as well like the Hamburg Dungeon, a maritime museum, and the Miniatur Wunderland Museum.
If you want to explore with a knowledgeable guide, this tour of HafenCity is a fantastic way to learn about the history of HafenCity as well as hear some interesting stories about what Hamburg was like when this was the main port area. It’s a bargain at less than €15 per person. Book that tour here.
14. Visit the Miniatur Wunderland
This is the most visited Hamburg attraction and in fact, one of the most visited sights in all of Germany.
Miniatur Wunderland is pretty much exactly as the name suggests. The museum is full of miniature cities, mostly German cities, but there are also cities in Italy, Switzerland, and Brazil with more being built all the time.
It sounds a little bit silly, but it is incredibly interesting and incredibly detailed. Each city is packed with people, vehicles, buildings, beaches, airports, roads, and it even goes from day to night.
If you have the Hamburg Card you can get a discount, otherwise, the full-price ticket is €16. You should pre-book your ticket through their website here because you have to book a time slot to visit. It can get very busy.
15. Sample Local Craft Beer
German beer is delicious, so imagine how delicious artisanal German beer can be.
Hamburg has several fantastic breweries worth checking out. You will probably see Astra beer all over Hamburg. This was one of the original breweries in the city, but it’s now owned by Carlsberg.
However, it is still a cool brewery bar where you can sample some nice beers. I think the IPA is particularly delicious and the food is great there, too.
Two smaller, independently owned breweries that you should check out after sightseeing in Hamburg are Ratsherrn Brauerei and ÜberQuell Brauerei. I am a particular fan of the ÜberQuell Brauerei not only for its great IPAs and Pale Ales, but the pizza here is also top-notch.
If you want to learn more about the different breweries in Hamburg and sample a few with a knowledgeable guide, this craft beer walking tour is a fantastic option.
16. Eat Amazing Food from Around the World
Hamburg has some absolutely fantastic restaurants and if you love food when you travel as much as I do, you will love experiencing the food culture as one of the best things to do in Hamburg.
Hamburg has delicious currywurst, traditional German food, modern German cuisine, and so many different restaurants with food from around the world done to perfection. You can check the full list of my top restaurant choices in Hamburg here.
A few of my personal favorite that you’ll want to make sure not to miss while visiting Hamburg are Berliner Bahnhof for modern German cuisine and great cocktails, Frau Möller for traditional German food in a cool beer hall atmosphere, and Tazzi Pizza for the best pizza in the city.