The second largest city in Germany, Hamburg is a popular stop on travelers’ itineraries through the country. Whether Hamburg airport was simply your arrival point into to Germany or Europe, or you plan on getting lost in the Reeperbahn at night, below are a few highlights of the city not to be missed during the day.
Hamburger Rathaus (City Hall)
If you’ve been to Germany before, or have read our guides to Bamberg or Bremen, you’d be familiar with the Rathaus, or Town/City Hall that is emblematic of most German cities. The City Hall of Hamburg is hard to miss, whether you take the 12-15 minute walk from the Hauptbahnhof (main station) or take the S-Bahn (city-rapid-railway or tram) or U-Bahn (underground train). Enjoy the City Hall Square (Rathaus Markt right in front of the City Hall) surrounded by a myriad department stores and cafes. The City Hall is open to visitors 8 am to 6 pm, Monday through Saturday.
We strongly recommend you visit this stunning exhibition, located in the historic Speicherstadt (or warehouse) district. Allow at least 2 hours to explore the vast representations of cities and structures around the world: from Las Vegas, to the Grand Canyon, to Germany pre- and post- WWI and WWII, to fully functioning miniature airports, to an aerial view of Hamburg itself. It’s a great way to get your bearings around Hamburg, while appreciating the effort and skill that goes to putting up such an incredible project.
Speicherstadt, Warehouse District
This is the largest warehouse district in the world. Built from 1883 to 1927, it houses the famous port of Hamburg. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.
Take a look at the product of many discussions and controversies surrounding the hundreds of millions of euro that went into this building’s construction. The Elbphilharmonie is allegedly one of the most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world – we haven’t attended a concert yet (tickets sell out about a year in advance, sometimes more!) but have heard good things from family members! Entry into this immense structure is free (you just have to pay to see a show). Take a slow ride on one of Europe’s longest escalators up to the Plaza where you will have commanding (if windy) views over the city of Hamburg. This is not to be missed on your visit!
Don’t forget to see the Elbe river from the Mahatma-Gandhi bridge, as you make your way to the Elbphilharmonie.
Take a Harbour ferry on the Elbe
There are plenty of ferry taxis to shuttle you from one end of the city to another via the Elbe. Ditch the conventional S and U-Bahns and take a ferry instead, accessible from the Warehouse district (Hafencity) and right by the Elbphilharmonie. You can find the ferry routes and schedules here.
Church of St. Michael
Considered to be a landmark of the city, the church of St. Michael is a beautiful Baroque church worth the walk from the Elbphilharmonie. Note the myriad churches and their relatively minimalistic design on the way: from Norwegian, to Swedish, to Finnish denominations!
St. Nicholas Church
This was the tallest building in the world from 1874-1876. These church ruins are visible from the Elbphilharmonie as the church tower still stands as one of the tallest buildings in the city.
Reeperbahn, St, Pauli District
Now for the evening affairs. The Reeperbahn, located in the popular St. Pauli district of the city, is an entertainment hub, filled with clubs (musical and others, catering to a variety of audiences), and bars alive almost during any day of the week. Note the slight difference to the Amsterdam Red Light district, where the street with the lighted ladies behind windows is only accessible to potential clients, and not seen as a “tourist” attraction. There’s plenty to see in the Reeperbahn outside this single block though!
Where to eat
You won’t find a lack of restaurants to eat at in Hamburg, but we can recommend Alex by the Binnenalster for lovely views in the summer. Remember to take an umbrella whenever you visit Germany though, as the weather tends to be fickle!
Where to stay
Booking.com has a variety of low cost options to choose from if you’re looking for accommodation in Hamburg. We can recommend the Best Western Plus St. Raphael, Novum Hotel Graf Moltke (located right by the main station – Hauptbahnhof), and the Park Hyatt (located right by the Hamburg City Hall — Rathaus).
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