Hamburg, Germany Sightseeing Tips: Best Things To Do In 2024

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Hamburg is a big city with so much to offer that it can be hard to decide what to focus on during a short stay.

If you’re planning to visit this beautiful northern Germany city and are wondering what to do in Hamburg or which Hamburg points of interest are for you, this guide will help you plan your stay.

Downtown Hamburg

Is Hamburg, Germany Worth Visiting?

Yes, Hamburg is definitely worth visiting! Hamburg is a unique city and offers such a different experience from other cities in Germany. I lived in Hamburg for a while and it’s one of my top 3 favorite German cities.

The city itself is a beautiful place with interesting architecture built around the canals and ports. There’s a lot to see from the Speicherstadt (old warehouse district) to the Elbphilharmonie (controversial new-ish performance center), to the Alter Elbtunnel (that allows you to walk under the river) to the huge Alster lake (located right in the middle of the city), to the many vibrant neighborhoods, and so much more.

Hamburg also offers a lot in terms of culture, whether it be art or maritime museums, a dynamic nightlife, or a vibrant culinary scene.

What Is Hamburg Best Known For?

Hamburg is best known for its canals, port, and harbor area. As one of the largest and oldest ports in Europe, a lot of the city is shaped by its unique maritime history and heritage.

You can definitely see this history in the architecture of Speicherstadt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with picturesque red-brick warehouses and winding canals. Along the harbor you’ll also find famous landmarks like the Elbphilharmonie and the famous Fischmarkt. 

The city also boasts a fun and vibrant nightlife, largely concentrated in the entertainment district of the Reeperbahn (though you’ll find fun things to do in the evening all over the city).

Hamburg is also known for its nature and green spaces like the Alster Lake in the middle of the city and the Planten Un Blomen urban park and botanical gardens.

Hamburg lake

How Much Time to Spend in Hamburg?

I recommend at least 3 nights and 2 full days in Hamburg in order to see several of the sights on our list below. If you want to add a day trip from Hamburg (highly recommended!), add another 1-2 days.

Wondering where to stay in Hamburg? Check out our helpful Hamburg hotel guide here that includes hotels we’ve recently loved.

Only have one day to spend in Hamburg? No worries! Do the HOHO bus, a harbor cruise, and 1-2 other things on our list below, and you’ll get a fantastic taste of the city.

Best Time to Visit Hamburg

The summer months are perfect for those who seek long days, the best chance at having good weather, and to see the city in full swing with outdoor festivals and events like the Christopher Street Day parade, outdoor markets or the Dom fair.

Summer is also the best time to enjoy a boat trip on the Elbe, explore Hamburg’s many canals by canoe or grab a drink and relax on a beach on the Elbe river. Keep in mind that this is peak season so it’s more crowded and prices are likely to be higher.

A good alternative to summer is late spring or early autumn when temperatures are milder and more temperate. This time of year is ideal for strolling or biking along the waterfront. Visiting at this time of year is also a good way to avoid the crowds and higher prices of the summer months.

Winter brings shorter, darker days and cold winds from the harbor. But travel rates at this time tend to be much lower before and after the holiday season when Christmas markets and festivities light up the city. New Year’s Eve is a fun time to visit Hamburg because you can take part in the fireworks and festivities throughout the city.

Hamburg doesn’t get a lot of snow in the winter but it does happen. When I lived in Hamburg, it once snowed and got so cold that the Alster lake froze and I got to walk to middle of the lake!

Hamburg main train station

How to Get to Hamburg

Hamburg is a major port city and the second-largest city in Germany, making it extremely well-connected and accessible.

If you’re coming from outside of Europe or even outside of Germany, one the best ways to get to Hamburg is by air. The city has its own international airport, Hamburg Airport.

Once you arrive, it’s easy to get to the city center since it’s only around 30 minutes away by public transportation. We’ve flown in and out of Hamburg airport several times and it’s always been easy and convenient.

If you’re visiting from another city in Germany or a nearby European country, traveling by train, car or bus is likely a better option. The main train station, Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, is centrally located in downtown and is well connected to several regional towns and major cities. The bus station is near the train station. From there you can hop on public transit or take a taxi or Uber to your accommodations.

You can also easily drive from neighboring big cities like Hanover (Hannover), Bremen, and Lübeck, all of which are around an hour and a half away. It’s also a great weekend trip from Berlin, with the drive being around 3 hours.

Hamburg city center

Where To Stay in Hamburg

The best place to stay in Hamburg is the city center so you can be close to all the must-see spots and destinations. Depending on where you stay downtown, you can easily walk to multiple sights on our list below.

Here are a few hotel recommendations:

  • Heikotel am Stadtpark – Elegant hotel located in the Winterhude district near the Stadtpark. Amenities at the Heikotel am Stadtpark include an excellent breakfast buffet (with a huge tea selection) and free lockers to store your luggage before or after your stay. It’s also a short walk from where you can rent a canoe to explore the canals. We were invited to stay here once and loved the neighborhood. Click here to check availability and price.
  • Hotel Baseler Hof – Traditional hotel offering a variety of rooms, including spacious family rooms. It’s located between Alster Lake and Planten un Blomen, making it easy to get around the city center on foot. When we stayed here we easily walked all over the city! Click here to check availability and price.
  • Hotel Senator Hamburg – Located near top destinations and the Alster Lake in the lively district of St. Georg. Simple and comfortable rooms feature all the classic amenities, and some with balconies. Click here to check availability and price.
  • Hotel Henri Hamburg Downtown – Cool and trendy boutique hotel located downtown featuring spacious suites and studios with modern furnishing. Close to many attractions and delicious dining options. Click here to check availability and price.

For even more options, read our full accommodation guide on where to stay in Hamburg.

Things To See and Do in Hamburg

Hamburg map

Where Can I Find The Above Map?

It’s part of our Germany Travel Planner, and it’s your Germany travel planning BFF! Using our custom interactive planning map you’ll be able to quickly see the best sights, castles, hotels, day trips, and more – along with our photos and up-to-date insider tips. Seeing where these things are in relation to each other makes it much easier to plan your overall itinerary, as well as each day of your trip. If you don’t yet have it, click here to get access.

Rathaus (Town Hall) and Alster Arkaden

Start your Hamburg visit in the center of the city with a peek at the elaborately decorated Rathaus (Hamburg City Hall) and a stroll down the elegant Alster Arkaden. This area is not only a Hamburg tourist attraction, it’s a great place to do some shopping at department stores and boutiques or stop for Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake).

I used to love wandering around this area after school when I was a teen…and I still do all these years later!

St. Nikolai Memorial

St. Nikolai Memorial is a Gothic cathedral dating back to the 12th century. It has a long history, undergoing several reformations throughout the centuries. The original chapel was made of wood before expanding to a brick and stone church, which then burned down in a fire.

During World War II, the church unfortunately suffered heavy damage again. Most of it was destroyed but the spire remained and the ruins serve as an important memorial of the war.

Nowadays, you can actually take an elevator up the spire, visit the church’s ruins and the newly renovated museum dedicated to the victims and impact of the war in Europe. We highly recommend stopping here.

Climb St. Michael’s Church Tower

St. Michael’s Church is the largest church in Hamburg. This Baroque-style church is quite impressive since it can fit around 2,500 people, has five different organs, and features a 60 foot high altar.

There’s also an underground crypt with around 2,000 people buried. It also features a bell tower that visitors can actually climb up to. Standing at over 300 feet tall, the observation deck offers a fantastic panoramic view of the city and harbor.

On our most recent visit, there was a wedding going on inside the church. Visitors were still allowed inside but taking photos was prohibited. The next time we stopped by there were no weddings going on so we were able to take photos.

Hamburg Harbor Boat Tour

Hamburg harbor tour

See the city from a different perspective! On our last trip to Hamburg we were invited to take a harbor cruise with Rainer Abicht and had such a great time. Highly recommended!

Our 2 hour tour took us through the scenic Speicherstadt, past the legendary Fischmarkt, and to the container terminals. Our tour guide spoke German so I translated much of the tour for Aaron. Later I found out you can get an English translation of the tour, so ask about that when getting your tickets.

Explore the Port Area of Landungsbrücken


Landungsbrücken, also known as the St. Pauli Piers, is the largest landing site in the port of Hamburg. The piers are located on the banks of the Elbe river and aside from being a major transportation hub, they’re known to have a lively and vibrant atmosphere.

This is because there are tons of restaurants, bars, and shops in the area. You can catch the HOHO bus here or easily walk to Fischmarkt, the Elbphilharmonie, the Speicherstadt, St. Pauli, and more. It’s a touristy area but still a must-see.

Enjoy a Fischbrötchen

When in Hamburg (or in northern Germany in general), you must try a Fischbrötchen!

We were invited to Brücke 10 for a tasty lunch on our last visit. I got the salmon Fischbrötchen and Aaron got the Backfisch. Both were excellent. We washed them down with rhubarb soda while watching the boats go by. Plan your day so you can stop here after your harbor cruise for a delicious and affordable lunch or afternoon snack.

Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

The first time I took Aaron to visit Hamburg we got tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus tour. It’s a great way to get an overview of Hamburg in just an hour or so (and it was a relief to rest our feet after walking all morning). I even saw some new areas of the city I hadn’t seen before!

We hopped on the bus at Landungsbrücken and rode all the way around without getting off at any of the stops. If you start in the morning you could use the HOHO bus to see several sites and explore a lot of Hamburg.

Click here to book your Hamburg Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour in advance!

Tour the Elbphilharmonie (Elbe Philharmonic Hall)


Even if you don’t plan to see a performance in this famous concert hall, a visit to the Elbphilharmonie is a must. It’s such a cool building! After getting your free ticket, take the escalator to the outdoor public viewing platform for spectacular views of the city and harbor.

If you want to learn more about the Elbphilharmonie and see more of the inside, book a group tour well ahead of your visit.

Admire the Speicherstadt Architecture

Hamburg Speicherstadt

After visiting the Elbphilharmonie, walk a couple blocks to the distinctive Speicherstadt old warehouse district. The Speicherstadt is the world’s largest warehouse complex and a UNESCO world heritage site. It features a unique architectural style with its brick buildings and industrial structures.

This area was a former hub of trade but is now a picturesque section of the city full of canals, bridges, and 100-year-old brick warehouses. There are also several museums here like the Miniatur Wunderland, the Hamburg Dungeon, and the International Maritime Museum.

Check out Miniatur Wunderland

Miniatur Wunderland is a charming attraction in the Speicherstadt for those who are traveling with kids – or who are young at heart.

There are different sections featuring Hamburg, the Alps, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and even parts of the United States in miniature. It’s also known as the world’s largest model railway exhibit with over 1000 digitally controlled trains running throughout the wonderfully intricate landscapes with carefully crafted details like railways, vehicles, houses, bridges, miniature people, and even an airport with planes taking off and landing.

What’s fun about Miniatur Wunderland is that every 20 minutes or so the overhead lights dim and you get to see the miniature exhibits at night. There are also all kinds of fun easter eggs to look for in the exhibits (like a Millennium Falcon landing at the airport).

We spent a couple very enjoyable hours exploring Miniatur Wunderland when we were invited to check it out. But you could easily spend half a day there, especially if you get a bite to eat in their restaurant and browse the gift shop.

Ride the U3 in Hamburg City Center 

How about taking in a scenic view while you give your feet a rest? Hop on the U3 (yellow line) at the Rathaus and ride towards Kellinghusenstrasse.

During this 15-20 minute ride you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the harbor and pass by some of Hamburg’s gorgeous architecture. I rode the U3 to school when I lived in Hamburg and always enjoyed this view.

I highly recommend exiting at Eppendorferbaum and exploring the neighborhood’s cafes, boutiques, houses, and bakeries on foot. Many of my friends lived in this area when I was teen and I always enjoyed exploring the beautiful neighborhoods that were so different from where I grew up in the US. For a lovely walk head towards the Alster and stop at the Uni Hamburg along the way.

Browse Isemarkt


One of the longest weekly outdoor markets in Europe, you’ll find a wide range of fresh produce, crafts, flowers, and food stalls. I used to walk through this market on my way home from school when I was a teen.

The market is generally open Tuesdays and Fridays from 8am – 2pm. You can reach it from either the Eppendorferbaum or Hoheluftbrücke U-bahn stops.  

Canoe Hamburg’s Canals

When Aaron and I were last in Hamburg we decided rent a canoe near our Airbnb so we could explore the canals for an afternoon. It was so fun! We paddled around both the smaller canals that are lined with beautiful houses and gardens, and on the much larger Alster laker. It was a fantastic way to see Hamburg from a different perspective.

Stop For A Latte

On our most recent trip to Hamburg we were invited to Public Coffee Roasters for a latte break. It was the perfect place to rest our feet and refuel with seriously delicious lattes. If you’re looking for a good souvenir or gift to take home, you can pick up a bag of freshly roasted beans. We will definitely return for another latte next time we’re in town!

Enjoy A Franzbrötchen

You can’t visit Hamburg without trying a Franzbrötchen pastry! You’ll find them at most bakeries in a variety of flavors from cinnamon to chocolate chip. They’re an easy and delicious snack on the go.

Picnic on the Alster Lake

walking path and the Alster

Right in the middle of the city is the big beautiful Alster Lake – the perfect place for a peaceful stroll or afternoon picnic. You can also take a boat tour or rent a paddle boat or canoe. Then explore the gorgeous neighborhoods around the Alster. 

Explore the Sternschanze Neighborhood

Sternschanze is a neighborhood in the center of Hamburg that’s known for being a hip and trendy area. It has a cool, alternative atmosphere which makes it popular district for entertainment and nightlife.

There’s lots of lively cocktail bars, music and cultural venues like the Rote Flora, trendy restaurants, and independent boutiques and galleries. We always enjoy exploring Sternschanze. Last time we were there it rained all day long so we stopped for a nice long Kaffee und Kuchen.

Visit the Fischmarkt (Fish Market)

The open air Fischmarkt started in 1703 and is still a popular Sunday morning destination for locals and tourists alike. Located right on the harbor, this outdoor market is full of stands selling fresh fish and seafood, sandwiches, fruit, chocolate, flowers, and much more.

Be sure to head inside the Fischauktionshalle (Fish Auction Hall) for live music, beer (yep, even at 7am), and people-watching. You’ll need to get up early – or head over after staying out all night on the Reeperbahn – because the Fischmarkt is only open on Sundays from 5am to late morning.

Learn About Maritime History At The International Maritime Museum

An important aspect of the hanseatic city of Hamburg is its maritime history. And there’s no better place to learn about it than the International Maritime Museum. The museum boasts of an impressive collection of artifacts, models, and exhibits that showcase the city’s rich nautical history.

The exhibits cover a wide range of topics aside from Hamburg’s history like shipbuilding, seafaring, and naval warfare. It’s a must educational experience for all history buffs and for those who want to learn about Hamburg through its past.

Explore the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe

The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe is dedicated to decorative arts, applied arts, design, and crafts, covering a diverse range of periods, styles, and cultural regions. It’s one of the most renowned museums of applied arts in Europe.

The permanent collections include everything from fashion and textiles, ancient antiquities, European sculptures, musical instruments, photography and new media, Islamic Art, and East Asian art.

In recent years, they’ve hosted special exhibits featuring more modern art and culture like tattoos, computer games, the fashion industry, and more.

Admire Art at The Hamburger Kunsthalle

The Hamburger Kunsthalle is a world class museum housing an extensive collection of artworks, ranging from contemporary art to paintings and sculptures.

Visitors can visit the three different buildings and admire artwork from different periods in art history starting from the Old Masters to Impressionism, Modernism, and Pop Art. Renowned artists include Rembrandt, Edvard Munch, Paul Klee, and Pablo Picasso. 

Tour Cap San Diego

Cap San Diego ship

Cap San Diego is a former cargo ship that is now open to the public as a museum ship. The ship was built in the 60s and operated as part of a shipping fleet, sailing the South Atlantic and bringing in goods for trade until the late 80s.

Since then it’s been restored as a floating museum. Visitors can explore the decks and engine rooms, see the permanent exhibition or even book an overnight stay aboard the ship!

Visit U-Boot 434

U-Boot 434

The U-Boot 434 is a former Soviet Navy submarine that was once used during the Cold War. Much like the Cap San Diego, it’s now open to the public as a museum that’s docked right across the Fischmarkt market hall.

It’s actually still fully operational and visitors have the unique opportunity of experiencing what it’s like to be below sea in a submarine. There are guided tours available for those interested in learning more about the technical details or seeing the command center.

Go Up the Hamburg TV Tower

The Hamburg TV Tower or Heinrich-Hertz Tower is an iconic landmark of the city. At almost 920 feet tall, it’s the tallest building in Hamburg.

It used to be open to the public and visitors could climb up to the viewing platform and dine at the tower restaurant. It’s been closed for several years but is said to be reopening in 2023 or 2024.

Explore the Composers Quarter

The Composers Quarter is a complex of six museums in the district of Neustadt. Each museum pays homage to famous classical composers who are from or have lived in Hamburg.

All of the museums are set in beautiful historical buildings. Inside you’ll find everything from audio recordings, photograph collections, and instruments displayed that give insight into the composer’s lives. Here is the list of the six museums you can visit:

  • Brahms Museum
  • Telemann Museum
  • Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Museum
  • Johann Adolph Hasse Museum
  • Gustav Mahler Museum
  • Fanny & Felix Mendelssohn Museum

Go Dancing Or See A Show On the Reeperbahn In St. Pauli

If you’re in Hamburg on a Friday or Saturday evening, head to the Reeperbahn (also known locally as the “Kiez”) for a night out. Sure, it’s Hamburg’s Red Light District – and one of the largest in Europe at that – but don’t let that scare you off.

Everyone from teens to grandparents frequent Hamburg’s entertainment district with its bright, flashy neon lights for live music, dancing, and a variety of theater and opera performances in music venues.

My friends and I went dancing here quite often when I was a teen. If you’re a Beatles fan, check out the Indra Club and Grosse Freiheit, two places they played while getting their start in Hamburg.

Take a Walk Along the Elbe and Through the Treppenviertel in Blankenese

Only 25 minutes from the city center, Blankenese feels like a different world. A former fishing village turned favored neighborhood of Hamburg’s wealthy, the Treppenviertel (“stairs quarter”) offers narrow winding footpaths, thatched-roof houses, and stunning views. Be sure to walk all the way down to the Elbe and along the scenic trail.

Enjoy Brunch in a Neighborhood Cafe

On our last summer trip to Hamburg we stopped by a little cafe near the apartment we rented and enjoyed a lovely brunch. We sat outside, scarfed down a delicious German breakfast of Brötchen, cheese, jam and butter, yogurt and museli, eggs, veggies, and coffee and tea. Delicious!

Even better? The tiny ice cream cones were served with our check! If you have the time while visiting Hamburg, spend an hour or two enjoying brunch at a cafe or restaurant in your Hamburg neighborhood.

Which Hamburg neighborhoods to visit? There are so many but here are a few ideas: Sternschanze, St. Pauli, Altona, Hafen City, Harvestehude, Eppendorf, Blankenese.

Explore Ohlsdorf Cemetery 

One of the largest cemeteries in Europe, Ohlsdorf is truly impressive. Although it might seem unusual, Ohlsdorf Cemetery is actually a popular attraction in Hamburg due to its impressive size and unique history. Explore the peaceful grounds to admire the beautiful sculptures, gravestones (many famous people are buried here), and gardens.

Festival: Hamburger Dom

The Hamburger DOM is the biggest fair in Northern Germany. It’s held three times a year, typically during spring, summer, and winter and usually runs for about a month each time. It’s held at Heiligengeistfeld, an event area right beside the St. Pauli stadium.

No matter which season you go to, there’s so much to do in the festival! There’s a ton of rides ranging from vintage carousels to thrilling roller coasters for all ages. You can also treat yourself to delicious German fair snacks like Currywurst, Fischbrötchen, and the famous Schmalzkuchen – bite-sized donuts served with powdered sugar or chocolate sauce. You can also pick up a decorated Lebkuchen heart to wear around your neck and then take home as a souvenir (I kept my first one from the Hamburger Dom for years).

Another big draw of the festival are the light shows and huge fireworks displays at night! Even if you’re not into rides, it’s fun to walk through it at least once.

Notice The Stolpersteine 

While walking around Hamburg keep an eye out for small brass plaques in the sidewalks. These Stolpersteine (“stumbling stones”) commemorate the lives of those who were persecuted by the Nazis during World War II. The plaques include the name, birthdate, and fate of the individual.

Walk Under The Elbe River Via The Old Elbe Tunnel

The Old Elbe Tunnel is a historic tunnel that was first opened in 1911. It was built to connect the St. Pauli Piers to the port of Hamburg on the opposite side. Since then, more modern tunnels have been built to replace it. Nowadays, it’s a popular tourist attraction where pedestrians and cyclists can pass through for free.

Visit The Tierpark Hagenbeck (Hagenbeck Zoo)

Tierpark Hagenbeck is one of Germany’s most popular zoos, housing over 210 different animal species from all around the world. The zoo is actually known to be successful in breeding rare and endangered species like the Asian elephant and the Siberian tiger. Other highlights include the four-level Tropical Aquarium and a fun Arctic themed Eismeer polar section.

Take a Day Trip

You have so many options for easy day trips from Hamburg. If you go an hour north, you can visit Lübeck, the beaches on the Baltic or the beaches and small towns on the North Sea. Go south to visit the cute town of Stade or Lüneburg. Go east to visit Schwerin Castle. Or get up early and go further to the island of Sylt or Heligoland. Click here for our guide to the best Hamburg day trips!

flowers at the market

Hamburg, Germany FAQ

What To Do in Hamburg in One Day?

If you only have 1 day in Hamburg, you can still see quite a bit. I recommend starting at the Rathaus area downtown, then stopping at the St. Nikolia memorial on your way to St. Micheal’s church. Then ride the HOHO bus all the way around so you can see a lot of the city quickly. Finally, after exploring the harbor area, walk to the Speicherstadt. If you have time, visit the Philharmonie or Minature Wunderland.

Is The Hamburg Card Worth Getting?

We get asked this a lot and the answer is…it depends.

The Hamburg Card is the city’s official discount card that can save you tons of money on your trip. It offers unlimited travel on the city’s public transportation – which includes the U-bahn, S-bahn, buses, and harbor ferry rides – and it’s valid from/to the airport and in all relevant districts of Hamburg (area Hamburg AB). That means, if you get the Hamburg Card you don’t have to buy an additional transit pass, which is definitely convenient. 

There are different card variations you can choose from, depending on your itinerary. There’s a day ticket all the way up to a 5-day ticket. They also offer individual or group cards. The group cards are valid for 5 people, which is perfect for those traveling with family or friends.

Not only do you get free unlimited public transportation rides, you’ll also get access to over 150+ great deals on everything from tourist attractions, city tours, port cruises, musicals, concerts, and museums.

Some of Hamburg’s important landmarks included in the card (and that we’ve covered in this guide!) are the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Miniatur Wunderland, the International Maritime Museum, the Hamburg Town Hall, St. Michael’s Church, just to name a few.

The Hamburg Card also gives you some discounts and deals in a selection of restaurants and cafes. It’s the perfect opportunity to try some iconic Hamburg specialties like Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) and Fischbrötchen.

So is it worth getting the Hamburg card? If you plan on staying in the city for a few days, using public transport frequently during your stay, and want to visit the sights included with the card, then the Hamburg Card is likely worth it.

Another case where it would be worth getting is if you’re traveling as a group. The group pass (valid for 5) will definitely save you money, since you are splitting it evenly with other people. You’ll not only save money on public transport but tickets to tons of sights and activities too.

Click here for more information on the prices and discounts included in the Hamburg Card.

On the other hand, if you’re only staying in Hamburg for maybe 1 or 2 days, then you might not be able to use the card to its maximum potential. In this case, we suggest booking a Hop On Hop Off Bus tour instead, so you’ll get to see all the important sights and landmarks during your stay.

You’ll get to explore the city at your own pace but you won’t have to worry about navigating and paying for tickets for public transportation.

When considering whether to get a city card, we always recommend adding up how much you’d pay for transport and entry to your top sights, and then compare it to the cost of the card and see if it’s worth it for your trip. Also be sure to confirm the return or exchange policy because these types of cards are often non-refundable.

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