Let’s be honest. If you were given the opportunity to travel to Germany, then what would be the first city that comes to your mind? Definitely not Hamburg! The city is located in the northern part of Germany and gets usually overshadowed by more popular destinations such as modern Berlin or the traditional Bavarian city of Munich. But I am here to change your mind!
Hamburg is the second-most populous city in Germany and plays an important role in the economy of the federal state, as its port is the largest in the country and the second-largest in all of Europe. It may not be located by the sea, however, the city is crossed by the huge river Elbe, which gives a different vibe compared to other cities in Germany.
This travel article will guide you through the most important sights, as well as the hidden gems of Hamburg.
1. Take a walk in the city center of Hamburg
Central Hamburg: Impressive buildings, large squares, parks and countless activities, while the food will surely satisfy the most demanding palate! Outside Jungfernstieg metro station (or U-Bahn as the Germans tend to call), you’ll see the small Alster lake (Binnenalster). Make sure to take a walk around the lake either by foot or by bicycle. The city center is well organized so you won’t have any problem locating the most important sights during your walk.
In the main square, you’ll find, among other things, the Hamburg City Hall (Hamburger Rathaus), which is a prominent touristic attraction of the city thanks to its imposing architecture. Entry is also free of charge! Literally a breath away, you will find the beautiful Alsterarkaden galleries, which adds Italian elegance to Hamburg’s center.
If you are a street food fan, I highly recommend trying the famous Curry Wurst that you will find in small kiosks around the city. After your quick lunch break, you can continue walking towards Mönckebergstraße, which is the city center’s shopping pedestrian street.
2. HafenCity and Elbphilharmonie
More or less, we have all wondered at some point what a city would look like in the future. So why keep wondering, when Hamburg offers you this opportunity? HafenCity has been remodeled with hotels, shops, office buildings and residences, making it stand out today for its modern architecture. This reconstruction is considered to be the largest urban regeneration project in Europe to date.
This area also contains Hamburg’s best-known building – the Elbe Philharmonic Hall (or Elbphilharmonie in German) which is used as a concert hall. You can visit the building inside for free and enjoy the view of the city from the top floor.
The locals are proud not only of the Philharmonic Hall, but also of the traditional Fischbrötchen, which is well known in northern Germany. It is a fish sandwich and contains various toppings depending on the preferences of the consumer.
Tip: Hamburg offers many cruises on the river Elbe. However, a good & cheap alternative is the city’s public transport, which in addition to the traditional means of transport also includes a ferry to serve the residents in their daily transportation. Specifically, you can take ferry number 62, which departs from the Landungsbrücken stop.
3. Time for coffee: Sternschanze quarter
The most famous alternative entertainment area in Hamburg is without a doubt the Sternschanze quarter. It is a picturesque yet modern district, which has many cafes and bars. The former Rote Flora theater, which has been occupied since 1989, is now a symbol of left-wing activism, which has contributed considerably to the style of the area.
Make sure you combine your walk in this district during a Saturday morning, so as not to miss the flea market (or Flohmarkt as the Germans call it), which is set up there every week. You will surely be surprised by the multitude of vintage items that you can find, such as clothes, jewelry, furniture, trays and much more!
4. Visit to the “Miniatur Wunderland” Museum
Although there are several museums in the city worth seeing, I would highly recommend the “Miniatur Wunderland” museum, which you will find in the Speicherstadt area. The museum exhibits miniatures of Europe’s railways, airports and ports and is the largest of its kind in the world. The railway is divided into nine sections depending on the location it exhibits, so the visitor has the opportunity to “travel” to different parts of Europe in just a couple of hours.
Tip: Do not forget to take a walk around Speicherstadt where the museum is located, as it is one of the most photographed places in Hamburg. You’ll see why! The “city of warehouses” as its literal translation is, is of historical importance and was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2015.
5. Have a drink at naughty…St. Pauli
The most popular nightclub area is for sure Reeperbahn in St. Pauli. This area is mainly known for two reasons. It is one of the largest red-light districts in Europe and is a prominent symbol of football, as the team of FC St. Pauli is widely known beyond the borders of Germany.
The main street of Reeperbahn (Große Freiheit street) is full of restaurants, nightclubs and bars, while on the same street you can also find strip clubs, sex clubs and brothels. It is a taboo area for many, but only if you visit it will you be able to understand how these two sides of the area co-exist. It is no coincidence that it is the second most popular area of Hamburg after the port.
6. Picnic day at Planten un Blomen park
Another way to escape the city’s hustle and bustle is the popular Planten un Blomen park, which is located near Dammtor station. It contains many international-themed gardens and is open to the public throughout the year. Make sure to pack your food and enjoy a nice picnic at the park.
If you visit Hamburg during summertime, then you will be able to watch the well-known water concerts.
7. Day trip to Blankenese
Finally, if you have more days at your disposal, then I would definitely recommend a day trip to Blankenese, which is easily accessible, as it is connected by line 1 of the S-Bahn. It is a picturesque suburb of Hamburg, unlike the city center and gives you the impression that you are in an exotic place.
Hamburg is without question a city that can stand worthy next to any other European capital. Only a visit to this city can convey the vibe you get, while walking through its streets, so be sure to add it to your bucket list after the end of Covid-19!