Hip bars, amazing architecture, and plenty of atmosphere. These are just a few of the things you can expect when visiting Hamburg. First of all Hamburg is a major European port city which is connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River. It is also Germany’s second largest city. We were lucky enough to explore this city through the Come to Hamburg project. With only three days here our time flew by so fast. We tried to fit in as much as possible and for that we are grateful even if our feet are not. Here is what we got up to and our list of things to do in Hamburg.
I should mention that Hamburg was one of the easiest cities we have been to, in terms of getting around. The public transport system is excellent. We had a Hamburg Card that lasted the three days we were there. The Hamburg card gives you unlimited travel for your selected dates on buses, ferries, and trains. You can pre-purchase this online here. You just need to make sure you have the card on you at all times and show it if you are inspected. The cool thing is you can also use it to get discounts on a number of tourist attractions which we took full advantage of.
Where to stay
Hamburg has a lot of accommodation to fit all budget types. We got the opportunity to stay at the Sofitel Hamburg Alter Wall. This luxury hotel is located right next to a train station which made it the perfect location for us. You can read our review here.
Things to do in Hamburg
One of our favourite things to do when visiting a new city especially with limited time is to do a city bus tour. It gives you a chance to orientate yourself with a new place and you can start to plan what you want to see. We did the full circle (Sightseeing tour – Line A) and got to see a lot of Hamburg. There is live commentary in German, but you can plug your earphones in and there is pre-recorded commentary in English. The best thing about the tour was that it showed us how big Hamburg is, which really surprised us.
We discovered this on the bus tour, and we decided to hop off and explore. The church is one of the most famous in Hamburg. The church tower also offers panoramic views of the city. The good news is there is a lift but if you really want to you can climb the 400 plus steps to the viewing platform. It is definitely worth a visit if you want an incredible view of the city. We also got a reduction off the entry price with the Hamburg card.
You cannot visit Hamburg without doing a boat tour. There are so many companies offering tours around the harbour. You literally cannot walk around here without someone trying to sell you a tour. We had the opportunity to do the tour with Barkassen Meyer and it was amazing. The tour was in German but we got an app from the main office which gave the commentary in English. The best bit about this was that you could click on the area you were passing and the commentary would start. This ensured you didn’t miss anything. We sat on the top deck, the wind in our hair, and an Aperol Spritz or in Dave’s case a pilsner in hand. The highlight of the tour was when we went right up to some of the larger boats filled with shipping containers. The sheer size of these boats and the machinery is on an epic scale and is a sight to behold.
So Dave really wanted to do this, especially when we found out through the commentary on the bus tour that this was home to the world’s largest model railway exhibition. I wasn’t sure what to expect so went along reluctantly. I have to say I was really impressed. It is actually so amazing and we highly recommend visiting if you come to Hamburg. The displays are so intricate that it almost transports you back to that magic of being a kid. There are various displays and different themes although our personal favourite was the airport display which involved a model plane taking off.
Our hotel was really close to the Rathaus or Town Hall. This was perfect because it gave us ample opportunity to walk by and marvel at the building. You can actually go in and have a look at the lobby, but due to time constraints we had to admire this beauty from the outside. The bus tour we took stopped off here, so we do recommend getting out and having a walk around this area.
This is probably the most famous bridge in Hamburg and believe me there are a lot! Photographers flock here to get a snap of one of the most famous scenes in Hamburg. It’s also really busy after sunset when the light begins to fade.
This place is a chocoholic’s dream. You get to learn all about the chocolate journey from cocoa bean to chocolate bar. You also get to do a lot of tasting along the way. We got to design our own chocolate bar to take home. Let’s just say neither of us are going to become chocolate artists anytime soon. Most of the tours are in German but on Saturday and Sunday at 12.30pm they do an English tour. Our guide was fantastic and we learnt so much about the process. The whole tour takes about 90 minutes and is definitely worth it (even for the chocolate samples alone).
The Old Elbe Tunnel
This was by far one of the coolest tunnels we have seen. It was recommended to us by a local so you know it has to be amazing. Opened in 1911, this was actually the first river tunnel in mainland Europe. It is worth getting the lift down and having a look even if you don’t intend to walk it.
Reeperbahn and St Pauli
Yes it is seedy and yes it is frequented by stag and hen do’s but however you feel about it, the Reeperbahn is worth a visit. At night the area is chaotic and rowdy, but in the day it has a quieter vibe. It is also located in the St Pauli area which is a great place to walk around. There are a lot of hip bars and restaurants to discover. Plus you can get some cool photos of the graffiti laden walls.
Well sort of. If you get on the ferry from Landungsbruken to Finkenwerder (Line 62) you can hop off at Ovelgonne and head to the beach. On a warm day you will find kids building sandcastles and dipping their toes in the water, with cranes and tugboats in the background. There are also some lovely bars and cafes there which makes it all the more appealing on a summer’s day. It’s a great place to walk around and explore or just sit and take in the view. I should also add that the houses here are just incredible.
Food and Drink
Germany of course is synonymous with eating sausages and drinking beers. And this is of course what we did a lot of the time. We also enjoyed some pretty epic burgers at Better Burger Company which we do also recommend. You get to build your own burger from a wide variety of different toppings and sauces. A huge part of the Hamburg experience is based around food and drink.
Overall our time in Hamburg whilst very short was also very sweet. We would like to say a big thank you to those behind the Come to Hamburg project for hosting us. Do check out their really awesome website for more Hamburg related activities. We were so thrilled and honoured to have the opportunity to explore the city and just take it all in.