I arrived to Hamburg at the beginning of July. It was cold, windy, and rainy and I thought, “Am I even going to like it here?” Well, after spending two days exploring Hamburg – in both the rain and sun – I can confirm, there’s so much charm to be found in Hamburg. As the second largest city in Germany, and one of the most important, Hamburg is often referred to as the “Gateway to the World” due to its harbor. It boasts canals, bridges (more than any other city in the world), and is home to the most millionaires in Germany. As my tour guide said, about 1 in 46 people are millionaires so it’s a great place to visit if you’re single!
Below you’ll find everything you need to know about visiting Hamburg and Germany in general.
A Complete Guide to Visiting Hamburg
If you’re visiting Northern Germany, don’t miss your chance at visiting Germany’s capital, Berlin. Read about Berlin here!
How to Get to Hamburg
Seeing as Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany, it’s quite easy to get to! Located in the north of Germany, you can fly into the international airport – HAM. Or take a train to the city, arriving to Hamburg Central Station.
I started my German adventure in Berlin and took the train direct, from Berlin to Hamburg. Once I arrived in Hamburg, I could easily catch a taxi outside of the train station to get to my hotel.
- If you’re taking the train to Hamburg, my favorite way to book is through Omio
- If you’re taking a plane to Hamburg, my favorite way to book is through Skyscanner
If you’re arriving to Hamburg by plane and you want to book a private driver waiting for you upon arrival, you can do that here.
The Best Time to Visit Hamburg
It’s my opinion that the best time to visit Hamburg is in the summer months of July and August. While this is when Hamburg draws the most crowds, and hotel prices go up, the weather is best this time of year. Because Hamburg is located in the north of Germany, the city can be pretty cold; and being on the water it can also get windy. If you plan to visit Hamburg (even in the summer months), I highly recommend bringing a jacket, an umbrella, and/or a rain coat.
Of course, another magical time to visit Hamburg would be when the city is decked out for Christmas. Germany is known for their huge Christmas markets and Hamburg is no exception! With over 30 Christmas markets throughout the city, cozy up with mulled wine as you walk through streets adorned with lights and decorations. Decorations usually start going up at the end of November and stay up through December.
Getting Around Hamburg
Hamburg is a big city so while you can surely get your steps in, it also might be more practical to take public and/or private transportation to get from place to place.
For private transport, you can find taxis around the city or download the Uber app for affordable rides.
For public transport, there’s a wide variety of ways to get around including by train, bus, or ferry. For an extensive guide to transportation in Hamburg, check out this website. (By the way, if you purchase a Hamburg CARD, public transportation is free. Below you’ll find more information about the card and where you can purchase it).
While you don’t need a car to visit Hamburg, if you’re planning a road trip through Germany, or simply want a car to explore the outskirts of Hamburg, I suggest renting from Discover Cars so that you can compare prices across multiple rental companies.
How Many Days Should You Spend in Hamburg?
If you have the luxury of time, I would suggest spending 2-3 days exploring Hamburg. There’s a lot to see and do in the city so even with 2-3 days, your days will be packed. If you don’t have the luxury of time, Hamburg is still worth a stop for just one day. Spend time in one of the 50+ museums in the city, stroll the canals and the Elbe river, lounge at Alster Lake; the list is endless!
Where to Stay in Hamburg
I stayed at the incredible 25hours Hotel Hamburg HafenCity and would highly recommend it. Not only is the location fabulous, near museums, restaurants, cocktail bars, and walkable to tons of attractions throughout Hamburg; but the hotel has everything you need for a comfortable stay! From a tasty buffet breakfast to a free mini bar in each room, 25hours has thought of everything when it comes to what makes travelers comfortable.
IF 25hours HOTEL DOESN’T SUIT YOU, SEARCH BELOW FOR MORE HOTEL OPTIONS
The Best Bars & Restaurants in Hamburg
Below you’ll find my favorite bars and restaurants in Hamburg! By the way, did you know that Hamburg is the birthplace of the hamburger?!
BOOTSHAUS GRILL & BAR – Steak/seafood
Bootshaus is an elevated steak and seafood restaurant located in Hamburgs HafenCity. This restaurant has a touch of class while still having a fun atmosphere – the perfect combination for a date night or night out with friends. Pro tip: Don’t miss the steak tartar!
BRÜCKE 10 – Fish sandwiches
Along the pier of the Elbe River, you’ll find this no-fuss sandwich shop serving simple, fish sandwiches. The food is quick, easy, and affordable; plus it’s a great location to hang out on the harbor and watch the boats go by.
COAST BY EAST – Sushi
Coast by East is another upscale restaurant in HafenCity that focuses solely on Asian fare and sushi. The restaurant is bright and airy and has a great patio on days that it’s nice out.
EDMONDO – Italian
Out of every restaurant I went to in Hamburg, I was most impressed with Edmondo. Edmondo is a newer Italian restaurant that opened in 2023. The atmosphere is absolutely electric with colorful chairs, couches, barstools, and an array of liquor bottles lining both sides of the restaurant. And aside from being beautiful, the food is excellent as well. If you hope to dine here, I highly suggest snagging a reservation at least a month in advance.
FLEETSCHLOSSCHEN BY DANIEL WISCHER – Fish & chips
I stumbled upon this little stand alone restaurant and noticed quite the crowd. Intrigued, I popped in for a coffee and couldn’t help but appreciate the delicious smelling food and generous serving size of the fish and chips and currywurst plates. Not only did the food look fabulous, but this is a great spot if you want to rest your feet and drink a beer or grab a coffee in the morning.
THE BOHEMIAN – Cocktails
The Bohemian is a fun cocktail lounge that serves delicious cocktails in unique ways. For example, I ordered “The Gardener” and it came in a flower pot! But if you’re into more traditional drinks – they have a menu for that too!
The Best Things to See and Do in Hamburg
As I mentioned previously, there are so many things to see and do in beautiful Hamburg! And depending on what you’re planning to see and do in Hamburg, you might want to consider purchasing a Hamburg CARD. This card allows you to get into 150+ attractions at 50% off and gives you access to public transportation for free. The price of the card varies on how long you plan to use the card – you can check prices here.
You’ll also notice that I’ve listed some of my favorite museums below, but being limited on time, there were tons of museums that I wanted to visit and didn’t have time for. This includes Hamburger Kunsthalle, International Maritime Museum Hamburg, German Additives Museum, and Chocoversum (a chocolate museum).
The Alster Lakes are made up of two lakes known as Inner Alster Lake or Binnenalster and Outer Alster Lake or AuBenalster. Both lakes are within Hamburg city limits and both are beautiful. You can enjoy the lakes by walking around, kayaking, or even renting standup paddle-boards. On a nice day, you don’t want to miss checking out this part of Hamburg.
For boat rentals, check out this website.
FREE WALKING TOUR – ROBIN AND THE TOURGUIDES
My favorite way to get to know a new city is the free way! I loved the free walking tour put on by Robin and the Tourguides. The tour lasted about two hours and went through the important historical places and dates that have made Hamburg the city that it is today.
I had no intention of visiting the Miniatur Wunderland museum… I don’t have kids and it felt childish. But I walked by on a rainy afternoon, felt intrigued, and couldn’t help but go in to see what all the fuss is about. (It is one of the most visited attractions in Germany after all). And let me tell you – this was my favorite thing that I did in Hamburg. The amount of detail that went into making these miniature countries was indescribable. Truly, if you’re visiting Hamburg, you can’t miss on this miniature attraction.
MUSEUM FÜR HAMBURGISCHE GESCHICHTE
This is the museum for the history of Hamburg. Unfortunately, during my visit it was closed and I was told it won’t fully be open until 2027. However, they do a rotating series on the first floor that might be interesting to check out. When I visited there was a featured exhibit on how graffiti came to be in Hamburg, but remember… the exhibit isn’t permanent.
If you’re reading this and it’s 2027+, don’t miss out on the history of Hamburg museum. From the little bit that I saw, I know it will be great.
Rathausmarkt is the central square of Hamburg where the Hamburg Rathaus – or town hall – is located. Not only can you pay to tour the inside of the Rathaus, but walking around the square is beautiful. I suggest stopping by and exploring the area where you’ll find great shops and coffee bars all around.
ST. MICHAEL’S CHURCH
If you’re wanting views over Hamburg, St. Michael’s Church is where you need to be. You can pay €12 to take the elevator to the top of the church (or climb the 400+ stairs), where you’ll be rewarded with 360 degree views of Hamburg. (If you have the Hamburg CARD, entrance to the tower is 50% off).
ST. PAULI PIERS
St. Pauli Piers is the largest landing site in the port of Hamburg. It lies along the Elbe River and gives spectacular views of the harbor and the boats coming and going. There are tons of great eateries around here and it’s a great way to spend the afternoon.
Practical Tips/FYI About Visiting Hamburg/Germany
Below you’ll find practical tips about visiting Hamburg and Germany in general. These are always my “go-to” tips when traveling to a new country, and I figure that everything else can be learned along the way!
- Language: German; but you will be able to get by with English
- Currency: Euro (€); everywhere I went accepted debit/credit, so you don’t need to get cash out (unless you want to). When paying with a card, always pay in the country’s currency (in this case €), to avoid added fees.
- Visa: Americans traveling to Germany do not need a visa (unless you’re planning to stay for over 90 days); Germany is part of the EU and a part of the Schengen Area.
- When traveling abroad, I highly recommend purchasing travel insurance to cover your trip in case anything were to happen. I use and and recommend SafetyWing.
- You will need a converter in Germany; I use this one
- In case of emergency, the number for police in Germany is 110 for the police, and 112 for other emergency services
For me, visiting Hamburg was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the city, but I know that I did not leave disappointed. If you plan to visit Hamburg and you have any questions, let me know in a comment below!
For a more visual look at Hamburg, and more ideas on what to see and do, make sure to check out my Instagram page/highlight reel and search “ppingermany” or look for my “Germany” highlight
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