What to do in Hamburg? 7 Fun Things you need to try

We’re always happy to be in Hamburg and want to take the opportunity now to share our Hamburg tips with you. Discover Hamburg with these seven things you absolutely need to try during your next trip.

Hamburg is the most beautiful city in the world! At least people in Hamburg think so. We’re not sure we completely agree, but Hamburg is definitely a very beautiful and livable city.

What can you do in Hamburg?

The typical itinerary for a visit to Hamburg usually consists of the Port of Hamburg, a stroll through the city center, attending a musical, and a nightcap on the Reeperbahn.

That’s all well and good. Everyone should do all that at least once. But Hamburg has a lot more to offer. In our post, we won’t just present the usual Hamburg tips, we’ll also give you an alternative insider tip for fun things to do.

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Boat trip vs. stand-up paddling on the Alster

One of the reasons Hamburg is so beautiful is that the city has so much water: the Alster, several waterways (Fleete), and not least the Port of Hamburg. And so an outing on the water is an essential part of any trip to Hamburg.

The standard tip: Harbor cruise or Fleet cruise

If you’re in Hamburg for the first time, you should definitely go on a harbor cruise or a Fleet cruise.

Harbor cruises start directly at the St. Pauli Piers (Landungsbrücken) and take you all the way through the port for 60 to 90 minutes, past large container ships, docks, and cruise ships.

Your best bet is to take a small barge because it can also navigate the warehouse district (Speicherstadt). The large passenger ships are more comfortable, but can’t go everywhere. However, the announcements on the barges are in German while the passenger ships usually have taped English and German announcements.

You can buy boat cruise tickets right at the jetty or purchase them online here.

A Fleet cruise taking you from the Inner Alster Lake in the inner city to the Elbe Philharmonic Hall via small waterways is also worthwhile. You can find more information on Fleet cruises here.

Elbe Philharmonic Hall
You’ll see the Elbe Philharmonic Hall on every harbor cruise. The captain is guaranteed to shoot off a well-timed zinger for each attraction.
Hamburg Harbor
A classic harbor cruise takes you up close to the big container ships and loading bays. That’s very impressive.
Warehouse District Hamburg
A Fleet cruise also passes through the warehouse district (Speicherstadt).

The insider tip: Stand-up paddling on the Alster

A very special way to get to know Hamburg from the water is paddling yourself. And since canoing is so 2012, we tried out stand-up paddling (SUP) the last time we were there.

If you’re never tried it, then Hamburg offers the perfect opportunity. We took a beginner’s course at the SUP Club Hamburg and had two real professionals to instruct us: Valentin and Paulina.

Stand-up paddling is really fun and we didn’t fall into the water. But if it had been a bit warmer, we would have definitely given that a go.

You can book an introductory course here, or just hire a board if you’re already a pro: SUP Club Hamburg (German site).

SUP Hamburg
Our first attempts at stand-up paddling with the SUP Club Hamburg. Taking pictures while trying not to fall into the water was a real challenge!
SUP Hamburg
We were a bit tense at first, but after we got the hang of it, we had a lot of fun.

Famous musical vs. Reeperbahn Musical

Hamburg has grown to become the German capital of musicals nowadays. Many visitors just come to Hamburg to catch a musical.

The standard tip: Lion King & co.

If you like musicals, then Hamburg is the city for you. The Lion King has been running for years and years at the Port of Hamburg. We went to see it for ourselves of course and it’s really nicely done. Unfortunately the prices for musicals are pretty steep.

Right next door, the musical Das Wunder von Bern (The Wonder of Berne) about the German World Cup victory in 1954 has just debuted and we’re looking forward to seeing it soon.

You can see which musicals are currently on in Hamburg here (German).

Hamburg Musicals
Two great musicals at the Port of Hamburg: Das Wunder von Bern and The Lion King (photo by Avda, licensed according to CC BY-SA 3.0)

The insider tip: Heiße Ecke – The St. Pauli musical

Heiße Ecke (Hot Corner) is often praised as the best musical in Hamburg and we think that accolade is more than deserved. The Schmidt Tivoli theater directly on the Reeperbahn tells the story of a night at the currywurst stall Heiße Ecke.

It’s all about lost souls hanging out on the Reeperbahn at night and the little stories that play out over an average night in Hamburg’s entertainment district (or Kiez).

For information on tickets and playtimes: Schmidt Tivoli Theater (German).

Heiße Ecke
Heiße Ecke (photo by Oliver Fantitsch)

HSV vs St. Pauli vs proper old-school football

Football fans in Hamburg haven’t exactly been spoiled by success over the past few years. Nevertheless, a match featuring one of the two major clubs is always worth seeing.

The standard tip: Hamburger SV or St. Pauli

Hamburg has two major clubs, so there’s a good chance that there’ll be at least one home game on any given weekend. Either the Hamburger SV will be playing at the Volksparkstadion or the FC St. Pauli at the Millerntor stadium.

You should definitely book tickets ahead of time. It’s much easier to get tickets for the HSV. You usually still have a good chance of getting a ticket to a HSV match at relatively short notice. That’s a lot less likely for the FC St. Pauli.

Tickets for Hamburger SV / Tickets for FC St. Pauli

Millerntor stadium
An FC St. Pauli match at Millerntor stadium is definitely a highlight, but not exactly an insider tip.

The insider tip: Football nostalgia at one of the oldest stadiums in Germany

There’s hardly any difference these days between watching a Bundesliga match in Hamburg, Cologne, or Dortmund. The new stadiums are too much alike and Bundesliga matches have devolved into fully organized commercial events with nothing distinctive about them.

If you’re an incorrigible football nostalgic, then go and watch Altona 93. The club plays at the Adolf-Jäger-Kampfbahn, the second-oldest stadium in Germany. Time has just stopped here. Unfortunately, things won’t stay that way forever because the stadium is scheduled for demolition.

Tickets can be purchased right at the stadium, and it definitely won’t be sold out.

Altona 93
This picture basically says everything you need to know about Altona 93. An essential experience for stadium-lovers!

Alsterpark vs. Jenischpark

Hamburg doesn’t just have a lot of water to offer, but also lots of green areas.

The standard tip: The Alsterpark

Besides Planten un Blomen, the Alsterpark has to be the most famous park area in Hamburg. Located by the Outer Alster Lake, Hamburg’s citizens enjoy lazy sunny afternoons here. Unfortunately sunny days are few and far between, despite popular beliefs to the contrary held by many people in Hamburg.

We can definitely recommend a stroll through the Alsterpark or maybe even going for a run.

Alsterpark Hamburg
The Alsterpark is beautiful, especially in the spring when the trees are in bloom.

The insider tip: The Jenischpark

A park that attracts a lot less tourists is the Jenischpark in the district of Othmarschen. In our opinion, this is the most beautiful park in Hamburg. The park area is huge and really well maintained. It’s worth a visit!

Jenischpark Hamburg
The Jenischpark is no less beautiful, but definitely less crowded than the Alsterpark. Definitely a small hidden gem.

Famous view of the port vs less well-known view

Hamburg is a source of great photographic vistas, especially the harbor. There are several photo spots at the Port of Hamburg where you’re sure to take the perfect picture.

The standard tip: Observation deck at the Stintfang

The Youth Hostel Hamburg is located above the Landungsbrücken (St. Pauli Piers) and offers a spectacular view of the harbor from its terrace. You can definitely take a great photo of the Port of Hamburg from here, but you’ll most likely have a lot of company.

Landungsbrücken
View of the Landungsbrücken (photo by hessbeck)

Insider tips: Waltershofer Damm and Tankweg

If you want to see and take pictures of the port from a slightly different perspective, we have two real insider tips: Waltershofer Damm and Tankweg.

They provide an amazing view of the container port and you can be certain you won’t have to share the spot with other tourists.

Waltershofer Damm
View from Waltershofer Damm (photo by: ChiLi)

Guided city tour vs alternative tour

We like go on guided tours of new cities to get to know them better. Local guides will show you their city in a completely different light than you could ever experience it yourself and often have a lot of homespun stories and insider tips to share with you. Of course this only really applies on private tours, you probably won’t learn that much on a large group tour.

The standard tip: A guided city tour

As we already mentioned, we’re huge fans of private tours because they allow you to experience a different side of a city. We’ve picked out two tours for you in Hamburg that are highly rated and sound exciting.

Tour 1 – The personalized tour

On this two hour tour, you can tell your guide your preferences and what you’d like to see. You can find more information here: Hamburg city tour: The personalized tour.

Tour 2 – The bike tour

Hamburg is flat and it’s easy to get from A to B by bike. A bike tour gives you the opportunity to cover a lot more ground than you ever could on foot. That’s why we’d like to recommend this 3.5-hour bike tour with a private guide: Bicycle tour through Hamburg.

A similar tour is also available for larger groups. It’s cheaper, but not quite as individual: Hamburg 3.5-Hour Bike Tour.

Insider tips: Alternative tours through Hamburg

If a normal city tour sounds boring, then we have a few alternative suggestions for you.

Tour 1 – Tour of Ottensen

A lot of people visiting Hamburg haven’t probably haven’t even heard of the neighborhood of Ottensen. That’s a pity, because Ottensen and its creative and young scene have a lot to offer. On a tour through Ottensen, you’ll discover corners that many Hamburg residents don’t even know. You can find more information here: Tour of Ottensen.

Tours 2 – Tour through St. Pauli

OK, a tour of St. Pauli and the Reeperbahn probably doesn’t really pass muster as a well-kept secret for a trip to Hamburg. There are probably more of them than regular guided tours. But we’ve picked out an unusual tour for you.

Sex & crime in St. Pauli – Tour for over-18s: This tour is all about the dark underbelly of the Kiez. You’ll learn a lot about the underworld in St. Pauli. Thrilling! More information: Sex & Crime on St. Pauli – Tour for over-18s.

Die Große Freiheit 36
One of the most famous places on the Kiez: Die Große Freiheit 36.
The Sprinkenhof in the Kontorhaus District
The Sprinkenhof in the Kontorhaus District

Normal hotel vs special hotel

If you’re going to Hamburg, you’re probably going to be needing a hotel. The good news: There are plenty of them in the Hamburg. And even more good news: We have a few tips for you.

Standard tips: Hotels in Hamburg

Motel One: – The Motel One hotels offer excellent value for money. You can’t really go wrong here. And there are four of there are four of them in Hamburg:

Motel One Hamburg at the Michel
Motel One Hamburg-Alster
Motel One Hamburg-Altona
Motel One Hamburg Airport

Hotel Atlantic and Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten: They’re among the most famous hotels in Hamburg and offer luxury in a central location. Of course that luxury has its price, but sometimes you just have to spoil yourself:

Hotel Atlantic
Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten

Insider tips: Very special hotels in Hamburg

Or course Hamburg doesn’t just have regular old hotels. We looked for some truly individual and unique hotels and here’s our selection:

Chez Ronny: The Chez Ronny is a real Kiez hotel. Not only is it located in the middle of the Reeperbahn, but the rooms also have a certain seedy charm. But don’t worry, everything is extremely new, clean, and beautifully furnished, and the owner Ronny is an extremely warm host, so you can’t help but feel at home there. See the hotel listing here: Chez Ronny.

Gastwerk Hotel: The Gastwerk Hotel in the district of Bahrenfeld is located in a former gasworks. The loft-style rooms are very tastefully decorated. See the hotel listing here: Gastwerk Hotel.

Hotel Mittelweg: If you’ve always wanted to spend the night in a stately home, then you have the opportunity at the Hotel Mittelweg in the district of Pöseldorf. The decor is plush-chic, ornate, and the house itself is a feast for the senses. See the hotel listing here: Hotel Mittelweg.

25hours Hotel Hafencity: At the 25hours Hotel Hafencity, you can feel a little like a sailor, but a stylish sailor. The rooms, which are called berths, are furnished with a real feel for maritime style. Very pretty. See the hotel listing here: 25hours Hotel Hafencity.

Superbude St. Pauli Hostel: If you’re on a budget, we recommend the Superbude in St. Pauli. Everything is colorful and bright and the rooms are fitted with recycled furniture. See the hotel listing here: Superbude St. Pauli.

25hours Hotel Hafencity
Berth at the 25hours Hotel Hafencity (photo by Stephan Lemke for 25hours Hotels)

Practical tips for your trip to Hamburg

In addition to our tips for what to do in Hamburg, we’ve also compiled a compact list of practical travel tips for you.

Public transport in Hamburg

The ticket price system in Hamburg is the most complicated we’ve seen in Germany so far. There are short journey tickets, local journey tickets, metro area tickets, and you have to count rings. We don’t really get it and we’ve been there several times.

Hence our tip: Get the 9 am day ticket for 6.20 euros. If there’s two or more of you, you should get the 9 am group ticket for up to 5 people, which costs 11.80 euros. If you want to or have to use public transport before 9 am, there’s a full day ticket, but it’s a bit more expensive.

Getting to Hamburg

We pretty much always take the train to Hamburg. Most trains stop at the Central Station, and at the stations Dammtor and Altona. Depending on your hotel’s location, one of the latter stops may be closer for you.

On your return trip, it’s also a good idea to get on at Dammtor or Altona because the trains are usually still empty then and you should have no trouble finding a seat, even without a reservation.

Of course you can also go by plane. The airport is very well connected to the city. Just take the S1 and you’ll be at the Central Station in 25 minutes. You can find cheap flights on Skyscanner.

Packing for Hamburg

There’s often a rough breeze in Hamburg, so we always pack a second layer, even in the summer.

Tell us your Hamburg tips! What can you do in Hamburg?

Right, that’s the last of our travel tips for Hamburg. Of course that’s far from everything Hamburg has to offer.

So now it’s your turn: What can you do in Hamburg? Do you have some insider tips and hidden gems for us? Please let us know in the comments below!