What to Do in Hamburg? 7 Fun Things You Need to Try
Latest update: August 4, 2023
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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: 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 – Harry Potter tour
Harry Potter fans take note! On this tour you will discover exciting and mystical places in Hamburg that remind you of the Harry Potter movies. You will get to know Hamburg’s Diagon Alley and learn more about magical creatures of Hamburg and their legends. More information: Harry Potter tour Hamburg (German)
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.
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:
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:
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.
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!