You are looking for a relaxing or an adventurous weekend with plenty of sightseeing and some historical sites? Then, Hamburg is a perfect destination for a weekend getaway in Europe!
I have been living in Hamburg almost for two years. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Germany and is famous for being one of the greenest cities -winner for European Green Capital in the year of 2011- and second largest port in Europe, surrounding by the rivers Elbe and Alster, canals to explore and more than 2,000 bridges. Planning to visit a beautiful city for a weekend in Europe? Let´s explore the Venice of the North!
A well-planned weekend will take you through all the highlights that this beautiful city has to offer. Here are some tips on how to make your weekend getaway to Hamburg unforgettable!
Take a Ferry from Landungsbrücken
Taking a ferry from Landungsbrücken Bridge 3 is one of the best and cheapest ways of exploring the various corners of the port and gazing at some of the historical buildings located by the Elbe river. As they are part of the HVV (public transport company of Hamburg) , you can get on this ferry without extra charge if you have already bought the day ticket for 6,40€, if not it costs only 3,20€.
To make a big tour and see the dry docks of Blohm & Voss, the large container terminals, thick pots, the Köhlbrand bridge, the Elbe beach and the villas of Blankenese, take the ferry 62 (every 15 min) to Finkenwerder. It shortly stops at Altona/Fischmarkt, Dockland/Fischereihafen, Neumühlen/Övelgönne (Elbe Beach), Bubendey-Ufer and Finkenwerder, and then comes back to the port Landungsbrücken. I can recommend to stop at Neumühlen Övelgönne to relax on the beach, watch the beautiful Elbe, eat a fish sandwich and grab a delicious beer. However, it can be more crowded than ever during the weekend, especially when the sun is shining.
If you want to look at the other side, the ferry 75 to Steinwerder is recommended. Besides, you can take the line 72 from the Landungsbrücken directly to the Elbphilharmonie.
Explore the City by The Red Double-Deckers or
The city tour by the red double-deckers is one the best ways to see the most important sights in Hamburg. It lasts between 2 or 4 hours, depending on how long you want to stay at each station. You can take the bus from Landungsbrücken or central station and get on, get off or change at your favourite sights in a completely individual way. There is a lot to see: the HafenCity, the traditional Speicherstadt, the steamy Reeperbahn, the Alster, St. Michaelis church, the city center, Jungfernstieg, and of course the Port of Hamburg. If you want, you can combine this tour with a one-hour harbor tour which can be bought at Landungsbrücken 1-2.
On the other hand, Hamburg is so compact to wander by walking. I would start with Jungfernstieg, enjoy the view of the Binnenalster and the fountain. The restaurant “Alex” –Jungfernstieg 54– is worth to have a breakfast or lunch with marvelous view to the Alster lake.
Then you can continue the way to the Rathausmarkt. The Rathaus (town hall) alone is already impressive, also the small courtyard with fountain is worth seeing. The next stop is the historic Deichstraße, where you will find the last surviving Hamburg´s historical town houses, at the same time this is the starting point for the great fire of Hamburg which began on May 5, 1842 and lasted until the morning of May 8, destroying about one third of the buildings in the historic downtown.
At the end of the Deichstraße you will meet a narrow wooden bridge which will bring you through the Nikolaifleet to the Speicherstadt (City of Warehouses). Speicherstadt is the largest warehouse district in the world where the buildings stand on timber-pile foundations, oak logs, in this particular case. The district was built as a free zone to transfer goods without paying customs. It was also awarded the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015 as the first site in Hamburg. Besides, here are also many interesting museums to visit such as International Maritime Museum Hamburg and Miniatur Wunderland.
Exploring Speicherstadt, you can continue the way to the modern counterpart HafenCity. Here, you have to visit the Elbphilarmonie(Elphi) with its stunning glassy construction. It is a concert hall built on top of an old warehouse and one of the largest and most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world. From its viewing platform on the 8th floor you can enjoy the 360 view of Hamburg.
Afterwards you can visit the St. Michaelis Church. The impressive Michel is the largest church in Hamburg and a landmark of the city. It is considered to be one of the finest Hanseatic Protestant baroque churches clock tower. Visiting the observation deck is recommended (5 €). Actually, the best view you can have is on the tower of St. Petri Church near to the town hall. If you are sporty you can arrive to the highest point (544 steps, 123 meters) and see the most beautiful view over the city!
Visiting the St. Michaelis Church, you can continue with the Portuguese quarter. Here you can find many Portuguese restaurants. Lastly, I would recommend to watch the sunset from the observation deck to the port Landungsbrücken, just in front of the Jugendherberge am Hamburger Hafen.
Insider Tip: As another option for exploring the city, you can take a ride on Hamburg’s oldest subway line, the U3 line which drives through the most beloved and interesting neighborhoods in Hamburg. Take the front seat from the station St. Pauli to Station Rathaus. You will have an amazing view at the harbor. U3 ist the most beautiful public transport ever! I have even met some people who have the tattoo of this subway…
Eat a Traditional Italian Pizza at Luigi´s
Luigi’s pizzeria –Ditmar – Koel – Str. 21– is in the heart of the Portuguese quarter. It is a small, cozy restaurant with reddish decor all over. The staff is very friendly. Pizza is cooked in a wood burning oven and must say it is very tasty and enormous with cheap prices. Finishing your pizza, you will get a bottle of sambuca. Get ready to stay in line.
Have a Drink at the Rooftop Bar
clouds – Heaven’s Bar & Kitchen
Clouds –Reeperbahn 1– is the Hamburg’s highest restaurant and bar on the 23rd floor, along with a rooftop terrace on the 24th and top floor of the Tanzende Türme (Dancing Towers). The Tanzende Türme are two high-rises at the eastern end of Reeperbahn in St. Pauli. It was completed in 2013.
Clouds is the place where you can drink delicious cocktails and enjoy the breathtaking view over Hamburg. If you like the mix of ginger and vodka, the cocktail Moscow Mule is highly recommended!
P.S.: Unfortunately I don´t have any photo from the terrace of this bar since I have been kicked out from the bar while I was making photos in the prohibited area of the closed terrace.
Watch the Water Light Show at the
Planten un Blumen Park
The Planten un Blumen Park is an amazing destination for families, romantic couples and those seeking relaxation. There is a botanical garden with a tropical greenhouse and the largest Japanese garden in Europe with its romantic rose garden with over 300 different varieties.
This park also offers water light shows with music by the park’s lake every night at 10 pm from May to September. You just need to take a blanket and a bottle of wine for experiencing a romantic night in Hamburg.
A Night in Reeperbahn
Reeperbahn…The red-light district of Hamburg. If you want to have a good night there, you have to drink a bottle of gin, then you will feel like it is the best place ever. Actually, it can be disgusting. I have many experiences like drunk people puked on my shoes or even worse. Never mind, you should have an experience in this district!
Here are many restaurants, bars, clubs, strip clubs, sex shops, brothels and similar businesses for reasonable prices. A famous landmark is the Herberstraße. The entrance to the street is prohibited for women and sex workers behind windows waiting for their customers.
The Große Freiheit(“Great Freedom”) is a famous street with several bars, clubs, and table dance club like Dollhouse. The street was named in 1610. It comes from the fact that, at that time, Catholics were allowed to practice their religion here because it did not yet belong to Protestant Hamburg where they were forbidden from doing so. In the early 1960s, the Beatles started their career in various music clubs along this street. You can also visit the Beatles Square at the street corner of Große Freiheit. John Lennon supposedly said, “I was born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg.”
The Operettenhaus, a musical theatre, is also located at the Reeperbahn. Here played many famous musicals like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats for many years, after that Mamma Mia!, Ich war noch niemals in New York”, (“I have never been to New York”). There are also other theatres at Reeperbahn such as St. Pauli Theater, Imperial Theater, Schmidt’s Tivoli and also several Cabarets.
I personally recommend the street Hamburger Berg – next to the KFC- , where the crowd is young and there are various options for bars from electronic to the metal music. I personally prefer going to Pooca Bar – Hamburger Berg 12 – where you can enjoy some deep/techhouse. If you like commercial music or reggaeton, Barbara Bar – Hamburger Berg 11– would be a good option. One of the most popular bars here is Rosi’s –Hamburger Berg 7 -, named after Rosi McGinnity who opened it in 1969. She flirted with the Beatles, married the British musician Tony Sheridan, and their son runs the bar today.
Rave at Südpol or Waagenbau or Übel und Gefährlich
If you are interested in electronic music and want to experience an underground German rave day&night, I would recommend you my favorite club Südpol – Süderstr. 112 – where many local djs of Hamburg play. It is the place where you will feel like belonging to a community. Here you can meet many local and friendly people who really love and feel the music. Just go and enjoy it there! My second favourite club is the Waagenbau – Max-Brauer-Allee 204 – . If you like techno/techhouse, you will love this underground club! Lastly, Übel und Gefährlich (Bunker) – Feldstraße 66 – is one of the famous clubs for locals and tourists in Hamburg and is a landmark of the city. Mostly electronic music events are taking place, and famous djs are playing at this club. Besides, you can enjoy the beautiful view of Hamburg from its terrace. Leaving the Bunker, you can go around the St Pauli Stadium just next to the club.
Hamburg Fisch Market
No one should leave Hamburg before visiting the legendary Fisch Market in the port –Große Elbstr. 2a -. I would recommend to go there after partying to eat a fish sandwich and drink a cold beer or for a last dance with the songs of a live Schlager&folk music band… The Fish Market is open from 5am to 9:30am, and there’s not only fish for sale in this 100-year-old fish hall, but also flowers and fresh fruits.
Have Breakfast at Kostbar Bistro Cafe
Kostbar –Susannenstraße 36– is a cozy, little place with simple but homemade food which is very tasty and reasonably priced. It is also vegetarian friendly, has a lively atmosphere, offers varied delicious breakfast choices and smoothies. Besides, it is also a good place just to have a drink. Cream of pumpkin soup is highly recommended!
Street Art in the Karo & Schanze District
Schanze and Karo Districts are very popular but are generally considered as the hip corners of Hamburg – quite a controversial topic on the other side. However, the fact is that in addition to a plenty of trendy stores or bars, you will find a lot of interesting street art in various forms. Besides its local street artists, many internationally known artists have also left their mark in Hamburg. Remember that particular works frequently disappear, and new ones are added. So, you can always discover something new.
Falafel at Kimo
Go here and enjoy tasty falafel –Schanzenstraße 111-. The food is fresh and delivered with a huge smile. These are the reasons of the long line . However, they work on crazy speed. You will not wait much.
The Best Museums in Hamburg
You will find countless museums in Hamburg, so I will address to my top three for your weekend trip.
The largest digitally controlled model railway system in the world, Miniatur Wunderland – Kehrwiederspitze 2 – is directly on the Elbe in Hambrug´s Speicherstadt and only 10 minutes to walk to the International Maritime Museum. You can experience just in a few hours, many days and nights in the most diverse regions of the world. From Vegas to six-meter-high Alps, everything is possible in this Wonderland.
On this huge complex you will meet 215,000 mini-inhabitants, 930 trains, 58,850 cars, 3,660 buildings and bridges… It has been also enriched with two attractions since 2013: Elbe Philharmonic Hall and HafenCity. There is even an airport with plains taking off and landing. These all may take your 2 hours. In addition, there is always a long queue here. In order to avoid waiting time you can buy your ticket in advance or make a reservation online. This enables you to enter the Wonderland without waiting.
International Maritime Museum : 3000 Years of Maritime History
The International Maritime Museum Hamburg (IMMH) – Koreastraße 1 -, is also very interesting and can be perfectly combined with the Miniatur Wunderland, as here many numerous miniature models of ships -including some made of gold and silver- are exhibited, but it also features merchant shipping, dreams of cruises, naval history and marine research… The exhibit is thus the world’s largest private collection of its kind.
Hamburg has a long maritime history, and a visit to the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg is a must for everyone who is enthusiastic about the stories of explorers and conquerors, captains and simple seafarers.
Hamburger Kunsthalle (Art Museum) – Glockengießerwall – should be visited if you are an art lover. The three impressive buildings hosts one of the most important art collections in Germany, featuring masterpieces from the Middle Ages up to the 21st century. Alone in the permanent exhibitions you will find the collection of 700 years of art and ranks.
P.S. : These photos were taken with Sony Alpha 6000.