Hamburg attracts visitors from all over the world with its many art museums, 19th century architecture, and vibrant neighbourhoods. The city’s notorious yet popular Red Light District is home to nightclubs, theatres, and erotic art museums. It’s also where the Beatles first made their mark during the 1960s, with numerous bars plastered with posters and memorabilia of the iconic British rock band.
Once home to the largest port in Northern Germany, Hamburg also has a UNESCO-listed warehouse district that’s home to unique museums, coffee manufacturers, and cosy cafes. Make the most out of your holiday by checking out our list of the best things to see, do and try in Hamburg.
SpeicherstadtCheck out the many museums in this historical district
Speicherstadt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hamburg, housing a maze of brick warehouses and narrow canals dating back to the 19th century. Built near the Elbe River, it’s one of the world’s largest warehouse complexes, and is a great example of Gothic Revival architecture. Many buildings have been converted into museums, cafés, and restaurants. Popular tourist spots include the Hamburg Dungeon and Miniatur Wunderland. You can either explore Speicherstadt on foot or cruise down the canals in a motorboat.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 10am to 6pm
- Location: 850 metres from Hamburg City Hall, Germany
St. Michaelis ChurchClimb 453 steps to the top of the bell tower
St. Michaelis Church is a Hanseatic Protestant church in central Hamburg. It can seat up to 2,500 people at a time, making it the city’s largest church. Founded in the early 17th century, it features elegant Baroque architecture, marble carvings, pipe organs, and illustrations of Jesus Christ.
The church’s most popular feature is the bell tower, which stands at 132 metres tall. There’s an observation deck overlooking the entire Hamburg cityscape. Climb up the 453-step stairway if you’re up for the challenge or take the lift to save time. The best time to visit is at dusk as you get to enjoy a spectacular sunset view over the city and Elbe River. Entrance to the bell tower costs around €5.
- Opening Hours: November – April: daily from 10am to 6pm, May – October: daily from 9am to 8pm
- Location: Englische Planke 1, 20459 Hamburg, Germany
- Tel: +49 (0)40 376 780
FischmarktStop by this historical market for breakfast and the live fish auction
Fischmarkt (Fish Market) is a traditional market with hundreds of stalls selling fresh produce, souvenirs, clothing, and street food. Founded in 1703, this is the oldest market in Hamburg and is mostly known for its bustling Markthalle (Auction Hall). The market is held every Sunday morning, and you’ll experience a jovial atmosphere of traders hawking various seafood to marketgoers passing by their stalls. It’s also a good spot for breakfast or brunch as there are plenty of food vendors selling beer and German dishes such as fischbrötchen (fish sandwiches), wurst (sausage), and pretzels.
- Opening Hours: Sunday from 5am to 9.30am
- Location: St. Pauli Fischmarkt 2, 20359 Hamburg, Germany
Hamburg City HallJoin the 40-minute tour of the 19th-century building
Hamburg City Hall is a Neo-Renaissance building that houses the city’s parliament and senate. Built between 1886 and 1897, there are 647 rooms in total, all of which are fitted with ornate tapestries, paintings, and chandeliers. Sculptures and portraits of notable citizens can be found within the building and the courtyard has a fountain of patron goddess Harmonia. You can only visit City Hall by joining a guided tour, which is available in English and German. There’s an open-air square in front of Hamburg City Hall, where you can enjoy festivals, seasonal markets, and concerts throughout the year. A great example of the extravagant Renaissance architecture, the city hall gives you plenty of memorable snapshots during your visit.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 6pm
- Location: Rathaus, Rathausmarkt, Hamburg
Miniatur WunderlandCheck out the world’s largest model railway exhibit
Miniatur Wunderland is home to thousands of miniature models of prominent cities, railway systems, ports, and airports. Everything you see here is made in great detail and even moves like its real-life counterparts. The museum’s model railway exhibit is one of its most popular attractions, where you can see tiny locomotives cruising around the 15,400-metre-long track. There’s also a replica of Hamburg in Miniatur Wunderland, featuring 50,000 human figurines and notable attractions such as Hagenbeck Zoo, Hamburg Central Station, and St. Michaelis Church.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 6pm
- Location: Kehrwieder 2-4, Block D, 20457 Hamburg
- Tel: +49 (0)40 300 6800
Hamburg’s Art MileVisit all 5 art museums using the Kunstmeile Pass
The Kunstmeile (Art Mile) consists of 5 renowned art museums in central Hamburg, namely the Bucerius Kunst Forum, Deichtorhallen, Kunsthalle, Kunstverein Hamburg, and Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. These venues showcase many artefacts, paintings, photographs, and sculptures, some of which are over 4,000 years old. Shorten your waiting time by getting the Kunstmeile Pass, which grants you access to all 5 museums.
Note that Kunstverein Hamburg, Kunsthalle, and Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg are closed every Monday, so plan your trip accordingly.
- Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday from 10am to 6pm, Thursday from 10am to 9pm (hours may vary by museum and season)
- Location: Central Hamburg, Germany
ReeperbahnRetrace the footsteps of the Beatles in this busy nightlife district
The neon-lit streets of Reeperbahn are lined with some of Hamburg’s most popular nightclubs, restaurants, bars, and pubs. Reeperbahn is also called the Sin Mile, thanks to its many brothels, sex shops, erotic theatres, cabaret shows, sex museums, and strip clubs. While it’s a fascinating place to see, photography is obviously not allowed here, unless you want to get an earful from the bouncers.
Reeperbahn is also where the Beatles performed and made their first recording back in the 1960s. If you’re a fan of the Brit icons, Top Ten Club, Indra Club, and Kaiserkeller are some of the bars you should visit.
- Location: Reeperbahn, Hamburg, Germany
Lake AlsterEnjoy a paddle boat ride on this vast lake
Lake Alster is a 160-hectare lake that’s divided into the Außenalster (Outer Alster) and the Binnenalster (Inner Alster). It’s surrounded by beautiful villas and lush parks with winding paths for cyclists and joggers. On sunny days, locals often enjoy activities like paddle boating and kayaking on this vast lake. Lake Alster often freezes over during wintertime, turning it into one of the largest ice-skating rinks in the city. The Jungfernstieg promenade is home to department stores, luxury boutiques, cafés, and restaurant overlooking Lake Alster.
- Location: 300 metres from Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg, Germany
Hamburger Dom FestivalRide the Ferris wheel to see panoramic views of Hamburg
Hamburger Dom is one of Northern Germany’s largest fun fair, lasting for 30 days 3 times per year – every spring, summer, and winter. It has been held in the Heiligengeistfeld neighbourhood in central Hamburg since 1893. Here, you’ll find over 250 attraction, including a huge Ferris wheel, roller coasters, and haunted houses. Be sure to stay for the impressive fireworks display every Friday at 10.30pm. Entrance to Hamburger Dom is free, but expect to pay a few euros for individual rides. If you’re here on a Wednesday, you get to enjoy discounts on selected rides.
- Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday from 3pm to 11pm, Friday – Saturday from 3pm to midnight, Sunday 2pm to 11pm
- Location: Heiligengeistfeld, 20359 Hamburg, Germany
FischbrötchenSample the best fish sandwiches during Hamburg’s Port Birthday
Fischbrötchen is basically a sandwich filled with pickled or soused Bismarck herring, onions, remoulade, pickles, and horseradish sauce. This simple dish can be found in most restaurants along the Elbe River and food stalls in the Fischmarkt (Fish Market). If you’re visiting Hamburg in May, its annual Port Birthday is where you can find various food stalls serving fischbrötchen, with unique ingredients such as fish roe, eel, crabmeat, mackerel, shrimp, and salmon.
Burg Coffee MuseumJoin the guided tour with coffee tasting session
The Burg Coffee Museum is a café, coffee roastery, and museum that was founded in 1923. Occupying a 19th-century warehouse in Speicherstadt, this museum has an extensive collection of coffee memorabilia, such as canisters, grinders, and mugs. The café is a good spot for relaxation after exploring the museum, where you can enjoy a variety of cakes and pastries with a mug of coffee. The museum offers a 50-minute tour for about €10, which includes a sample of roasted coffee to take home. You can also enjoy a coffee-tasting session for an additional fee.
- Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 10am to 6pm (closed on Mondays)
- Location: St. Annenufer 2, 20457 Hamburg, Germany
- Tel: +49 40 5520 4258
FranzbrötchenEnjoy this delicious pastry for breakfast with coffee
Franzbrötchen is a sweet pastry that’s commonly found in Hamburg and most cities in northern Germany. A mix of a croissant and cinnamon roll, it’s typically made with a flaky pastry with cinnamon-sugar filling. Locals claim that it was created during the 19th century, when the French introduced croissants to Hamburg citizens. Today, most bakeries, markets, and cafés in Hamburg sell franzbrötchen with a variety of fillings, including pumpkin seeds, raisins, marzipan, and chocolate sprinkles. Kleine Konditorei is a local bakery in Frankfurt that’s known for its award-winning franzbrötchen. It has four outlets, all of which are located in the Eimsbüttel neighbourhood.
- Opening Hours: Monday – Friday from 6am to 7pm, Saturday from 7am to 6pm, Sunday from 7.30am to 6pm
- Location: Warnstedtstraße 28-32, 22525 Hamburg
- Tel: +49 40 6003 9090
MönckebergstrasseShop for clothes, antiques, and souvenirs at this traditional shopping street
Mönckebergstrasse, near Hamburg City Hall, is a tree-lined shopping street where you can find a mix of department stores, antique shops, and independent boutiques. This pedestrian-friendly district is home to Karstadt Sport, one of Europe’s largest sportswear complex. Saturn is where you can find vinyl records, CDs and DVDs, as well as computers and video games. There are also plenty of cafés, bars, and restaurants if you want to take a break from shopping. Order a drink or two and indulge in a bit of people-watching as shoppers go about their day.
- Opening Hours: Monday – Friday from 10am to 8pm (business hours may vary)
- Location: Mönckebergstraße, 20095 Hamburg, Germany