Hamburg is one of Germany’s busiest and largest cities, straddling the River Elbe and booming with historical architecture, long-standing cultures, and successful maritime trade. Long known as an international city, Hamburg is one of Germany’s top tourist destinations. From well-preserved ancient structures to elegant modern museums, this city is a sweet spot for every traveller.
What to see and do
One of the city’s big draws is the gorgeous Alster Lake, which lies at the heart of Hamburg. A serene lake that dispenses into the River Elbe, it is bordered by lush greenery, parks, and charming buildings. Notice how all the buildings here are white with copper roofs – a mandate set by the state to maintain the scenic beauty of the lake. Take a leisurely boat ride out into the water, or stroll around its perimeters.
To spend more than just time, head down to the exquisite Jungfernstieg, one of Germany’s most delightful shopping belts. Located just in front of Binnenalster (inner-Alster Lake), this promenade has many luxurious exploits to offer. Its oldest building is the Alster Pavillon, which has been housing one of Germany’s most beautiful restaurants and a spectacular view of the Alster Lake since 1799 – the perfect way to punctuate your shopping expedition here.
If you’ll be in Hamburg on a Sunday, a must-visit is its classic Fischmarkt (fish market) along the River Elbe. Be surrounded by a charming atmospheric mix of live music, a bustling crowd of grocery-shopping locals, and boisterous hawkers offering their fresh catches, fruit baskets, and exotic flowers. Rumour has it that the shouting of the shopkeepers can be heard all the way from the neighbouring Reeperbahn!
A visit to Hamburg isn’t complete without walking through some of its famous museums. The Kunsthalle (art hall) is the city’s biggest, a stout Renaissance building housing some of the most important works, including those of 17th-Century Dutch painter Rembrandt. Don’t miss out on the spooky Hamburg Dungeon (Speicherstadt), which documents the great tragedies of the region and exhibits historic torture methods; and Panoptikum, the oldest and largest wax museum in Germany.
The S-Bahn (suburban) and U-Bahn (underground) trains travel throughout the city and are the easiest way to get around. On weekends and public holidays the main routes run all night. These networks are complemented by metro buses, express buses, sprinter buses, and regional buses that take you even nearer to your destination. The ferries serving the harbour and River Elbe can be accessed using the same ticket for public transport, so you can easily take a trip down the river or around the harbour. If you’ll be travelling by public transport, consider choosing from the city’s range of economical ticket packages – from group tickets to concession passes, these options will save you a ton.
The biking culture in Hamburg is as strong as many other German cities. The public bike system, StadtRAD Hamburg, can loan you bicycles from around 80 stations or over the phone.
Getting to Hamburg
The city is served by the state-of-the-art Hamburg Airport, which handles many domestic and international carriers. Airlines travel from all over the globe, including major cities in Europe, as well as Dubai and New York. The Airport Express will take you to Hamburg within a mere 20 minutes.
On land, Hamburg is well-connected by rail, with four long-distance train stations linked to the rest of Germany and Europe via rapid trains. You may travel here from all the main cities in Germany, such as Munich, Stuttgart, Cologne, and Frankfurt, and also from Northern European destinations like Copenhagen and Stockholm.