Hi everyone, I am planning a trip September 3-8 this year to Hamburg with day trip to either Bremen or Lübeck. Any advice? I’ve been to Germany 7-8 times, having been to Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Heidelberg, Rothenburg, etc. I’ve recently read more about Hamburg. Any thoughts or recommendations will be appreciated. Thanks.
Oh, absolutely. I loved our 3 days there. Took a train out to Bremerhaven for the amazing emigration museum (https://www.bremerhaven.de/en/tourism/museums-adventure-worlds/german-emigration-center-bremerhaven.16186.html)
which was very well done; we learned so much. Loved going out to Lubeck as well. The medieval gates are something else, and they have a big marzipan store in town so now every time I see a marzipan display I think of Lubeck. And in Hamburg we saw a concert at the Elbphilharmoie just so we could see inside all of this incredible building. (https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/04/hamburg-elbphilhamonie-herzog-de-meuron-a-cathedral-for-our-time)
Most definitely. Hamburg is the cultural center of North Germany. If you set aside a day trip, then I would suggest Lüneburg,. Eutin/Holstein, or Lübeck. There are numerous choices using Hamburg Hbf as a radius.
How about seeing the countryside in Schleswig-Holstein. How about Husum or the city of Schleswig.
You could go straight east to Schwerin in Mecklenburg from Hamburg Hbf, very doable as a day trip. I've done it.
I love Hamburg! It doesn't have the standard "downtown" central square and old town, but it has SO MUCH to see and do.
Hamburg has more musicals than any city except NY and London, so if you can catch a musical, that's awesome. The Lion King is a familiar story and accessed mostly by ferry, so that's a good choice--but it sells out quickly and is pricier. The cheaper ones are often in places like the more intimate theatres (think old time theatres and tables) at places like the Reeperbahn. However, these are likely to be in German, so you will have to determine if you want to just enjoy the experience. If you are up for that, I recommend Heiße Ecke, a very local and popular production. All of this assuming that they are open, of course.
The "Elphi" (Elbphilharmonic) has a viewing deck if you are unable to get or not interested in concert tickets. You can visit the Störtebeker brewery tasting room and get the story of the local pirate / city ghost, Klaus Störtebeker. If you like breweries, visit the Ratsherrn in Sternschanze as well. The Altes Mädchen is a hipster place to eat before or after your tour. The Sternschanze neighbourhood is a great place to watch the local leftie scene, get a great brunch, or walk down past the Rote Flora, the theatre that became a leftie squatter place. Bars and cafes and eateries galore in this neighbourhood! Wander down to the Rindermarkthalle and see the bunker tower at the Heiligengeistfeld (Feldstraße).
The Reeperbahn, the famous red light street, is worth a visit, though how you do it is a matter of personal preference. During the day it's quiet, though the Spielbudenplatz at the St. Pauli station might have anything from flea markets to mass yoga to food trucks (normally, Covid results may vary). Souvenir shops, some lunch places, and even some of the raunchier shops will be open. The Brewdog at the base of the Dancing Towers serves craft beer, the Astra brewery on the other end near Beatles Platz a local favourite beer. The Beatles Platz is also the intersection with Große Freiheit street, so named for religious reasons and not, as is often assumed, for the freedom to be raunchy. The Beatles got their start at the Kaiserkeller (Große Freiheit 36). The church across the street is also worth a visit. There are numerous guided tours of the Reeperbahn depending on your comfort level and sense of humour. Or simply walk down at night and explore the nightlife. It's very safe except for pick pockets. In any event the Reeperbahn is well worth seeing; your own research and comfort level will determine how you see it.
The waterfront is a key part of Hamburg's history, so you need to do it properly. That means from the water. The Maritime Circle Line does waterfront tours in German and English and gets you close to the container ships. If you are on a tight budget, just hop the ferries and enjoy a day cruise as part of your daily public transport pass. That's what many locals do when they want to get on the water on a nice day! Line 62 runs less frequently but offers the best river cruise experience. A tour that goes through the Speicherstadt might also be fun, but likely in German. Be sure to wander around Speicherstadt and see the Wasserschloss and Chilehaus. Attractions in this area include the Dialog im Dunkeln (eating in pitch black), Miniaturwunderland (don't underestimate this!), and the Sandtorhafen. If you like coffee and aren't on a super tight budget, have brunch at the Speicherstadt Kaffeerösterei. You'll need a reservation, but you won't be sorry.
Between the waterfront at Landungsbrücken and the Michel (St. Michaelis church) is the Portuguese quarter, great for a glass of wine and some tapas. On either end are the Scandanavian churches. Behind the Michel, tucked in an alley, is the Krameramtstuben. Be sure to visit this cool little alley, the widow homes, and look up at the chimneys or try to get the good view of the Michel.
More next post.
From the Michel, cross the main road to the Großneumarkt and have a meal on the square in view of the Michel. Head down the Peterstraße past the Brahms museum for older buildings and a nod to Hamburg's classical heritage. This pops you out at the Museum of Hamburg History, where you can see the alleged skull of the aforementioned Störtebeker. The Maritime Museum in Speicherstadt is also great. And if your ancestors came from Germany, a visit to Ballinstadt Emigrant Museum is a must.
Also not to be missed if it's open is the Fischmarkt on Sunday mornings. It starts at 5, when the revellers from the Reeperbahn come down to continue the party. Have a beer and an omelette and enjoy the live music and the odd mix of bachelor party remnants and early morning market-goers. It's wonderful! Right near there is the U-boat museum, the small but interesting Haifischbar, the Park Fiction, and Überquell brewery. All are great for getting the local scene. And do NOT miss the old Elbtunnel!
Walk down the Deichstraße and duck into the alley between 39 / 41. This takes you onto the little floating dock on the Nikolaifleeth to see a few places that have survived Hamburg's numerous destructions. From there cross over to the Nikolai church, the bombed out remains of a truly gorgeous church, to understand the destruction of Hamburg during Operation Gomorrah. Underneath, you will find a little museum that remains us that while Hamburg suffered greatly during WWII, it was a suffering brought about by Germany's own actions and that more innocent people suffered as much or more. From there, pass the Pudelhaus (look for the little poodle on top and hear the story of its name), cross the Trostbrücke bridge, pass the old city hall, and end up back at the Rathaus, the city hall. This building has more rooms than Buckingham palace, and the courtyard often hosts neat little exhibitions. The nearby Binnenalster lake is a great place to feed the swans. But don't insult them--that's technically illegal in Hamburg.
Planten un Blomen park is a great place to see if you can catch the Wasserlichtkonzerte water fountain show (Covid restrictions permitting) or to watch the locals, get some park air, etc. It's a beautiful park / botanical garden. If parks are your thing, locals also like the Volkspark in Altona, the Stadtpark in Winterhude, the botanical gardens in Klein Flottbek, and many more; it's a VERY green city!
You should also head to the beach! Take the train out to Blankenese, the wealthy part of town, and walk down through the Treppenviertel, the "stairs quarter." Cobbled alleys between reed-roofed homes that have amazing views gives you a mix of a Mediterranean and traditional north German feel. At the bottom you can enjoy the beach (including a shipwreck). There is also the beach at Övelgönne with its "Old Swede" stone and the well known Strandperle restaurant. Or, if sand isn't your thing, rent a canoe or a SUP on the Außenalster and explore the canals and villas of Hamburg's wealthy neighbourhoods.
Hamburg's zoo is also worth it if you have time; one of the first to experiment with natural habitats, it continues to be a leading innovator among zoos. There are capybaras running around, and you can buy veggies and feed the elephants out of your hand. Or find the spot where the fences are so well blended in that it looks like the zebras and lions are part of one enclosure or landscape. Or have a close encounter with a penguin. The next door Tropenhaus is still closed because of Covid, but you can get friendly with lemurs there.
The Boberger Dunes offer a neat escape into nature, and Schloss Ahrensburg is worth a visit. Or cross the river and visit Kiekeberg / Wildpark Schwarze Berge. The Airbus tour is only so-so.
Okay, that's the Hamburg highlights. You can see why several of us recommend more than just the day or two most travellers give it!
For day trips, people have mentioned Lübeck (great choice), Lüneburg (include the Lüneburg heath if possible), and Bremen, a favourite of ours. Also worth seeing are Stade (think half-timbered brick homes) and Glückstadt (cute square, a harbour similar to that in Copenhagen, and dikes with sheep).
You might also consider Helgoland, a small island in the North Sea. This little island has a unique history and is known for its red cliffs, seals, bird watching, duty free shopping, and even has its own language! If you have a translation option, the bunker tour is really good, but it is only offered in German. Otherwise a walk around the island's upper section is a great experience. It is a full day, with a long ferry ride across the North Sea (if you leave directly from Hamburg on the catamaran you have a nice trip up the Elbe first) each way--a great trip if you have the time and money (ferry is expensive). A slightly cheaper but more complicated option is to take a ferry from Büsum or from Cuxhaven.
And of course there is St. Peter-Ording. This is hands down one of the most amazing and unique beaches you will ever see and a UNESCO site for a reason. If you know how to ride, take a horse tour; horses are an integral part of North German culture, and there is nothing like galloping down this beach! But it is truly special even without the horse option, and you will not regret it.
Finally, there is a lot of information on the many places to visit in Mecklenburg-- places like Schwerin, Warnemünde, Wismar, etc. I would not shortchange those ideas for day trips!
I was about to say that yes, Hamburg is worth 4 day without a doubt. It is in my opinion an underrated city. But HowlinMad beat me to it, excellent summary and I have nothing to add!
We went to Hamburg for the first time in 2019 and found it delightful and fascinating.
We didn't take any day-trips from the city (apart from Heligoland), but on the same holiday did stay overnight in Lubeck and Luneburg (and elsewhere). Both were well worth visiting. Based on my limited experience, I'd say Luneburg is the more laid back day trip. The sights are limited (but enough for a day, especially the fascinating Rathaus), but it is an attractive town to potter around in. Ideal for some R&R. Lubeck has more "big sights" (more than one can do in a day, certainly), and whilst parts are oldy-worldy, it was also more modern with the replacement for the bomb damage during the War. I guess Lubeck would be the more interesting day-trip with its gatehouse and museums. We preferred Luneburg.
As for Hamburg itself, it is brilliant. Has anyone mentioned Miniatur Wunderland? Just fantastic. But so much else to see and such an easy place to get around. We were there five full days and utterly loved it, with no feeling we had "done it".
Thanks so much for all of the recommendations.
Thread bookmarked for a future trip to Hamburg. Thanks, HowlinMad!
Always love getting people excited about my home!