Hamburg is the second biggest city in Germany. So there is a lot of things to do in Hamburg. It has a different vibe than Berlin but that might not be necessarily wrong. Hamburg seems to have much more free spirit than Berlin. Or at least in my opinion. Unlike Berlin that is full of history, Hamburg is full of industry and navy attractions. But not just them. Here is my list!
Canals and warehouse district
I didn’t know that before, but the center of Hamburg is just filled up with small canals that go around the warehouse district. And these buildings are quite old, so you will get the atmosphere of an old industrial town. There are of course boat cruises, so if you go to the smaller boats, you will get to see even the canals and possible warehouse district from the boat as well as the harbor and piers that are very favorite as well.
Even though to me it sounds like the most fun places were located around the harbor, the city center is majestic and should be one of the things to do in Hamburg. Here it is enough maybe just to walk. Go around the city hall, and the cathedrals and churches. You get to see a lot in just an hour of walk around. And you get to know a lot about the city, without necessary hiring a guide. For example, you get to see that some of the buildings are still a bit more damaged. And yes, it is from bombing from the second world war. They didn’t get fully renovated and in some sense, it feels ok because that way you get to see the history bit more than just by hearing about it. During summer, there is a lot of pubs with outside seating areas which is nice to just sit and observe there, while drinking German beer.
New opera house and harbor
The Elbphilmarmonie is definitely one of the musts when it comes to things to do in Hamburg. This massive building that stands out in the harbor area, is actually a concert hall. Even though it looks fancy, you can get in for just a few euro during the day, to see all the halls inside. If you are interested in some sort of music show, you will need to book it quite ahead. Or at least if we are talking about famous names. You can also get a ticket to some alternative show a day before for about 40 euros.
When finishing the tour through the new opera, go and have a look around the harbor (or again, go for a cruise, I cannot recommend it more). There is quite a lot of other interesting buildings, such as the main building of Green Peace or the Portuguese neighborhood close by. You also get to see there other music halls. Some of them are quite from far saying Marry Poppins and Lion King. They don’t have any other shows than these two. And yes, they are quite touristy, but if you like these musicals, why not. It is quite affordable music number, you get to see there.
Reeperbahn and St Pauli
It simply cannot get unmentioned. In case you have never heard about this street, it is about half kilometer place full of strip clubs, brothels, and weird party places. Why go there? It is so bizarre, that most of the people have to see it in their own eyes. You get to see red lights everywhere, people will try to lure you in (even girls, I was told, that they have male strippers too. Equality you know!). And somewhere between these clubs, you get to find Burger King or even McDonalds. You know, in case you want a really happy meal.
Even though it might sound bizarre, this place is actually like this for a very long time and it has a good reason. Hamburg has one of the biggest harbors for a very long time. This place is very close to it and sailors came here to well, “not to feel so lonely” would be a decent way to put it.
This place was and to some extent, it still probably is the main street of Hamburg underground and local crime. It might sound horrible but actually, if you are just a tourist going through, nothing will happen. There are police cars on every corner. You can also get a commented tour here, where your guide will tell you everything about this street and yes, it is quite fascinating and you will definitely see the city through different eyes.
Things to do in Hamburg: Museums
To be honest, I’m not always complete freak about museums, so here are just the ones that are quite special.
Yep, here we go again. The boats. But here is a good reason why to visit them, since Hamburg has one of the biggest harbors in Europe. You get to see 5 floors full of boats and everything that even remotely belong to sailing. You don’t need to be a navy lover to like this place, for example, I spend a good time staring at the boat models and the paintings, while my boyfriend was looking at some technical things. Besides this, you can try to drive a boat here, or get to know more about clothing and pirates.
Trains, mini-cities, world wonders, you say it, it is there. Literally anything. Just in small measures. Very often moving and reacting to different things. Miniature Wonderland is definitely one of the top things to do in Hamburg. And you can spend there quite a long time. The museum is also expanding quite rapidly. And perhaps because of it, it is one of the very few places that you can visit from 7 in the morning till 11 in the evening. But an important thing here: book a ticket! We went there at the beginning of the March, so kinda offseason, and we had to reserve a visit for another day because it was so full. So before you go there, reserve a ticket online. It takes a few minutes and better be safe than sorry.
Extra tip for families: Hamburg zoo
Actually, it is a zoo and aquarium. But it is definitely something worth to visit, especially if you have little kids. In the aquarium part (where you really don’t need a jacket) are even little tropical monkeys, and some lizards. You can stare at a massive big aquarium for a long time which is quite calming and not just for kids.
The zoo is really big with a lot of animals. And it is also made so you are most likely see the animals, not just find out that they have a quiet time (well, they can, which is also very important, but at the time when we were there, everyone was outside). So check the feeding time, because that is quite a spectacular show even for grownups.
When to go?
For Christmas markets, definitely at the end of November/beginning of December.
For nice warm evenings around the harbor, definitely from May till September. May and September itself will be less crowded.
All the other months are sort of offseason, but you can also expect not so nice weather.
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