by Janis / 0 comments - Orginally published:18th July 2023

Exploring North Germany’s port city

The port city of Hamburg, on the northern shores of Germany, is unquestionably a location you ought to be adding to your mini-break wish list. Hamburg has an incredible mix of astonishing history, modern culture, quirky features, and of course, charming waterways.

Hamburg is an eclectic city and embraces its past, present, and future equally. With my fondness for any town, village or city with meandering waterways, snaking canals, or bustling harbours, I knew Hamburg would be a city I loved.

There is so much to see and do in Hamburg. I recommend heading to the Visit Hamburg Tourist Information. There is one located just by St. Pauli Landungsbrücken, and from here, you can begin discovering Hamburg’s delightful riverside and Hafencity.

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Where is Hamburg

How to get to Hamburg

- By Air
Start creating your own Hamburg adventure and discover the UNESCO Speicherstadt district for yourself.
Search for your flights in one easy place with Over 400 airlines are scanned for your favoured routes and chosen dates.

- By Car
If you’re venturing from the UK, jump on Le Shuttle and tour Hamburg under your own steam.
Alternatively, it’s so easy to visit on a road trip. Rental Cars search multiple well-known car hire brands and discover the best deals that suit you.

Why not stop over in Aachen on the way?

The re-energised district of Speicherstadt in Hamburg is a delight to explore. This fascinating quarter of the city was Germany’s 40th UNESCO World Heritage Site and was inscribed in 2015.
A street view of the Speicherstadt warehouse district of Hamburg at dusk with tall, imposing, illuminated red brick building under a purple sky.
Strolling the Speicherstadt district

The striking neo-gothic red brick warehouses stand as an important reminder of Hamburg’s industrial and maritime past and have been magnificently restored for all to enjoy today.

The site covers 260,000 square metres and is the world’s largest complex of warehouses.

A view of the Speicherstadt warehouse district of Hamburg at dusk. You look down the canal to the water castle with red brick buildings on either side with illuminated balconies.
The iconic view of the Speicherstadt district
The warehouses in Speicherstadt were erected into the Elbe River on oak poles between 1883 and the 1920s. During Hamburg’s nautical heyday, Speicherstadt would have been a thriving region of Hamburg, with its dockers unloading and manoeuvring their cargos.

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The Chilehaus is located in the Kontorhaus district of Hamburg, just a short hop from Speicherstadt and forms part of Hamburg’s UNESCO World Heritage site.

The modernist 10-story office building is a wonderful example of Brick Expressionism and was designed by the German architect Fritz Höger and built during the 1920s.

The sharp end of the Chilehaus office building at dusk under mauve to purple skies. This stylish 10-storey office block looks like a vision of the future as seen from the 1920s.

The Chilehaus is incredibly stylish with its sleek angles and definitive lines, designed to represent a ship’s prow. The building was commissioned by the shipping magnate Henry Brarens Sloman who was once the wealthiest person in Hamburg and imported saltpeter from his Chilean salt mines, hence Chilehaus.

Ensure you stroll past of an evening when the Chilehaus is illuminated.

Where to stay in Hamburg

Adina Apartment Hotel Hamburg Speicherstadt
A pleasant, modern apartment hotel on the edge of Hamburg's Speicherstadt district. Central for most amenities and has onsite parking.

 Best Western Premier Alsterkrug Hotel
This 4-star hotel is located near Hamburg airport and is a short distance into the city centre on public transport. The room was extremely comfortable, and the hotel offered a wide variety of food and drinks for breakfast.

You may not be attending a performance at the magnificent Elbphilharmonie; however, that’s no reason not to head to the incredible 360-degree viewing gallery. You’ll be greeted with breath-taking views across the city of Hamburg and the port below.
The elbphilharmonie concert building on the habour front as seen from across the river elbe in hamburg
The Elbphilharmonie on the harbour front,
The Elbe Philharmonic Hall opened in January 2017 and has already become an icon of Hamburg’s skyline. The Elbphilharmonie is located on the edge of the Elbe River, and the top section is built entirely of glass. The first 8 floors are within a brick façade, and the remaining 18 floors continue up through the shimmering glass that mimics sails and glistening waves.
Looking up for the dramatic white tiled escalator to the first stage of the Elbphilharmonie building.
The curved elevateors to the Elbphilharmonie
You can enjoy the views from the Elbphilharmonie for free; grab your ticket at the main entrance and hop on the world’s first arched escalator. The journey on the 82-metre-long curved escalator is a treat in itself.

If you've yet to discover Hamburg, then let’s start planning. I find these DK Travel Guides invaluable, they're extremely informative, easy to follow, and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more of those fascinating sites.

You can now grab a recently revised copy of this guidebook, so you won't miss a thing.

Just through a chance conversation with a couple in a Hamburg Christmas market, they recommended that we visit Miniatur Wunderland. Initially, I was sceptical as miniature railways aren’t really my thing; however, Gary said let’s give it a go, and we were so pleased we did.
A multi-level model railway scene leading from the mountains to the lake's edge in miniatur wunderland, hamburg, germany
The biggest train set in the world, Miniatur Wunderland
Miniatur Wunderland is located in a converted warehouse in the Speicherstadt district and is the world’s largest model railway. Many of Germany’s towns and cities are brought to life in intricate locomotive detail. They have even recreated daily life within an airport.
The Miniatur Wunderland also recreates locations around the world, such as Venice, the Italian Riviera, the Swiss mountains, and Las Vegas.
An easyjet flight at miniatur wunderland's airport at night in hamburg, germany
The airport in Miniatur Wunderland

I particularly enjoyed that every 15 minutes, the miniature railway covered a 24-hour period, so whichever location you are in, the museum descends into nightfall. This is great to see when the streets of Las Vegas are illuminated.

Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg is a great place to visit with all the family, even if they aren’t train enthusiasts.

Grab your Hamburg Card

Whether you are located in the heart of Hamburg or just out of the centre, the Hamburg Card will be very useful. With unlimited free public transport, we were able to scoot around everywhere.  You’ll also receive discounts on over 150 tourist attractions.

As you stroll west along the banks of the River Elbe, passing by the Elbphilharmonie, you’ll effortlessly arrive at Landungsbrücken Piers.

This delightful area of Hamburg is bustling with entertainment, cafés, and restaurants. It’s a lovely place to sit and watch boats sail by and an opportunity to grab an ice-cream.

A paddle steamer on the elbe river in front of the landungsbrücken piers, against the backdrop of the St Pauli district of hamburg, germany
The Landungsbrücken Piers

The floating piers and docks have become popular for locals and visitors alike to soak up the relaxed atmosphere and enjoy a traditional fischbrötchen.

Also, from the Landungsbrücken Piers, jump aboard a river and harbour tour and discover all about Hamburg’s nautical history.

As you continue to wend your way along the Landungsbrücken, you’ll arrive at the Old Elbe Tunnel, a historic site not to be missed.

This incredible tunnel was built in 1911 as a pedestrian and vehicle tunnel. For the tens of thousands of local dockworkers in Hamburg, this made a significant improvement to their day-to-day lives.

The art deco pedestrian entrance to the old Elbe tunnel with a brass plaque detailing facts about the tunnel.
The pedestrian entrance to the old Elbe Tunnel
The Alter Elbtunnel has two tunnels 426 metres (1,398 ft) long at 24 metres (80 ft) below the Elbe River surface. You’ll see four huge wooden fronted lifts which transported pedestrians and vehicles up and down the shaft. Today the tunnels are mainly used for cyclists and pedestrians; during the 1970s, the ‘new’ Elbe Tunnel and bridges were built further to the east.
Looking along the recently restored, brightly lit, tiled tunnel That takes you under the Elbe River. There is a footpath on either side and a narrow track in the centre for cyclists that was once used by cars.
The old Elbe Tunnel

The Old Elbe Tunnel in Hamburg has now been beautifully refurbished and kept in its original Art Deco style, with detailed glazed ceramic tiling all the way through. Dotted along the tunnel are stoneware depictions of fish, animals and litter associated with the Elbe River.

The Old Elbe Tunnel is free of charge to visit. When you emerge on the southern banks of the Elbe, you’ll get a spectacular view across to Landungsbrücken piers and the Hamburg skyline.

Hop-on Hop-off, sightseeing tour

Another great way to see Hamburg is jumping on a Hop-on – Hop-off sightseeing bus. We took Line A, and not only does it take you to the main sights around Hamburg, but it’ll also take you around districts that may not be on your ‘must-see’ list.
St Nicholas Church in the heart of Hamburg is an incredibly touching place to visit. The ancient church has been beleaguered with awful disasters, particularly during World War II, and now stands as a poignant memorial to all who visit.
Looking up at the tower of bombed of St Nikolai-church tower from the nave. This ruined church has now become a memorial and museum to the bombing of Hamburg during the Second World war.
St Nicholas’ Church tower
The Ordeal, by Edith Breckwoldt. A bronze statue of a barefooted man sitting on a pile of bricks with his head in his hands.
Bronze sculpture in memory of Sandbostel
The only remaining elements of St.-Nikolai-Kirche in Hamburg are the tower, spire, and crypt. The lonely tower and spire now house a lift that transports you 247 feet (75 metres) above to a viewing platform within the spire. Here you experience incredible views across Hamburg’s skyline, and you can read the fascinating black and white storyboards to gain an understating of the church’s history.
A view from the neo-gothic St Nikolai-church tower across the Rathaus to the been Binnenalster and beyond. On the right of the frame is a gargoyle, part of the tower structure.
A view of the Rathaus and beyond.
Within the crypt is a captivating museum, where we find out about St Nicholas Church’s whole timeline. From its origins as a Seaman’s chapel, the aftermath of Hamburg’s Great Fire and the devastation of WWII.

There are plenty of museums for you to visit in Hamburg and appears to have something to suit everyone.

If, like me, you love art and fancy brushing up on your artist knowledge head to Hamburg Kunsthalle. This a beautiful gallery, full of spectacular and captivating exhibitions.

The Hamburg Kunsthalle is one of the largest museums in Germany and has seven centuries of European art on display; the gallery is housed across three buildings.

The orange brick building of the Kunsthalle, Hamburg. This is the main building and dates from 1869 And is one of the largest museums in Germany. It's a must-see place if you're in the city.
Hamburger Kunsthalle

Alternatively, if you’d like to experience Hamburg’s gruesome and darker history, head to Hamburg Dungeons in the catacombs of Speicherstadt, just by the Miniatur Wunderland.

Or if you fancy swotting up on Hamburg’s nautical history, then visit the nearby International Maritime Museum housed in Hamburg’s oldest standing warehouse. If you love seafaring yarns, maritime history, and model ships, this is for you.

So often, underground train stations can be dull and uninspiring; however, the HafenCity Universität U-Bahn is a little different. You’ll even want to hop off the train to enjoy the whole illuminating experience.
The modernist styled HafenCity Universität U-Bahn station in its blue phase where the overhead lighting is projecting a blue glow around the across the platform.
HafenCity Universität in blue
Looking along the platform of HafenCity Universität U-Bahn station where the overhead lighting is projecting Has now transitioned to red lighting.
HafenCity Universität in red
Looking along the platform of HafenCity Universität U-Bahn station, where the overhead lighting is projecting green ambient lighting.
HafenCity Universität in green

HafenCity Universität station is on the U4 line, and all along the roofline are huge, illuminated, vibrant cubes which continually pulsate and change colour; they are truly mesmerising.

The station was designed by the architectural company Raupach Architekten. The design reflects the evolving nature of HafenCity, caused by the ever-changing appearance of the red brick warehouses throughout the day.

No German city is complete without its spectacular market square and Town Hall, and Hamburg is no exception.

The historic Rathaus in Hamburg stands proud within the Old Town and is very nearby Hamburg’s stylish shopping district and the Binnenalster, the vast open lake.

The floodlit gothic styled Rathaus of Hamburg under the blue sky of dusk, with street lights twinkling in the foreground.
The Rathaus at night

The City Hall houses Hamburg’s seat of government, the parliament and the senate, which still regularly assembles here.

The Rathausmarkt, the main square in front of Hamburg City Hall, is where various events occur throughout the year. One, in particular, is at Christmas time, when Santa takes to his sleigh and flies across the rooftops of the festive Christmas cabins.

Hamburg is an amazing city to visit all year-round; however, at Christmas time, it is truly magical; the whole of the city centre is transformed into a winter wonderland.
People walking between rows of Christmas huts in the Weihnachtsmarkt in Hamburg late in the evening.
The Christmas market stalls in Hamburg

We’ve visited many Christmas markets in Germany, and Hamburg at Christmastime was one of our favourites.

There are so many different yuletide markets to visit around Hamburg. Still, one that is particularly special is the main Hamburger Weihnachtsmarkt in front of the historic Rathaus.

Each evening Santa Claus takes to the skies and flies across the wooden rooftops of the festive cabins in is overflowing sleigh pulled by four reindeer.

Santa in his sleigh, pulled by his reindeer, soaring above the Hamburg Christmas Market with a church tower in the background.
Santa and his reindeer
I know what you are thinking, how many glühwein has she had? Honestly, even though the reindeer weren’t real, Santa Claus was, and it wasn’t just the children joining in with the fun.
When Gary and I travel anywhere in the UK or overseas, we always make an effort to seek out and try the local food and drink. After a little research prior to our visit to Hamburg, we found a speciality from the Hamburg region called Labskaus.
A bowl of Labskaus. A traditional corn beef and beetroot hash with a fried egg placed on top. This is a regional speciality of Hamburg.

Labskaus can be made in various ways, although the main ingredients in this dish were minced beef, egg, beetroot and a side dish of pickles and herring. Gary enjoyed it, although it wasn’t really my cup of tea.

In the UK, Scouse refers to locals from the city of Liverpool and is also the name of a regional Liverpudlian dish. Scouse and labskaus are believed to be derived from a hearty stew often eaten by sailors. So, it’s not just the Beatles that Hamburg and Liverpool have in common.

A couple of portions of Currywurst. Sliced sausages with lashings of curry sauce and dusted with curry powder, served with the obligatory crusty bread roll.
Currywurst from a street vendor

For Gary and I, any trip to Germany wouldn’t be complete without a currywurst, especially standing in a Christmas market with a glühwein.

If you fancy trying one or maybe two of the region’s beers, head to Brauhaus Joh. Albrecht just by Adolphsbrücke. It has a great selection of beers and a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere.

A large brightly polished copper Mash Tun at the Joh Albrecht brewhouse in Hamburg.
Inside Brauhaus Joh. Albrecht
A nearly empty glass of ratsherrn beer from hamburg
Slipping back a treat

Other places you may like to check out are;

Tables and chairs and oak barrels outside the traditional restaurant schoppenhauer in hamburg at night
Restaurant Schoppenhauer

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