What to do with 36 hours in Hamburg, Germany

In Europe, Germany, Mini Breaks, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, Unesco, World Travelby Janis6 Comments

A city of style, culture, waterways and tunnels

This was our second visit to the charming city of Hamburg in northern Germany, and I certainly don’t think it will be our last.

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

I just love it down by the harbour, the bustling Elbe River is not only transporting inquisitive visitors along its waterways.

It’s also has a day job to carry on with.
 
While Hamburg is a port city, you feel that this is truly part of its charm and strolling around the Speicherstadt district with its striking warehouses is magnificent.

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A little history

Hamburg is a Free and Hanseatic City, which originates from the mediaeval Hanseatic League. These were a collective of key defensive market towns and a confederation of merchant guilds, through northwestern Europe. They played a prominent role in maritime trade through the Baltic and the North Sea.

A red tug travelling along the Elbe River in front of the landing stages, against the backdrop of the St Pauli district of Hamburg.

The Elbe River

Where to start

With there being so much to see and do in Hamburg I highly recommend starting at Visit Hamburg Tourist Information centre. There is one located St. Pauli Landungsbrücken, and then from here, you can head straight down into Elbe Tunnel.

The rugged stone facade of the entrance to the landing platforms of Hamburg with the Clock tower and it's verdigris dome.

St. Pauli Landungsbrücken

Grab your Hamburg Card

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

Old Elbe Tunnel

You’d be forgiven in thinking, “what’s all the excitement about a tunnel”? Well, this is not just any tunnel, it was built in 1911 as a pedestrian and vehicle tunnel. For the tens of thousands of dockworkers, this was a considerable improvement to their day to day lives.

The stone rotunda building that houses the north entrance to the old Elbe tunnel in Hamburg

The entrance to the old Elbe Tunnel

The Alter Elbtunnel has two tunnels at 426 metres (1,398 ft) long at 24 metres (80 ft) below the Elbe River surface. Four huge wooden fronted lifts transported the pedestrians and vehicles up and down. Today the tunnels are mainly used for cyclist and pedestrians, as during the 1970s the ‘new’ Elbe Tunnel and bridges were built.

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 Old Elbe Tunnel has now been refurbished and kept in its original Art Deco style, with glazed ceramic tiling all the way through. Also dotted along the tunnel are stoneware depictions of fish and animals that all relate to the river in some way.

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

Head to the southern banks

Not only is it free of charge, but, when you emerge on the southern banks, you’ll get a superb view bank across to Landungsbrücken piers and Hamburg.

Landungsbrücken Piers

Just by the Elbe Tunnel is the Landungsbrücken piers, the floating docks are a social bustling part of Hamburg city. Families and friends out and about soaking up the relaxed atmosphere. Take a stroll along the pedestrian promenade which runs parallel with the Elbe River.

A tall ship with three masks and rigging flying the German flag moored up on the River Elbe. It now houses an escape room experience.

A tall ship on the River Elbe

Here you can sample Hamburg’s fischbrötchen and then jump aboard a river tour and discover all about Hamburg’s nautical history.

A paddle steamer pleasure boat flying the Hamburg flag featuring Hamburg Castle moored up at the landing stages of Hamburg.

A paddle steamer pleasure boat

Elbphilharmonie

One of the many highlights of our visit to Hamburg was taking a wander around the viewing gallery at the Elbe Philharmonic Hall. The 360-degree views across Hamburg and its port are incredible (if not a little windy at times).

The Elbphilharmonie from ground level looking at the red brick base and the unique glass upper levels of this impressive concert hall.

A view of the Elbphilharmonie

The Elbphilharmonie is a concert hall just on the edge of the Elbe River, and it is stunning. It opened in January 2017, and the top section is built entirely of glass. The first 8 floors are within the brick façade and the remaining 18 floors, continue up through the fluttering glass sails.

Silhouette of a couple looking through a window from the upper level of the Elbphilharmonie across the River Elbe.

Enjoying the view from the Elbphilharmonie

It’s not only the views across the city that are spectacular, but also the 82-metre-long curved escalator, that takes you up there, this is a treat on its own.

Looking up for the dramatic white tiled escalator to the first stage of the Elbphilharmonie building.

The curved escalator to the Elbphilharmonie

Views across Hamburg

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.

Speicherstadt

I just love strolling around Speicherstadt, Hamburg’s ‘warehouse city’ and its canals. I think it’s my nautical roots coming out in me.

The Wasserschloß building in the Speicherstadt warehouse district of Hamburg at dusk.

Exloring the Speicherstadt district

This district of Hamburg became Germany’s 40th UNESCO site, and the 260,000 square metres that it covers, is the world largest complex of warehouses.
 
The beautiful neo-gothic red brick buildings were erected into the Elbe River on oak poles between 1883 and the 1920s. During its maritime heyday, this would have been a bustling part of Hamburg, with its dockworkers coming and going unloading their goods.

A view down the canals of Speicherstadt fro the Poggenmühlen-Brücke framed with love locks

Love locks in the Speicherstadt

The Speicherstadt is still busy and popular today as there is so much to see and do and an excellent place for socialising. It’s also a lovely place to head at dusk, as the day gives away to the evening the light across the rustic warehouse looks magical.

The top of the Elbphilharmonie from the Speicherstadt district of Hamburg after the sun has gone down in the evening.

The Elbphilharmonie from the Speicherstadt

UNESCO

The Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.

Exploring warehouse city

For the big kid inside you, just shouting to get out, you must head to Miniatur Wunderland. This is great to visit even if you are not a model enthusiast.
 
Every 15 minutes, the whole environment will cover a 24-hour period, so which ever location you are in the museum the nightfall descends. This is great to see when the streets of Las Vegas come to life.

A model scene from Miniature Wonderland depicting the red brick warehouses of the Speicherstadt district with train tracks running alongside in front of the old Harbour building.

Speicherstadt in the Model Village

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

Discount

You can also use your Hamburg card. here for a discount.

A tall red brick building typical of the Speicherstadt district in Hamburg but now how houses the Maritime Museum.

The Hamburg Maritime Museum

For something a little more sedate head to The International Maritime Museum housed in Hamburg’s oldest standing warehouse.

If you love nautical stories, history and model ships, this is for you.

Discount

Once again grab a discount here with your Hamburg card.

Chilehaus

The Chilehaus is also included in the same UNSECO inscription as the warehouse district of Hamburg, and the building is a stunning piece of architecture. The Chile House was built in the 1920s and constructed in the style of Brick Expressionism.

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 pointy end of Chilehaus

Chilehaus is a 10-storey office building designed by the architect Fritz Höger. The beautiful lines that have been created in the shape of a ship’s prow are elegant and look even more stunning when it is lit up of an evening.

The beautiful curves of the brick-built, Chilehaus office building, From the 1920s at dusk.  this beautiful complex is another side to Hamburg.

Chilehaus Curves

Take a wander through the central courtyard, and you’ll see right through to the sky above.

St.-Nikolai-Kirche

St Nicholas Church is such a poignant place to visit, as it has been beset with awful disasters and now stands as a 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 Nikolai-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.

The Ordeal (Edith Breckwoldt)

The only parts that remain are the tower, spire and crypt. The tower and spire now house a lift (elevator) that transports you 247 feet (75 metres) above, to a platform within the spire. Here you get incredible views across Hamburg’s skyline, and there are also black and white storyboards, to follow part 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 fascinating museum, where we found out about the whole of St Nicholas Church’s timeline.

From its origins as a Seaman’s chapel, the aftermath of Hamburg’s Great Fire and the devastation of WWII.

Discount

We also received a discount here with our Hamburg card.

Altstadt

The Altstadt is another fascinating area of Hamburg. Perhaps it doesn’t have the quainter historic architecture of some German cities, but it has a lot of character, nonetheless.
 
The beautiful building that takes pride of place in the centre is the Rathaus (City Hall). It houses Hamburg’s seat of government, the parliament and senate, which still assemble here.

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

The Rathaus at dusk

The Rathausmarkt, the main square in front of the city hall, is where various fairs and events take place. One, in particular, is at Christmas time, when Santa takes to his sleigh and flies across the rooftops of the festive Christmas cabins.

The illuminated golden gateway to the Christmas markets in Hamburg in front of the Green roofed, gothic Rathaus at dusk.

The Hamburg Rathaus at Christmas

Hamburg at Christmas

Find out how Hamburg celebrates the festive time of year and take a peek at our Hamburg Christmas Market post.

Splash out

Leaving the Rathaus behind you head across the canal towards the Alsterarkaden the delightful waterfront arcade. Here you can grab yourself a delicious coffee and have a wonderful view back to the Rathaus.

A look along the historic Venetian-style arcade along the waterfront of Hamburg with tables and chairs filled by cafe patrons.

Alsterarkaden

A passage off Neuer Wall in Hamburg with an ornately decorated ceiling and rows of sophisticated shops lining either side.

A small passage off Neuer Wall

Once refreshed and relaxed stroll back one street. You’ll be sauntering along Neuer Wall, the upmarket and chic shopping district of Hamburg.

More water

Hamburg is certainly not short of water and if you’ve managed to refrain from splashing out on that special purchase, then keep wandering up to Binnenalster. This is the inner lake formed by the River Alster.

Looking across Binnenalster, a large man-made lake in the centre of  Hamburg. There are Two pleasure boats moored up and the Alster Fountain in the distance.

Across Binnenalster

This is a lovely lake to while away some time, there are lots of things going on to entertain you or you can even embark on a boat trip around the lake.
 
If you then fancy brushing up on your art knowledge head to Hamburg Kunsthalle. This a beautiful gallery, full of spectacular and fascinating exhibitions.
 
The Hamburg Kunsthalle is one of the largest museums in Germany and has on display seven centuries of European Art.

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.

The Kunsthalle Hamburg

The gallery is located across three building the oldest is the ornamental red brick structure dating from 1869 to the Cube, that was opened in 1997.

Hop-on Hop-off

Another great way to see Hamburg is jumping on a Hop on - Hop off sightseeing bus. We took Line A on the Red Double Decker. 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.

Quirky U-Bahn

HafenCity Universität U-Bahn station is not like the run of the mill underground station that you and I are used to.

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

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

Jump on the U4 and head over to ‘HafenCity Universität’ the incredible huge cubes that run along the centre of the rail station are memorising. Continually pulsing in and out and changing colour as they go.

Our Accommodation

During our stay in Hamburg, we were hosted by The Best Western Premier Alsterkrug Hotel.

Our spacious, brightly lit,  bedroom a the Best Western Premier Alsterkrug Hotel featuring a large double bed with two individual quilts, and separate working area.

Our room at the Best Western Premier Alsterkrug Hotel

Located close by Hamburg airport; however, it was so peaceful.

The staff were accommodating and friendly.

The hotel is out of the city centre, which was ideal for us, as there was secure parking. It took around 30 minutes to get into the heart of the city centre.

In Summary


The spacious dining area of the breakfast lounge at the Best Western Premier Alsterkrug Hotel, Hamburg.  A wide selection of foods and drinks are available from the continental breakfast bar.

The breakfast & dinning area

The room was very comfortable, clean & peaceful. The desk area was a good size, allowing us to set-up our charging station, and work on the laptop with plenty of room.
 
There was a wide variety of food and drinks for breakfast, and all served in a pleasant location.

The breakfast table at the Best Western Premier Alsterkrug Hotel, Hamburg.  We started with a bowl of fruit cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice but there's a wide selection of foods available.

The breakfast table.

German Cuisine

When Gary and I travel anywhere, we always make an effort to try the local food and drink. After a little research, we found a speciality from the Hamburg region, that I let Gary try.

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

Labskaus can be made in various ways, although the main ingredients in Gary’s dish were minced beef, egg, beetroot and a side dish of pickles and herring.
 
Gary enjoyed it, although it isn’t really my cup of tea.
 
For us, no trip to Germany would be complete without a currywurst.

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

Local Tipple

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

A large brightly polished copper Mash Tun at the Joh Albrecht brewhouse in Hamburg.

The copper mash tun

Two large glasses of cloudy beer from the Joh Albrecht Bauhaus in Hamburg

The end of day refreshments

Disclaimer

This article was produced in partnership with Hamburg Marketing, in exchange for an honest review and an account of our personal experiences.

Inspired to visit Hamburg?

Well, there should be enough to tempt you, but remember we only had 36 hours. We know there's a lot more to this city, and that will brings us back, as well as the warmth of the people we met.

It's a great city to explore with its own unique 'quarters', Chilehaus, Rathaus, Speicherstadt & St Pauli to name but a few. So why not give it a go, you won't be disappointed.

The pin image for our post – ‘What to do with 36 hours in Hamburg Germany’

* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

Suitcases and Sandcastles
About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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Comments

  1. I love Hamburg, though it’s ages since I’ve visited. I really should visit again. Love your photos and your inside tips, as ever!
    #farawayfiles

    1. Author

      Thanks very much Esther. Yes, Hamburg is a fantastic city and quite diverse, it’s magical at Christmas time.

  2. I fell in love with Germany on my first trip to Munich 10 years ago. I have not been to Hamburg but it looks just as beautiful and I love cities that are built around canals. Hamburg is definitely on my list of cities to visit. #farawayfiles

    1. Author

      We visited Munich a couple of years ago at Christmas time, it was wonderful, although I’d like to return Spring time to discover more of the city. Hamburg is fantastic, like you, I love the canals.

  3. I really enjoyed my first trip to Hamburg last December. The Christmas market, in particular, was so special. I’d like to return in the spring or the summer so that I could see the famous swans on the lake. I really enjoyed reading about your trip and your excellent tips on this week’s #farawayfiles

    1. Author

      We were there last December too, the Christmas markets are fantastic. This latest visit was in October, I think the swans had gone into hiding.

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