Hamburg is often overlooked when it comes to city breaks in Germany. Whilst most flock to Berlin or even down to Munich the Northern Port city isn’t always on the list. I first visited on work experience from University by chance as I happen to have family there. I knew nothing about the city, it was my first time travelling alone and my first time visiting somewhere overseas for anything over than tourism. It was a totally different travel experience for me and working here as well as having local insights allowed me to really get to know the city as though it were my own for a short while and in turn fall in love with it.
I’ve since had to opportunity to return as purely a tourist as well as visiting other places in Germany like Berlin (Which strangely I didn’t love as much as I expected, maybe Hamburg has already stolen my heart!). For those looking for a city break filled with incredible architecture, varied culture and fascinating history without the crowds that flock to the more popular destinations then Hamburg is ideal. We’ve put together this Hamburg travel blog post as a guide to those looking to spend a wonderful weekend in Hamburg as well as those looking for more information on the best Places to visit in Hamburg.
Often when people head over to Germany it is Berlin that they flock to, and to be honest I am not sure I would have known all that much about Hamburg if it wasn’t for my family there. But, as we know coming from Manchester, alternative second cities are usually much cooler and also much more laid back, Hamburg is no exception. From the docks to the industrial heritage of the city, the alternative vibe, live music and punk culture to ornate buildings, luxury shopping district and a leafy green city centre. Hamburg has it all, with non of the big city attitude or crowds but ten times the passion and atmosphere! So here’s our guide to Hamburg!
Transport Information For A Weekend In Hamburg:
Transport In Hamburg
Hamburg is served by the U-Bahn and the S-bahn metro trains.
The system works on zones similar to many other metro systems around the world. Most tourists would only be visiting zones A-B which is within the “City Zone”.
If you are coming and going from the Airport however then you will be heading out of the City Zone. You can buy tickets according to the distance, zones or type in the machine specific stations so this is the best way to get from the airport to the city.
It also works on a single ticket basis where you can buy “Short Journey” or “Local Journey” within the AB zone.
It can be a bit confusing when selecting a short journey and deciphering which one you need as it’s not clear on the machines how long that actually is. Generally it’s around 2-3 stops/ a 10 minute ride.
Day tickets can be bought and you have a choice of a “9 am Day Ticket” or an “All Day Ticket”. The All Day ticket is a little more expensive and this is because it covers the rush hour between 6am – 9am whereas the other tickets covers all hours apart from these. It’s a bit like a Peak and Off Peak ticket. You can also get Day Group Tickets too. These day tickets are then priced according to how many zones they cover.
For those who do stay longer you can also get weekly tickets.
Hamburg ZOB bus station is well connected with coaches heading to almost every city in Germany with buses to Berlin leaving as regularly as 30 times a day! German bus companies provide cheap transport to cities like Cologne, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Munich, Hannover, Bremen.
Hamburg ZOB is also well served for international travel. Buses and Coaches leave daily for destination such as Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Zurich,Basel, Milan, Rome, Prague, Budapest and other further off destinations in Europe such as Zagreb with less regularity.
Hamburg Train Station is the busiest in Germany and the second busiest in Europe. The building itself dates back to 1906 and it’s well worth taking the time to take it in before your trip.
The station serves trains to almost every corner of Germany with more regular services to all of the big cities with Berlin being only a 2 hour trip away and places like Cologne around 4 hours away.
Hamburg Train Station is also well serves for international travel with daily services to places like Paris, Basel, Zurich and Copenhagen with the later being around 4h 45 mins away.
Generally train prices are a little more expensive than the buses but will get you there faster.
Hamburg Airport is well served for European destinations with many low cost airlines flying here. It does however have a limited long haul service so it might be best to connect via Frankfurt or Berlin depending on your destination. However Emirates does fly from here to Dubai which means you are still pretty well connected to get to places like Asia and Australia.
The airport is also connected to America Via Iceland and Icelandair’s Keflavik hub which means you visit from places like New York, LA and Florida. If you are travelling from Orlando we recommend taking advantage of the affordable Parkos Orlando International Airport parking.
Getting to the Airport:
The airport can be reached easily using the U-bahn service from the city centre. With it being in the outer zones it is best to buy a stand alone ticket for this trip.
Hamburg Travel Blog Tips: Hamburg Tourist Info
Best Time Of Year To Visit Hamburg
Summer in Hamburg is generally very sunny, warm and pleasant. It can get quite hot as with many countries in Northern Europe as not many places have AC. However there are a few places where you can swim in the city, just check out Hamburg tripadvisor for the best places.
Winter is another popular time to come and in particular the time in the run up to Christmas. Hamburg can get bitterly cold and wet in the winter and snow is common. However the Christmas Markets here are some of the best and most authentic in the world and are a really magical experience and worthy of a mention on any Hamburg guide.
If ever there was a time when Hamburg does get busy it can be over the summer months but in particular the Christmas period with the markets being a Hamburg must see. Spring and Autumn can be unpredictable weather wise but late Spring and Early Autumn are usually ok but you should prepare for a variety of weather.
Where to Stay: Hamburg Accommodation
Best Budget Backpacker: Pyjama Park Schanzenviertel
A really fun and modern hostel just 1.4km from the Reeperbahn and in a great place within the city for food and transport. The hostel is newly built with curtained beds and a fresh feel which makes it one of the top hostel in Hamburg. It makes the perfect place for backpackers to base themselves when exploring Hamburg.
A great option for those wanting a budget private space this modern industrial guest house is the ideal place to base yourself. With friendly staff and a quirky feel it’s a cool place from which to make the most of your time in Hamburg as it is in a great location too making it one of the best hotels in Hamburg.
For those looking for something a bit more upmarket the St Pauli CITY apartment is in the coolest area of the city and offers a fully furnished apartment complete with kitchen, lounge and room enough for several guests. If you’re not on a really tight budget but still want value for money then this is where to stay in Hamburg. Forget the hotels in Hamburg an apartment makes the city feel like home!
Hamburgs most famous and infamous street, the Reeperbahn in St Pauli. The heart of entertainment, live music and the city’s red light district. A night out on this legendary street is one you will never forget, Hamburgers start the night late and end it in the early hours! It was the amazing Hamburg nightlife that brought the Beatles to this very street at the start of their careers. St Pauli also has its own football team which is synonymous with left wing politics and punk culture. Ok, it is known for prostitution, but there is so much more to this area than the seedy side, though if you are planning a Hamburg stag do then I am sure you’ll end up down here!
Visit The Historic But Modern Landungsbrücken/ Harbour Area
Hamburg was built around the water, much like Boston and Liverpool it is a harbour city and always will be. In fact it’s the third largest in the world behind London and New York and dates back over 800 years old so it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Hamburg! Hamburg was a leading member of the Hanseatic league and as such it’s full name of “The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg” reflects the rich history of this port city. In the modern era the harbour is still a working port but offers boat tours, beaches in the summer, seafood restaurant and amazing views making it a perfect place to visit on a weekend in Hamburg.
The real centerpiece of the city is the beautiful town hall or Rathaus which makes it one of the top things to do in Hamburg . Set near the lake Binnenalster and built between 1886 and 1897 the town hall is a wonderful example of neo-renaissance style architecture. It was built at a time when the independent state of Hamburg wanted to show off it’s wealth and republican traditions. If you visit this beautiful city then the Rathaus should be top of your top things to do in Hamburg plan.
To this day the Rathaus still houses Hamburg’s parliament, senate and mayors office as well as being one of the main Hamburg sights. The town hall is also pretty huge, it’s tower is 367ft high and with 647 rooms it has 6 more than Buckingham Palace! It is also right outside here where you will find the magical Christmas Markets over the festive period, so if you find yourself here in winter wondering what to do in Hamburg then the markets are a magical experience.
Get Lost in The Alternative Schanzenviertel Quarter
Probably my favourite area of the city, the alternative quarter of Hamburg that is jam packed full of counter culture, art and music. The former working class area has evolved into the bohemian capital of the city, at its centre the “Rota Flora”, a semi-derelict building that has at one time been a theatre, informal music venue and squat, not the most obvious of the Hamburg attractions but the most cool!
Covered in graffiti it even has its own DIY skate park out at the back! The Schanzenviertel has a real laid back vibe with independent bars, cheap places to eat, boutique shops and tiny galleries making it one of the coolest things to see in Hamburg. There is even an old war bunker right in the middle of the district which is covered in graffiti and has a climbing all up the side! It’s the trendy, borderline hipster but still grungy area of the city that we love!
A landmark of Hamburg the huge clock tower of “Michel” can be see all over the city and offers stunning views. Built between 1648 and 1661 it is one of the oldest and most well known churches in Northern Germany as well as being one of only a few purpose built protestant churches in Hamburg. The baroque church is considered one of the finest of the Hanseatic region and its interior is one of splendid gold and white. It is also possible to head up to the top of the tower for great views over the city which is one of the most popular Hamburg tourist attractions.
Spend Some Time Strolling Along The Alster
The Alster is one of Hamburg’s two main rivers, the other being the all important Elbe which serves the harbour. The Alster on the other hand is much more serine and offers wonderful walks in which you almost forget you are in a city. Not only that but within the centre the river creates two beautiful swan filled lakes around which the city is built. The Alster offers untouched idyllic scenes and adds to the unique atmosphere of Hamburg with it’s many green spaces. There are also boat tours, rentable canoes and many other ways to enjoy the water including swimming in the summer!
Discover The Magic of Minitur Wunderland
Unleash your inner geek and marvel at the sheer absurdity that is Minaur Wunderland, a must on any Hamburg weekend trip! The world’s largest model railway it contains over 1000 trains, 260.000 figures and 4.110 buildings! It really is an incredible sight to see, the detail and precision that has gone into creating this place is astounding. The scenes recreated include Hamburg and its airport with working planes that take off an land to a schedule but several other worlds too. It includes central Germany, Alpine Austria, The USA, Switzerland, Italy, Scandinavia, South America and even a funfare making it one of the most fascinating Hamburg points of interest.
See The Biggest Warehouse District In The World At The Speicherstadt Quarter
Much like our hometown of Manchester, Hamburg was built on industry and as a result has a myriad of canals and wonderfully repurposed warehouses and factories that have now become part of the Hamburg tourism map. Close to the harbour is the world largest warehouse complex which once stored silk, carpets, cocoa and a whole host of other goods. Often called the Venice of the north, in fact Hamburg has more canals than Amsterdam and venice combined! There are tours down the waterways, live bands playing on barges and great bars and restaurants to also explore here when you visit Hamburg. There is also the newly built “Elbphilharmonie” or Hamburg Opera House whose modern glass building was designed to represent a sail and works perfectly with the historic neighbourhood and should be high on any list of what to see in Hamburg.
Hamburg is also famous for its shopping, whether that be the independent outlets of the alternative districts or the exclusive boutiques of the elegant Alster Arkaden. The picturesque spot is lined with venetian architecture, historic arcades, detailed wrought iron lamps and is filled with the buzz of cafes and shops. Even if shopping isn’t for you, just a stroll and relaxing bite to eat around here is a lovely way to spend an afternoon and one of the many peaceful places to visit in Hamburg.
A German experience not to be missed… currywurst! The Deutsch answer to our fish and chips, a huge wurst or German sausage covered in curry sauce and often served with chips slathered in mayo!! What’s not to love! You think the currywurst is good in Berlin, you haven’t tried anything yet! The best shops are in the Schanzenviertel quarter where you can also get vegetarian and vegan varieties too! The perfect snack for you Hamburg city break.
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