The best things to do and discover in Hamburg




03 April 2024

Food, drink, hidden gems, tours and more


One of world’s most exciting cities, Hamburg is famous for its buzzing, international outlook – it boasts the third largest port in Europe and has become a melting pot for influences from around the globe – with a host of food, drink, shopping, nightlife, architecture, museums, lakes, culture and more to explore. 


Inspired, we’ve created the ultimate guide for things to see, discover and do in Hamburg – from its flea markets and Beatles history to the arrival of Hafencity’s world-leading concert hall, Elbphilharmonie. 

Get to know Hamburg

Everything in Hamburg is influenced by its water. Lying on the Elbe River, the city is 109km (68 miles) from the North Sea with a busy harbour, a delightful central lake called the Alster and criss-crossing canals. The Alster itself is divided by bridges into the Binnenalster (Inner Alster) and the larger Aussenalster (Outer Alster) which has calming green spaces, sailing and sports clubs. 

The city can be separated into 18 distinct neighbourhoods – including the well-connected Harburg south of the river which boasts the renowned Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH); the Altstadt (Old Town) and LGBTQ+-friendly area of St Georg – each with its own personality. 


Shopping and flea markets

From luxury brands to vintage finds, shopping in Hamburg is a delight. The main shopping street in Hamburg is Altstadt’s Mönckebergstrasse (with the main train station Hauptbahnhof) which has the huge Europa Passage mall and stores including H&M, Mac and Zara and the cult Michelle record store on a quiet side street. 

Don’t miss eclectic shopping and dining at the Phoenix shopping centre in Harburg or the elegant Jungfernstieg promenade for Alsterhaus department store, Apple, Byredo and the Apropos Concept Store which features brands including Gucci, The Row and Roksanda. 


For the city’s independent boutiques, head to Schanzenviertel which is affectionately called “Schanze”. Colourful, cool and counter-cultural, must-visit stores include Mojo Store which sells limited streetwear collections, the colourfully chic Broke + Schön and shoe-and-wine store Scarpovino Wein- & Schuhhandel


The city is famous for its flea markets. On Saturday mornings, head to the vast Flohschanze for vintage bargains and antiques then on Sundays, the FlohZinn for music and good food while you browse. Pick up street food and great ingredients at Vienna’s daily Naschmarkt.  


Food and drink

Thanks to Hamburg’s multicultural links, you can find just about every delicious food from around the globe – Szene Hamburg is your go-to guide for the best places. The Portuguese Quarter (just between The Michel and Landungsbrücken) has seafood, tapas and delicious Portuguese wines (try the tiled Tasquinha Gallego); Cyn Cyn Handpulled Noodles is quick and tasty must-visit while Momento Di in Harburg for is perfect for delicious spaghetti and river sunsets. 

Want to try traditional German fare? Erika’s Eck is a local institution for mammoth wiener schnitzel, Otto’s Burger has three outlets for the city’s eponymous burgers while early risers and late-night clubbers come together for fish sandwiches and beer at the famous Fischmarkt (Sundays, 5am-9.30am). For more elegant destinations, try the three-star Michelin-starred The Table or Jellyfish and Lakeside and don’t miss much-loved bakeries, Die kleine Konditorei dotted round the city.   



Voted the world’s best city by clubbers, Hamburg’s nightlife means there’s something for everyone. Head to former theatre Rote Flora in Sternschanze district for great music and a safe welcoming space (there are lots of good bars nearby plus hip microbrewery Ratsherrn); music, exhibitions and art in the artists’ quarter Gängeviertel and live hip-hop, reggae, metal and indie at Gruenspan and Uebel und Gefährlich

For cocktails, don’t miss the Die Treppe in Harburg (with tasty sushi too), the central Le Lion for its signature gin basil smash and Skyline Bar 20up for when visitors want to see Hamburg’s sweeping skyline. 


Art, theatre, sport, history and culture

The futuristic Elbphilharmonie and Laeiszhalle concert halls (popularly nicknamed the Elphi) in HafenCity have become one of Europe’s biggest musical must-visits. Hosting concerts, opera, bands, cinema and more (with special discounts for under 30s), it also features an incredible 82-metre curved escalator and spectacular panoramic viewing platform. 

Discover a wonderful selection of art from the Renaissance to contemporary German artists at the Kunsthalle; climb the towering St Nikolai church which also acts as a WWII memorial and museum and wander round the red-bricked warehouse docklands of Speicherstadt which is now a UNESCO World Heritage List. 


For sports fans, the famous skull and crossbone flags of the left-wing-supported St Pauli football team can be felt across the city. Hamburg also has an annual marathon, triathlon and successful basketball team which plays in Wilhelmsburg.

Escape into green spaces, go sailing and more

Hamberg is home to over 1,460 parks including the Planten un Blomen in the centre which has its own Japanese garden, tropical house and playgrounds. Further north of the city is the Alster Lakes (Aussenalster) which has a beautiful 8km (5 mile) running trail, bike tours and boat rentals. North of the lakes is the popular 150-hectare Stadtpark which has its own Art Deco planetarium

Walking routes of Hamburg

To escape the touristy centre on the weekend, take the ferry from Landungsbrücken to Teufelsbrück and walk through the picturesque western suburb of Blankenese filled with pre-war fishermen’s houses and views of sailing ships. Known for its 5,000 steps (Strandtreppe), it has a tranquil Mediterranean feel. 

The 426-metre long St Pauli Elbtunnel (or Alter Elbtunnel) connects the Landungsbrücken piers with the port and lies 24 metres under the river. Opened in 1911, it’s become a huge tourist attraction and is decorated with Art Deco design. Once you reach St Pauli, book in for the charming Beatles tour with local guide and ukelele player, Stefanie Hempel. 


Unusual things to do in Hamburg

Hamburg is filled with eccentric and fun finds including coffee, chocolate and silent museums. Lose yourself in the tiny world of Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest mini railway (complete with note-perfect Hamburg); the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg celebrates crafts from across the globe while Harburg’s The Helms Museum for archaeology and history is filled with hands-on, interactive exhibits from the Stone Age onwards.  

One-day trips from Hamburg

Visit the island of Kaltehofe via bike, S-bahn or bus and leave the 21st century behind. This gorgeous and calming island is filled with wildlife, a monument to its waterworks past and fascinating museum. For a longer day trip, Lübeck is an hour away by train and is a romantic escape especially memorable for its witches hats’ towers, mediaeval streets and vast and friendly restaurant Schiffergesellschaft which serves up freshly caught fish, fried potatoes and homemade rum pots with hazelnut ice-cream. 


Festivals and seasonal pop-ups

In winter, the city is home to beautiful Christmas markets, the Hamburg Dom funfair and ice-skating in the botanical gardens. In summer, it’s all about mojitos at the pop-up city ‘beaches’ in and around Hamburg. In May, the city embraces a Japanese Cherry Blossom festival while summer plays host to many festivals celebrating jazz, Elbe Islands’ music scene, international music and electro. 

Getting around

Before doing anything, download the free official Hamburg app which will help you find your way around the city while uncovering nearby attractions and hidden gems. 


The sprawling city has excellent public transport including buses and night buses, U-bahn (underground), S-bahn (overland), regional rail, ferries and taxis with train connections via its four main stations across Germany with links to the rest of Europe. Hamburg Airport is 8.5km from the city centre with regular shuttle services


To plan journeys and buy tickets (the Hamburg Day Ticket costs from €7,5 and covers one adult and up to three children), visit the HVV website. For bike sharing, visit StadtRAD to create an account or pick up a bright orange bike with Donkey Republic


Happy exploring!

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