The ultimate guide to planning Hamburg city breaks
I’m starting to think I started a craze for Hamburg city breaks when I moved to Germany. In the last week alone, I’ve spoken to around 15 people who have trips planned over here in the next month and all of them were asking for my advice on what to see and do when they visit. So I thought, why not create the bumper city guide for everyone who is thinking of visiting, and those who already have their flights booked. If there’s one thing I love, it’s showing people around my new home city and I’m so excited to share it with you all in a blog post. Now I’m going to focus on all the things I’ve loved discovering but know that you guys won’t have time to hunt them all down in the time you are here, by creating this guide, my aim is to make planning your trip stress-free so you can spend more time enjoying yourself and everything that Hamburg has to offer.
Coffee & Graffiti
St Pauli and the Sternschanze areas have become some of my favourite parts of the city to wander around and they’re great for exploring. Head there during Hamburg city breaks for great brunch places and coffee shops, then wander the streets looking at the graffiti and quirky characters, snapping those perfect insta-shots. We’ve been watching the World Cup around there and oh my there is such a fantastic atmosphere, if there happen to be any matches on, or any other events when you visit, head here for the party.
Bars/Clubs – The Infamous Reeperbahn
Of course, when you come to Hamburg, it’s a rite of passage to go and see the Reeperbahn – red light district –in all it’s glory. It’s definitely worth a wander along to see all the bars, strip clubs and sex shops, and if you fancy a mad night out then go crazy, there’s even a 99 cent shot bar down one of the side streets! If that’s not quite your style, then why not check out some of the Beatles-related sights along there, there are even Beatles-specific tours available for super fans.
If you fancy something a bit more chilled out during your Hamburg city breaks, head to St Pauli and the Sternschanze area for streets lined with great bars and reasonable prices, or walk down to the harbour and head to StrandPauli or one of the many beach bars for a cocktail and beach chairs. In terms of clubs, I haven’t had a chance to explore yet but I’ve heard there are lots of great places for live music and DJs – I can’t wait to find them!
Food is always a big part of my travels and I love finding great new places to eat out, my favourites so far that I have discovered have been around the Sternschanze and St Pauli areas where there are some amazing places and even better, they’re all local with barely any chains around. I love how multicultural Hamburg is and you won’t struggle to find fantastic Italian, Greek and Portuguese food wherever you go. If you love meat, check out the Portuguese district which is just behind Landungsbrücken for some great restaurants – our favourite is A Varina.
If you fancy a bit of a treat, one of the best restaurants in Hamburg is Bullerei, which serves real German food apparently. I haven’t eaten there yet, but I did have drinks there the other day and there is a huge pink unicorn in the middle of the restaurant – sold. Make sure to visit a good bakery during your Hamburg city breaks, Germans love their bread and pastries so you haven’t lived without indulging, and if you get a chance, grab a fischbrötchen which has become one of my fave German foods.
Harbour Walks/Boat Tours
If you get the S or U-bahn to Landungsbrücken you will walk out right on the harbour where you can spend ages walking either to the left round towards the Elbphilharmonie, or right towards the beach areas and along the river. There are countless boat tours available which take you around the harbour and give a great way to see the city from another perspective during your Hamburg city breaks. check out my review of the boat tour I did here. Along the harbour you will also find the legendary Hamburg Fischmarkt which, if you’re here on a weekend is a must-see. It’s open from 5-9am on Sunday mornings and sells everything from fresh fish and snacks to fruits, vegetables and more, plus there’s live music and a lot of people go straight from a night out on the Reeperbahn!
One thing I always love to do in a new city is to visit anywhere where I can get great views over the city, it’s a really good way to see it from a different perspective. There are two great places I’ve discovered so far for this – the well-known Elbphilharmonie which is the big shiny opera house that apparently cost something like €789million to complete! It’s free to go up to the viewing platform which gives you great views over the river and harbour that Hamburg is known for. If you want to go even higher, I would really recommend visiting Mahnmal St. Nikolai which is one of the oldest buildings left in the city and stands tall at 148m. The highest building in the city and it now serves as a very interesting memorial to the war and Nazism. It costs €5 to go to the top, but the views are well worth it.
Sightseeing for Hamburg city breaks
When it comes to sightseeing on your Hamburg city breaks,there’s plenty to see but with the city being so small, it’s easy to walk it all in a day. Once you’ve seen the Elphilharmonie and the harbour, then behind it is the Speicherstadt which is the old factory area of the city, then across the bridges you can walk to the older areas of the city where you’ll find the Mahnmal St Nikolai which is great for those who love history, plus the most beautiful building in the city, the Hamburg Rathaus.
Explore the Fischmarkt and the Reeperbahn, plus the quirky St Pauli and Sternschanze areas that are worth checking out. Plenty to pack out a weekend! If you have some extra time, I also recommend checking out the old Elbtunnel which goes underneath the river from one side to the other and used to take traffic and pedestrians across before the current tunnel was built, now you can walk it for free and come out the other side of the river for an amazing view of the harbour.
If you love history or are on a tight schedule, I really recommend doing a walking tour to get to know the city – I’ve previously posted here about how much I love walking tours when exploring a new place. And here is my guide on all the ways to find great free activities when visiting a new place. I’m currently in the process of putting together a blog post on the best walking tours in the city, but for now, know that Sandemann’s New Europe Tours offer a free walking tour of the city which is fab, lasts two hours and covers some of the best sights – you just tip what you think the tour is worth at the end. Read my review of their Amsterdam tour here.
Where To Stay
Depending on your money and priorities when planning Hamburg city breaks, I would really recommend staying around the Alster or in the St Pauli or Sternschanze areas – these are all really central and have great access to everything I’ve mentioned in this post, plus they are surrounded by great food/drink places and shopping. Most things are walking distance or just a short ride on public transport. If you’re doing a hostel, check out the Reeperbahn and St Pauli areas, if you fancy a hotel check out Jungfergstein, the Alster or Landungsbrücken for some lovely places. You can read my review of the Hotel Baseler Hof here. Or check out the Vinoble Day Spa here.
Public Transport for Hamburg City Breaks
Public transport in Hamburg is really easy, don’t let the German names intimidate you as the whole S and U-bahn is basically a grid system and there are very few lines. Use Google Maps if you are struggling, or Moovit is also a good app, plus it may help to save a map on to your phone. There often aren’t people working in the stations other than the very main and busy ones, so you will rely on your phone often for directions, but it is very straightforward. A day ticket cost €6.40 and includes unlimited travel within most of the city you will want to visit, on weekends one group day ticket will cover five people until 9am the next day. If you can, avoid Hauptbahnhof which is the central station and is really crazy busy no matter what time you are there. And if your destination is walking distance, I would recommend getting out and walking it instead as it’s a really great way to get to see more during your Hamburg city breaks.
Get Outside during your Hamburg City Breaks
Germany has fantastic weather during the summer, especially compared to the UK. Ever since I’ve moved here it’s been 30 degrees most days and when it’s like that, you’d much rather be chilling in the sunshine than doing walking tours of the city. So I’ve found some of the best outside spaces for sunshine chills. If you love the beach and being near the water, look no further than Elbstrand which is a lovely long beach area that has been created alongside the river. It stretches for miles and has everything from restaurants and bars such as Strandperle – all the way along to the quieter and even nudist beaches.
These beaches eventually back on to Jenisch Park which is a huge and gorgeous park with a museum in the middle and plenty of places to enjoy a sunny day. Elsewhere, there are the Alster Lakes which are right in the middle of the city but are huge and are surrounded by bike and footpaths, and even parkland. Planten und Blomen is a lovely park – with an amazing cactus house if you’re as obsessed as I am – and it even has light shows during the summer evenings. Perfect for enjoying during your Hamburg city breaks!
I hope if you’re planning Hamburg city breaks soon that this will help you make the most of your trip, and don’t forget to let me know what you think of the city, or if there is anything you discovered that I should add to this guide! I’m always up for meeting travelers so if you’re traveling alone, or even with a group, let me know if you’re in the city and fancy catching up.
Have you been to Hamburg – what did you think of the city? Planning a trip – what are you looking forward to seeing?