land of sailors, the culture of the anchor, the hipster scene, open-minded young people, small cafés for brunch, bars that never close, a “multi-kulti” atmosphere, tolerance towards LGBT, the city of millionaires, luxury cars, modern buildings and squatters..
In Hamburg EVERYTHING is possible!
Hamburg is one of my favourite cities in Germany. Besides being pretty it has a very cool underground culture and atmosphere.
It is a young, lively city with a wide range of cultural offerings
Hamburg has a lot to offer you
Hamburg is a city-state, and the second largest city in Germany after its capital Berlin. A total of about 1.8 million people live there, of whom 48,000 are considered to be millionaires.
Fact: Hamburg is the city with the most millionaires in Germany
Hamburg is situated at the edge of the delta of the river Elbe, and being so wide and having a port with huge boats, it gives the feeling of being at sea. The great port of Hamburg, despite not being at sea, is still one of the most important in Europe. It also serves as Germany’s connection to the North Sea.
Hamburg was founded on a swamp and wasteland to defend against the Vikings and prevent their advance south. All this around the year 1100.
Let’s start discovering Hamburg!
- ¿The burgers and Hamburg?
- Free Tour
- Where to stay in Hamburg
- Quote and Approximate Prices
- 10 Free Things to do in Hamburg
- Hamburg: The City to go out on a date
- Extra: G20 protests in July 2017
- Extra 2: Wunderland Miniature (Not free*!)
- The Hamburg-card discount card
¿The burgers and Hamburg?
This is one of the first questions you may have when you visit Hamburg for the first time.
Were hamburgers invented in Hamburg?
Is there a connection?
Hamburg has always been a place of foreign trade with a lot of emigration. Some hamburgers started a new life in America, and many exported their traditional foods.
The American hamburger as we know it originated as a derivative of the German Frikadelle, which is still consumed in Germany. It became famous at the end of the 19th century and the Americans adopted it as their own.
This kind of tip-based tours are great for introducing yourself to the city and the historical setting of Hamburg. They start at the town hall square and end at the Philharmonic.
Currently 2 companies are running tours in Spanish:
- New Europe Tours: 11am and 2pm at the Town Hall Square, opposite the Startbucks. In Spanish. The guides go with red umbrellas.
- Robin and the Tour Guides: Tour of the historical centre at 11am in the town hall square. In Spanish. The guides carry the yellow umbrella as a symbol. Tour of the port, St. Pauli and Reeperbahn at 14h.
You may be interested in the article by… Are the Free Tours really free?
Where to stay in Hamburg
Accommodation in Hamburg is quite expensive, even for Germany. There is so much demand that prices are going up.
Especially on weekends, as it is a popular destination for young people because of the nightlife or older people because of the theatres, concerts and musicals.
The last time I tried to book a room (cheap and well located) for 5 people on a Saturday was an odyssey… and I had more than a month in advance!
My favourite area is the St. Pauli district with the Repeerbahn street as a core
It is a very youthful area with a great atmosphere: during the day, with many shops, small restaurants and cafes and at night bars, beer, parties etc.
- Hostel “auf dem Stintfang”(€) is from the German state youth hostel network. Very, very clean, spacious and new. For about 22 euros a bed with breakfast buffet in a building that has a window from which you can see the port.
- Generator hostel (€€) am Hbf, with good value for money.
- Bee Fang Hotel(€€) near the station in the St. George district. It’s cheap and it’s functional, but don’t expect anything spectacular. I stayed one night and didn’t like the check-in only from 3 to 8 pm and the check-out at 10 am, otherwise a basic old hotel.
- MyPlace(€€) is a small 3-star family hotel.
- Motel One Alster(€€€) Modern, clean and well-designed rooms.
- Ibis budget st. Pauli(€€) if you’re looking for something modern, good and reliable.
Hotel Atlantic(€€€€) directly in the port is a historic building. The Grande Hotel opened in 1909 to accommodate passengers on the direct ship route to America. The James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies” was shot. A room doesn’t come cheap: 230 or 350 euros for the junior suite.In the last years, AirBnB is taking more and more relevance. Many hosts are published by this platform more and more. If you do not know it, here I talk about the pros and cons.
In general, they cost less than regular hotels of Booking, but some of them are unique, you have more space, privacy and so on!!
Open a new account of Airbnb and get 10% of discount in your first booking!
Important: if you already have an account or you have used the discount, you may make a new account signing up the name of your brother, mother, father, grandparents, friends, girlfriend, etc to countinue enjoying the discount!
Quote and Approximate Prices
Hamburg can be one of the most expensive cities in Germany, especially for accommodation.
- Bed in hostel with shared room: 25-30
- Double room single: 60-80
- Airbnb for 2 people: 45-70
- Musical: 50-80
- Single meal: 8-10
- Beer in bars: 3.90
- Beer at the Kiosks: 1.50
10 Free Things to do in Hamburg
I think it’s best to start with the free tour to get an idea of the city and to situate it historically, and from there on it depends on your interests… here are some proposals:
1- Rathaus Square (City Hall)
This area is the most beautiful and picturesque of the city, with squares and pedestrian streets, cafes, restaurants or small shops.
This square can be considered as the historical center of Hamburg. That’s where the free tour starts, there are always people walking around and the town hall gives it a big touch.
The town hall is a neo-Renaissance building completed in 1987. On the facade, the emperors who treated the city well are represented with figures.
Next to the town hall square there are 2 artificial lakes connected to the river Elba. In winter you also skate on the ice when it freezes.
2- San Nicolás Church
An important point to understand the history of the city. Today it is still structurally semi-derelict, has no roof, and barely retains the walls. It’s almost an old church turned into a square or a memorial.
This church was bombed but never rebuilt
Hamburg was the most heavily bombed city in Europe during the 8 days of “Operation Gomorrah” in World War II. A total of 25 bombs per square meter were dropped by some 17,000 aircraft (in total).
About 100,000 people disappeared in that bombing, and because of the high amount of acid in the bombs, not even half of the bodies could be found. There are still many unexploded bombs in the ground that are found and defused when new buildings are constructed.
The tower is still preserved (or reconstructed). Recently they opened a viewpoint at the top where you can go up by a modern lift.
The entrance fee is 5€ to go up.
3- The Elbe tunnel
This old tunnel, opened in 1911 and measuring 420 metres, crosses the river Elbe below. Originally a technological revolution, now from the 70’s it has become a tourist attraction.
Even today many burgers use this tunnel daily to go to the other side, as there is no other alternative than the ferry. Still in use for the cars (under payment of a not very cheap rate). You can enter for free on foot or by bicycle.
The tunnel itself is already worth crossing
On the other side of the river you can see the city from the other perspective. I like it very much because of its old elevator and stone interior.
4- Speicherstadt and Hafencity
Speicherstadt means “warehouse town” and was built in 1883. It’s a neighborhood with many canals and orange brick buildings.
Because of Hamburg’s importance as a trading port in the past, these houses were used to store goods. The warehouses could be reached by boat for easier unloading. These houses have now been converted to museums, or directly to luxury loft-style penthouses, offices, etc.
In 1991, it was granted protection as an ancient monument.
Hamburg was a tax haven at the time for a long time..
until 2003, only Speicherstadt now has tax exemptions.
5- Elbphilharmonie (Elbe Philharmonic)
The building of the Hamburg Philharmonic is the highlight of the Haffencity/Speicherstadt district. It’s the most modern building in the city. A mastodon with a square at the top, which can be climbed for free.
If on the outside it may seem big, on the inside it is well used with several concert halls, restaurants, cafes and even the Westin Hotel (260€ double room). The interior impressed me quite a bit because of its construction and architecture. A work of art.
After many years of construction, the colossal and ambitious building of the Hamburg Philharmonic is finally finished (January 2017).
The first time I visited Hamburg was around 2013, and people were already upset about the delays and the extra cost of the building, which should have been completed by then.
Every time I visited Hamburg afterwards, it was always under construction.
By the way… Do you have any idea where the construction company comes from? Yes, it’s Spanish, Florentino Fernandez‘s company, (the president of Real Madrid for non-footballers) so these delays were to be expected… right?
6- The Port of Hamburg
Besides being able to take a boat ride, there is a good view of the Skyline that is so characteristic of Hamburg: the harbour cranes.
It’s still the third-largest port in Europe…
and most important in Germany.
If you want to take a tour of the Elbe without spending too much, you can take a non-tourist boat from the Landungsbrücke stop. You can give a ride of about 1 hour and get off at the same station. With the HHV card you can get in for free, it’s like another subway.
7- The huge Lake Alster
This lake is the heart of Hamburg’s water. It’s nice to take a walk around the lake, although if you want to go around you’ll need energy for at least 3 hours. A boat trip or canoe rental is also popular.
Swans are historically protected by law. Hamburg was a swamp, with murky, salty water. At that time they could not check the quality of the water, so they used the swans to see if they drank water from the lake or not.
In case the swans didn’t drink water, the population drank beer. For health, of course.
In winter they put the swans in hot water so that no ice forms and they can live.
8- The Reeperbahn and St. Pauli area
The street “Reeperbahn” is full of bars, discotheques, sex shops, pool dance, and even some brothels. It is the center of operations for partying, where it is very common to meet with bachelor parties, and many foreigners on weekends.
Reeperbahn Street is known as “The Mile of Sins“
It’s a street with an atmosphere at night, with many small bars, always full, usually with free admission and relatively cheap drinks. Word is the Beatles started their career in those bars back in the ’60s.
St. Pauli is the bohemian quarter par excellence, where the field of the famous football team is located, which is almost a religion in Hamburg because of its ethical principles and not because of sports.
The park “Park fiction“I like it quite a lot, it is high and hidden, it has a view of the port and a decoration with iron palms and some waves of grass to sunbathe. The problem is that because it is hidden, it is often frequented by strange people, such as vagrants or people drinking beer, etc. It’s safe, it’s okay if you go during the day (I’ve never been at night), but it’s not a place to take your mother-in-law, for example.
A flea market takes place every Saturday at Neuer Kamp Strasse 30 from 8am-4pm. (actually the neighborhood is already Schanzviertel) In this market where you can find everything you can imagine, antiques, clothes, shoes, books, bikes …
You can’t miss an Astra beer (Hamburg’s beer) in a typical “sailor’s” bar.
The Red Light District also exists in Hamburg
The red-light district exists in Hamburg as well (in addition to Amsterdam), although it is smaller and not as frequented by tourists.
The street NorbertstrasseThe “Reeperbahn”, perpendicular to the Reeperbahn, is a special street. It is a closed street with walls on both sides where there are brothels with Amsterdam-type windows. Only men are allowed to enter.
9- The FischMarkt
This is a market, originally for fish, where every Sunday early risers and those who come directly from the bars gather to continue the party. From 6 am live music starts in the old fish market, where there is no lack of beer.
All types of fish are sold, ideal for fish and chips for breakfast!
10- The “island” of the theatres
Hamburg is famous for its musicals and theatres. These are located just across from the harbor, on an island. There you will find several theatres with musicals like Lion King, Aladdin or the Circus of the Sun. It’s not cheap, I went to see the Lion King for about 80 euros a head.
The boats that cross to the island are free for all the assistants to the shows. In practice, they don’t ask for tickets until they get to the door of the theatre, so you can cross to the other side to take a walk and see the city from the other perspective.
Hamburg: The City to go out on a date
Hamburg is the city that never sleeps. You can find bars open 24 hours, and things to do any day or time. The weekend is when the bars and streets are fullest, especially Germans or people from the surrounding area who are going to spend the weekend in Hamburg. It is also “fashionable” to have bachelor parties there.
The concept of “Corner” was coming into vogue the last time I visited Hamburg. It’s just staying on the street drinking instead of going to bars. There are also shops (kiosks) open all night and on every corner to buy drinks.
The Hans-Albers-Platz can serve as a reference for you to go to bars, in all that area there are many small places with free entrance. Other reference streets are: Wohlwillstrasse or Hamburgerberg.
You can drink beer (or other alcoholic beverage) on the street without any problem, except for Reeperbahn Street, which is forbidden to carry glass bottles or glasses. If you buy something at a kiosk, they serve it to you in plastic cups.
The most important thing Be respectful of people and don’t litter the streets.
Extra: G20 protests in July 2017
During the G20 summit there were large protests, which turned into a major police conflict in Hamburg in 2017. More than 30,000 police officers with tanks of pressurized water or tear gas.
Hamburg was in a state of alert for many days, ending with numerous material damages from vandalism, burnt-out containers and cars, public property, etc. More info and videos.
Extra 2: Wunderland Miniature (Not free*!)
The world’s largest miniature model is in Hamburg and is becoming increasingly popular. They have amazing data like there are 260,000 human figures, 10 miles of travel or 76,000 hours spent. Interesting if you like this hobby. I personally am not very excited about it and have never visited it, partly because of the price! I think it looks better in documentary (22min) than in reality.
It takes about 3 hours to go through all the rooms. I would especially like to see the tour “the behind the scenes“, to see how the model is made (£16 plus £13 entrance fee).
Adult ticket 13 ?. www.miniatur-wunderland.com
The Hamburg-card discount card
If you intend to visit several tourist attractions, it may be profitable to buy the card. The card is worth 10.50 euros for one person and 1 day or 18.50 euros for a group of 2 to 5 people.
You can buy online or in many parts of the city.
It includes a day pass for all public transport (valued at 7.40 euros/day) and discounts on tourist trips of up to 50% but does not say how much on each…
Public transport network with elevated train lines (S-Bahn), but also underneath in some sections and underground (U-Bahn).
Public transport lines in Hamburg. Click to enlarge
Line 3 of the S-Bahn has very special views of the river
The U3 S-Bahn line is great for enjoying privileged views of the port and the city, as it passes overhead in the central area. Especially between U3 between Landungsbrücken and Rödingsmarkt.
Single ticket £3.20, for one day £7.40 See all rates.
How to get from/to the airport
With the S1 line you can comfortably reach the airport in 25 minutes in total with a frequency of 10 minutes (from 6 to 23) and every 20 minutes (from 4:28 to 6:00 or 23:00 to 00:14).
The price is 3.20 euros and can be bought at the red machines at the airport train station. For exact timetables see the website of bahn.dePreparing a trip through Germany? Reed my Full Guide to Travel Germany with tricks, itineraries, transportations, destinations, German culture, food, etc.All for organize your trip to Germany