Popular and Unusual Hamburg Attractions: an Extensive 3-day Guide
Today’s guest blogger Sandra is sharing her 3-day Hamburg itinerary and the best and most unusual attractions you can visit there.
Titled as Germany’s Gateway to the World, Hamburg is one of the busiest ports Europe has got.
However, the city is not renown solely for its huge commercial ships constantly coming and going but also its unique flair and maritime charm.
In fact, Hamburg has been dubbed as one of the coolest cities on earth, ranking higher than Berlin, Barcelona, and Europe’s weed capital – Amsterdam!
Whether it’s in the skies or on the water, above ground or under it – Hamburg’s nightlife is so extraordinary, it even paved to way for The Beatles to burst at the forefront of pop culture.
With such a formidable reputation in mind, my goal was to see how much I could absorb of this city’s rockstar essence in just three days. Considering that it is home to more than 1.8 million people, this task seemed daunting at first.
The sheer size of the city made me feel as if I wasn’t equipped to finish this 72-hour marathon but the moment I stepped foot in Hamburg, all my doubts were replaced by a hunger for exploration. It’s contagious, full of contrasts, and just brilliant!
Planning your Trip to Hamburg: Transportation and hotels
There is a cheap and fast way to get from the airport to the Hamburg city center. It is called the S1 rapid transit railway and the station is located directly underneath the terminals. Just look for the green S sign and every 10 minutes you can hitch a ride to every part of the city.
By the way, there is no surcharge for the train connection or from the airport. The trip to the Hauptbahnhof or Central Railway Station takes 25 minutes and consider purchasing a day/group ticket if you plan on exploring the city. Or better yet, you can order a Hamburg City Pass that combines free travel by train, bus, ferries, and entrances to cooperating sightseeing tours, museums, and attractions.
Hamburg also boasts an extensive selection of quality hotels ranging from low-cost to luxury. Just book a room that suits your budget and enjoy your stay as much as you can because the service here is immaculate. Some of the best-recommended hotels are:
- The historic Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten
- The luxurious Sofitel Hamburg Alter Wall
- The refined von Deska Townhouses
- The intimate Hotel Süllberg
- The Side Hotel near the Alster lake
- The Radisson Blue Hotel with an incredible panoramic view
- The hip and youthful 25 Hours Hotels Altes Hafenamt
Find the most convenient and cheapest flights to Hamburg on Skyscanner
What I loved about Hamburg is its people. The denizens are really up-to-date with a lot of gastronomic trends. Culinary diversity is treasured and every ethnic print is incorporated into the city’s identity.
As for the nightlife, you just can’t get enough of it! Classy cocktail bars, beer-pouring pubs, 24/7 clubs perfect for Hamburg stag do weekends. It is almost impossible not to have a good time here, folks.
Discovering the Beatles was just the tip of the iceberg in Hamburg’s repertoire of musical contribution. If you want to be blown away by the powers of classical music, I suggest you visit the Elbphilharmonie – one of the city’s newest and most sophisticated concert halls ever constructed.
Or if you want to talk about Hamburg’s musical pedigree, know that Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn, and Gustav Mahler are just some of the names made immortal. Of course, I was on the hunt for something youthful and dynamic – and, boy, this city does not disappoint. Dance clubs, electronic music, and festivals galore!
All in all, I believe three days are nowhere near enough to explore Hamburg but I must say, I have documented my sprint through the city with a lot of pleasure. If you ever have an opportunity to visit, by all means, take all the time in the world.
The city never shied away from its historic label “The gateway to the world” with a good reason. During the Middle Ages, Hamburg was holding the torch for the mercantile Hanseatic League or Hansa as the center for international trade in the north-west.
Centuries later, when you take a stroll through the streets, you can still feel that old-school maritime spirit glorified by ceaseless cries of seagulls and the salty cool breeze of the North Sea.
And amid those historic echoes, lively neighborhoods are swarming with multicultural eateries, coastal architecture, and adult districts.
My Hamburg 3-day itinerary
Below you can see the suggested itinerary to visit Hamburg in 3 days.
My tour started Friday morning with one of the most exciting attractions on my checklist. If you know your German, Alter Elbtunnel translates Old Elbe tunnel. And what type of tunnel that is, you might ask?
A subterranean one that connects the city center of Hamburg with the southern shipyard district. Not only is it crazy knowing there is 24 m (89 ft) of water above your head, but the whole visual experience of glazed ceramic motifs decorating the walls is killer photo material.
This tunnel is accessible 24 hours a day and motor traffic is restricted to a limited time, which means bicyclists and pedestrians a-plenty.
Once I got out and continued exploring the canal-lined avenues, I got a surprise welcome by a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site – Speicherstadt. This is the world’s largest warehouse complex, which has preserved its Neo-Gothic features.
The site is brimming with industrial beauty and architecture, plus you can rent a boat to observe the entire vintage district from the water. I myself headed to the Miniatur Wunderland or Miniature Wonderland, and this iconic exhibit blew-my-mind!
How do I put it in words? It is the world’s largest computer-operated mini-scaled railroad layout – if this makes sense. And it is still a work in progress! Alright, picture this:
A realistic 1:87 scale model of various panoramas, which include the Alps, Switzerland, Hamburg, the American West, and this fictitious little city called Knuffingen, that is intersected by 12,000 m (39,000 ft) of tracks.
It is covered in trees, decorated with lights, trains are going back and forth constantly, and you can even see little humans scattered about, doing their thing. What really caught me off guard was the airport with flyable little planes taxiing about.
This landmark is supposed to be completely finished by 2020 but even now you can book in an advance a behind-the-scenes tour to experience the construction process.
Let me tell you, Speicherstadt is really a piece of engineering work with hidden gems within. Eventually, when you get tired of walking, there are lots of galleries, fancy restaurants, and traditional shops to hang out at. I went for some grub and went back to my hotel room to chill…
Book a tour around the Speicherstadt now!
To my amazement, Friday night completely transformed the city’s appearance. The streets were hustling and bustling, people we rendezvous-ing for drinks, and I even saw a pack of guys riding this huge bicycle-bar while guzzling beer.
That is when I figured out that bachelors love to go on a Hamburg stag weekend because this city is a cool place to hang out by day and party all night. It got me thinking: So where is the red light district? I had to see that spot in all its evening glory.
And there it was, the Reeperbahn! This neon theme park houses Hamburg’s seedy yet laudably safe underbelly. This bustling tourist spot is full of cafes, strip bars, colorful crowds, and most peculiar adult shops.
I had no other choice but to go window shopping because these folks sell all sorts of lascivious accessories, kinky suits, and sex toys for men and women. I’ve never seen so much kink in one place before.
Although some streets are animated with live suggestive entertainment, I had to go to Große Freiheit or Great Freedom to see where then-anonymous Beatles lit up the German audience prior to reaching superstardom. In fact, some of the music clubs they performed in still exist today!
You can book a tour around Reeperbahn here
The next day, I noticed something when I reached the central stopping point for public buses. This public square must be the most vanilla place for true Hamburgers because the city hall is standing right next to it so I assumed everybody gathers here for Christmas celebrations.
Still, when you visit any city for the first time, everything is new and fascinating to watch. I know I had to stop for a look. Later I found out that this site turns into a Christmas market during the festivities so hypothesis – confirmed!
My path led me to this grand Lutheran place of worship which reaches the skies with its oxidized green tips. Built in Gothic brick style, this piece of 13th-century architectural work was almost completely burned to the ground during a WWII air raid executed by Allied forces.
I felt something profoundly animating when I learned that the church bells fell on that fateful night and the locals left them there as a memorial. It is said that a lot of artwork was destroyed in the fire but you can still find recovered artifacts, such as a 15th-century stone statue of St. Antonius, winged altar of Christian Swarte, as well as a wooden statue of Saint John. And what really captivated my attention – an unusual statue of the devil back in the courtyard.
Next up, I decided to travel northeast a bit and visit the beach. Travemunde is a part of the city of Lübeck located on the mouth of the Trave River which gives access to the Baltic Sea.
This resort town was immortalized by Thomas Mann but besides housing nestled seaside shops and restaurants, I also found this fantastic museum located in a docked ship named Flying P-Liner Passat. Neat, right? I found a nice spot in this quaint restaurant and waited for the sun to go down.
Park Planten un Blomen
On the third day, I took a stroll through this majestic 47-hectares (116-acres) garden located in the very core of Hamburg city center. A lot of parents take their children here with good reason – it is packed with children play areas, as well as a rollerblading and ice-skating rink. Still, if you want to admire local flora and take a time out from the urban hassle, this “Plants & Flowers” park is the place to be.
On my way, I stumbled upon Room Escape Games that has 16 challenges to choose from. If I had time to spare, I would have been crawling all over the place! At least I knew if I ever had a bachelor weekend here, this place would definitely be on my Hamburg stag activities list.
Not long enough, though, I got exposed to this colossal 19th-century structure that houses the city’s senate and parliament. It’s neoclassical facade with ornate marble statues and inscriptions really captivated my attention.
Luckily, I was able to have a little tour of the Main Hall and central courtyard without paying a penny but for just a small fee, the entire building is yours for exploring.
As my visit to Hamburg was nearing its end, I thought I could go somewhere where I can enjoy the cityscape. Binneralster – Hamburg’s commercial center – was a great final destination where I could enjoy my final moments.
It is packed with designer stores perfect for some window-shopping, the architecture is eye-popping, and the fountain in the center really sums up the whole urban vibe of the city. I took a seat in a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the lake and was really sad that it is already time to go. I took a short meditative walk, fed the swans, and went back to the hotel to check out.
Of course, people think of sauerkraut, pretzels, sausages, and schnitzels accompanied by kegs of malt savory beer when they come to Germany but these traditional dishes are more common in southern parts of the country. Up north in Hamburg, you might want to try something different like:
- Fischbrötchen – a delicious fish roll snack made of pickled or soused herring, pickles, onions, and remoulade sauce.
- Finkenwerder Scholle – a baked or pan-fried plaice with onions, bacon, and shrimps freshly caught from the North Sea. The streets of Finkenwerder are packed with restaurants, which expertly cook this superb meal.
- Labskaus – a photogenic dish made from corned beef and mashed potatoes with pickled gherkin, beetroot, fried eggs, and herring commonly served on the side.
- Grünkohl – this healthy superfood is made by stewing kale for several hours and it is served with smoked pork, sausages, as well as fried or boiled potatoes. Kale season starts after the winter frost so expect this meal on all restaurant menus.
- Aalsuppe – talk about German practicality. This sweet-and-sour eel soup was once made from leftovers but today restaurants cook it with cured beef, meat broth, vegetables, dumplings, and, baked fruit. Due to its rich nutritional value, Aalsuppe is usually served as a main course.
- Franzbrötchen – Napoleon has brought French rolls into these parts of the country and Hamburg has kept the baking tradition alive to this day. Most bakeries make these delicious croissants with chocolate pieces, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and marzipan.
If you really want to indulge your appetites with some fine wining and dining, have no worries, Hamburg is brimming with classy international restaurants, such as The Table Kevin Fehling, Seven Seas, Restaurant Haerlin, Theo’s, Nikkei Nine, Jacobs, and the Heldenplaz Restaurant.
However, should you fancy immersing yourself more in the local culture and cuisine, then head on down to places like Opitz, Sangers Bistro, Bruecke 10, Deichgraf, Das Dorf, and Philips Restaurant, to name a few. Quality is guaranteed!
As I said at the beginning of this travel blog, three days is not enough to absorb all of Hamburg’s splendor. This German jewel is constantly active, always ready to entertain, and simply too magnetic.
The mini-tour I’ve completed was a perfect way to get familiar with how the place breathes. And what have I learned?
Well, in my experience, the locals are focused yet chipper, willing to help, and deeply proud of their community.
It is just inspirational to stroll through the streets where everyone makes you feel welcome and engaged to learn more.
If I were to come back again – which I surely will – I won’t settle for less than a week of touring. Hamburg opens its arms to anyone who is ready to discover new things.
Whether you just want to party your brains out and let loose of your inhibitions or melt in a multicultural pot, which seamlessly blends modern living with diverse traditional values, this city is for you!
During my sprint, I’ve seen Hamburg’s both popular sites and hidden gems, and, frankly, I didn’t get enough of it.
This city owns it, no two ways about it! So to anyone who is genuinely interested in visiting, I promise that Hamburg is one of the coolest cities in the world for a reason.
It is not a gimmick to attract tourists, you will literally see and feel the very definition of urban ingenuity and beauty.
Book your plane tickets and get cracking, folks!
Check the most unusual things to do in Berlin and a guide to Amsterdam.
Plan a perfect trip using my trip planner!
A good overview for a three day tour. I enjoyed reading everything, because I offer city tours in Hamburg myself. So I just miss the hint of what is perhaps the most environmentally friendly way to discover Hamburg, see. https://www.elb-plaza-philharmonie.guide/guided-tours/ and here: https://www.hamburg-by-rickshaw.de/tours-and-services/. For three days, e.g. on a weekend, you will surely see more on a city tour with the rickshaw. In addition, rickshaw riding is not only an ecologically sustainable form of city tour, but also probably one of the safest and most comfortable, not only in times of Corona.
Thank you for the information! Bicycle and rickshaw tours really seem a very good idea for exploring Hamburg.