Discover Hamburg: Must-see Attractions in the vibrant Port City

Located on the banks of the Elbe, Hamburg is Germany’s maritime pearl: here you will find the largest German port city with huge container ships that literally sail through the city. As the “Gateway to the World”, it is Germany’s most international city with people from 170 nations and Hamburg is the city in Europe with the most bridges (around 2,500).

With its rich array of architectural wonders, cultural attractions, bustling waterfront promenades and infamous red light district, this dynamic metropolis attracts visitors from all over the world.

10 Best Things to Do in Hamburg

Hamburg offers an array of experiences to satisfy every traveler’s appetite. It is one of the most diverse, greenest and trendiest cities you can find in Germany. We present you 10 must-see attractions in Hamburg and give you lots of insider tips to make your trip to this bustling port city a truly unforgettable one.

A man selling fresh fish on the Fishmarket in Hamburg.

1. St. Pauli Fischmarkt

The fish market in the heart of St. Pauli is more than just a place to eat a fish sandwich and buy seafood. It is a cultural institution that has been a hive of activity since 1703. Every Sunday morning, locals and tourists alike flock to this traditional market to enjoy the jovial atmosphere, where the smell of freshly caught fish mingles with the sounds of live music and lively gossip.

Early Morning Energy: Rise with the sun and witness the lively fish auction hall as fishmongers showcase their catch of the day in a spirited bidding war.

Culinary Delights: Indulge your taste buds in a plethora of fresh fish offerings, from succulent fish sandwiches to traditional fish rolls, served hot off the grill.

Live Entertainment: Enjoy live music performances by local bands, adding to the festive ambiance of the market and ensuring a memorable experience for all visitors.

Insider Tip: Arrive early to catch the sunrise over the Elbe River and witness the market come to life with the arrival of fishing boats and bustling crowds.

The Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg on a sunny day.

2. Elbphilharmonie Hamburg

The Elbphilharmonie Hamburg sits majestically above the historic Speicherstadt warehouse district and is a symbol of modernity and cultural excellence. This architectural masterpiece, designed by Herzog & de Meuron in 2017, seamlessly blends old and new, combining the red brick warehouses of the past with modern glass curves that soar into the sky.

World-class acoustics: step into the Grand Hall, renowned for its unparalleled acoustics, where every note rings out with clarity and precision, creating an unforgettable listening experience.

Panoramic view: Climb the impressive glass structure via the fascinating, curved escalator known as the “Tube” and enjoy panoramic views of Hamburg’s skyline and bustling harbor.

Interactive exhibits: Explore the interactive exhibits on the Plaza, a public viewing platform 37 meters above the ground that offers an insight into the history, design and construction of this architectural marvel.

Insider tip: Secure tickets for a concert or guided tour in advance to fully enjoy the beauty of the Elbphilharmonie and avoid disappointment due to high demand.

3. Red light district

Illuminated display of the Dolllhouse on the Reeperbahn at night.

Nestled within the vibrant neighborhood of St. Pauli lies the notorious Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s pulsating red-light district. It’s home to a vibrant nightlife scene with a variety of entertainment options including sex shops, strip clubs, and bars. While the Reeperbahn provides an eclectic mix of historical significance, alternative culture, and great food, it’s also known for offering great fun and a lively atmosphere for those looking to explore Hamburg’s more unconventional side.

Iconic Nightlife: Embark on a journey through a kaleidoscope of bars, clubs, and live music venues that line the bustling streets of the Reeperbahn, offering an unrivaled nightlife experience that caters to all tastes and preferences.

Historical Significance: Delve into the district’s intriguing past, from its origins as a ropemaking area (“Reeper” in Low German) to its transformation into a vibrant entertainment hub synonymous with freedom and expression.

Alternative Culture: Discover hidden gems and offbeat attractions, including quirky art galleries, avant-garde theaters, and eclectic street art that showcase the district’s alternative spirit and creative energy.

Insider Tip: While the Reeperbahn is renowned for its nightlife, consider exploring during the day with a guided tour to appreciate its eclectic charm and to get insider tips and incredibly interesting background knowledge about Hamburg’s most famous street.

The Japanese garden in the Planten and Blom park in Hamburg with a pond and the television tower in the background

4. Planten un Blomen

In the middle of Hamburg’s bustling city center lies a green paradise called “Planten un Blomen”, which means “plants and flowers” in German. Covering an area of 47 hectares, this enchanting city park offers a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city and invites visitors to immerse themselves in a world of natural beauty and serenity.

Botanical Diversity: Wander through lush gardens, meandering pathways, and tranquil ponds, each corner of Planten un Blomen showcases a rich tapestry of flora from around the globe, including exotic plants, colorful flowers, and majestic trees.

Japanese Garden: Discover a slice of Japan in central Hamburg as you meander through the meticulously landscaped themed gardens, like the Japanese Garden.

Recreational Activities: From leisurely picnics on sun-dappled lawns to romantic boat rides on the tranquil lake, Blomen park offers a myriad of recreational activities for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

Insider Tip: Don’t miss the enchanting nightly spectacle at the Parksee lake, where the Wasserlichtspiele (Water Light Show) transforms the tranquil waters into a dazzling display of light and color, enchanting spectators with its mesmerizing choreography.

5. Harbor Boat Tour

View of the port of hamburg with cranes and ships in the background

While you visit Hamburg explore Hamburg’s Maritime History on the Largest Port in Germany and sail on a captivating harbor boat tour in the Elbe River. This journey offers a unique perspective of the city, allowing visitors to witness firsthand the bustling docks, towering cranes, and majestic ships that have shaped Hamburg’s identity as a maritime powerhouse.

Scenic Views: Cruise along the picturesque waterways of the river, offering panoramic views of Hamburg’s skyline, historic landmarks, and bustling port facilities, providing a captivating glimpse into the city’s maritime heritage and industrial prowess.

Historic Landmarks: Glide past iconic landmarks such as the Speicherstadt, the world’s largest warehouse district and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where centuries-old red-brick warehouses stand as silent witnesses to Hamburg’s mercantile past.

Port Activity: Marvel at the sheer scale of operations as you navigate through the bustling port, where massive container ships, cargo vessels, and cruise liners converge in a symphony of maritime activity.

Insider Tip: Opt for a sunset or evening cruise to witness Hamburg’s skyline illuminated against the dusky sky, casting a magical glow over the waterfront and creating a truly unforgettable experience.

Replica of a burning house with fire department in Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg

6. Miniatur Wunderland

Miniatur Wunderland is a testament to creativity and attention to detail and is one of the most visited attractions in Hamburg. As the world’s largest model railway, this tourist attraction offers a fascinating insight into a world in which every detail has been meticulously and carefully recreated. Recreated “mini-worlds” in Wonderland include America, Monaco, Italy, America and Patagonia.

Miniature Marvels: Marvel at the sheer scale and complexity of Miniatur Wunderland’s extensive collection of miniature landscapes, which span over 1,500 square meters and depict iconic landmarks, bustling cities, and idyllic countryside scenes from around the globe.

Attention to Detail: Admire the impeccable attention to detail evident in every aspect of the miniature world, from the intricately designed buildings and vehicles to the lifelike landscapes and bustling crowds, creating a sense of realism that is both captivating and awe-inspiring.

Thematic Sections: Explore themed sections such as the bustling streets of Hamburg, the majestic Alps, and the vibrant streets of Las Vegas, each offering a unique glimpse into different cultures, landscapes, and architectural styles from around the world.

Insider Tip: Beat the crowds by visiting Miniatur Wunderland during off-peak hours or purchasing tickets online in advance to secure your entry and avoid long wait times.

7. Cross the "Alter Elbtunnel"

Pedestrian path of the illuminated Elbe tunnel with some passers-by

Located near the Landungsbrücken, the Old Elbe Tunnel offers visitors a unique experience as they pass under the river Elbe. Built in 1911, this historic tunnel serves as a reminder of Hamburg’s industrial past while providing a memorable passage between the city center and the waterfront.

Underground passage: Come to the depths of the tunnel and embark on an underground journey beneath the riverbed as you traverse the 426-meter-long passage on foot, by bike

Elevators: Ride one of the historic elevators that transport visitors from street level to the depths of the tunnel

Waterfront promenade: If you’re on the opposite side of the river, you can explore the picturesque waterfront promenade, from where you have a beautiful view of the harbor, passing ships and historic landmarks such as the Landungsbrücken and the Elbphilharmonie concert hall.

Insider tip: Visit the Old Elbe Tunnel in the evening and experience a very special atmosphere.

View of the Michel in Hamburg from the water under a blue sky

8. St. Michael's Church

St. Michael’s Church, affectionately called “Michel” by the locals, dominates the Hamburg skyline with its high tower and invites visitors to enjoy a breathtaking view over the city. As Hamburg’s largest church, St. Michael’s not only offers an insight into the city’s religious heritage, but also the opportunity to enjoy a panoramic view.

Architectural splendor: In St. Michael’s you can see the baroque architecture of the church with its stucco, altars and organ with over 5,000 pipes, which is known for its exceptional sound quality.

Climb the tower: Climb the 453 steps to the top of the church tower for a truly spectacular experience. On the way up, you can take a look at historical artifacts and learn more about the fascinating history of the church on informative display boards before reaching the viewing platform, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Hamburg’s skyline, the harbor and the Elbe.

Bell concerts: Time your visit with one of St. Michaelis’ famous bell concerts.

Insider tip: For the best view, visit the bell tower of St. Michaelis at sunset or in the early evening, when the city lights create a truly magical atmosphere.

9. Speicherstadt

View of the canals of the Speicherstadt in hamburg

The Speicherstadt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a testament to Hamburg’s maritime heritage and trade. From the famous canals and historic warehouses to the many museums, the Speicherstadt offers visitors an exciting and interesting experience.

Architectural Marvels: Marvel at the architectural splendor of the Speicherstadt’s meticulously preserved red-brick warehouses, which date back to the late 19th century and stand as enduring symbols of Hamburg’s commercial prosperity and maritime heritage.

Canal Cruises: Embark on a scenic canal cruise through the labyrinthine waterways of the Speicherstadt, where you’ll glide past historic landmarks, bustling quaysides, and picturesque bridges, gaining insight into the district’s evolution from a bustling trading hub to a thriving cultural enclave.

Culinary delights: Take a break and experience the culinary diversity of the Speicherstadt, where charming cafés, quaint eateries and upscale restaurants offer a range of delicious food, from traditional German cuisine to international flavors and gourmet delicacies.

Insider Tip: Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the International Maritime Museum, located within the heart of the Speicherstadt. With its extensive collection of maritime treasures and immersive exhibits, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the seafaring traditions that have shaped Hamburg’s identity.

View of the front of the entire town hall in Hamburg with a Christmas market on the square in front

10. Impressive Rathaus (City Hall)

Situated in the heart of Hamburg, the Rathaus, or town hall, stands as a symbol of the city’s rich history and civic pride. Just a stone’s throw away from the main train station, this architectural masterpiece welcomes visitors to explore its grand halls, intricate façades, and ornate interiors, offering a glimpse into Hamburg’s storied past and vibrant present.

Guided Tours: Embark on a guided tour of the city center, which often includes a visit to the Rathaus among other iconic landmarks. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours provide fascinating insights into Hamburg’s history, culture, and architectural heritage, allowing visitors to discover hidden gems and lesser-known anecdotes along the way.

Architecture: Marvel at the Rathaus’s stunning Neo-Renaissance architecture, adorned with elaborate sculptures, majestic towers, and intricately designed interiors that showcase the city’s wealth and power during its golden age of trade and commerce.

Christmas Market: During the festive season, the Rathausplatz transforms into a winter wonderland with the annual Christmas market. Immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere as you wander through twinkling lights, festive decorations, and traditional wooden stalls selling handmade crafts, mulled wine, and seasonal delicacies.

Insider Tip: Be sure to check the Rathaus’s opening hours and availability for guided tours in advance, as schedules may vary depending on events and holidays.

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