While exploring the artsy neighbourhoods of Berlin, admiring the graffiti-ridden walls, one of my friends, a Berliner, once told me that Berlin is the sexy lady of Germany while Hamburg is the pretty lady. I could not agree more.
If I have to describe Hamburg, a city I now call home, in a few words, pretty, ladylike, chic, sophisticated, and a few other adjectives one uses only to describe pretty ladies come to my mind.
Hamburg does have its share of scandalous and shady locations. Reeperbahn, also dubbed the most sinful mile in Europe, is one of Hamburg’s most visited and happening places.
And you can’t talk about Hamburg and not mention the Hanseatic League. If you’re wondering what on earth is a Hanseatic League, read 15 Photos to Inspire You to Vist Hamburg.
The members of the Hanseatic League, around 184 cities across Europe, take pride in being associated with the league. And Hamburg chose to spell it out. Hamburg’s abbreviation is HH, Hansestadt Hamburg or Hanseatic city Hamburg.
There are barely any postcards of Hamburg’s cityscape that do not feature the river Alster. It is one of the main characteristics of Hamburg, flowing through and around the city, branching off into many canals. It should come as no surprise that Hamburg has the most bridges in the world, 2300 to be precise. The city of bridges is also the 2nd largest city in Germany and has the 3rd largest port in Europe.
History or culture, food or fashion, architecture or nature, no matter what your interest is, Hamburg caters to everyone’s needs.
Here is a list of things to do in Hamburg
The city hall aka Rathaus, old city
When I don the hat of a guide to my friends and family, I always start my tour at the Rathaus (city hall) on Rathausmarkt (city hall market). Starting at city hall helps me chalk out a route that covers major attractions around the river Alster.
The city hall, a neo-renaissance building from the 18th century, is Hamburg’s iconic monument. And here is where the Hamburg’s parliament sits today. It is open to visitors Mon-Sun from 8 am to 6 pm. You can also take guided tours to learn about the 647 rooms, 68 portraits of notable citizens, 20 statues of emperors, among other things.
Gänsemarkt- Jungfernstieg, old city
Alternatively, you can start your tour at Gänsemarkt.
A leisurely walk through the cobbled streets surrounded by impressive architecture will lead you to Jungfernstieg. On a sunny day, flopping on the stairs of Binnenalster lake and soaking in the beautiful scenery complemented by a gigantic fountain feels like therapy. The lake is quite popular with the locals, especially in summer.
Europapassage shopping centre
Europapassage shopping centre is just across Binnenalster lake. The shopping centre deserves a mentio owing to its cruise ship-shaped design. If not for shopping, to transport you to one of the main shopping precincts of Hamburg called Mönckebergstrasse on the other side of the mall.
Neuer Wall and Grosse bleichen
Go window shopping (expensive brands) in Neuer Wall and Grosse
Hafen city or Harbour city
A visit to Hamburg will not make any sense if you don’t pay a visit to Hafen city or the harbour city.
Here are some major attractions around the harbour city:
A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is the largest warehouse district in the world. Also, famous for beautiful buildings, bridges and cafes.
Elphilharmony concert hall
The concert hall is the modern landmark of Hamburg and one of the free things to do in Hamburg. The 82 mt long world’s first curved escalator will take you to the famous plaza for 360° views of Hamburg
Miniauturwunderland (Miniature Wonderland)
If you’re visiting Hamburg with children, look no further than Miniaturwunderland. It takes you on a mini world tour through mini icons of some world-famous monuments.
Landungsbrücken, (Landing Bridge)
Hop on ferry 62 (round trip) at Landungsbrücken, bridge 3 and visit one or all the five stops. The ferry is part of public transport. You don’t need to buy a ferry ticket if you already bought your regular day or single bus/train ticket.
The ferry ride is my favourite free thing to do in Hamburg
St Pauli and Reeperbahn
The longest party street in Europe houses the famous red-light district. It has the quirkiest pubs, bars, restaurants, discotheques,
Under the river Elbe, a 462 mt long pedestrian and vehicle tunnel connects the central Hamburg to the port area. If you want a fun way to get to the port area from central Hamburg, this might be a great idea.
St Nicholas Church and St Michael’s Church
Hamburg is the city with the most tallest churches in the world. St Nicholas and St Michael are two of the five main churches of Hamburg and form a key feature of Hamburg’s cityscape.
St Nicholas, 2nd tallest structure of Hamburg was once the tallest buildings in the world. The bombed church now serves as a World War II memorial.
St Michael’s church is the 4th tallest structure and the most famous church. It is known for its stunning baroque architecture and beautiful views of the city and the port from the viewing platform.
Portuguese Viertel (Portugues Quarter)
As the name suggests, it is the Portuguese
If you have some spare time on hands
Visit Sternschanze, the alternative neighbourhood brimming with cool cafés and restaurants
Go for a walk in the Ohlsdorf cemetery, the biggest rural cemetery in the world, sporting some impressive tombstones.
Visit Treppenviertel (stairs quarter), Blankenese, ex-fishing village now one of the richest and scenic
Hamburg Zoo is another fun place for both children and adult-children alike :P. With penguins and polar bears, my favourite is the Antarctica and Arctic sections of the zoo.
You want to spend some time in nature go birdwatching in Bramfeldersee.