What to see in Hamburg. Germany
The area west of Hamburg’s central railway station is mainly a shopping area with the streets Spitaler Straße and Mönckebergstraße, leading to Hamburg’s town hall. Close to the Mönckebergstraße you find the churches St. Jacobi (at road Jakobikirchhof) and St. Petri (at road Bergstraße), two of Hamburg’s five main churches. Directly beside St. Petri there is the Hulbe-Haus, originally built as an arts and crafts house and dating from the beginning of the 20th century as most buildings around, but looking much older.
Behind the Hulbe-Haus, under the building of “Radio Hamburg”, you can visit the remains of the bishops tower, from the 11th century. On the other side of the road, you can currently see excavations in progress, seeking the remains of the small fortress Hammaburg, which was erected in the 9th century giving Hamburg its name.
The Mönckebergstraße ends at Hamburg’s impressive city hall (“Rathaus”). It was built in 1897 out of sandstone in Neo-Renaissance style, including a 112 m tower. Inside there are several magnificent halls used for representative purposes and sittings of government and parliament. These can be visited in guided tours (M-Th 10AM-3:15PM, F-Su 10AM-1:15PM, half-hourly in German, hourly in English and French. Closed during official events.
The building behind the city hall is Hamburg’s House of Commerce (“Börse”). Between the buildings, there is a little place called Rathaushof with its fountain Hygieia-Brunnen. The place in front of the city hall is the Rathausmarkt, hosting many events especially in summer.
North of the Rathausmarkt, you find white arches at a canal called Alsterarkaden. The whole area behind is full of indoor shopping arcades. The most well-known one is the Hanse Viertel.
Following the canal to the right and crossing the traditional shopping road, Jungfernstieg, you quickly get to the artificial lake Binnenalster. Boat tours take you to the even bigger artificial lake, Außenalster, directly behind the Binnenalster with lots of sailing boats in summer.
From the House of Commerce into the road Börsenbrücke, you get to the house of the Patriotische Gesellschaft. Behind the building to the right, you’ll find the bridge Trostbrücke with the statues of Graf Adolf III and Bishop Ansgar on both sides. Following the water to left, there is Hamburg’s oldest remaining bridge, Zollenbrücke, from the 17th century.
At the other side of the Trostbrücke, there is the ruin of the church, St. Nikolai. All five main churches of Hamburg were damaged in World War II. But in contrast to the other four, St. Nikolai has not been re-erected making it a memorial against war. The steeple is still standing and visitors can take an elevator to the top for a view of the city. At the side of St. Nikolai, there is the hop market (“Hopfenmarkt”) with its fountain Vierländerinbrunnen.
Following the bridge over the huge street Willy-Brandt-Straße and keeping right takes you into the road “Alte Deichstraße” with its ensemble of traditional half-timbered merchant houses and the canal Nicolai Fleet at the rear. This is the site where Hamburg’s harbor was some centuries ago.
At the southern end of the Alte Deichstraße, you see where the harbor moved afterwards. There is a canal called Zollkanal. Looking to the left, you see the Speicherstadt, a large district of warehouses from around 1900. Some are still in use, but others have been converted to apartments. It’s a ‘typical’ location and worth a visit. It houses museums (International Maritime Museum, Speicherstadtmuseum, Spice Museum, Automuseum Prototyp) and also attractions, such as the “Hamburg Dungeon” and the “Miniatur Wunderland”.
The Hamburg Dungeon is a live-action presentation of the “darker times” of Hamburg. It is probably mostly suited for a younger, easily impressed audience. But it might not be suitable for young children.
The Miniatur Wunderland is the world’s largest model railway layout. The panoramas include parts of Hamburg, the Alps, the American west, and a Scandinavian exhibit which features automated ships on a body of water. It also has an airport exhibit with automated planes which taxi and fly.
Behind the warehouse district Speicherstadt a totally new quarter, the HafenCity, is being shaped and erected on unused industrial ground, nerved by channel, docks and basins. It is Europe’s largest project of city development, creating a whole new quarter from scratch in a former harbor region. Outstanding architecture of, among others, shipyard museum, concert hall – the Elbphilharmonie, new ‘architectural lighthouse’ of Hamburg by 2012. On the top of a huge old warehouse a 110 meters tall modern philharmonic hall with glass facade and wave-shaped roof is being built. You can find information about the new buildings and whole district in the HafenCity Kesselhaus InfoCenter (Sandtorkai 30, open Tu-Su 10AM-6PM they provide free guided tours), Elbphilharmonie Information Pavilion and look at the erecting process from an orange observation tower called HafenCity View Point, which allows nice views on the HafenCity, the harbor, and the river (free admission).
Also The Hamburg Cruise Centre, where cruise lines land in Hamburg, is in the HafenCity. Its terminal building is constructed out of 40 sea containers.
Looking from Alte Deichstraße over the Zollkanal to the right, you can see the modern buildings belonging to the Hanseatic Trade Centre ending to the right at the Kehrwiederspitze. Looking further right, you already see the modern harbor.
Walking in this direction takes you to the river, Elbe. At the opposite of the metro station “Baumwall”, there’s Hamburg’s city and yacht harbor (“City und Sportboothafen”). The big red lighthouse ship (“Feuerschiff”) hosts a restaurant today. Some yards further down the Elbe, you get to the Überseebrücke where formerly big cruise liners docked when coming to Hamburg. Permanently docked is the museum ship Cap San Diego, which is said to be last classic cargo ship.
Leaving the water, passing by the hyper-modern building of the Gruner + Jahr publishers, you get to the church St. Michaelis (called “Michel”, from the tower you’ll have a great view over the city), Hamburg’s well-known landmark. Close to the Michel off the road Krayenkamp the shopkeeper-office-flats (“Krameramtswohnungen”) are the last example of a typical 17th century housing estate.
Continuing down the river Elbe, you get to Landungsbrücken (“landing bridges”), the most touristy part of Hamburg’s harbor, close to the metro station with the same name. Piers connected with several bridges swim on the water adapting to the tide. There tourism boats land and you will find tourist shops, restaurants, and snack bars. The sailing ship Rickmer Rickmers can be visited.
From Landungsbrücken, you can make boat tours into the harbor. These Hafenrundfahrten are available from various companies and take around an hour. Big ships provide more comfort, but smaller ships also go through the Speicherstadt. Both are well worth the money. Inquire about English language tours.
As a low-budget alternative for a boat tour on the river Elbe take a HADAG Ferry that is part of Hamburg’s public transport system. If you have already bought a HVV day ticket, the ride is free. Most tourists take the number 62 to Finkenwerder, via the museum harbor Oevelgönne. The whole ride to Finkenwerder and return takes about an hour. In Finkenwerder, you can continue with another ferry to Teufelsbrück.
You can also walk through the tunnel Alter Elbtunnel from 1911 to the other side of the river Elbe and have great views from there. A lift or stairs bring you the 24 meters down into the tunnel. You then walk through one of its two 427 meter long pipes having 12 meters of water over your head. The tunnel is decorated with ceramic arts of maritime motifs (e.g. fish, mussels, seals, and old boots). At the other side, you again walk up the stairs or take a lift. Go out and back to the river to “Aussichtspunkt Steinwerder” for great views on Landungsbrücken and the sights behind. Even cars can pass through the tunnel (only M-F, 5:30AM-8PM) being brought down with four lifts. You find the tunnel at Landungsbrücken in the building having the biggest green dome. Signs to “Aussichtspunkt Steinwerder” also point to it. For pedestrians and bicycles it is free and open all day and night, every day.
Walking from Landungsbrücken down the river Elbe takes you to St. Pauli Fischmarkt, walking further you’ll reach Övelgönne and Blankenese.
Another Hamburg landmark is the Reeperbahn in Sankt Pauli. It’s probably one of the most famous red-light districts in the world. From vaudeville to prostitutes, from bars to sex-shops, you can find an assortment of attractions. Plus, it is frequently visited by a lot of travelers to go shopping for a huge variety of sex-related articles and toys. This is probably one of very few places worldwide where all shopkeepers give you serious and open advice on all kinds of sex-related articles. Commonsense and caution are advised here, as in any such area. It’s relatively safe and a definite touristy place to see. A lot of people go there for dinner, live music, theatre, musicals or other non-sex related activities. It is worth pointing out however, that one is likely to be accosted by prostitutes offering “certain services”.
Three times a year (Mar, Aug, and Nov), there is an enormous fair in this part of town called Dom. It features rides, enormous numbers of food vendors, and a broad range of tacky animatronics. Take the U-Bahn to Feldstraße or Sankt Pauli. In a park across the street is an enormous statue of Bismarck.
The “Hafenstraße” (Harbor street) is between Landungsbrücken, the most tourist crowded place in the city, and the fish market, which is open only on Sunday morning from 4:30AM-9:30AM. The street between was a place for squatters in the 1980s and was well known by the media when there were “battles” between the Autonomous movement and the police. Some houses still exist there, though the “80s-Myth” is dead. You can go to the Punksbar “onkel otto” or eat at the “vokü”.
Sankt Pauli is one of the most populous district in Europe and a melting pot of all different people, thousands of stories and interesting histories.
As of 18 July 2009, glass bottles are banned in the neighborhood from Friday night until Monday morning. Violating the ban can apparently result in a fine up to 5000 eur. Alcohol is still permitted on the street and vendors can still sell drinks in cans or plastic bottles.
Also in the Reeperbahn area are clubs where the Beatles played at various times from 1960-1962. At the corner of Reeperbahn and Grosse Freiheit, also called Beatles-platz, there is a sculpture honoring the Beatles.
This neighborhood is situated right in between Sankt Pauli, Eimsbüttel, and Altona. Get out Sternschanze station and walk down Schanzenstraße southward to reach the vivid centre of Schanzenviertel. Students and immigrants from all around the world and young creative give this quarter a unique and urban flair. During the last few years, Schanzenviertel became very popular among even wealthy people. This led to rising living costs on the one hand and a variety of exquisite boutiques on the other. The Schulterblatt street with the Rote Flora building and its galore of bars and restaurants represents the centre of Schanzenviertel. The Rote Flora used to be the last squatted house in Hamburg; it’s now left to the squatters for free by the owner. During the week, it is turned into a café, concerts of various styles or other events may also take place. On some days there is cheap (mostly vegan) food available. You can sometimes find fantastic parties for small prices on Friday and Saturday.
Situated northeast of Central Station and city centre, Sankt Georg is the lively, trendy centre of Hamburg’s gay scene. Rainbow flags flutter from the balconies in summer. The streets are crowded with people shopping, having a chat, drinking coffee, or going to one of the many art exhibitions around the Lange Reihe street.
The former Danish village Ottensen, bordered by the River Elbe in the south and the Altona Central Station in the east, is not unlike Schanzenviertel, a very hip place to live. In the 1970s and 1980s, Ottensen was mainly populated by Turks, working class people, and political activists. Nowadays, it is one of the most expensive neighborhoods. Its situation and the architecture let many inhabitants even today speak of Ottensen as a village. The Fabrik, an alternative concert hall, is situated at Barnerstrasse. Only a few blocks away lies Zeisehallen, a formerly occupied fabric hall, nowadays home to a movie theatre, a gallery, a restaurant, and a bookshop. Ottenser Hauptstrasse and Bahrenfelder Strasse, crossing at the Spritzenplatz, offer a huge variety of small shops and bistros.
The Karolienenviertel (also known as Karoviertel) can be compared to the Schanzenviertel. Locals claim that the Schanzenviertel became too popular (and thus crowded). The Karoviertel is far from quiet, but populated by locals. The main attractions are unique clothing stores some of which are second hand. To get there take the HVV to either Feldstrasse (Heiligengeistfeld) or Messehallen subway station.
Blankenese was a fishing village on the Elbe to the southwest of Hamburg. It lies in a valley between two of the only ridges in the area that runs straight down to the river. This upbeat suburb of Hamburg has more millionaires than any other German city. On pretty weekends, the place will be full of Hamburgers there to enjoy the tiny beaches, the winding streets, and the charming houses. Blankenese is among the most picturesque parts of Hamburg.
Bergedorf once was an independent town, but now is a quarter of Hamburg. It is situated in the south-eastern side of Hamburg. Bergedorf borders with the quarters of Lohbrügge, Billwerder, Allermöhe, Curslack and Altengamme. Sometimes it is called the “garden of Hamburg”. This is because the Vier- und Marschlande are part of the quarter of Bergedorf, which consists mostly of farmland.
Touristic Attractions are the Bergedorf Castle, which is the only castle still intact within the borders of Hamburg, the shopping arcade, starting at Lohbrügges Alte Holstenstraße, continuing on Bergedorfs Sachsentor (lots of frame houses can be seen here) and ending on Mohnhof, where the “city center” of Bergedorf is located. Another attraction is the observatory, which was built in 1912 and is still in use today. It is owned by the University of Hamburg.
In the past few years Bergedorf underwent a heavy reconstruction, with a new main bus terminal and a new commercial center.
The Chilehaus, depicting the form of a ship, is probably the best example of the 1920s style of “Kontorhaus” architecture. Large office buildings are displayed in the typical, northern red brick style.
- Elephant feeding in the Hagenbeck Zoo
- Planten un Blomen is a park in the city with an emphasis on flower displays. Subway station Dammtor.
- Alter Botanischer Garten with Tropenhaus (Schaugewächshäuser) in the Area of Planten un Blomen. Admission free.
- Neuer Botanischer Garten in Klein Flottbek. Admission free.
- Alstervorland, at the Außenalster.
- The Stadtpark (city park) — Has a pretty good Planetarium situated in an old water tower in the middle of the park (closed for refurbishing until end of 2016).
- Ohlsdorfer Friedhof — One of the world’s biggest graveyards.
- Jenischpark, Baurs Park, and Garten der Alma l’Aigles, down the river Elbe close to Teufelsbrück.
- Hagenbecks Tierpark — Hamburg’s Zoo.
There are a number of small beaches on the North side of the Elbe river between Övelgönne and Blankenese. Even though not common, it is safe to swim in the Elbe there (if you don’t swim out too far). You may have a barbecue there in the evenings, as long as you bring a grill and clean up after yourself. Watch out for surprisingly large waves created by large ships passing by and stay clear at least 50m of any structure in or reaching into the water!
In addition, there is a usually number of commercial beach clubs during the summer, usually between Fischmarkt and Övelgönne. Other than the name might indicate, these are bars open to the public.
The best way to come to the most popular beach is to take the harbor-ferry bus from the Landungsbrücken station to Neumühlen/Övelgönne.
Hamburg publishes a thick, detailed booklet of local museums called “Museumswelt Hamburg”. You can find the Museumswelt Hamburg at the information desk at any of the museums.
Night of Museums in April is big in Hamburg. Over fifty places take part and are open till 2AM. Entrance to museums is not free, but the cost is symbolic.
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (Museum of Arts and Crafts), Steintorplatz, just to the southeast of Hauptbahnhof. Open Tu-Su 11AM-6PM, Th 11AM-9PM.
The museum is a leading centre for art, applied art, and design. Its collections of work from Europe and the Middle and the Far East are of the finest-quality and span all epochs from the Ancient World to the present day. They also have many activities and concerts (see the Classical Music section). The museum is housed in an 18th century palace, which has the original roofs and ceilings.
Kunsthalle (art museum), Glockengießerwall, north of Hauptbahnhof. Open Tu-Su 10AM-6PM, Th 10AM-9PM.
The museum houses an important collection of paintings from the 19th century with works from Max Liebermann, Lovis Corinth, Philipp Otto Runge, Caspar David Friedrich, Adolf Menzel, and modern arts. It rises on both sides of a paved court. The Baroque building on one side has the older works. The areas under the courtyard and the other, modern looking building house an extensive collection of very modern art. There are some extremely fine pieces, but the quality is uneven and the curacy curious at times. For instance, in a far back corner with minimal climate control and no observation are four or five gorgeous French Impressionist paintings which are among the finest in the museum.
The Deichtorhallen is one of the best known exhibition galleries worldwide. The historical buildings are divided into an exhibition hall for contemporary art and the “House of Photography”. Together the two buildings organize a highly diverse program of changing exhibitions.
Hamburg Museum (former: Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte), Holstenwall, close to Underground station “St. Pauli”. This is the museum of city history, bringing the past to life with a lot of models showing the development of the harbor and the city. The club “MEHEV” is showing a 40-year old and one of the largest scale model railroads here.
BallinStadt Auswanderwelt Hamburg, Veddeler Bogen 2. Originally built in 1892 under the guidance of Albert Ballin, the complex was built to provide medical care and accommodation to migrants, who were emigrating to the United States on HAPAG ships. The complex was converted into a museum, though its original design and layout is not the same because parts of the complex were destroyed. The museum is dedicated to the five million persons who emigrated via Hamburg. It has a computer terminal where visitors can look up information on their emigrant ancestors. It’s pricey, and the English translations can be sparse and superficial. Unless they can read the German documents, American visitors who have been to museums such as Ellis Island will find much of the content familiar.
International Maritime Museum – Privately owned museum in HafenCity district houses a collection of thousands model ships, construction plans, uniforms and photographs on ten floors in the oldest preserved warehouse in Hamburg (from 1879). Opening Hours: Tue – Sun 10.00 – 18.00 h.
Speicherstadtmuseum (Dockland Museum), branch of Museum of Labor located in docklands warehouse. History of the district and tea and coffee trade.
Automuseum Prototyp HafenCity, Shanghaiallee 7. Museum of car prototypes, nice shop inside. Open 10AM – 6PM, Mondays closed.
Museumshafen Oevelgönne — historical boats (admission free).
MS Cap San Diego museum cargo ship moored at the port of Hamburg. Hosts temporary exhibitions. Accommodation in cabins is possible.
museum sailing ship Rickmer-Rickmers
Rickmer Rickmers museum sailing ship (three masted bark) from 1896 moored at the port of Hamburg.
Altonaer Museum — Dedicated to Altona’s, Hamburg’s and northern Germany’s cultural history.
Museum für Völkerkunde, Museum of Ethnology Rothenbaumchaussee 64.
Deutsches Zollmuseum — (admission €2).
Bucerius Kunst Forum, Rathausmarkt 2.
Spicey’s Gewürzmuseum, (Spice Museum) located in the Speicherstadt. They claim to be the world’s only spice museum.
Hamburg is traditionally a Lutheran evangelic town. But due to the large number of different ethnic groups who settled in the harbor town, one is most certainly going to find a suitable temple of any religion. Almost all synagogues have been destroyed during the time of Nazi-government.
St. Michaeliskirche Protestant baroque church, the building as it is known today was built in 1786.
Synagoge Hamburg, situated in the traditionally Jewish Grindel neighbourhood.
Christianskirche, Baroque church in Ottensen.
Dreieinigkeitskirche St. Georg, Post-war church with Baroque steeple in Sankt Georg.
St.-Marien-Dom St. Georg — Since 1995, this neo-Romanesque church is the cathedral of the youngest Roman Catholic archbishop of Germany. Though the church has not the splendor one might expect, next to it you may find the first statue world wide of the late pope, John-Paul II.
Flussschifferkirche, Germany’s only floating church next to the Speicherstadt.
Imam-Ali-Mosque — Biggest of all mosques in Hamburg. Centre of the religious and cultural life of the huge Iranian community. The Imams of Hamburg happen to have played important roles in Iran’s religious and political everyday life since their installation in the 1950s.
International Baptist Church (IBC-Hamburg) — Biggest English-speaking church in Hamburg. Meets 12:30-2pm on Sundays. Large Young Adult Group that meets Tuesdays as well.
St. Thomas Becket Anglican Church — First non-Lutheran parish permitted in Hamburg after reformation. The classical building from 1831 is close to St. Michaeliskirche.