The Hanseatic city of Hamburg, the second biggest city in Germany, is an upcoming destination in its own right and perfect for a city break or longer depending on what you want to immerse yourself in – be it the thriving food scene, the plethora of historical sites, or to catch one of the concerts or performances at the stunning music hall. It was Germany’s “gateway to the world” for centuries and is steeped in history, with many old historical buildings now being given a new lease of life with modern businesses, such as coffee roasters, which is still a nod to Hamburg’s past.
It is also a fabulous destination to have a romantic weekend break, snuggling up in many of the third-wave coffee shops or rooftop bars or strolling in the diverse neighbourhoods or by the harbour, which is one of the biggest in Europe.
It also happens to be the birthplace of Karl Lagerfield for the keen fashion lovers out there!
Here are 13 things to do in this eclectic city.
1 – Marvel at the Hamburg Rathhaus
Rathaus is a German word that means city hall and the Hamburg Rathaus is an impressive building located in the centre of the town. After the old city hall was destroyed in the great fire of 1842, it took almost 44 years to build this new one and it was designed by a group of seven architects, led by Martin Haller.
Fun fact – this current City Hall is the sixth edition in Hamburg’s history!
You can admire its exterior or opt for a guided tour or visit exhibitions housed inside.
The Elbphilharmonie is a magnificent concert hall located in the HafenCity quarter of Hamburg, and is one of the largest and acoustically most advanced concert halls in the world. Prior to your trip it is worth checking if there are any tickets for concerts or performances available as it would be quite the experience!
The perfect juxtaposition of old versus new, it is encased in glass and set upon a giant brick warehouse and surrounded on three sides by the waters of the city’s harbour.
The rooftop plaza has incredible views of the city, but the best view of the building itself is from water.
3 – Visit St. Michael’s Church and enjoy a view from the top
St. Michael’s Church is one of the most famous landmarks of Hamburg and the church tower is 132 meters high and is visible from many parts of Hamburg.
There is an observation deck on this tower where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Hamburg, which is even more spectacular at night as you can see the cityscape dazzling in lights. Time it right and you can also see the fireworks display.
You can either go up the tower by steps or by a lift – the choice is yours and upon how fit you feel 😉
4 – Enjoy a cocktail or two at Clouds Heaven’s Bar & Kitchen
I love trying a rooftop bar in every city I visit, and Clouds Heaven’s Bar & Kitchen in Hamburg had some spectacular views and delicious cocktails from one of the most extensive menus I have seen! We loved it so much we actually went twice.
It is located on the 23rd floor of the “Tanzende Türme” skyscraper, designed by Hadi Teherani, which is known as the famous ‘Dancing Towers’ on Reeperbahn.
Find it: Reeperbahn 1, 20359 Hamburg, Germany
5 – Visit the world’s largest warehouse district – Speicherstadt
Whenever you see photos of Hamburg, a popular one is of Speicherstadt, which was the first spot in Hamburg to be awarded the status of a UNESCO world heritage site. It is the sole reason why Hamburg is called the city of warehouses as it is the largest warehouse district in the world.
6 – Try Speciality Coffee in former meat-packing house
Hamburg has a booming third wave coffee culture and a top place to visit is Elbgold, which is one of the largest and most well-known third-wave coffee shops in Hamburg, with the flagship store located in a former meat-packing house, just off the buzzing main streets of the hip Sternschanze area.
Hamburg is perfect for coffee lovers as not only was it the traditional trading hub for coffee and centre of many international coffee trading companies, it also hosts an exciting scene of young gourmet coffee roasters such as Elbgold. Coffee is an integral part of Hamburg’s history and in 1887 the first coffee exchange was opened.
Find it: Lagerstraße 34c, 20357 Hamburg, Germany
7 – Admire the urban street art
Hamburg’s best art exhibitions can actually be found as you wander the streets. Just pay attention to all the different facades and walls in places like the Sternschanze, Altona, the Gängeviertel, St. Pauli or Ottensen.
My favourite (being in the world of social media myself) was this amazing mural by a trio of Berlin artists called Innerfields promoting positive social change. It can be found in a backyard between no. 57 and 69 in the Sternschanze in Lippmannstraße.
8 – Explore and eat at Rindermarkthalle
Save time to visit and explore the weekly market on the ground floor of the Rindermarkthalle St. Pauli. From fresh flowers, Curry Wurst to even a Zero Waste Concept store, it is a culinary treat and a visual delight.
During my visit I was lucky to have watched a cooking demonstration by Michelin starred chef Thomas Imbusch and then enjoy the dishes he created using seasonal produce. When visiting have a look to see the schedule to see if you can watch any.
Find it: Neuer Kamp 31, 20359 Hamburg, Germany
9 – Hobenköök Restaurant & Markthalle
Hobenköök in the HafenCity , which is is housed in an old freight railway station, is a culinary concept of a restaurant and food hall in one and lovely to pop in to to buy produce or to get a bite to eat.
Find it: Stockmeyerstraße 43, 20457 Hamburg, Germany
10 – Brunch at Pauline in St Pauli
While in St Pauli, pop into Pauline for brunch and some delicious coffee – their Chai latte is sublime! The cafe has a lovely homely feel and the food is scrumptious.
Find it: Neuer Pferdemarkt 3, 20359 Hamburg, Germany
11 – Cake and Coffee at Cafe Gnosa in St Georg
Explore the neighbourhood of St Georg, Hamburg’s gay neighbourhood, known for its quirky design shops, art studios and hip cafes and bars.
Cafe Gnosa is an institution to visit that has been serving cakes and coffees since the 1950s.
Find it: Lange Reihe 93, 20099 Hamburg, Germany
12 – Standard Aperitivo Cafe Bar
A place definitely not to miss whilst in Hamburg is Bar Standard which has brought the aperitivo culture to Hamburg and a culture I can very much get on board with. You choose your drink and then you get served a selection of Stuzzichini (that changes daily), which are absolutely divine!
Find it: Große Freiheit 90, 22767 Hamburg, Germany
13 – Enjoy the sunset by the harbour
Take a stroll in the district of Altona and enjoy the spectacular sunset! The historic fish market is close by so maybe head there for sunrise as an alternative and then enjoy the fish market after.
Getting around Hamburg
Save time and money getting around by purchasing a Hamburg Card before you arrive. In addition to unlimited travel (for a single day or up to five days) by public bus, train, and harbor ferry, you can get discounts at many museums, restaurants, and other attractions.
Find out more about Hamburg: https://www.hamburg-travel.com/