Insider tips: Planning a trip to Hamburg
Thomas Dowson is the founder of Archaeology Travel, a website for those seeking adventures in archaeology and history. As a professional archaeologist Thomas enjoys visiting archaeological and historical sites around the world. And sharing these experiences so that others can explore the world’s pasts more deeply. On his blog, you can find more information and all the details for planning a trip to Hamburg.
What should I do on my first trip to Hamburg?
Hamburg, more specifically the harbour of Hamburg, is the main attraction here. For anyone planning their first visit to Hamburg my recommendation for an essential, first experience is a harbour cruise. There is no better way to get a feel for this city and its history. From the UNESCO listed historic Speicherstadt (‘city of warehouses’), to the very striking 20th century Elbphilharmonie (concert hall). Whether you are interested in a general cruise about the port and its history or something more specific, such as the Hanseatic history of Hamburg, the choice of river cruises is broad.
What are some hidden gems to see in Hamburg?
Not exactly hidden in Hamburg’s harbour, but certainly half submerged is a Soviet submarine. Built in the 1970s, the U-434 submarine is still in very good condition and provides a near as real-life as possible experience of what conditions in a submarine are like. Visitors enter at one end, and then walk and even crawl through compartments to the exit at the other end. Of course there is a sense of claustrophobia. But this is nothing when you are told that this vessel would hold up to 78 men.
How much time should I spend in Hamburg?
Apparently the average visitor spends two nights in Hamburg. Like most big cities with a long history, you could easily spend a week in Hamburg and still come back for more. But two nights does seem rushed, that is only one full day. Two or three full days would be a better amount of time to explore the city: to take a harbour cruise, see the impressive town hall, visit St. Michaelis church and walk though the old warehouse district.
What food is Hamburg known for?
For anyone with a sweet tooth, when in Hamburg you have to try at least one Franzbrötchen. Pastry is rolled in lots of butter and cinnamon sugar before being baked. History, or urban legend, has it that these pastries were introduced to Hamburg by Napoleon's troops. For a more substantial dish try ‘labskaus’, a stew made up of different ingredients including beetroot, which then gives it a pink colour. Local cuisine has not only been influenced by seafaring visitors from around the world, but also the culinary traditions typical of northern Germany.
What is the best way to get around Hamburg?
Hamburg is a big city, and the various points of interest are scattered about. Fortunately Hamburg has a very good public transport system, making getting about easy on the feet. Specifically for visitors, there are also the usual hop-on-hop-off buses, which follow routes around the city stopping at most of the main attractions.
What are the best months to visit Hamburg?
Hamburg is a great city to visit during the Summer. It never gets uncomfortably hot, and it is a lot drier and less windy than it is during winter months and early spring. As the sun starts shining and spring flowers start blooming, so too Hamburg comes alive with street festivals, live music and art performances all over the city. Over four days in September and at many venues in the Reeperbahn, visitors can enjoy Europe’s largest club festival - the Reeperbahn Festival.
What is neighborhood Reeperbahn known for?
For a vibrant night scene head to the Reeperbahn in St Pauli. The entertainment heart of Hamburg. The street is lined with theatres and nightclubs, bars and restaurants. And it is not known as ‘the most sinful mile’ for nothing. You will also find sex shops, strip clubs and brothels. Look out for the Beatles monument, a reminder that the group built their reputation here as well as in Liverpool.
What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?
Hamburg is not only Germany’s second largest city, it is the most wealthy city. Not surprising then it is a shoppers paradise. You can find everything from flea markets to luxury boutiques and brands. Along the kilometre long Neuer Wall you will find a collection of the most exclusive shops in Hamburg. These shops sell everything from high end fashion and jewellery to designer furniture. Colonnaden not only has exclusive boutiques in historic architecture, the pedestrianised street hosts a monthly flea market. Good buys and antiques can be found at the many weekly and regular flea markets in Hamburg.
What is the best family-friendly thing to do in Hamburg?
Hamburg is home to the incredible Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway. This is no ordinary miniature railway exhibit. Fifty computers direct over 1000 trains over nearly 16,000 metres of track length that are set in reconstructions of nine geographic regions, including central Germany and Switzerland, USA and South America. There are over 269,000, over 9,000 cars and 130,000 trees. And a lot more. Besides visiting this vast model railway set, the organisers also stage special events. The most popular and booked out being the ‘culinary trip around the world’.
What are the best annual events in Hamburg?
Hamburg has over 30 individual Christmas markets, which run from the Friday before the first Sunday of Advent until Christmas Eve. Many of the Hamburg neighbourhoods have their own markets, and there are several in the city centre as well. St Pauli has one of the most popular markets, and another one not to miss is the market in the vast square in front of the City Hall. There is even a Dogs Christmas market.