Top 20 things to do in Hamburg

Take a look at our list of the top 20 things to do in Hamburg

Top 20 things to do in Hamburg

Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and a major port. It is also a global service, media, logistics and industrial hub with many big companies having their headquarters here. Hamburg has been an important financial centre for centuries, and is the seat of Germany’s oldest stock exchange and the world’s second oldest bank, Berenberg Bank. It also serves as a cultural and international center, as numerous events, festivals and conferences are held here every year. Naturally, in such a large and old city, the tourism is flourishing as well. Take a look at our list of the top 20 things to do in Hamburg if you decide to come here.

  1. Alter Elbtunnel
    The Alter Elbtunnel is a hundred-year-old tunnel going under the river Elbe connecting central Hamburg with the docks and shipyards on the south side of the river, allowing pedestrians, bicycles and cars to pass through. The tunnel walls are decorated with glazed terra cotta art displaying items related to the Elbe river, like fish, crabs, rats and even waste. It’s definitely worth coming here at least once on your trip.

2. Planten un Blomen
The Planten un Blomen is a large urban park in Hamburg, which translates to “Plants and Flowers”. While the name might not imply something big, it is actually a really beautiful park featuring a light, water and music show in the summer, and an ice skating rink in the winter. Playgrounds are available for children, and you can also simply just stroll around the park, have a picnic or just sit down and enjoy the nice weather.

3. Alter Botanischer Garten Hamburg
The Alter Botanischer Garten Hamburg is the old botanical garden of the city, and a popular place for both citizens and tourists thanks to its wonderful environment. It mainly consists of five greenhouses and the gardens between them. These are all centered around different plants, like the Succulent house, the Tropical house, the Show Greenhouse and so on.
4. St. Pauli Fischmarkt
The St. Pauli Fischmarkt is one of the bigger markets of Hamburg centered around fish. You can find regular things here as well, but people mainly come here for fish, and that’s understandable considering the large variety of fish you can buy here. The stalls are full of fresh fish and other goods, but there’s also steaming hot bratwursts, free flowing beer and even an energetic live band to keep the enjoyment and atmosphere alive. Coming here on sunday when it is open is one of the best things to do in Hamburg if you want to enjoy a great fish sandwich or something else.
5. Altstadt
The Altstadt is the old city district of Hamburg. The best way to experience the history of Hamburg is to take a stroll in the Alstadt, and check out the wonderful old buildings and streets. Landmarks and attractions fill the place, including the Rathaus, several churces and a few museums.
6. Hamburg Rathaus
The Hamburg Rathaus is the town hall of the city. It is the seat of the government of Hamburg and as such, the seat of one of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. It’s a beautiful building with an even more spectacular interior. Guided tours in english are available for those who want to explore the building, but just looking at it from the outside is worth it. The square in front of the building is also a popular meeting place and a site for public events.
7. Kunsthalle
The Kunsthalle is a large art museum of Hamburg. It mainly focuses on European art dating back as far as the 14th century, all the way to the modern era. It has German, Dutch, Flemish, Italian and French art, among others, as well as contemporary art. Famous artists whose works are displayed here include Picasso, Monet and Rubens, just to name a few.
8. Tierpark Hagenbeck
The Tierpark Hagenbeck is the popular zoo of the city. It is known for being the first zoo to use open enclosures surrounded by moats, rather than barred cages, to better simulate the natural habitats of the animals. It has a big variety of animals, so everyone will probably find something they might find interesting.
9. Miniatur Wunderland
The Miniatur Wunderland is the largest model railway attraction in the world. The displays can be broken up into sections, each representing a country or region. These are Southern Germany, Hamburg and the Coast, America, Scandinavia and Switzerland. Across these different regions are about 900 trains, 200 thousand trees and people and 300 thousand lights. More and more are planned for the future. This place is definitely high on the list of things to do in Hamburg for those who want to see something unique.
10. Speicherstadt 
The Speicherstadt is the warehouse district of Hamburg and one of its most famous neighbourhoods. The old red-brown buildings housed the imports of the city, like coffee, spices and silks, which were carried fresh off the boats in the harbor. It is the largest warehouse district in the world where the buildings stand on timber-pile foundations, or more precisely, oak logs. It’s worth visiting at least once to walk among the old, but spectacular buildings.
11. St. Nicholas’ Church
St. Nicholas’ Church was once one of the tallest buildings in the world, but soon became out of use, especially after the bombings of World War II. Eventually the building was mostly torn down, but the tower, which was still fairly structurally sound was left, hollow but standing, now a holocaust memorial. Visitors can go up the tower for a somewhat tragic view of the city.
12. Museum of Medical History
The Museum of Medical History might not be the best place who are easily disturbed, but for those who can handle it, it’s quite an interesting and educational place. The evolutions of medical research, ethics, diagnostics and therapeutic care are explored through a variety of archival materials, including numerous wax models of diseases and deformities.
13. Blankenese Shipwrecks
The Blankenese Shipwrecks are a series of remnants of an exploded schooner and wrecked submarines near Hamburg. The first was left there after an accident, while the other ones are remnants from World War II. These were left there essentially forming a ship graveyard, which can be seen by people due to them being close to the coast.
14. German Food Additives Museum
The German Food Additives Museum is not your everyday museum, as it is dedicated to food additives, the thousands of chemical substances concealed in our food, that some of us might not even realize. Emulsifiers, stabilizers, dyes, thickeners, sweeteners, preservatives, flavorings, and many others can be found here, all with information about why they are used, whether or not they are bad, and so on.
15. Rote Flora
The Rote Flora was originally used as a site for demonstrations and radical and revolutionary culture. The police has tried numerous times to take back the graffiti-covered building, and even wanted to demolish it, but the punks and radical citizens didn’t allow it. Today, the Rote Flora serves as a venue and cultural center, and hosts a number of concerts, parties, art exhibitions, and political and social talks and conferences.
16. Wälderhaus
The Wälderhaus is a hotel built almost entirely out of solid wood, and is designed to use a third less energy than is prescribed by Germany’s energy saving regulations. Apart from the hotel and restaurant, the building features an exhibition on the relationship between forest and city, and its event hall is often used for green energy initiatives and discussions. It’s a beautiful and unique building, that’s for sure.
17. Harry’s Harbor Bazaar
If you like exotic figures and masks, then Harry’s Harbor Bazaar is the place for you. Laughing wooden masks, painted shields and spears, red-faced grinning devils, buck-toothed carvings of men, headless figures of women, a brass and a wooden statue of a Hindu goddess, fetish faces made of colored beads and palm-frond hair and much more await visitors. These often creepy yet somehow interesting items are well worth a visit.
18. Oberhafenkantine
The Oberhafenkantine is a small restaurants that was used to serve lunch to dockworkers back in the day, but today it grew out to be a popular place for everyone. Nearly a hundred years of storm floods have washed out the soil beneath the historic lunch spot, resulting in it leaning a bit, making it quite unique and popular among citizens and tourists alike.
19. Elbphilharmonie
The Elbphilharmonie is a beautiful and uniquely designed concert hall near the river Elbe. It is one of the largest and most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world, and popularly goes by the name of Elphi. The glassy construction on top of the concert hall resembles a hoisted sail, water wave or quartz crystal which is often illuminated at night.
20. Binnenalster
The Binnenalster is an artifical lake near the center of Hamburg.  The lake was originally created to serve as a reservoir for a mill, but now it is just an icon of the city. It’s surrounded by beautiful and important buildings and even a park, making it even better as a place for walking around and sightseeing.