Cities that have a feeling for water have always fascinated me, so I booked a trip to Hamburg in December, already knowing that the weather was not going to be the best.
And it wasn’t the best at all. Not even good. Ok, it didn’t rain, but it was foggy. Foggy all the time.
The best way to explore Hamburg is on foot since many of the major attractions are within walking distance and not far from each other. But if the weather is good, or you are visiting Hamburg in spring or summer, I strongly suggest renting a bike: this is the best way to feel the North European mood of the city!
Hamburg in a nutshell
The following is an interactive map. The monuments and the points of interest are marked with blue pins, the city highlights with red pins. The colored areas are the parts of the city that I have visited: one color/area a day.
- Botanical Garden “Planten un Blomen” (Plants and Flowers).
- Concert Hall (in German Laeiszhalle formerly Musikhalle).
- St. Michael’s Church, one of the city landmarks.
- Chilehaus (Chile House), a great example of the Brick Expressionism style of architecture.
- Hamburg City Hall, it is located in the center of Hamburg and is another city landmark.
- Speicherstadt, the warehouse district with the iconic Elbphilarmonie (Elbe Philharmonic Hall).
- HafenCity and the Museum Ships (Cap San Diego and Rickmer Rickmers).
- Reeperbahn Europe’s largest red-light district in the quarter St.Pauli.
- Fischmarkt (Fish Market) in the quarter Altona.
Hamburg from above
- St. Michael’s Church Tower.
- St. Nicholas’ Church Tower.
- The Speicherstadt (the warehouse district), a great example of the Brick Expressionism style of architecture.
- The HafenCity, for industrial scenery.
- The quarter Gängeviertel with its half-timbered buildings.
- The quarter Kontorhausviertel another great example of the Brick Expressionism style of architecture.
If bad weather happens
- Kunsthalle and the Museum District.
- Miniatur Wunderland (miniature wonderland), a miniature world, the largest of its kind in the world.
- Museum Ships Cap San Diego and Rickmer Rickmers.
- Panoptikum (the wax museum).
- Jungfernstieg and Große Bleichen;
Day one (Quarters: Schanzenviertel, Gängeviertel, Altstadt, Neustadt)
My visit begins at the Planten un Blomen Botanical Garden, which will surely be beautiful in spring and summer, but in December, it leaves only room for imagination.
I also recommend going to the Schanzenturm in the Schanzenpark. This is the former water tower and is an interesting example of industrial archaeology. It operates now as a hotel.
A special mention goes to flak tower Flakturm IV. This is an anti-aircraft gun blockhouse tower, built during the Second World War. It’s well worth the visit if you haven’t seen anything similar.
Take a walk now in the Gängeviertel, with its characteristic half-timbered houses, before visiting St. Michael’s Church, one of the city landmarks. The tower platform offers an excellent panoramic view of the city. Fog permitting.
For the shopping lovers, Große Bleichen Street is only a few minutes’ walk from the church.
Day two (Quarters: St. Georg, Kontorhausviertel, Speicherstadt)
My second day in Hamburg begins in the Museum District, the Hamburger Kunsthalle. But the highlights of this day are the Chilehaus, a beautiful building famous for the sharp angle that makes it look like a ship’s bow, and the City Hall, built in the neo-Renaissance style.
If you want to take a tour in the St. Georg district, you can admire there St. George’s Church, the German Theater, and the Central Library.
St. Nicholas’ Church is located not far away from the City Hall. The bell tower is the only thing left of this Gothic church after the bombing of Hamburg in World War II.
Fun fact I didn’t mention yet. The day before, I was crazy enough to climb to the tower platform of St. Michael’s Church, and I didn’t see anything because it was too foggy. But today I had my revenge.
I explained at the entrance of St. Nicholas’ Church, that the day before I had been to St. Michael’s Church without being able to see anything because of the fog. So they let me in and go up for free.
My second day in Hamburg ends with a walk in the Speicherstadt, the warehouse district. This complex of red brick buildings is a real city in the city and was awarded the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.
At the time of my visit, the splendid Elbphilarmonie (the Elbe Philharmonic Hall) was only a drawing on paper.
Day three (Quarters: HafenCity, St.Pauli, Altona)
My third day starts at the harbor. The first things you notice here are the two beautiful museum ships: the Cap San Diego and the Rickmer Rickmers.
Then I made a brief exploration of the surroundings, and since the weather is not so bad as the days before, I jumped on a boat for a tour.
There are both private boats (more expensive) and the public service, and I took the last one.
For photography lovers, the harbor with its industrial scenery can be an unexpected hotspot.
The Reeperbahn, aka the most sinful mile, in the St. Pauli district, is only a few minutes walk away from the harbor and is my next destination. It is daytime and, therefore, there is nothing of the famous nightlife, but the Reeperbahn is more than just a red-light district. There are theaters, clubs, restaurants, the Panoptikum (Wax Museum), and much more.
Going to Hamburg without walking through the Reeperbahn means discovering the city only halfway.
The last stop of my visit is a tour in the Altona district with the very famous fish market (Fischmarkt).
The Market maintains ist commercial function, although it has now become a popular tourist attraction.
Other highlights of this district are the Stuhlmann Fountain, the Altona City Hall, and St. Peter’s Church.
Bye-bye Hamburg, I will come back sooner or later! Auf Wiedersehen!