Things to Do in Hamburg: Must-See Attractions and Activities

Located along the Elbe River in northern Germany is the vibrant harbor city of Hamburg. Known for its rich maritime heritage, Hamburg is also Germany’s second-largest city behind Berlin. With over 15,000 ships from more than 100 countries passing through its harbor, Hamburg has earned its nickname, “the Gateway to the World.” There are many things to do in Hamburg that cater to every traveler’s interests. From architectural marvels and cultural institutions to lively neighborhoods, this dynamic city is unforgettable.

In this comprehensive guide, I’m sharing my favorite things to do in Hamburg, Germany. Whether you’re drawn to the city’s stunning waterfront, its thriving arts and music scene, or its unique culinary delights, the question of what to do in Hamburg will be answered here. These are the top things to see and do in Hamburg, Germany.

Things to do in Hamburg: Admire the Elbphilharmonie

The Elbphilharmonie, one of the best things to do in Hamburg, Germany | Davidsbeenhere
The Elbphilharmonie is a gorgeous modern music hall in Hamburg. Photo by Defne Kucukmustafa on Unsplash.

If you’re asking what to do in Hamburg, look no further than the Elbphilharmonie. This stunning music hall is an architectural marvel that has captured the world’s attention since its completion in 2016. Designed by the renowned Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, this glass-and-steel structure is a true architectural triumph. It’s often compared to Sydney’s iconic Opera House and visiting it is easily one of the best things to do in Hamburg.

Visitors can marvel at the building’s wave-like rooftop and glass façade, which offer breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the harbor. Its public viewing platform is a must-visit and offers 360-degree vistas that showcase Hamburg’s vibrant cityscape. I also recommend taking a harbor cruise to admire the Elbphilharmonie from the water. Seeing the Elbphilharmonie from different vantage points is among the best things to do in Hamburg!

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Explore the Historic Alter Elbtunnel

A view inside the Alter Elbtunnel in Hamburg, Germany | Davidsbeenhere
The Alter Elbtunnel is a pedestrian- and cyclist-only tunnel under the River Elbe. Photo by Free Walking Tour Salzburg on Unsplash.

Connecting central Hamburg to the southern side of the River Elbe is the Alter Elbtunnel. Also known as the Old Elbe Tunnel or St. Pauli Elbe Tunnel, it’s a captivating piece of engineering history. Opened in 1911, this tunnel is only open to pedestrians and cyclists, as cars are not permitted. Taking a stroll allows visitors to walk beneath the river and experience the city from a different perspective.

Intricate and beautiful tile reliefs depicting marine creatures adorn the quarter-mile-long tunnel’s walls. It’s one of the best things to do if you’re an urban explorer or just want to see something different. I highly recommend it!

Experience the Most Relaxing Things to Do in Hamburg at Planten un Blomen Park

Dense foliage, a pond, and a bridge in Planten un Blomen in Hamburg | Davidsbeenhere
Planten un Blomen is a massive park in the middle of Hamburg. Photo by Mehrnaz Hafezi on Unsplash.

Planten un Blomen is a vibrant oasis in the heart of Hamburg, often referred to as the city’s “green lung.” Covering roughly 100 acres, this expansive park is a serene respite from the bustling concrete jungle of the city.

Within its boundaries, you’ll find a rose garden, Mediterranean terraces, and one of the largest Japanese gardens in Europe. There are also playgrounds and mini-golf courses, as well as an ice rink in the winter, and a roller rink in the summer. You don’t have to leave the park to eat, as there are plenty of cafes and food kiosks. Alternatively, you can always pack a picnic lunch to enjoy with friends and family!

Explore Hamburg’s Vibrant Waterways

Three boats floating on a waterway, one of the top things to do in Hamburg | Davidsbeenhere
Exploring Hamburg by boat is a great way to get a feel for the city. Photo by Caroline Roose on Unsplash.

No visit to Hamburg is complete without experiencing the city’s waterways. One of the most accessible and affordable ways to enjoy the city by water is through the public ferry system. Ride the popular No. 62 ferry to Finkenwerder Island to see Hamburg’s docks, the historic Speicherstadt warehouses, and the Elbphilharmonie from a new perspective.

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If you want to explore further, I recommend joining a guided harbor tour. Reputable operators like Rainer Abicht Elbreederei and Barkassen-Centrale Ehlers GmbH offer informative and entertaining cruises. Both allow travelers to immerse themselves in Hamburg’s rich maritime heritage while admiring the skyline. No list of the things to do in Hamburg is complete without a harbor tour!

Experience Fischmarkt

A display case of fresh fish at Fischmarkt, one of the top things to do in Hamburg | Davidsbeenhere
Fischmarkt is a lively fish market in Hamburg, Germany. Photo by Justin Buchholz on Unsplash.

Most people’s list of what to do in Hamburg probably wouldn’t include a fish market, but it’s actually one of the city’s top gems! Head out early in the morning and visit the Fish Auction Hall and Market known as Fischmarkt, in the St. Pauli neighborhood. The market dates back to 1703 and has seen the city grow and evolve over the centuries.

The Fischmarkt comes alive with the rising sun as vendors sell fresh seafood while others serve sizzling bratwurst and free-flowing beer. I once visited Oktoberfest many years ago, and the experience at Fischmarkt is pretty similar! Be sure to arrive early, as the market is only open on Sunday mornings, and grab the catch of the day! As a seafood fanatic, it’s one of my top things to do in Hamburg!

Immerse Yourself in the Miniatur Wunderland

A miniature model of a village at Miniatur Wunderland | Davidsbeenhere
Miniatur Wunderland is home to miniature models of many world cities. Photo by Flavio Waser on Unsplash.

In the Speicherstadt, a historic district I’ll dive into more later, you’ll find the Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway. Spanning over 10,000 square feet, this meticulously crafted miniature wonderland features intricate models of many countries and world cities. They include Germany, the United States, Scandinavia, and Venice, among others. It’s no wonder the attraction has captured the hearts of millions from around the globe.

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More than 1,000 trains, 130,000 trees, and 250,000 figurines bring this enchanting world to life. The attention to detail is truly astounding, and it’s hard to not get lost in its sheer scale and immersive nature. If you’re traveling with children, Miniatur Wunderland is hands-down one of the best things to do in Hamburg.

Marvel at the Grandeur of St. Michael’s Church

Climbing to the top of the clock tower at St. Michael's Church is one of the top things to do in Hamburg | Davidsbeenhere
St. Michael’s Church rises over 430 feet above the city of Hamburg. Photo by Marius Niveri on Unsplash.

Towering over the city, St. Michael’s Church is Hamburg’s largest and most iconic religious landmark. The striking building also features a 433-foot-tall tower and Germany’s largest clock bell. It has been a prominent feature of the Hamburg skyline since its construction in 1912.

Inside St. Michael’s, visitors will find five different organs, a 65-foot altar, and a crypt. However, the true highlight is the breathtaking panoramic view from the church’s observation deck. From there, visitors can stand 350 feet above the ground and admire the city’s layout, architectural wonders, and bustling harbor. I love observation decks, so it’s easily one of my favorite things to do in Hamburg!

Discover the Wonders of the Hamburg Zoo

Hamburg Zoo tops the list of what to do in Hamburg if you're traveling with children | Davidsbeenhere
Penguins are just one of many animals present at Hamburg Zoo. Photo by Conny Schneider on Unsplash.

The expansive Tierpark Hagenbeck, or Hamburg Zoo, is one of the largest and most diverse zoos in Europe. Owned by the Hagenbeck family, this remarkable institution is home to thousands of animals, including one of the largest elephant herds on the continent.

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The zoo’s standout attraction is its four-level Tropical Aquarium. This state-of-the-art artificial habitat houses over 14,300 animals, including Nile crocodiles, lemurs, king cobras, African birds, and around 13,000 fish. The zoo’s feeding demonstrations and playgrounds make it top any list of what to do in Hamburg with a child. Meanwhile, its other recreation areas and dining options make the zoo perfect for the whole family.

Immerse Yourself in the Speicherstadt’s Historic Charm

Historic buildings and homes lining a waterway spanned by bridges in Speicherstadt | Davidsbeenhere
The historic Speicherstadt neighborhood is home to many popular attractions. Photo by Magnus S on Unsplash.

If you love exploring history, one of the best things to do in Hamburg is visit the Speicherstadt. Hamburg’s historic Warehouse District, the Speicherstadt is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s known for its striking red-brick buildings and was once the epicenter of the city’s thriving import trade. Here, coffee, spices, silks, and more would arrive fresh off the boats in the nearby harbor.

The historical neighborhood is now home to attractions like the aforementioned Miniatur Wunderland and the International Maritime Museum. It remains a perfect destination for those in search of picturesque photo opportunities or a leisurely stroll. Wander along the canals and admire the Wasserschloss (or “water castle”) at the end of Holländischer Brücke. Soaking in the district’s timeless, atmospheric charm is a must for any tourist!

Explore Hamburg’s Legendary Entertainment District

The Reeperbahn at night, with glowing neon signs above various clubs and bars | Davidsbeenhere
The Reeperbahn on a slow night during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Michael Kucharski on Unsplash.

No exploration of the things to do Hamburg would be complete without a visit to the Reeperbahn, the city’s legendary entertainment district. The Reeperbahn was once known for its notorious red-light district. But in recent years, it has evolved into a vibrant hub of music, nightlife, and cultural experiences.

Along the Reeperbahn’s bustling streets are diverse array of bars, clubs, theaters, and music venues. Discover the Beatles Monument, which commemorates the band’s formative years in Hamburg. Music lovers can also immerse themselves in the neighborhood’s thriving live music scene. If you’re wondering what to do in Hamburg after dark, there are literally dozens of fun options there!

Visit the Top Things to Do in Hamburg, Germany

Aerial view of the city of Hamburg, Germany, with numerous buildings including several churches | Davidsbeenhere
Hamburg is an underrated city that many travelers miss out on. Photo by Martti Salmi on Unsplash.

Hamburg, with its rich maritime heritage, captivating architecture, and diverse cultural offerings, is a city that truly captivates the senses. From the architectural marvel of the Elbphilharmonie to the enchanting Miniatur Wunderland, this dynamic metropolis offers a wealth of experiences that cater to every traveler’s interests.

By exploring the top 10 things to do in Hamburg, you’ll uncover the city’s hidden gems, immerse yourself in its vibrant neighborhoods, and gain a deeper appreciation for its unique blend of tradition and modernity. To experience what to do in Hamburg, Germany, book a trip to Deutschland today!

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