How to Spend 2 Days in Hamburg

Travel Itinerary
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Madeleine Nicholson
Itinerary by: Madeleine Nicholson
7 months ago
Travel Writer
Duration: 2 days

Itinerary Introduction

Hamburg is one of my favourite cities in Germany - actually, in the whole of Europe. It has a friendly attitude and it's this beautiful, unique mixture of modernist, industrial, classical and historical that merge together in this perfect ever-evolving way. There's this brilliant mixture of fun, exciting things to do, combined with moments of peace and calm all across the city in a really unusual way. It's the perfect place for families, as well as couples who want time away, and solo travels can have a great time, too - I'd recommend Hamburg to everybody! Photocredit to alpin at Unsplash; Nikada at Unsplash; miniloc on Unsplash; tomch at pixabay; Vicky Hladynets on Unsplash.

Useful information about Hamburg

The economy of Hamburg

Germany has the fourth-largest economy in the world by nominal GDP. Hamburg has an important part to play in Germany’s economic success thanks to its industries: process and manufacturing industries are particularly prevalent here. The city is a key centre for commerce in northern Europe, as well as having a major port, while tourism also contributes to the local economy.

A fun fact from Hamburg

Hamburg has the most bridges of any city in the world, with over 2,500 bridges crossing over the city’s canals and roads.

The language in Hamburg

While the official language across Germany is German, the dialect traditionally spoken in Hamburg is called Plattdeutsch (“flat German”), which is related to Frisian and English languages. Nevertheless, you’ll only need to worry about communicating in German, and in fact, most people speak very good English. To get you started, use “Hallo” for hello, “Auf wiedersehn” or “Tschuss” for good bye, “Danke schön” for thank you very much, and “Bitte” for please or you’re welcome. A particularly helpful phrase is, “Sprechen sie Englisch?” (Do you speak English?).

Best times to visit Hamburg

Like much of Germany, the best time to visit Hamburg is during the warmer months, between May and September, when the weather tends to be warm and sunny. July and August offer the hottest weather, but they also coincide with European summer holidays, meaning they are usually the busiest months, and accommodation prices reach their peak. May and September arguably offer the best combination of pleasant weather and lower tourist numbers. The end of September to early October is a great time to visit Hamburg thanks to the famous Oktoberfest. However, winters are cold in Hamburg, with temperatures regularly falling below zero between December–February. Nevertheless, the Christmas markets that pop up around town in December make this a magical time to visit, with warming mugs of glühwein, steaming plates of traditional German food, and handmade gifts on offer. It’ll still be a little chilly in March and April, but the spring weather means that cherry blossoms start to bloom along Alster Lake, the city’s parks and gardens come to life, and the days brighten. If you’re happy to wear a coat, this can be a cheaper, quieter time to visit Hamburg.

Getting to Hamburg

It’s easy to reach central Hamburg from Hamburg Airport by public transport. The S-Bahn runs every ten minutes from terminals 1 and 2 to Hamburg Central Station, taking about 25 minutes. A number of buses also run from the airport into the centre of town. Taxis are available to hire from stands outside the airport. Hamburg’s main train station, Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, is the busiest station in Europe. If you arrive here from destinations across Germany and Europe, you’ll find yourself in a central location within the city, with access to the U-Bahn and S-Bahn networks.

Getting around in Hamburg

Hamburg’s public transport system is regular and reliable, making getting around Hamburg a breeze. Tickets for trains, trams and ferries can all be bought at HVV stations. There are four different types of train: the U-Bahn (city underground), S-Bahn and A-Bahn (suburban trains) and R-Bahn (regional train). You’ll likely use the U-Bahn most frequently for travelling within the city centre. Train fares will be calculated according to which zones you travel in (just be sure to validate your ticket before commencing your journey). Hamburg is well connected by bus, too, and bus tickets are also for sale directly from bus drivers. You may even find that the ferry, which travels across the River Elbe, is the best way to get between certain destinations. Official taxis can easily be spotted by their yellow and white exteriors, and they are all metred. You’ll also find that many sights are within easy walking distance of each other, and there are biking trails for those looking for a more active way to get around Hamburg.

Local cuisine in Hamburg

The local cuisine in Hamburg is similar to that of much of northern Germany, although Hamburg’s position on the River Elbe means that fish is widely used. To experience some traditional Hamburg food, try finkenwerder scholle (plaice with bacon, onions and shrimp), fischbrötchen (a bread roll filled with pickled or soused herring, onion, pickles and remoulade sauce), and franzbrötchen (croissant-like cinnamon rolls).

Tipping in Hamburg

Though there’s no rule about the exact amount to tip in Hamburg, it’s typical to add around 10%, or you may choose to round up your bill.

Local customs in Hamburg

Lateness is considered impolite in Germany, meaning you should try to be on time for any engagements. Public nudity is considered normal while sunbathing, in the sauna, at the beach and in public bathing areas, so don’t be surprised to find people naked at beaches and parks in Hamburg during the summer.

Discount card for Hamburg

Purchase the official Hamburg CARD, which lasts from one- to five days, for unlimited travel on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, buses and ferries, as well as discounts on museums and other tourist attractions, and money off selected restaurants and cafes. You can buy a Hamburg CARD from a HVV station or a tourist information office.

Beaches in Hamburg

Although Hamburg does not lie on the coast, there are sandy beaches along the banks of the River Elbe. In the summer, these are popular as city beaches. There’s a beach club, StrandPauli, near St Pauli Piers, and a quieter white-sand beach at Hans-Leip-Ufer, but the Elbstrand tends to be the most popular spot for sun worshippers. Be aware that the River Elbe is not safe for swimming.

Hamburg - Travel Itinerary

Day 1

08:00 - 09:00

Fish Market (Fischmarkt)

Große Elbstraße, 22767 Hamburg, Germany
An absolute hive of activity - if you catch it at the right time - the fish market is an amazing place to wander through and get a little piece of daily life in this beautiful port city. The building itself has a history dating back centuries, and inside, you'll find everything from fish to clothes to flowers to tourist souvenirs. You'll have to go on a Sunday, 0500--0930 in April to October, and 0730-0930 in November to March; it's an early start, but you can bet on a great breakfast ready for a busy day. Photocredit to Fotogreenhorn at Unsplash; Photoman at Unsplash; DA69 at Unsplash; tomch at pixabay

09:15 - 09:45

Old Tunnel under the Elbe (Alter Elbtunnel)

Bei den St. Pauli-Landungsbrücken, 20359 Hamburg, Germany
An engineering marvel and a phenomenal piece of Hamburg history, this tunnel underneath the river is both an underground landmark and an essential piece of infrastructure, connecting the docks to the south with the city centre on the other side of the river. Built in 1911, it was groundbreaking and it used to offer vehicles and pedestrians a much more efficient way across the river, but now, it's cycle and pedestrian access only, for tourists to marvel and commuters to reach their work or leisure destinations. Nowadays, it's sometimes used for exhibitions and makes a brilliant photo opportunity, too - although keep an eye out for some very speedy local cyclists! The disabled access is excellent, if you can find the huge old vehicle lift, which takes some doing, but keep a careful eye out for the signs, or ask for the "der Aufzug". Photo credits to SKatzenberger on Unsplash; Peter Hermann on Unsplash; Fabian Wolf on Unsplash

10:00 - 11:00

St Michael's Church (Hauptkirche St. Michaelis)

Engl. Planke 1, 20459 Hamburg, Germany
This Lutherian church is worth a visit for it's beautiful nave and it's landmark tower. If you're lucky, you can catch beautiful organ music, and it's well worth a trip up the tower to the observation deck to see the brilliant view across the city. There is a lift for disabled access, but it can be challenging if you're not a wheelchair user to be granted access - writing down something like "my disability is not visible" ('meine Behinderung ist nicht sichtbar') or "I'm unable to climb stairs because of my health" ('Ich kann aus gesundheitlichen Gründen keine Treppen steigen') in German would be a good idea. The Church website lists these opening times, but be aware that they often close for lunch for 1h and that the tower is closed in inclement weather for safety reasons. May ‑ September from 0900 to 1930; October and April from 0900-1830; November - March from 1000-1730. Photo credit to Natalie Fund on Unsplash; Art Estole on Unsplash; Jerry B Keane on Unsplash.
Price covers: Entry
Prices for St Michael's Church (Hauptkirche St. Michaelis)
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 5.00 - 8.00 EUR
Students 4.00 EUR
Kids 4.00 EUR Under 15
Seniors 4.00 EUR

11:30 - 12:30

Town Hall (Rathaus)

Rathausmarkt 1, 20095 Hamburg, Germany
A beautiful building well worth a look, the town hall was built between 1886 and 1897 in the neo renaissance style, and today houses the local government as well as the mayoral offices. The town hall boasts an opulent entrance hall, and for those who would like to learn more, guided tours are available, and the entrance is wheelchair accessible. Look out for the Hamburg Stock Exchange, just behind the town hall whilst you're there. Photo credit Julia Solonina on Unsplash; Alexander Bagno on Unsplash; Moritz Kindler on Unsplash.

12:30 - 14:00

Inner Alster Lake (Binnenalster)

Jungfernstieg, 20354 Hamburg, Germany
One of the absolute best places to be in Hamburg, if you have to prioritise, make sure this gets a spot on the list. With the beautiful fountain in the middle of a picturesque little lake (and it's neighbouring bigger sibling, if you fancy a bit more of a walk), this beautiful scenic gem is surrounded by little bars, cafes and shops. On a clear day, you can rent little boats to row around, or just sit on the shore and watch the world go by - make sure to check out the skyline from here. If you're an art lover, you're also right by the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the modern art museum of Hamburg, which are great places to visit if that's your cup of tea. Photo credit to alxpin on Unsplash; sborisov on Unsplash; miniloc on Unsplash.

14:00 - 16:00

Planten un Blomen Park

Dag-Hammarskjöld-Platz, 20355 Hamburg, Germany
If you're more of a nature baby, a short walk away is the garden of plants and flowers, Planten un Blomen, a garden of landscaped parks, themed gardens and a Japanese tea house. Strongly recommend a visit! A lot of the park is paved or accessible to wheelchair users, and regular cafes, seating spaces and benches make it relatively disability friendly. Accessible toilet access is limited, so planning your visit with a map would be ideal. Photo credit Fabian Wolf on Unsplash; RR-Photos at Unsplash; Moritz Kindler on Unsplash; Kieran Sheehan on Unsplash.

16:00 - 17:00

Beatles-Platz

Reeperbahn 174, 20359 Hamburg, Germany
Hamburg is the iconic home of the Beatles - some would say even more so than Liverpool! This unique instalment across the space shows the band, including early members, in metal silhouettes - try and line yourself up inside one at the right angle for a cool picture. If you're here, likely a bit of a Beatles fan, you'd do well to check out Gretel & Alfons, just up Große Freiheit, the bar the Beatles often frequented, and the origin of a lot of classic we know today. Grab a pint and check out the incredible original wood panelling in the interior and the walls full of memorabilia. Photocredit to tupungato on Unsplash

17:30 - 20:30

Reeperbahn

Reeperbahn, Hamburg, Germany
Well known as the red light district, the Reeperbahn actually has so much more to offer. Unassuming in the daytime, you want to take a walk through this district after dark to see the incredible show of neon lights - although naturally, not a child friendly activity. Whilst the signs advertising sex shows and other activities are plentiful, they're interspersed with the city's buzzing nightlife, and the Reeperbahn and St Pauli are full of clubs, bars, and restaurants that don't carry that same red light tag. The streets round here are pretty uneven, and often incredibly busy, most of all on a Friday and Saturday night (although this is the best time to go). Whilst it's not impossible to navigate in a wheelchair or for those with mobility difficulties, you'll perhaps want to brace yourself. Photo credit to Kai Pilger on Unsplash; Michael Kucharski on Unsplash; Vicky Hladynets on Unsplash

Day 2

09:00 - 10:00

HafenCity

Platz d. Deutschen Einheit 2, 20457 Hamburg, Germany
HafenCity is the contemporary business sector, and well worth a stop en route to the rest of your day. Starting at the HafenCity Universität U-Bahn stop puts you right in the middle, and just across the bridge you'll find HafenCity Aussichtspunkt, a 13m tall panoramic, view point made from orange steel, which provides a great place to look over the area. Back across the bridge, you'll find Lohsepark, a green space dedicated to the Jews and Romani deported from this district during WWII. There's also a playwark here, so a great stop for little ones. This is a great district to find breakfast or brunch, and I'd particularly recommend Wildes Fräulein, a quirky little spot just by the water, which serves amazing food with a fun Alpine decor twist, including a cable car in the cafe.

10:00 - 11:30

Speicherstadt

Speicherstadt, 20457 Hamburg, Germany
Speicherstadt is one of the most special places to be in Hamburg, definitely worth prioritising! A UNESCO world heritage site, this old warehouse district is a maze of bridges surrounded by towering red brick walls. It was built between 1883 to 1927, as a free zone for tax free goods transfers. It can really only be described in images, but nothing compares to the real experience of this beautiful, industrial, historical and most of all, unusual network of little roads and bridges. In actual fact, Hamburg has more bridges than Venice. The International Maritime Museum is in the Speicherstadt, and a worthwhile visit, whether you prefer to pop in, or go round with a more attentive view. The museum boasts a private collection of 40,000 model ships, uniforms and photographs, started by a little boy and grown to fill Hamburg's oldest warehouse. Open 1000-18000 daily, it's a really engaging trip that offers a decent interest for little ones and adults alike. The go to bridge, if you have to choose, is in the east. It's called Poggenmühle, and it offers a beautiful view down the canals and of the two bridges, with towering red brick walls framing a fantastic shot. The other absolute must-do in the whole of Hamburg is the Dialoghaus, or in English "Dialogue in the Dark". It's a sensory experience exhibition that's received international renown for its groundbreaking role in disability awareness and artistic prowess. A blind, or partially sighted guide leads you around this unique exhibit in utter darkness, offering an elevated sensory experience and a fascinating window into the world of those with partial or no sight. It's worth booking advance tickets for this very popular occasion. Photocredit to Magnus S, Tim Christopher Klonk, Michael Utech on Unsplash.

12:00 - 13:30

Chilehaus and Chocolate Museum

Fischertwiete 2A, 20095 Hamburg, Germany
An itinerary point of two halves! Right off the Meßberg U-Bahn stop, and right across the canal from Speicherstadt, you have: The incredible Chilehaus, named for , is a 1920's impressionist building that was intended to look like a ship - you decide! It's a significant architectural feature in the city today, and is home to restaurants shops and working space Right next door is Chocoversum, Hamburg's chocolate museum. It takes you on an interactive journey through the process of sourcing, making and selling chocolate, with tasting along the way and a brilliant gift shop. A fun one for children, but also very enjoyable as an adult, and a nice change of pace from architecture, or perfect for a wet or chilly day. Photocredit to Karolina Nichitin on Unsplash

13:30 - 14:00

Deichstraße

Deichstraße, 20459 Hamburg, Germany
Hamburg's oldest street is a very pretty walk full of little boutiques and wonderful eateries, this is the perfect place to grab a light bite or rest up with some lunch. The options are wide ranging, so you have the chance for traditional German food if you'd like to take it up, but for those with dietary requirements or who have particular tastes, other options are also plentiful, which means everyone can find something here. The street is about 300m long, a slow 5 minute walk. If you're a wheelchair user, or somebody who uses a mobility aid, the street is cobbled, in a manageable sense, although makes for a bumpy ride. Photocredit to VFKA on Unsplash.

14:00 - 15:00

St Nikolai Memorial (Mahnmal St Nikolai)

Willy-Brandt-Straße 60, 20457 Hamburg, Germany
This once powerful church was bombed in WWII, and the ruins of the building house a museum in memory of the victims of the war. The tower is still standing and is the highest church tower in Hamburg; it offers an incredible view across the city, as well as a noteworthy landmark in the city skyline. There is a lift up the tower and the panoramic view is accessible to all. Photocredit to saiko3p and thehague on Unsplash.
Price covers: Entry
Prices for St Nikolai Memorial (Mahnmal St Nikolai)
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 5.00 EUR
Kids 3.00 EUR Under 18
Seniors 4.00 EUR

15:30 - 17:00

Miniatur Wunderland

Kehrwieder 2/Block D, 20457 Hamburg, Germany
Adults and children alike will all love this one. The vast model railway exhibit is ever growing to reflect the global environment, and it takes you on a journey through multiple countries and cities, all modelled immaculately in miniature. For an idea of the scale, the exhibit boasts a current total of 269,000 miniature figures, 9,250 cars, 4,340 buildings and 130,000 trees, but to name a few... Definitely one of Hamburg's top indoor attractions. Wholly accessible to wheelchair users and those with mobility aids. Photocredit to Darren Bockman and Stefan Cosma on Unsplash.
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Miniatur Wunderland
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 20.00 EUR
Students 17.00 EUR
Kids 12.50 EUR Under 18
Seniors 17.00 EUR

17:15 - 18:15

Elbphilharmonie Hamburg

Platz d. Deutschen Einheit 4, 20457 Hamburg, Germany
The iconic Hamburg building is probably the most significant architectural feature of the city, dominating the skyline and controversial among locals. The bottom half of the building comprises of an old warehouse structure, upon which a modernist glass structure creates a striking silhouette. The city's tallest building overlooks the harbour, and is home to the famous concert hall. If you're into music or interested in the experience, seeing if you can catch a concert or an event here is highly recommended, but the most exciting feature for most tourists are the free tickets (which have to be pre-booked), that allow you access to the balcony overlooking the city, offering the most incredible view across the docks and the city. You can take the 'Tube', the escalator tunnel leading upwards to the top of the building, or the sweeping stairs, but note there are also lifts and excellent disabled access. Photo credit to Robert Katzki, Max Kukurudziak, Laura Cleffman and Moritz Lüdtke on Unsplash.

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About the author

I love to travel, like anyone here I guess! I've been lucky enough to live in 5 different countries, and travel to nearly 50 - so far - and I'm working my through the world! I speak 11 different languages (to varying degrees of success) and I work remotely, which gives me the time and freedom to see the world. What I love most about travelling is the freedom that comes with spontaneity - I say, as if I don't plan every inch of my trips... I love getting to see other places, experience other cultures and meet people and see things, I don't think I'll ever be done travelling.

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