What to see in Hamburg in two days: walking, music and partying
Hamburg is a big city; in fact, it is the most populous German city after Berlin. But don’t let its size put you off visiting, because if you’re well organised you can have a great time here. Even a 48-hour visit to this city in the north of Germany brings a host of surprises, and impresses with its vitality, its huge port, and its seamy side. Every corner of Hamburg buzzes with life, whether in its historic neighbourhoods or in its Bohemian districts. And if you have a passion for culture and architecture, you’re going to love the museums and magnificent buildings such as the Elbphilharmonie.
We have organised this itinerary so that you can see all kinds of sights, from those that always feature on the list of essential attractions to other that are less well known. Two days in Hamburg, whether it’s your only destination or whether it’s a stop-off on a tour of Germany, is a great idea.
Itinerary day 1
If you’re still out at 4.30 or 5.00 a.m., go and see the Fischmarkt [Fish Market]. At this time of the morning, the place is buzzing while everything is being set up. This is where many people have their last beer of the night (or their first of the morning), with a Fischbrötchen, which is a baguette with herring or even oysters, and so on.
After dinner, make your way to the St. Pauli neighbourhood. This district has a wealth of stories to tell, but one that no one forgets is that this is where the Beatles stayed in the 1960s. Going from pub to pub remembering their songs is a fantastic way to spend a night. Drop into Indra, Kaiserkeller and Stage Club, and you’re bound to hear tunes you’ll recognise.
This restaurant, between the port of Hamburg and St. Pauli, has a quiet atmosphere, a modern décor, and dishes with an Austrian twist. Some say this place has the best schnitzel (Viennese cutlets) in the city... so why not go and find out?
Arriving at the port of Hamburg is like landing in the present of a city whose commercial history stretches back over ten centuries. In fact, this is one of the biggest ports in the world in respect of the volume of containers handled. It is quite an experience to see the enormous ships and the office buildings — and to watch the activity on the quay. You can also go on a boat tour: you get on at St. Pauli and sail along the Elbe.
Your next stop is at Deichstrasse, another historic location but with pretty, half-timbered houses with Baroque façades. Until 1842, the centre of Hamburg was similar to what you see here now, but a huge fire, which lasted almost four days, destroyed most of the dwellings. Nowadays, you can enjoy this attractive scene, although of course the buildings have been restored.
To visit the Speicherstadt neighbourhood (literally ‘the town of warehouses’) is to travel back to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when this area, full of old buildings formerly used to store merchandise, was at its peak. Today it is an attractive suburb with bridges, canals, and interesting cultural centres such as the Customs Museum and Miniatur Wunderland.
To save time, have lunch in the centre before going on to visit the other side of the city. On the ground floor of the Town Hall, you will find the Parlament restaurant, whose history and comprehensive menu of typical German flavours are sure to impress. It also offers excellent value for money.
We recommend you spend the first of your three days in Hamburg exploring the city centre, so that you get an idea of its atmosphere, and seeing attractive edifices such as the Town Hall, an enormous building in the Renaissance style with a 112-metre-tall tower. It is tall, but the tower of the thirteenth century Church of St. Nikolai is taller still at 145 metres. If you have time, visit the interesting Kunsthalle Art Museum.
Itinerary day 2
This is the perfect place for dinner after a concert or sightseeing in the area. Quiet and welcoming, it offers both a cold buffet and a menu with regional German specialities. It is also worth mentioning the views of the port and the chance to enjoy beer tasting while you are there.
At 37 metres tall, and with its steel base and dazzling glass façades, the Elbphilharmonie, or Elbe Philharmonic Hall, is a sight that no one could miss. It is one of the city’s most modern buildings. The best plan is to go to a concert or show, but if there’s nothing on at the time of your visit, you can tour the building, have a drink here and then go out onto the viewing platform to see panoramic views of the port and the city itself.
The Elbe Tunnel is one of Hamburg’s unique tourist sights. The entrance to the old tunnel is near the port (Metro: Landungsbrücken); the tunnel links the two river banks at a depth of over 25 metres. This feat of engineering, built early in the twentieth century, can be explored on foot. On the other bank, the views of Hamburg are impressive.
A simple but welcoming restaurant, offering every German speciality you could ask for as well as excellent beer. It’s a good place to enjoy a generous mixed platter with sausages, and to recharge your batteries before continuing your tour of Hamburg.
In the Kontorhaus neighbourhood, you’ll find the Chilehaus, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015. This imposing structure, with its striking shape that recalls the prow of a ship, is one of the icons of German Expressionist architecture. Its name, Chilehaus, is a reference to Henry B. Sloman, the richest man in the city at the beginning of the twentieth century, who emigrated and made his fortune in Chile.
If you’ve been out on the previous evening, it’s maybe a good idea to start the day with a quiet walk around one of the city’s prettiest parks. In the Planten un Blomen, you’ll find lovely spots, including the Japanese Garden, as well as interesting ones such as the Botanical Gardens. In addition, there are children’s play areas and a pavilion with occasional live music.