What to see in Hamburg in 3 days, essential visits plus an excursion to Bremen
A first visit to a city such as Hamburg, where everything is so impressive, can be overwhelming, but with a little organisation it can be a totally memorable experience. In this 3-day Hamburg itinerary, you will find the must-see tourist attractions, both in the historic centre, with buildings such as the Town Hall and the Chilehaus, and in adjoining neighbourhoods that have been transformed from industrial to residential use. Nor should you neglect those areas linked to the port and the hectic business life of this Germany’s second most populous city.
We recommend you take a methodical approach, but also that you leave a little room for unplanned activity, as this will allow you all the time you need to enjoy your favourite attractions. In addition, you need to remember that Hamburg has a buzzing nightlife, so that nights can stretch out for so long that in the early morning, all you’ll want to do is sleep… Are you ready to discover one of Germany’s most fascinating cities?
Itinerary day 1
Offering views over the lake, this beer garden on the riverbank is the perfect spot to have dinner in the cool as evening falls. Only outdoor tables are available, so this place is particularly fascinating when the weather is good. It is a great place for a light meal, a coffee, afternoon tea or evening cocktails — especially in summer.
A good way of starting your trip to Hamburg is a leisurely visit to the Alster or Binnenalster lake, which is right in the centre of the city. It is an ideal place to relax and enjoy an ice cream while you gaze at the great fountain in the centre of the lake or even take part in some kind of activity, such as a boat trip, pedaloing, kayaking, and so on.
If you’re in Hamburg for three days, you could spend your last day visiting the lovely city of Bremen, which is a fifty-minute train ride away. We recommend that you make an early start to spend as much time as possible there, and go on a guided tour of Bremer Marktplatz, the cathedral of St. Peter, the Schmoor neighbourhood, and bucolic Bürgerpark. And after lunch, you can return to Hamburg to bid farewell to the city.
Itinerary day 2
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.
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.
Itinerary day 3
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 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.
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.