Six Things to See and Do in Hamburg

This post was last updated on January 28th, 2019

Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and known as the “Gate to the World.” It has one of the main ports in the world and was the port of exit for millions of Europeans who left for North America. As a port city, Hamburg also has a rich history in trade with the entire world. As someone who has lived and studied in Hamburg for several years and grown up in the metropolitan region of this beautiful northern city, I have a special relationship with the city and can give you the list of the six things to see and do in Hamburg.

​The Speicherstadt

Since 2015, the Speicherstadt, Hamburg’s old warehouse district, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the world’s largest historical warehouse district and was built between 1883 and 1927 and started being used in 1888 when the first building was completed.
The special thing about this area is that it was built in the canal in order to be able to unload small boats which brought the loads of the big ships directly to the warehouses. Some of the neogothic buildings now house museums, such as the Afghan museum, the spice museum, and a customs museum. All of these topics are indigenous to this impressive area of Hamburg, as this was where rugs from Iran and Afghanistan were stored, spices from all over the world arrived, and officials hunted down smugglers. If you think a customs museum sounds boring, think again. It’s really interesting to find out all about the different ways in which people have tried to avoid paying customs.
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The Speicherstadt, UNESCO World Heritage site

Explore the Rivers and Lakes

A really nice way of getting very close to the gorgeous buildings in the Speicherstadt is to take a tour through these waterways on a tourist boat. Hamburg offers several sightseeing tours, but don’t spend too much money when it’s not necessary. There are specialized harbor boat tours that are catered to tourists, even though you can simply take the ferry which is included in the public transport system. Line 62, in particular, allows you to take in beautiful views of the port.
As far as Alster boat trips go, you will have to pay for those. The only way around that would be to rent a boat and make the trip yourself, but you could easily get lost, so just choose one or two of the scenic boat tours on the lake and through the canals. You will really get to see the best of Hamburg and get close to beautiful mansions and their gardens.

​Old Elbe Tunnel

A completely different historical site is the Old Elbe Tunnel which connects the neighborhood of St. Pauli with a small island in the river Elbe and can be crossed by car, bike, and even foot, where the latter two are free. For tourists, walking through the tunnel will be the most impressive way to see this historical monument of engineering. When you get down and up try not to use one of the elevators but take the old spiral staircase instead which allows you to see more details.

St. Nicholas’ Church

Another impressive site is St. Nicholas’ Church which was at one point the tallest building in the world. This neogothic church was hit hard during the Allied air raids against Hamburg in the Second World War. As such, it is a monument that pays homage to the victims of war and the Nazi terror regime and was never reconstructed completely. You can go up with a glass elevator for a magnificent view of the city.

Enjoy Nature

Hamburg is a very green city and has many parks. Planten un Blomen (low German for “plants and flowers” is in the very center of the city. It features a lake and several gardens and hosts several events in the summer. Entrance to the park is always free, and you will absolutely love it here when the weather is good.

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Planten un Blomen in the center of Hamburg

The Alster is actually a small river, but in Hamburg, people usually mean the lake that was created artificially. Walking around the Alster lake is a nice alternative to sightseeing, as you will see both beautiful nature, as well as some stunning examples of the architecture of the city, including several consulates. While you walk around the Alster you get to see Hamburg from different perspectives.

​The Seedy Part of the City

As a port city, Hamburg is world famous for its red light district. Ports and prostitution usually go hand in hand, so it’s no wonder that the neighborhood of St. Pauli, close to the port, is the center of Hamburg’s sex industry. I don’t recommend you to participate in any of the offered services, as the area has more to offer than that. While the more fun and cool clubs are not located in the red light districts tourists flock here every weekend to get drunk and have a good time. Since every tourist would want to see this part of the city, I would suggest taking a stroll along the main street Reeperbahn and find out in advance which clubs in other parts of the city interest you specifically so you can go there later.
You can check out the port during the day which has museum ships, an old Soviet submarine, and is really nice for a stroll in nice weather.
A version of this post was first published on Girl with the Passport.

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