Top 10 activities in Hamburg: a local’s guide

I teamed up with The Local Europe, the largest English-language news network in Europe to show #MyGermany to you! Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and has A LOT to show. During one week in August, I showed all the best things to see and do in Hamburg, answered questions, shared curiosities and fun facts.

It was a very fun week and it was a pleasure to work on it. Now I’ve gathered the highlights and made this guide with the 10 best activities for first timers in Hamburg, most free of charge or low cost. Enjoy! 

1- The St. Michel’s Church and the Komponistenquartier

The Michel’s Church on Hamburg’s skyline

An important part of Hamburg’s skyline, St. Michel’s Church has almost 400-years of history. The “Michel” (as it is fondly known) had to be completely rebuilt twice. A lightning strike and then a catastrophic fire – centuries later – destroyed the first and second churches that were built on this site.

But the city’s Protestants persevered, and in 1912 the construction was finished. Although heavily damaged during WWII, it has been fully repaired, and today you’ll find a baroque gem that is regularly listed among Northern Germany’s most beautiful churches and meaningful landmarks. 

You can visit the church and go to the top of the 132m tall tower for 5€ or the tower + crypt visits combined for 7€. Tickets can be bought online or on site. They also have organ concerts and you can find the full program on their website.

From the top: the view you can get from the church’s tower

Not far from the church, you can find the Komponistenquartier. The Composers Quarter (in English) is a gathering of six museums at Peterstraße.

The museums have as a theme classical composers who were born or have lived in the city of Hamburg, like Bach and Brahms. This is an area of restored historical buildings and visiting the neighborhood is like traveling in time. 

You can visit the area and enjoy the architectural beauty for free. To visit the museums, tickets are sold on site for 9€ to see all museums (and with Hamburg Card it costs 7 €).

2- Nikolaifleet and Rödingsmarkt area

Nikolaifleet is where the development of the Port of Hamburg began in 1188. Until the 19th century, goods were transhipped here by water. It is considered one of the oldest parts of the Port of Hamburg and is today, a very popular visitor attraction. 

On the background, you can see the ruins of the Church of St. Nicholas (St. Nikolai Kirche), formerly one of the five main Lutheran churches in Hamburg. It was destroyed by bombs in WWII, leaving only its crypt, its site and the tower, together serving as a memorial and an important architectural landmark. The entrance for the museum and tower costs 5€ and you can buy it on site. 

You can arrive at this area by bus or subway (Rödingsmarkt), and enjoy the neighborhood. There’s a street (Deichstraße) that has many cozy and traditional restaurants, such as the Kartoffelkeller Restaurant where you can eat the traditional Kartoffelpuffer (contains eggs!).

3- Sternschanze, Karolinenviertel and St. Pauli

Sternschanze is Hamburg’s trendy and multicultural district. It has a charm of its own with many small boutiques, restaurants, cafés, parties and community spaces.

A weekly flea market (Flohschanze, close to the Feldstraße subway station) offers a great variety of furniture, clothing and jewelry. The open-air Schanzenkino cinema in Schanzenpark presents popular summer screenings. 

The streets of Schulterblatt, Schanzenstraße, Susannenstraße and Bartelsstraße form the center of the pop-cultural district, whose trendy record shops and boutiques invite you to explore, while pubs and cozy cafés invite you to relax. Many local partygoers appreciate the special atmosphere of the area, since it is also away from the touristy Reeperbahn.

Hamburg’s cultural hotspot has everything a foodie’s heart could desire. Vegans/vegetarians especially, have many options. From kebab to spaghetti ice cream, schnitzel or hot dogs, there are foods for all tastes. 

Karolinenviertel’s unofficial centerpieces are the second-hand stores and designer boutiques of Marktstrasse.


In St. Pauli, you will find popular bars, restaurants and nightclubs, not mentioning that most of events in the city happen there, at Spielbudenplatz in Reeperbahn. A naughty Christmas market, food truck festivals, gardening, music, sport events. St Pauli is the heart of Hamburg and there is always something happening there.

And fun fact: The Beatles started their career in Hamburg, playing on the streets of St Pauli. Today, there’s the Beatles Platz, a monument at the street where they used to play, Große Freiheit

Reeperbahn view from the top of the Dancing Towers

 If you are visiting Hamburg, make sure you explore the art, music, food and beautiful streets these areas have.

4 – Stadtpark

Summer days the City Park

Opened in 1914, the City Park Hamburg is a 148 hectare large public park in the Winterhude district. Picnics, kayaking, swimming, stand up paddling, relaxing are just a few examples of what you can do when visiting there. On sunny weekends, this park receives around 200,000 visitors, who enjoy the variety of leisure activities.

The park has also a planetarium, cafes, restaurants and, during summer, open-air concerts. You can swim, go kayaking, paddling or rent a board to do some stand up paddle. Renting kayaks costs 10-14€ and boards for SUP can be found from 15€.

5- Planten un Blomen

One of the greenest attractions of Hamburg with an impressive architectural landscape, Planten un Blomen park invites you to relax and sunbathe, while also offering a variety of attractions to entertain you.

Autumn at Planten un Blomen

There you can find a Botanical Garden with a Tropical House, which is a very popular destination for those seeking warmth, especially in the winter.

The park also has numerous events in the summer for the kids, such as children’s parties, children’s theater and even pottery activities. You can also visit the romantic rose garden, learn about medicinal plants at the pharmacy garden or drink some tea at the japanese garden.

Tee House at the Japanese Garden

In the evening, visitors can enjoy the magical water light concerts with live classical music at the lake. It is free and happens every day from May to the end of August at 22h, and it goes on until the end of September an hour earlier.

There’s also a miniature golf course and a ice-skating rink (this one during winter), Eisarena: Germany’s largest open-air ice rink. For culture enthusiasts, concerts, readings, teahouse events, theatrical performances and chess gardens near the Glacischaussee entrance complete the Park’s diverse program.

Opening hours: May to September, 7 to 23h. October to March, 7h to 20h. April, 7h to 22h. Public transportation: U3/bus St Pauli, U1 station Stephansplatz, U2 station Messehallen and S11, S21, S31 station Dammtor station. 

6 – Elbphilharmonie

Elbphilharmonie is an experience that I consider a big must-see when visiting Hamburg. It is known as the acoustic miracle.

The Große Saal is the heart of the Elbphilharmonie. Built according to the “vineyard principle”: the hall offers a soundscape where no matter where you are seated, you’ll hear the sound very clearly. The sound architecture was created by the renowned Japanese acoustic designer Yasuhisa Toyota.

Architectural masterpiece

You can find tickets from 10€ if you buy really early on their website. Pay attention to where the show is being held, some of them are in a different building (also beautiful, but for first timers I highly recommend the Große Saal).

To visit the Plaza and just appreciate the view, you can buy advance tickets online for 2€ or just try your luck and if it is not full, you can enter for free.

7 – Alster or the beach

Hamburg’s rainbow

Beach or city life? We have both!

On sunny days in Hamburg, we have our own rainbow at the Alster! A very nice activity to do here (specially if you are having sunny days) is taking one of these boats and exploring this city’s beauty from a different perspective, by going to parts of the city that can only be discovered by the water way.

The Alster tour is 2 hours long and has audio guides in English available. You can buy it on site from 20€ (can be cheaper if you have a group).

Autumn at the beach

Another boat ride you can’t miss is taking a public boat from Landungsbrücken and going explore Blankenese area: the stairs district and the beach will make you fall (even more) in love with this city. 

8- Miniatur Wunderland

A tiny world, full of surprises and hidden gems. Interactive buttons, easter eggs and handmade works that will leave you speechless! 

Miniature life

Miniatur Wunderland is a huge must see when in Hamburg. And it is perfect for rainy days! You can buy tickets from 12€ (depending on time slot and availability, also sold online) and you’ll need at least four hours there to explore it well. 

9 – Rathaus

Magnificent under any light, our Rathaus (city hall) has a total area of 17,000 m2, not including the restaurant called Parliament, which has around 2,900 m2. The city hall has 647 rooms and it was opened in 1897.

Town Hall Hamburg

You can go inside with English-speaking tours that start regularly on weekdays (but can be canceled without prior notice if there’s an important event) at 11h15, 13h15 and 15h15. The tours in German, happen every 30 min. Reservations are only possible for groups of 15 people or more. The ticket for adults costs only 5€ and with a HamburgCARD, 4€.

During Christmas, the Rathaus Christmas Market is the most beautiful and magical market around the city. 

10 – Hamburger DOM

Firework show at the DOM every Friday night

Last, but not least, the biggest funfair of Northern Germany. The Dom happens three times a year and the next one will be the Winter Dom: 08/11 to 08/12/2019.

What about you? What would you choose to do first when visiting Hamburg? Let me know in the comments 🙂

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  1. October 25, 2019 / 8:54 pm

    Wow! This definitely makes me want to visit Germany! I’ll have to add it to my bucket list.

  2. October 26, 2019 / 7:03 pm

    As I always say: great pictures! Thank you so much for sharing your insight on Hamburg! When I finally travel abroad, I will definitely look at this post again!

  3. kimcook4
    October 27, 2019 / 12:09 am

    Fabulous photos and information. Germany is on our bucket list!

  4. October 30, 2019 / 3:02 pm

    It looks great. It seems like a great vacation spot.

  5. Aryanne Padilha
    November 5, 2019 / 5:42 pm

    Your photos are absolutely stunning! I’ve been to many places in Germany but never really made to Hamburg, I’m so glad I came across this, I love beautiful architecture and will def include this on my next trip to Germany!

  6. November 6, 2019 / 4:36 am

    What a great list of ideas. Also stunning photos of the city

  7. November 6, 2019 / 1:37 pm

    We love Germany the mix of old and new architecture all the attention to detail and overall amazing engineering.

  8. November 6, 2019 / 4:27 pm

    What a beautiful and intriguing city!

  9. November 6, 2019 / 4:48 pm

    These photos look absolutely stunning… I would love to visit this city!

  10. November 7, 2019 / 7:06 pm

    I wouldn’t even know where to even start! Everything looks incredible – your photos are so amazing too – I so enjoyed looking through them!

    -Madi xo

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