Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany after Berlin, has a population of over 1.85 million and it is a major port city in northern Germany connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River. It is Europe’s third largest port, after Rotterdam and Antwerp. Being a maritime city, its crossed by hundreds of canals and there are more bridges here than in Amsterdam, London, and Venice altogether. For someone who’s bias toward canals like me, Hamburg easily become my most favourite city in Germany and it is also home to one of the top University in Germany for STEM: TU Hamburg. Hamburg also has its own island. Back in 1299, the city took over the rights to Neuwerk. This was a measure of protection against pirates, and since then, this island which is 100km west of the city is an integral part of it.
Near its core, Inner Alster lake is dotted with boats and surrounded by cafes. The city’s central Jungfernstieg boulevard connects the Neustadt (new town) with the Altstadt (old town), home to landmarks like 18th-century St. Michael’s Church.
With only one day sightseeing here’s our suggested top things to see and do:
How to get to Hamburg Center
If you fly into Hamburg, Hamburg airport is located 8.5km north of Hamburg.
The following means of transport are available to get to the city center from Hamburg Airport:
S-Bahn line S1 takes you from Hamburg Central Station to the airport and back every 10 minutes with a journey time of only 25 minutes each way. You can reach the S-Bahn station “Hamburg Airport (Flughafen)” directly from Terminals 1 and 2 (Arrivals) via elevators, escalators, and fixed stairs. One stop from “Hamburg Airport”, at “Ohlsdorf” underground and suburban railway station, you have the option of changing to U1 underground line.
If you would like to use the bus for your onward journey, you will find the stops directly in front of Terminal 1 on Level 0 (arrival). The following bus lines go to and from Hamburg Airport:
For a relaxed and safe journey home, taxis are available at the taxi stands in front of Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Payments in the taxis can be made in cash as well as cashless, and booster seats are available on request. You can get to Hamburg city centre within 20 minutes by taxi.
You can also reserve your Taxi with the following companies:
Telefon: +49 (0)40 211 1799
Telefon: +49 (0)40 441 011
Telefon: +49 (0)40 666 666
Telefon: +49 (0)40 2000 1111
From outside Hamburg you can easily reach Hamburg Airport with the travel company Kielius bus shuttle.
How to get around
The best way to get around in Hamburg is by walking and the city’s extensive and competent public transportation system. A suburban train (S-Bahn), a subway (U-Bahn) or a bus can take you everywhere. Taxis and MOIA, a ride-share service that operates similar to Uber, are available.
Many of the city’s top attractions are located centrally and within walking distance to one another. For the farther-flung sites, you can hop aboard Hamburg’s super-efficient public transport system.
There are a variety of biking trails in Hamburg and the surrounding area. In fact, the Hamburg tourism website offers a variety of biking itineraries. StadtRAD Hamburg is the city’s bike-sharing program, with more 220 stations around the city. A day pass costs 15 euros (or about $16.75).
German efficiency is truly shown thru its well-organized public transportation system, which includes a number of trains: the S-Bahn (suburban train), the U-Bahn (city subway), the A-Bahn (a farther-reaching suburban train) and the R-Bahn (a regional train). Hamburg is broken into different zones, by which the fare is calculated. Fares start at about 3.40 euros ($3.75) and tickets can be purchased at HVV (Hamburg’s public transport organisation) stations. Visitors tend to stick with the U-Bahn subway trains, which connect with the S-Bahn trains out to the suburbs. A ticket is required for riding. If you’re caught on the train without a validated ticket, you may be fined as much as 60 euros ($65).
Buses are another way to get around, and you’ll find that the main bus station – Zentral Omnibus Bahnhof – is located right next to the main train station. Tickets are a couple of euro, except if you’re traveling on the all-evening night buses, which are a bit more expensive. And you can buy these at HVV stations throughout the city or from bus drivers.
Hamburg is a watery city – with a river, a lake and numerous canals – all within its bounds. Accordingly, ferries are another way you can get around. The HADAG ferries (part of the HVV system) travel a number of different routes along the River Elbe. Ferries run more frequently during the summer high season than they do the rest of the year. You can purchase tickets in HVV stations.
You can hail metered taxis on the street, but you can also find them queuing up in ranks throughout the city. Official taxis are white and have a yellow “Taxi” sign on their roof. The meter starts at a little more than 3 euros, and you can expect the 30-minute ride from the airport into the city to cost about 25 euros. MOIA, a ride-sharing service, is another option that can be accessed by downloading the corresponding smartphone app. It operates in a similar way like Uber.
One Day itinerary
Discover Miniatur Wunderland
Miniatur Wunderland – the largest miniature railway in the world. The museum’s nine miniature worlds are inhabited by over 1,000 trains, more than 4,000 buildings, and 260,000 figurines. A must-see for every visitor of the city. Miniatur Wunderland covers more than 2.000 square meters of mini buildings, and you can see areas dedicated to the Nordic countries, the USA, and Germany. The most interesting and fascinating thing about Miniatur Wunderland is that the buildings are not static, but everything is full of life. Planes actually take off from the airport and cars are moving through cities. The Wunderland can be crowded on weekends and holidays. To avoid a long wait, you can check the waiting time forecast or make reservation in the official website. They open 365 days a year, always at least from 09:30 – 18:00 h. On weekends, during school holidays, on Tuesdays or on public holidays we are often open much longer. Ticket for adult cost €20 and € 12.5 for under 16 years old.
Not many cities can boast their warehouse district as a recommendation for travellers to visit. Hamburg’s Speicherstadt is probably the most impressive area to see in Hamburg. It’s made up of an intricate maze of red-brick buildings, located on a network of canals flowing into the northern branch of the Elbe river. The world’s largest warehouse complex was turned into a trendy area, some buildings were renovated to host museums, others, modern apartments or cafés.
Hamburg City Hall
The Hamburg City Hall is as remarkable as the photos show, a proof of the city’s long standing prosperity and maritime trade. What’s different about it is that not only does the mayor of Hamburg inhabit it, the building is also the seat of the city’s parliament and senate. If you opt for taking a tour of the Neo-Renaissance masterpiece, brace yourself as there are close to 650 rooms, albeit not all of them open to the public. The courtyard between the city hall and the adjacent Stock Exchange resembles an Italian piazza, for a bit of a mixed culture flair right in the heart of Hamburg.
From the Rathaus, the wide Mönckebergstraße, Hamburg’s principal shopping and business district, leads past 14th-century St. Peter’s Church, a cathedral and fine example of brick Hansa architecture notable for its 133-meter bell tower. Here’s also the area where you can do serious shopping.
A column in the south part of the church bears a painting called Christmas 1813, commemorating citizens who were locked in the church that year for refusal to provide food to Napoleon’s troops. Continue on Mönckebergstraße all the way to the Central Station and the Schauspielhaus theater.
Visit Hamburg Port
Officially opened in 2003, Hamburg’s Hafencity – the port city – is another modernized area with glass office buildings, new apartment complexes and leisure for the newly installed residents. It’s the heart of Hamburg, as the port is a major part of the city’s history, trade and identity. The architecture is avant-garde, the open spaces abound, and cultural offers, such as the International Maritime Museum or the Automuseum Prototyp, close at hand. If you fancy a cruise on the many branches of the Elbe river, this is also the place where to hop on a boat.
Elbe Philharmonic Hall
The imposing Elbphilharmonie (Elbe Philharmonic Hall) is the crown jewel of the revitalized Port of Hamburg. Located at the point of the Grasbrook peninsula, this new building has become the city’s major landmark, and is considered one of the largest – and most acoustically pleasing – concert halls in the world.
Opened to great fanfare in 2017, its base consists of a 1960s-era, six-story-tall former cocoa, tea, and tobacco warehouse built of red brick. Above this rises an additional 20 stories of curved, shining glass.
The largest of its three concert halls seats 2,150 and features 10,000 plates specially designed to tune sound waves. The building is also home to a major hotel, residential apartments, restaurants, and other features, including parking. A publicly accessible observation platform, the Elbphilharmonie Plaza provides splendid views of the harbor and the city.
You can book guided tour or concert ticket at its official website here.
Explore Alster Lake
The focal points of Hamburg’s inner city area are the Inner Alster (Binnenalster) and Outer Alster (Aussenalster), two artificial lakes connected to the rivers Alster and the Elbe. It’s here you’ll find Hamburg’s most picturesque city squares and historic avenues, as well as its famous pedestrian areas, the passagens. The best routes take in the elegant Jungfernstieg with its cafés and landing stages used by tour boats, and the Ballindamm, with the city’s largest shopping center.
The lakes are also popular for sailing and kayaking in summer and skating in winter, and are lined by many beautiful parks and gardens. The area is also popular among cyclists.
Also popular is the Pöseldorf area, with its galleries, boutiques, and cafés, along with the canals, or “fleetes,” which link the lakes with the Elbe. If you’re visiting in late summer, be sure to attend the annual Alstervergnügen, a street fair held around the lakes with great entertainment, including numerous concerts.
We hope you enjoy your one day in Hamburg. It’s a great city with plenty to do and see. If you’ve been to Hamburg let us know where is your favourite spot in the city.