10 Things to Do in Hamburg at Christmas

Hamburg is considered one of the Christmas capitals of Europe and during the festive eve offers a lot of plans to visitors. Here I tell you all the alternatives you can find to discover the spirit of Christmas in this destination.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

9 min read

10 Things to Do in Hamburg at Christmas

Christmas in Hamburg | ©Norbert Wegner

If you plan to visit Hamburg, you will be able to get to know one of the most important cities in Germany. Founded as a port city, it was the epicenter of the country's industrial development and is now a cultural beacon of northern Europe, but it is also a destination that is completely transformed during Christmas Eve, offering luminous decorations on the streets, themed markets and a contagious festive spirit.

Some of the best things to do in Hamburg during Christmas include attending a seasonal concert at the Elbe Philharmonic, discovering the city's lights during a cruise, gazing at the fir tree on Alster Lake, ice skating at EisArena, browsing the local markets, strolling along Neuer Wall and marveling at the fireworks.

1. Visit the Christmas market on Town Hall Square.

Town Hall Square and Christmas market| ©Nancy Ppunkt
Town Hall Square and Christmas market| ©Nancy Ppunkt

Germany has a great tradition of Christmas markets, which are very popular in several cities in the country and Hamburg is no exception. In this destination, the one in the Town Hall Square is the most popular during the eve and offers a festive atmosphere where you can explore stalls decorated with traditional crafts, gifts and a wide range of culinary offerings.

The magic of this flea market is that it is located on the square in front of Hamburg City Hall, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Its illuminated pedestrian walkways and winter decorations contribute to the Christmas atmosphere. In addition, in this market you can also taste the seasonal gastronomy, such as grilled sausages and typical sweets, which is why it is usually included in the tours of the best gastronomic tours of Hamburg.

If you plan to visit the city with children in this market you will also find a small ice skating rink, live carol concerts and even the presence of Santa Claus, who in December appears several times a day in the market at different times.

Hamburg, which is also known as Germany's Gateway to the World, offers more than 15 Christmas markets throughout the city during the festive season. In addition to the City Hall Square market , you can also visit the St. Pauli market, which specializes in gastronomy, and the nearby Lübeck Christmas Tree Market, famous for its festive decorations and handcrafted products, ideal places for a culinary tour of the city.

Book a culinary tour in Hamburg

2. Attend a Christmas concert at the Elbe Philharmonic Hall

Elbe Philharmonic| ©Miguel Ángel Prieto
Elbe Philharmonic| ©Miguel Ángel Prieto

The Elbe Philharmonic is one of Hamburg's most popular cultural hotspots, and during the Christmas season you can attend the closing Christmas performances there.

The concert hall building, which combines traditional harbor warehouse design with avant-garde architecture, offers panoramic views of the city, but is also considered one of the best acoustic venues in the world, so you can enjoy the full experience.

During Christmas Eve, the Elbe Philharmonic offers everything from timeless classical performances to contemporary interpretations. In addition to the presentation of the local orchestra, there are theatrical performances of works such as The Nutcracker, an ideal alternative if you plan to visit Hamburg with children.

Keep in mind that attending a concert at the Elbe Philharmonic during Christmas is much more than a musical experience, it is also a way to dive into the local idiosyncrasy and share one of the most traditional activities of the city.

3. Discover the city's Christmas lights during a cruise tour.

Christmas in Hamburg| ©Michael Beyer
Christmas in Hamburg| ©Michael Beyer

Hamburg is essentially a port city, so one of the best alternatives to get to know it is to take a ride on someof the best cruise ships in the city. These experiences, during Christmas, acquire an extra touch, since they will allow you to explore, from a different perspective, the lights that characterize this destination on Christmas Eve and turn the urban skyline into a resplendent scenery.

Hamburg during the winter takes on a festive atmosphere that spreads through the streets, squares and buildings, and that you can discover particularly if you choose a night cruise on the Elbe River.

From the deck of the ship you can discover the main monuments of the city illuminated, the giant Christmas trees that crown the most visited arteries and enjoy a relaxing stroll along the waterfront.

Most of the night cruises also start their tours after sunset, so you can combine this activity with the contemplation of the sunset from the banks of the Elbe River. In the port area you can also find some of the best museums in Hamburg.

Book a night cruise

4. See the Christmas fir tree on the Alster Lake.

Christmas fir tree| ©Álvaro Canivell
Christmas fir tree| ©Álvaro Canivell

One of the most popular traditions in Hamburg during the festive eve is the installation of giant Christmas trees in different parts of the city, and the Alster Lake Christmas tree is the most famous of them. This tree, from the first days of December, becomes a central element of the cityscape, capturing the attention of residents and visitors alike.

The structure of the fir tree, adorned with twinkling lights and allusive decorations, creates a dazzling visual spectacle that is reflected in the waters of the lake. This symbolic Christmas tree not only adds a festive touch to the environment, but also becomes a traditional meeting point for those looking to soak up the spirit of the season.

One of the best alternatives to discover the Alster Lake fir tree is to participate in a bicycle tour of the surrounding area or choose theHamburg tourist bus tours, which includes a stop in the area and will allow you to get there while taking shelter from the cold and cold winter temperatures.

During Christmas Eve, the Christmas fir tree becomes the festive symbol that marks the beginning of the season and becomes the epicenter of activities and events in the city.

Buy tickets for the tourist bus

5. Sample Christmas gastronomy in St. Pauli

Christmas in St. Pauli| ©Tobias
Christmas in St. Pauli| ©Tobias

St. Pauli is also known for being one of the most famous red light districts in the world. It is not only one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in the city, but also the focus of local entertainment and the best place to sample typical gastronomy. During Christmas, the local flea market becomes a thematic stage that reflects the rich culinary heritage of the region.

Among the typical dishes you can try the popular roasted sausages with spicy sauces, gingerbread and potato fritters. You can also taste the glühwein, a spiced mulled wine that is part of a tradition rooted in German culture during Christmas and that will be ideal to combat the cold of winter in Hamburg.

In St. Pauli, you will also discover the cultural diversity of the city and the popular red light district, which is considered one of the most visited in Europe. During the tour you will have the opportunity to explore the most erotic side of this destination and also the streets that were once part of the forbidden zone. All this places the neighborhood on the circuit of the best tours in Hamburg.

Join a guided tour of St. Pauli

6. Go ice skating at the EisArena rink.

Ice skating at the EisArena ice rink| ©Topaas
Ice skating at the EisArena ice rink| ©Topaas

If you want to take part in one of Hamburg's most traditional Christmas activities, you can't miss ice skating at the EisArena rink. This open micro-stadium, located on the outskirts of the city, will allow you to enjoy this sport in a themed environment decorated with Christmas motifs.

On the perimeter of the stadium, in addition to the eve decorations, you will find children's games, bars and restaurants, as well as places to rent equipment such as boots and skates. During the winter in Hamburg at the EisArena you can also practice other seasonal sports such as curling.

This activity will be ideal if you are planning to visit Hamburg with children and are putting together a list of family plans. However, you will also find fun for adults, whether you want to experience skating or just relax and have a hot drink on the perimeter of the rink.

7. Celebrate Christmas with the Beatles

Beatles| ©Sara
Beatles| ©Sara

If you think that celebrating Christmas with the Beatles is impossible, it's because you haven't visited Hamburg yet. This German city was very important in the musical development of the legendary band, which in the early 60s molded its style in the pubs of Reeperbahn, so today in the area, geographically located in the district of St. Pauli but informally forms a separate neighborhood, you can find the Beatles Platz.

This space is a tribute to the Fab Four and during Christmas Eve offers a different experience, in which fans of the band gather to share their passion for their music, transforming the site into an improvised stage for spontaneous concerts. During the Christmas season, Reeperbahn is the only place in the city where Christmas carols are replaced by the mythical melodies of the Beatles.

Like Strawberry Fields in New York and other venues around the world that formed an important part of the band's legacy, at Beatles Platz the festive and nostalgic atmosphere transports those present to a golden age of music. However, this unique celebration not only celebrates Christmas, but also pays tribute to the indelible mark the Beatles left on Hamburg and the history of world music.

Celebrating Christmas at Beatles Platz is an experience where the passion for music merges with the spirit of the season. The mix of timeless tunes, festive lighting and the company of passionate fans creates a unique event that honors the enduring influence of the Beatles and connects generations.

Join a tour of the Reeperbahn district

8. Discover the Christmas lights of Neuer Wall

Christmas decorations| ©Ralph Behrens
Christmas decorations| ©Ralph Behrens

Outside the maritime and fishing districts, Hamburg also has some of the most exclusive areas in Germany, but none of them reach the level of Neuer Wall. This small district, nestled between canals in the north of the city, is the site of luxury shopping and, during Christmas, the epicenter of festive decorations, with garlands, illuminated shop windows and decorations on every corner.

Neuer Wall is well known as a shopper's paradise, not only for housing some of the world's most famous brands, but also because it's where you can find last-minute discounts close to Christmas Eve, which will serve you well for finding exclusive and well-priced gifts on Christmas Eve.

Beyond shopping, however, walking along Neuer Wall will allow you to enter a charming setting that is often included in the itineraries of the best tours of Hamburg, especially if you plan to visit the city during the winter or during the change of season, when you can find discounts and bargain prices.

9. Watch the fireworks from the shore of the Alster Lake.

Fireworks| ©Martin Deja
Fireworks| ©Martin Deja

One of the most anticipated spectacles during Christmas in Hamburg is the fireworks show on the Alster Lake, which you can discover from the shore of this site. Every year on Christmas Eve, the city's sky is illuminated with sparkles and dazzling colors thanks to a fireworks display celebrating the festive day. This display of lights adds to the atmosphere reflected in the waters of the lake.

From the shore of the Alster, you can enjoy a privileged view of the fireworks, which crown the giant fir tree that is installed in the center of the lake. The silhouette of the city in the background will be silhouetted in the glow of the colorful explosions, creating an unforgettable backdrop during this Christmas tradition.

In addition, from the lakeside you can discover the nearby sites illuminated by the pyrotechnics. The surroundings of the Alster, such as the Jungfernstieg area and the Town Hall Square, are transformed into the epicenter of the Christmas festivities and you can also discover the silhouette of the Kunsthalle building, which houses one of the best museums in Hamburg.

Buy tickets for the Kunsthalle Museum

10. Take part in an auction... of fish!

Fish Auction| ©m.prinke
Fish Auction| ©m.prinke

If you're looking for an activity that combines a local Hamburg tradition with an eclectic experience, then you can't miss a fish auction in the city's harbor. This long-established custom takes on special relevance during Christmas, especially on Christmas Eve, when bidding becomes even more common and crowded than during the rest of the year.

Fish auctions in the harbor are a local tradition that harkens back to a custom where fishermen, once ashore with their catch, would offer it to the highest bidder. When Hamburg's maritime trade became more widespread, these bids continued to be made, albeit in smaller circles. Today, it is a habit that is still practiced and that during Christmas time brings families looking for fresh and quality fish for Christmas Eve dinner.

Keep in mind that to live this unique experience, it is necessary to get up early and arrive early in the morning, around 6.00 am. Shoppers and onlookers congregate in the bustling harbor, where competition for the best products is intense, and strategic bidding skills are an integral part of Hamburg's harbor skyline.

At the auction site, in addition to the fish on auction, you will find additional fresh food and seafood stalls. Auctions usually start early and end around noon.