Best Cruises in Hamburg

Hamburg is a port city and, therefore, one of the best alternatives to get to know the city is to do it on a cruise. Below, I will tell you about the options you can find in this destination, to discover it from the water.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

10 min read

Best Cruises in Hamburg

Hamburg Cruise | ©Jürgen von Riegen

Hamburg was founded in the Middle Ages as a port city and has contributed to the economic development of Germany ever since. During the golden age of international trade, the port came to occupy a tenth of the city center and, today, still hosts one of the most important maritime connection points in the world, which also gives rise to tourist cruises and their wide variety of options.

Among the best activities you can do in Hamburg to discover the attractions of the city are the cruise tours, which will take you around the port by day and night, on excursions with cheese and wine tasting, on the Alster Lake and even along the main docks of the region, allowing you to get to know this destination from another perspective, with stops at the most visited sites.

1. Hamburg Harbor Cruise

Port of Hamburg| ©Henry Mühlpfordt
Port of Hamburg| ©Henry Mühlpfordt

Hamburg is known as Germany's Gateway to the World, and that's because it was for a long time the country's busiest port for international trade. Nowadays, the maritime area is one of the most visited in the city and taking a ride on the cruise ships through the port is the traditional way to get to know it.

These excursions will allow you to get to know the magnitude of the port in tours of approximately 1 hour. During the tour you will be able to see Speicherstadt, the world's largest wooden pile warehouse district, and the iconic Elbe River Tunnel from the water. In addition, from the deck, you will be able to discern sweeping views of the old town and the container port, which stretches along the horizon.

Near the departure area of the cruise you can also get to know the Elbe Philharmonic building, the city's famous concert hall that has one of the best acoustics in the world and surprises with its particular design, which combines the tradition of the port warehouses with avant-garde architecture. In general, this structure is usually included in the tours of the best tours of Hamburg.

Also, keep in mind that this is an ideal experience to get to know a different profile of the city quickly, which will be ideal if you have planned a short stay in the city or if you want to combine this tour with another land excursion to see different perspectives of Hamburg's tourist sites.

Interesting details

  • Price: approximately 25 euros per person.
  • Duration: about 1 hour.
  • Advantages of these excursions: you will get a panoramic view of the harbor on one of Hamburg's traditional tours.
  • Disadvantages of these tours: they usually do not include stops and due to the length of the tour you will not get to discover many of the coastal sites.

Book a Hamburg harbor cruise

2. Hamburg light cruise by night

Hamburg Night Harbour| ©Marco Verch
Hamburg Night Harbour| ©Marco Verch

One of the best profiles of Hamburg is from the water once the sun goes down. With these tours you can discover the nocturnal beauty of this destination and be amazed by the illuminated city at night, on a tour that will take you from the port of departure to the Zollkanal or Customs Canal, one of the most visited sites on the Elbe River.

The itineraries of these tours usually allow you to discover HafenCity, the local Philharmonic, the mythical red brick warehouses of Speicherstadt and even the traditional structure of the International Maritime Museum, which is unanimously considered one of the best museums in Hamburg.

During the tour you can opt for the assistance of an audio guide in several languages and live commentary that will review the history of the different attractions that are presented to you. Also note that this tour will allow you to discover the urban lights of the city, which will make this experience totally different from the daytime tours.

If you plan to visit Hamburg during Christmas, you will also be able to discover from the deck of the cruise ship the best Christmas Eve decorations, among which are some of the most famous giant fir trees decorated with garlands and lights in the world, because Germany has in its tradition the origin of decorating trees during the festive season as a way of celebration.

Interesting details

  • Price: approximately 28 euros per person.
  • Duration: about 1 hour.
  • Advantages of these tours: you will get to know a different night skyline of the city and at the same time discover some of Hamburg's most famous buildings.
  • Disadvantages of these tours: although you will get to know the night skyline of the city, it is a completely different tour than the daytime one because many sites are not visible after sunset.

Join a night cruise tour

3. Harbour cruise with wine and cheese tasting at sunset

Cruise Day| ©fakepunju
Cruise Day| ©fakepunju

The Elbe River and gastronomy are two of the popular resources that the city uses to attract visitors and on these excursions you will be able to combine both aspects. In addition, with these tours that start in the late afternoon, you can also discover the sunset from the deck of the cruise ship, while tasting local cheeses and wines, which are usually white and red.

During the tour you will be assisted by an expert local guide and you will be able to contemplate the sunset, but also some of the gothic buildings that make the old town famous. Among them, you will be able to distinguish the unmistakable silhouette of the bell tower of the Church of San Miguel. You can also visit the Elbe Philharmonic and the Speicherstadt historic district, which was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Please note that, if you plan to visit Hamburg in winter, these excursions usually change their schedule, due to the fact that the sunset is substantially earlier. This should be considered if you want to combine this experience with a visit to someof the best museums in the city, such as the Kunsthalle or the International Maritime Museum, which is located in an area near the cruise port.

Please note that if you have any dietary restrictions, you should inform the tour service provider in advance, ideally at the time of booking. However, these experiences often include vegan or gluten-free options for visitors.

Details of interest

  • Price: approximately 38 euros per person, including cheese and local wine tasting.
  • Duration: about 2 hours.
  • Advantages of these tours: you will be able to combine two of Hamburg's main attractions, which is the harbor life and the gastronomy.
  • Disadvantages of these excursions: although they will allow you to tour the main sites of Hamburg, they do not include stops at the nearby docks.

Buy tickets for the Kunsthalle Museum

4. City cruise on the Alster Lake in Hamburg

Night Cruise| ©Kiptoo Kiprop
Night Cruise| ©Kiptoo Kiprop

If you want to participate in a different experience that does not consist of visiting the Elbe River but the Alster Lake, the most famous lake in Hamburg, you can opt for an urban cruise on this pond, which is part of the daily activities of this destination. During the tour, you can also sail past the Alster Fountain and under the iconic Lombard Bridge, directly into the serene Outer Alster.

This cruise will also take you through some of the city's most popular residential areas, allowing you to discover iconic buildings such as the Atlantic Hotel, the Blue Mosque, the U.S. Consulate General and the historic Vier Jahreszeiten Hotel.

If you plan to visit Hamburg at Christmas time, you will also be able to see the giant fir tree, which during December is placed with its decorations in the center of the Alster and which, according to tradition, is a tribute to the city, which in the Middle Ages began the custom of putting up Christmas trees on the eve of the holiday.

The itinerary on the lake will also allow you to describe the natural life on the shores, which will surprise you with its diversity. From the deck of the boat you will be able to distinguish the native birds that inhabit the place, as well as the strange plants that adorn the shore, creating a fusion between the urban and the natural.

Interesting details

  • Price: approximately 20 euros per person.
  • Duration: about 1 hour.
  • Advantages of these tours: you will get to know one of the most popular places for locals in Hamburg from a different perspective.
  • Disadvantages of these excursions: if you plan to travel in winter you should take into account that some parts of the lake are usually closed due to freezing and others are closed because they are reserved for other activities.

5. Hop on-hop off cruise through Hamburg harbor

Streets and bus| ©bb_productionz
Streets and bus| ©bb_productionz

If you are one of those who prefer to explore the cities at your own pace and, in addition, you want to know the port profile of the city, the hop on-hop off cruise of this destination could give you the solution. With this alternative you can immerse yourself in the culture and maritime atmosphere of this site, while touring the historic Speicherstadt and the modern HafenCity. The barge makes nine strategic stops at iconic tourist sites.

The versatility of this tour is its distinguishing feature, as once you purchase a ticket you can hop on and off the boat as many times as you like throughout the day. Stops include popular sites such as the Elbe Philharmonic, BallinStadt and the International Maritime Museum, which is considered one of Hamburg's best museums. You can also visit Miniatur Wunderland and the eclectic interactive exhibition at Cap San Diego.

During the cruise you will have access to an audio guide in several languages, allowing you to discover the history of each of the sites you visit. You will also be able to download an app that will provide you with information about the tourist attractions located in the areas surrounding the established stops.

Hamburg hop on-hop off cruise stops

  • Landing Bridges / Bridge 10
  • Elbe Island / Wilhelmsburg
  • BallinStadt
  • Hafenmuseum Hamburg
  • International Maritime Museum
  • Elbe Philharmonic Hall
  • Speicherstadt / Wunderland / Dungeon
  • Cape San Diego
  • Landing Bridge 10

Details of interest

  • Price: approximately 22 euros per person.
  • Duration: about 1 hour and a half for the total circular tour and you will have 24 hours from activation to get on and off the boat as many times as you want.
  • Advantages of these excursions: you will be able to tour the city at your own pace and organize your own itinerary.
  • Disadvantages of these excursions: although you will have a full day to use the trips, you will have to opt for a very intense tour to visit in detail the sites at each of the stops.

Buy tickets for the International Maritime Museum

How to book a cruise excursion in Hamburg?

Book Online| ©Glenn Carstens-Peters
Book Online| ©Glenn Carstens-Peters

You can book Hamburg cruise tours in advance online or when you are in the city. Keep in mind, however, that if you plan to travel during the summer or during peak season months, tour locations may sell out, which will hinder your tour or force you to reschedule your itinerary. This could prove detrimental on a short stay.

Also, booking in advance can save you money, as rates are dynamic and last-minute bookings tend to increase in price. Many activities also include priority or skip-the-line tickets to Hamburg's best museums and other key buildings, such as the Elbe Philharmonic, which will also help you save time and not be wasted buying tickets at the box office.

What will I see on this type of tour?

Cruise| ©Travelinho
Cruise| ©Travelinho

On this type of excursion you will essentially be able to see the wide views of the city from the Elbe River and also see some of the most popular buildings and neighborhoods of the city. If you opt for the night tours, you will also have the opportunity to discover the illuminated skyline of this destination.

Some options of these tours, such as the hop on-hop off cruise, will give you the opportunity to see the main sites of the city, organized in strategic stops at the best museums, neighborhoods and buildings. If you combine this tour with the Hamburg sightseeing bus tour, you will be able to cover the entire city with its tours.

Buy tickets for the sightseeing bus

Tips for a cruise excursion in Hamburg

Afternoon Cruise| ©Wessel Blokzijl
Afternoon Cruise| ©Wessel Blokzijl

If you are planning to visit the city during the summer or during the high season months I advise you to book tours in advance, as this way you can secure your spot on the experiences and not suffer delays or last minute price increases. Also, cruise tours are usually included among the best Hamburg tours, so they tend to sell out quickly.

If, on the other hand, you plan to tour Hamburg during the winter, keep in mind that the tourist crowds are substantially lower, which may prevent you from booking in advance, although the weather is often very cold, which could change tour itineraries or force cancellations. Also, consider that the temperature on the ship will be very low.

Why is it advisable to take a cruise excursion in Hamburg?

Sunset and cruise| ©Marcus Horstbrink
Sunset and cruise| ©Marcus Horstbrink

Hamburg is a city that centers its development around the port, even became one of the most important commercial tributaries of Europe and much of the exchange of European products currently circulates through the Elbe River, so on a cruise excursion in this destination you can learn about its true idiosyncrasy and its origins, which date back to the Middle Ages.

In addition, some of the most important tourist attractions of the city are located around the port, such as the Elbe Philharmonic and the International Maritime Museum. These experiences also offer the ideal opportunity to experience the city's history from its best vantage point. Are you ready to get on board?