Best Things To Do in Hamburg

Hamburg is one of the most important port cities in Europe and also one of the epicenters of entertainment on the continent. Discover this destination, which combines fun with tradition and culture.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

12 min read

Best Things To Do in Hamburg

Hamburg | ©Christos Constantinou

Along with Berlin and Munich, Hamburg is one of the most traditional destinations in Germany and its history is closely related to the development of the country. Founded in the Middle Ages as a coastal city to exploit the benefits of the Elbe River, it later became one of the industrial centers of the continent and is currently one of the most visited places for its cultural and leisure offer.

Among the best things to do in Hamburg to get to know this city in depth are visiting the International Maritime Museum, attending a show at the Elbe Philharmonic, getting to know the Reeperbahn district, sailing along the coast and the local port, discovering the cultural life of St. Pauli, seeing the Gothic architecture of St. Michael's Church and walking through the fishing district of Blankenese.

1. Visit the International Maritime Museum

Hamburg International Maritime Museum| ©Fred Romero
Hamburg International Maritime Museum| ©Fred Romero

Strategically located on the banks of the Elbe River, the International Maritime Museum is one of the region's most outstanding cultural destinations. With its traditional architecture and rich collection, which combines works by local artists with historical exhibits, it connects Hamburg's harbor past with its present as an avant-garde, industrial and artistic city.

Inside the museum you can discover the city's harbor history in exhibits ranging from old ships to modern vessels. Explore detailed model models, navigational instruments from different eras and interactive exhibits that reveal the rich maritime heritage of Hamburg, which was once 10% occupied by the main port built on the tributary.

In addition, the exhibits also feature a collection of maps and interactive exhib its that illustrate the evolution of trade and shipping in the region, making this one of the best museums in Hamburg.

From the time of the trade guilds to the modern era, the museum provides a comprehensive overview of the port's influence on the city's identity, which was shaped around it from the Middle Ages to the present. Today, Hamburg remains an important port hub in Europe, but also one of the most culturally complete destinations in Germany.

Buy tickets for the International Maritime Museum

2. Attend a performance at the Elbe Philharmonic Hall

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

If you want to take part in one of Hamburg's cultural highlights, you can't miss a show at the Elbe Philharmonic. Housed in an avant-garde building that combines the design of port warehouses with the innovation of modernism, this architectural jewel stands as a cultural beacon of the region, summoning renowned artists every season.

The calendar of this concert hall opens in March each year and, in addition to hosting the local orchestra, it also receives classical works, such as Madame Butterfly or La Boheme, by Giacomo Puccini, or Swan Lake by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. The Elbe Philharmonic's small but spacious size also contributes to an unmissable visual experience that perfectly matches the hall's clean acoustics.

From inside the building you can also enjoy panoramic views of the Elbe River and the Hamburg skyline, adding a scenic dimension to the experience. Also, due to its disruptive architecture, the concert hall building is often included in the panoramic tours of the best tours of Hamburg.

The operas performed by local artists usually hark back to the city's harbor tradition, so attending one of the shows offered by this concert hall will allow you not only to get to know one of Hamburg's most famous cultural sites, but also to discover the local idiosyncrasy.

3. Walking through the Reeperbahn district

Reeperbahn| ©Jorge Franganillo
Reeperbahn| ©Jorge Franganillo

Hamburg is famous for its cultural activity and also for the Elbe River, but part of its charm is also found in the inner districts. Reeperbahn, built around the central avenue of the same name, allows you to experience one of the most vibrant and eclectic parts of the city.

In the cobblestone streets of Reeperbahn you will find one of the epicenters of Hamburg's nightlife, although this place offers much more than bars, clubs, theaters and restaurants. There you can also find local street art interventions that combine with the historic facades and reflect the cultural melting pot that characterizes Reeperbahn, which although it is located within St. Pauli, has managed to differentiate itself from this neighborhood to show a more personal face.

Reeperbahn is also one of the city's main venues for adult entertainment and holds the honor of having been the site where the Beatles played in various venues during the 1960s. In commemoration of this, in the area you will find Beatles-Platz, a tribute to the British band that is often included in the best tours of Hamburg for its history.

Join a tour of the Reeperbahn district

4. Take a cruise tour of Hamburg's harbor.

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

One of the best activities you can do in the city is to take part in Hamburg's best cruises. Embarking on these experiences, which pay homage to the rich port tradition of this destination, will allow you to explore the waters that have witnessed centuries of the region's intense maritime trade.

The port of Hamburg, with its vast network of canals and docks, is the perfect setting to contemplate the iconic harbor architecture and the profile of the ships that bring the maritime panorama to life. It is also the ideal excuse to get close to the Elbe River and learn about its history and the economic importance of this tributary, which has been a crucial engine for the development of the city and northern Germany.

From the cruise deck you will discover iconic sites, such as the Speicherstadt area, where red brick warehouses line the banks of the canal and shape Hamburg's harbor skyline.

During the tour, expert local guides will tell you about the evolution of the port and its vital role in Hamburg' s growth as a center for international trade, in an experience that will show you the city today, but also allow you to discover what it was like in the past.

Sail through the port of Hamburg

5. Experience the multi-sensory Dialogue in the Dark experience.

Dialogue in the Dark| ©Dialogue-in-the-Dark
Dialogue in the Dark| ©Dialogue-in-the-Dark

If you want to experience one of Hamburg's most popular permanent immersive experiences, you can't miss the Dialogue in the Dark show. This multi-sensory activity has amazed locals and visitors alike to become one of the city's most fascinating attractions, taking you to explore everyday life in complete darkness, trusting your senses and sharpening your perception of your surroundings.

Dialogue in the Dark will offer you an opportunity to experience the world from a different perspective. Guided by people with visual impairments, you will be immersed in complete darkness, relying on touch, hearing, smell and taste to navigate everyday situations and gain insights from the experience.

This unique experience is not only for adults, but is also an ideal activity to enjoy with the family, especially if you plan to visit Hamburg with children, as this multi-sensory journey stimulates curiosity and encourages creativity.

6. Discover the city's nightlife in St. Pauli

St. Pauli| ©Ralf Kaiser
St. Pauli| ©Ralf Kaiser

You won't be able to say you've experienced Hamburg until you visit St. Pauli, the epicenter of the vibrant local nightlife and also one of Europe's most famous party spots. With its lively streets, eclectic bars and bustling clubs, this district positions itself as the meeting place for fun and music lovers in the city.

However, St. Pauli is also known as one of the world's most famous red light districts. Its streets are lit up with neon lights announcing the presence of cabarets, strip clubs and a variety of establishments that contribute to the bold and daring reputation of this iconic district, which competes neck and neck with Amsterdam for being considered one of the most liberal places in the world.

In addition, St. Pauli is also home to one of Germany's most unique soccer teams: FC St. Pauli. In this neighborhood, fans can join in the atmosphere of the matches and experience the overflowing passion of the supporters. The connection between the team and the neighborhood goes beyond sports, turning the matches into events that stir the rebellious spirit of the district.

Join a guided tour of St. Pauli

7. Tour the Kunsthalle Museum

Kunsthalle| ©Patrick
Kunsthalle| ©Patrick

The Kunsthalle Museum is one of the most famous museums in Hamburg and is also one of the most popular attractions in the old town. In this exhibition you will find a collection of European art spanning from the Middle Ages to the present day, offering visitors the opportunity to explore various artistic currents and styles over the centuries.

Inside the museum you will find works by renowned artists such as Rembrandt, Goya, Monet and Van Gogh. In addition, the permanent exhibitions are divided according to the movement to which the paintings and sculptures belong, ranging from classical art to the avant-garde. Also, if you plan to visit Berlin from Hamburg, in the German capital you can visit the Pergamon Museum, which has a cooperation agreement with Kunsthalle for the exchange of works of art.

Located in the old town of Hamburg, the Kunsthalle Museum is not only a window into the artistic past, but also a gateway to the rich architecture that surrounds the area, as nearby you can find other famous buildings, such as St. Peter's Church and the historic Opera House.

Buy tickets for the Kunsthalle Museum

8. Visit St. Michael's Church

St. Michael's Church| ©Mat Rab
St. Michael's Church| ©Mat Rab

St. Michael's Church is the main of the five Protestant churches in the city and one of the most famous religious buildings in Hamburg. Especially known for its baroque architecture, it was built in the 17th century and underwent several alterations due to collapses caused by storms.

From the bell tower of the church, located 132 meters above sea level, you can enjoy one of the most beautiful panoramic views of Hamburg. In addition, you can get there in an elevator that includes information about the construction of the temple and its fame as one of the inseparable symbols of the city skyline.

Its dome, unmistakable from the Port of Hamburg, came to be illuminated by a lantern, similar to that of a lighthouse, to guide sailors during winter sailings or during stormy days. Usually included in the tours of the best tours of the city, you can also visit it during a bike tour, as they usually include a stop at this site.

Join a bike tour of Hamburg

9. Get to know the Panoptikum Wax Museum

Panoptikum Wax Museum| ©Mark Michaelis
Panoptikum Wax Museum| ©Mark Michaelis

If you are planning to visit Hamburg with children or you are a fan of eclectic exhibitions, you can't miss the Panoptikum Wax Museum, a Madame Tussauds-style exhibition that will allow you to meet very well done wax replicas of historical figures, athletes, celebrities, film and cultural figures of all times.

During your tour of the museum you can take a picture with Madonna, dance with Michael Jackson, discover the Beatles and share a table with Winston Churchill, which will put at your disposal a diversity of characters that will not leave anyone indifferent. Likewise, the combination of architectural styles of the museum will also attract your attention.

Also note that this museum offers a family plan because the little ones can meet their favorite superheroes and singers presented in figures recreated in detail and interact with them, but adults will also find references in the Wax Museum Panoptikum.

Buy tickets for the Wax Museum Panoptikum

10. Visit Blankenese, Germany's most famous fishermen's quarter.

Blankenese| ©nini neyer
Blankenese| ©nini neyer

Blankenese is not only one of Hamburg's most picturesque areas, but also one of Germany's most famous fishing qu arters. This iconic corner of the city has preserved its maritime charm over the years, making it an unmissable destination for those looking to explore the city's rich maritime heritage.

The charm of this neighborhood lies in its narrow cobblestone streets, thatched-roof fishermen's houses and its proximity to the Elbe River. Although today it has evolved into an elegant residential district, it still retains vestiges of its past, such as the picturesque harbor and the traditional architecture that lines its streets.

Among the attractions you can find in Blankenese is the famous Treppenviertel, a set of stairs and alleys that wind up the hillside and offers panoramic views of the Elbe River. In addition, the Blankenese lighthouse, more than 100 years old, is another must-see landmark that symbolizes the neighborhood's connection to its maritime heritage. In addition, if you plan to visit Hamburg during Christmas, you can find some of the city's best decorations there.

Join a guided tour of Blankenese

11. Attend the Cap San Diego Museum

Cap San Diego Museum| ©abbilder
Cap San Diego Museum| ©abbilder

Hamburg has a long port tradition, so one of the best things to do in the city is to visit the Cap San Diego Museum. This interactive exhibition will allow you to board a cargo ship that was built in 1961 and is anchored at the local dock, providing testimony of the golden age when the Port of Hamburg shone as the epicenter of international trade.

In this experience you will not only get to see the cabins, the bridge, the engine room and the ship's cabin, but you will also learn about the daily life of the crew. In addition, with the museum ticket you can also participate in a tour on board the ship that will take you through the central sites of the city, which you can see from the deck of the ship.

If you want to experience a deep connection with the port spirit of the city, you can not miss this thematic museum that combines two of the main elements that mark the spirit of Hamburg: navigation and maritime trade.

Book tickets for the Cap San Diego Museum

12. Live the Hamburg Dungeon experience

Hamburg Dungeon| ©che1882
Hamburg Dungeon| ©che1882

If you want to live an alternative experience in the city, you can't miss Hamburg Dungeon. This attraction, which is also available in London and Berlin, will allow you to delve into the darkest corners of this destination's history. With rooms full of medieval torture devices and costumed actors ready to scare you, adrenaline will be the main course during your tour.

In this experience you will embark on a fascinating and terrifying 600-year journey through labyrinths, subway prisons and dungeons. A professional guide will accompany you through the various rooms, recounting the most sinister episodes of Hamburg's history. Vivid depictions and graphic exhibits will allow you to easily transport you into a dark and mysterious past.

In Hamburg Dungeon you can experience tense situations, but you can also have fun because every corner has its own story to tell in one of the city's most amazing activities. Are you ready to challenge your limits and explore Hamburg's creepiest profile?

Buy tickets to experience Hamburg Dungeon

13. Marvel at the Gothic architecture of St. Nicholas Church.

Hamburg Church| ©Andrei Avantgardian
Hamburg Church| ©Andrei Avantgardian

St. Nicholas Church in Hamburg is one of the most striking buildings in the city and also the epicenter of the old town. This building is a masterpiece that has stood the test of time and witnessed the rich local history.

Originally built in the 13th century, this church has been renovated several times over the years due to fires and war damage, but its essence has endured, making it an iconic symbol of the region. The building stands out for its Gothic structure, characterized by tall towers and intricate architectural details. The ornate facade and huge stained glass windows reveal the dedication and skill of medieval craftsmen.

The particularity of the Church of St. Nicholas lies in its main tower, which offers panoramic views of the city and the harbor. Ascending its narrow stairs and contemplating Hamburg's cityscape from this elevated position is an experience that fuses history with modernity. In addition, the church hosts exhibitions and cultural events that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the rich heritage that emanates from its walls.

Due to its strategic location, you can reach the church by public transportation or on Hamburg's best tour buses that include stops in the area. In addition, you can combine your visit to the religious temple with a tour of the most prominent nearby buildings, such as the Hamburg City Hall.

Buy tickets for the Hamburg Sightseeing Bus