10 Things to Do in Hamburg in Winter

Winter, which runs from December to March, is part of the low season in Hamburg, but leaves some of the best postcards of the city and also offers a wealth of plans. Here's what you can do during the coldest months of the year.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

10 min read

10 Things to Do in Hamburg in Winter

Hamburg | ©Kaylovesvintage

Hamburg becomes every summer one of the most visited cities in Germany and during its high season it is a very popular destination. This trend is reversed during the winter, when low temperatures tend to discourage visitors, although if you are not afraid of the cold you can discover some of the best postcards of this place and enjoy its attractions and seasonal activities.

Among the best things to do in Hamburg in winter are visiting the city's museums, visiting the picturesque snow-covered Speicherstadt warehouses, tasting the typical seasonal cuisine, experiencing the Cathedral Festival, having fun on the ice skating rinks, strolling through Planten Un Blomen and visiting Bäderland Holthusenbad, which is considered one of the most famous spas in the country.

1. Take shelter from the cold in the city's museums

Kunsthalle| ©Patrick
Kunsthalle| ©Patrick

In Hamburg's frigid winter, taking refuge from the cold takes on a fascinating cultural nuance, making a visit to the city's best museums one of the most popular activities. This site is considered one of the most outstanding cultural destinations in Europe, so during your visit you will find a variety of exhibitions that will arouse your curiosity and your amazement.

Among the most visited museums is the Kunsthalle, a fine arts exhibition that houses a rich collection ranging from the Renaissance to contemporary art. In its rooms you can find works by Goya, Rembrandt, Monet and Van Gogh. If, on the other hand, you are a port history buff, the International Maritime Museum offers an open door into the naval past of Hamburg, which has been operating as a port city since the Middle Ages.

Those looking for an alternative experience, or planning to visit the city with children, can venture into the Miniatur-Wunderland, the world's largest model railway museum. There you will find a railway network that crosses detailed landscapes and replicas of German and European cities, creating a scale model environment.

Finally, if you're looking for a traditional option, the Hamburg History Museum will amaze you with its exhibits that tell the story of the city's evolution over the centuries.

Buy tickets for the International Maritime Museum

2. Marvel at Speicherstadt's snow-covered warehouses.

Speicherstadt| ©Andrej
Speicherstadt| ©Andrej

The magical sight of the snow-covered Speicherstadt warehouses is undoubtedly one of the most captivating facets of one of Hamburg's most photographed sites. This former warehouse district is transformed into a must-see landscape when layers of snow cover its historic red brick buildings. The contrast between the cold weather and Speicherstadt's architecture creates a scene to be admired.

Also, note that you can explore this site from the water as well. A cruise along Hamburg's canals winding through the warehouses will give you a unique perspective of this corner of the city. During the tour you can also learn about Speicherstadt's industrial history and its relationship to the local port on the Elbe River.

Those who prefer to stay on dry land can opt for a tour on the city's sightseeing bus. From the comfort and warmth of the seat, they can enjoy panoramic views of Speicherstadt shrouded in a blanket of snow, capturing the essence of this iconic site, which is often included in the circuit of the best tours of Hamburg, from different perspectives.

Cruise Hamburg's canals

3. Taste Hamburg's winter gastronomy.

Hamburg food| ©Yuya Tamai
Hamburg food| ©Yuya Tamai

One of the best ways to get to know Hamburg, and especially during the winter, is through its gastronomy. With the best gastronomic tours of the city you can discover the local flavors and culinary richness of the region. In addition, as the coldest time of the year coincides with Christmas in this destination, you can also taste the typical delicacies of the eve.

During the winter in Hamburg you can try Labskaus, a traditional dish that combines canned meat, potatoes and beets, accompanied by egg and herring. Another caloric preparation to combat the cruelty of winter is Grünkohl, a recipe based on kale served with sausages and potatoes, a combination that has remained unchanged since the Middle Ages in the German diet.

The arrival of winter also marks the beginning of the famous Christmas markets in Hamburg, where visitors can discover festive culinary specialties. Among the most popular offerings are glühwein, the spiced mulled wine, and popular New Year's Eve dishes such as Christstollen, a sweet bread filled with dried fruit and marzipan, and brezeln, savory and spiced pretzels.

Join a gastronomic tour in Hamburg

4. Enjoy Hamburg's Cathedral Festival

Hamburg Cathedral| ©Andrei Avantgardian
Hamburg Cathedral| ©Andrei Avantgardian

The Cathedral Festival, or Hamburg Dom, is a celebration that has become ingrained in the city's folklore over the years. With several editions throughout the season, it is the winter version that stands out as the most popular and well attended. This event, which attracts locals and visitors alike, combines fun, culture and tradition and takes place in the popular St. Pauli district.

During the winter edition, the Dom's premises are transformed into a boiling amusement park. There you will find everything from roller coasters and ferris wheels to carousels and merry-go-rounds, as well as food stands offering cotton candy and grilled sausages, the two traditional foods of this volksfest, which attracts more than 10 million people every year.

Throughout the celebration, which lasts about a week during the first days of January each year, you can also find craft stalls and typical products, and on the Friday of each of the editions at 10.30 pm the climax of the event is celebrated, which is the fireworks show.

Discover St. Pauli on a guided tour

5. Visit the ice skating rinks

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

If you want to make the most of winter in Hamburg, then one of the best alternatives is to visit the ice skating rinks offered by the city, which is known for the wide range of winter sports available to visitors.

The city offers several options for those looking to enjoy this practice and live the experience of skating in a festive atmosphere. One of the most outstanding rinks is the EisArena, a place that is also decorated with garlands and luminous fir trees during Christmas in Hamburg.

Another popular spot is the skating rink located on the Jungfernstieg on the banks of the Alster. The idyllic setting of the lake provides an incredible backdrop for skating, surrounded by the winter beauty of the landscape. In addition, during the Christmas season, these rinks are also often adorned with festive lights and decorations, making this a favorite spot for children in the city.

Throughout the city you will find other smaller skating rinks, such as the one at the Christmas market in the Town Hall Square. All of them can be reached by public transport or Hamburg's sightseeing buses.

Buy tickets for the Hamburg Sightseeing Bus

6. Attend a show at the Elbe Philharmonic Hall

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

If enjoying Hamburg's artistic attractions during the winter is a good alternative, then attending a show at the Elbe Philharmonic is a chance to get a taste of the epicenter of local culture. This iconic concert hall, available year-round, marks the start of its calendar in March, but it is during the winter that the season culminates with some of the region's best musicians.

The Elbe Philharmonic, with its architecture that fuses harbor warehouse tradition with avant-garde design, becomes a unique setting for winter concerts. The neat acoustics of the hall and the panoramic views of the surrounding river create an ideal backdrop that complements the musical performances.

During the winter, moreover, the Philharmonic is also filled with the spirit of Hamburg's Christmas season, offering themed shows, such as The Nutcracker, that capture the festive essence of the season.

However, if you can't get tickets to a show or prefer to just take in the architecture of the building, you can opt for a guided tour of the Philharmonic or join one of Hamburg's best tours that includes a visit to the site on its itinerary.

7. Stroll through Planten un Blomen

Planten un Blomen| ©Peter Karoblis
Planten un Blomen| ©Peter Karoblis

Strolling through the Planten un Blomen urban forest during the winter allows you to immerse yourself in a fairy tale in the heart of Hamburg. One of the city's most popular parks, the park transforms into a winter wonderland when snow covers its gardens and paths.

The tranquil atmosphere that envelops Planten un Blomen during the season makes it an ideal destination for a relaxing stroll. The frozen ponds and fountains reflect winter in every corner of the park.

In addition, this site is also home to winter attractions, such as ice skating rinks, which complement the experience of strolling through this urban oasis, and even a curling rink.

Despite the low temperatures that winter usually presents, one of the best alternatives to discover this park is to take a bike tour through the trails, which will allow you to discover its full extent in a faster and more fun way.

Join a bike tour in Hamburg

8. Visit Bäderland Holthusenbad, the city's most famous spa

Hamburg Spa| ©Steigenberger
Hamburg Spa| ©Steigenberger

Hamburg has a long tradition of spas and visiting Bäderland Holthusenbad, one of the most famous spas in the city, will allow you to lose yourself in an oasis of relaxation and wellness. This urban retreat stands as one of the ideal destinations for those seeking to escape the winter cold and enjoy luxury facilities that offer a unique experience for the body and mind.

With architecture that combines classic elegance with modern comforts, Holthusenbad offers thermal pools, saunas and relaxation areas that are ideal to combat the cold weather and find serenity in the middle of the bustling city.

In winter, Holthusenbad also takes on a special charm. The open-air pools, surrounded by steam, create a unique experience of immersing oneself in thermal waters in sub-zero temperatures. Saunas with panoramic views and specialized spa treatments are also popular here.

9. Experience Valentine's Day in Hamburg

Valentine's Day| ©Anna Tarazevich
Valentine's Day| ©Anna Tarazevich

Winter in Hamburg coincides with February 14, and experiencing Valentine's Day in the city's restaurants is an experience that combines the gastronomic tradition of this destination with a romantic activity, typical of this celebration. For this you can visit the Neuer Wall or St. Pauli or Reeperbahn, if you prefer a local experience.

Another ideal plan to celebrate Valentine's Day is to walk the emblematic bridges of Hamburg, such as Brooksbrücke or Landungsbrücken. Under the dim lights of the night, the reflection of the waters of the Elbe River turn the winter cold into a romantic experience. The architecture of the old town also offers a picturesque setting for an evening stroll, with cobblestone streets and historic facades.

Dinner at one of the riverside restaurants, with panoramic views of the bridges and the illuminated city, can be an ideal choice for celebrating Valentine's Day in Hamburg. In addition, many establishments offer themed menus that add a special touch to the evening.

10. Take part in a treasure hunt game or visit an escape room.

Speicherstadt| ©Francis Johns
Speicherstadt| ©Francis Johns

When winter envelops Hamburg in its cold blanket, locals and visitors alike seek refuge in activities that spark excitement and ingenuity. In this regard, participating in a treasure hunt game or venturing into an escape room has become a winter tradition that combines fun and entertainment.

The treasure hunt, organized in various corners of the city, invites you to explore Hamburg's neighborhoods in search of clues and hidden treasures. Whether solving riddles in the historic Speicherstadt or discovering secrets in the snow-covered parks, this activity has become a fun way to combat the winter cold.

Escape rooms, on the other hand, offer an intriguing challenge for those looking to test their mental dexterity and teamwork skills. Hamburg has a variety of themed rooms, ranging from historical mysteries to futuristic scenarios, that allow participants to immerse themselves in a unique experience while solving riddles to achieve freedom.

So, when the cold turns merciless, participating in a treasure hunt or venturing into an escape room becomes an entertaining way to cope with winter in Hamburg, challenging the mind and competing as a team.

Take part in a treasure hunt game in Hamburg

Temperatures in Hamburg in winter

Hamburg| ©Pedro
Hamburg| ©Pedro

Hamburg usually experiences snowfall during the winter and the temperature in the city ranges from a high of 5° Celsius to -3° Celsius, with an average of 1° during the mildest days, especially in January and February. This creates beautiful scenery on the skyline, with historic districts filled with snow and frozen canals.

However, keep in mind that despite the cold, life in Hamburg doesn't stop. Christmas markets fill the squares and it is the ideal time to participate in outdoor activities, such as ice skating on the Jungfernstieg or strolling through Speicherstadt, one of the most visited districts of this destination and one of those responsible for enhancing the local beauty.

Hamburg's winter tourist flow

Streets of Hamburg| ©Metro Centric
Streets of Hamburg| ©Metro Centric

During the winter season , the low season begins and the number of tourists decreases compared to the summer months. However, despite the weather, the city attracts visitors with its winter charm and a variety of festive events. The Christmas markets in Hamburg, scattered throughout the city, become meeting points for locals and visitors alike.

In addition, during the winter, hotels and restaurants dress up in festive decorations, creating a cozy atmosphere that invites travelers to fully immerse themselves in the season, leaving aside the winter harshness that distinguishes Hamburg.

Prices in Hamburg in winter

Money in euros| ©Ibrahim Boran
Money in euros| ©Ibrahim Boran

During the winter season prices in Hamburg decrease compared to the summer months, although you should be aware that if you plan to visit the city in December you will find some high rates due to the popularity of Christmas in the city. However, if you book in advance, you will be able to find affordable prices.

As for accommodations, you will be able to get good locations in the city center, without having to go too far from the center, at affordable prices, although I advise you, since rates are dynamic, to book in advance to freeze accommodation costs.

What to pack when visiting Hamburg in winter?

Luggage| ©tookapic
Luggage| ©tookapic

During the winter the temperature in Hamburg drops substantially and the city is stained with snow, so I advise you to include the following in your suitcase:

  • Winter coats
  • Waterproof and comfortable boots
  • Thermal socks
  • Waterproof and tactile gloves
  • Woolen hat
  • Woolen scarves
  • Raincoat
  • Umbrellas
  • Wool sweaters
  • Fleece pants
  • Thermal fleece