Things to do in Hamburg

From the UNESCO-listed warehouse district to the Reeperbahn, there’s something for everyone in this maritime city.

Our most recommended things to do in Hamburg

Hamburg: 1.5-Hour Harbor and Speicherstadt Day Cruise

1. Hamburg: 1.5-Hour Harbor and Speicherstadt Day Cruise

See Hamburg’s harbor-side attractions from a unique perspective, float past impressive container ships, and discover the historic Speicherstadt District aboard a 1.5-hour cruise featuring live commentary from a German-speaking guide and an exclusive stop at the iconic Elbphilharmonie. Start your harbor adventure on land as you cross the famous "Überseebrücke" bridge to reach the pier where you will board a traditional Hamburger boat referred to as a Barkasse. Listen as your captain decides on which route the boat will take based on weather conditions, the water tides, or, if for example, a really exciting and interesting container ship or a special boat is visiting the harbor. Set off and glide into the narrow waterways of the largest warehouse district in the world known as Speicherstadt. Take in the stunning architecture of buildings standing on timber-pile foundations and oak logs. Sit back and relax as you go past Hafen City. Explore the open decks and feel the cooling sea breezes as you wait for perfect photo opportunities from the boat’s many vantage points. Cruise past rows of massive container ships as the boat makes its way into St. Pauli’s Pier and the Hamburg Port. Learn the history of the many important landmarks from your German-speaking expert guide. As your trip comes to an end, disembark right in front of the Elbphilharmonie or you can choose to get off back at where the cruise initially took off.

Hamburg: 1.5-Hour Evening Harbor and Speicherstadt Cruise

2. Hamburg: 1.5-Hour Evening Harbor and Speicherstadt Cruise

Admire Hamburg’s harbor-side attractions sparkling at night, marvel at the illuminated Speicherstadt District, and see impressive container ships up-close aboard a 1.5-hour evening cruise featuring live commentary from a German-speaking guide and an exclusive stop at the iconic Elbphilharmonie. Start your nighttime harbor adventure on land as you cross the famous "Überseebrücke" bridge to reach the pier where you will board a traditional Hamburger boat referred to as a Barkasse. Listen as your captain decides on which route the boat will take based on weather conditions, the water tides, or, if for example, a really exciting and interesting container ship or a special boat is visiting the harbor. Set off and glide into the narrow waterways of the largest warehouse district in the world known as Speicherstadt. Take in the stunning architecture of buildings standing on timber-pile foundations and oak logs beautifully lit up. Sit back and relax as you go past Hafen City. Explore the open decks and feel the cooling sea breezes as you wait for perfect photo opportunities from the boat’s many vantage points. Cruise past rows of massive container ships as the boat makes its way into St. Pauli’s Pier and the shining Hamburg Port. Learn the history of the many important landmarks from your German-speaking expert guide. As your trip comes to an end, disembark right in front of the Elbphilharmonie or you can choose to get off back at where the cruise initially took off.

St. Pauli: Reeperbahn Walking Tour by Drag Queen or Local Celebrity

3. St. Pauli: Reeperbahn Walking Tour by Drag Queen or Local Celebrity

Discover Hamburg's iconic district of St. Pauli with a local drag queen guide. Hear them share their own unique experiences and stories of the district as they take you on a journey across the Reeperbahn, its main thoroughfare. Have a drink and follow your guide, walking past lively bars and trendy nightclubs. Find out what life was like in Hamburg’s most famous district, how it has changed, and how fascinating it is today. Hear how Germany’s most famous and colorful drag queen Olivia Jones speaks up for respect, diversity, and tolerance. Enjoy the witty remarks, quirky anecdotes, dazzling landmarks, as well as a cheeky drink. This tour combines the perfect mix of information, entertainment, stops, and sights. You’ll undoubtedly be all set for a fun night out in St. Pauli by the end of your tour.

Hamburg: Insider Tour of the Reeperbahn & St. Pauli

4. Hamburg: Insider Tour of the Reeperbahn & St. Pauli

Experience Hamburg's Red Light district with celebrities and Reeperbahn experts. Encounter people, like Udo Lindenberg’s legendary bodyguard, Eddy Kante, or iconic Red Light experts and bouncers like Fabian Zahrt. Meet drag queens, like Barbie Stupid, or historian and local expert, Doc Eva Decker. Experience Germany's most popular neighborhood tour, featuring the perfect mix of information, entertainment, sinful stops and sights, and a crazy sightseeing show. Pass by the world-famous Herbertstraße and the Davidwache police station before visiting a BDSM dungeon or a sex shop.

Sex and Crime in St. Pauli - tour for ages 18+

5. Sex and Crime in St. Pauli - tour for ages 18+

Discover Hamburg’s wild side on this sex and crime walking tour in the St. Pauli district. Hear interesting anecdotes and details from your guide about the lives and loves of the red light district as you visit its legendary spots. On your tour visit the “Zur Ritze” bar and learn how it got its name. Head down to the boxing club in the basement, where Mike Tyson and the Klitschko brothers trained. Find out where the famous local boxer disappeared to and why so many celebrities come to this rustic bar. See how women can walk down Herbertstrasse, and learn about the Nutella gang and its rivals, the GMBH gang. Discover who controls St. Pauli, who was the godfather in the neighborhood, and how the legal system works here. Find out if Jack the Ripper or someone similar was in Hamburg, and get entrance to a premier show club at the end of the guided tour.

Hamburg Harbor: Evening City Lights Barge Cruise

6. Hamburg Harbor: Evening City Lights Barge Cruise

Experience Hamburg's Harbor by the evening light on a traditional barge. Take a romantic round-trip voyage through the Hamburg Harbor and enjoy a cozy atmosphere with the illuminated silhouette of the city as your backdrop. Travel through the historic Speicherstadt (depending on the tide) and along the impressive illuminated container terminals. Hear interesting stories of the harbor's history with live moderation from the captain, while relaxing with a drink. Alternatively, pick one of the special tours that take place only occasionally. Choose the special Queen Mary II cruise to accompany Queen Mary II at the Cruise Terminal and then follow her along the River Elbe. During the boat ride, learn all about the ship from the professional guide. Or, celebrate the Anniversary of Hamburg Harbor onboard a traditional barge. Watch the opening parade to the festival unveil, as the weekend of celebrations will then follow.

Hamburg: Hamburg Dungeon Admission Ticket

7. Hamburg: Hamburg Dungeon Admission Ticket

The Hamburg Dungeon brings the darkest period's of the city's history to life in an entertaining way. The state-of-the-art special effects and professional actors provide a very special kind of live entertainment. The live actors step into historical roles and take you on a journey through 600 years of Hamburg's murky past in interactive shows. The visitor attraction in the historical Speicherstadt district presents 11 different shows on a 90-minute tour and offers plenty of action on 2 fun rides. Visitors can embark on an unusual journey on the "Elevator of Doom". You can also discover the dark years of the Plague or try to save the pirate Klaus Störtebecker from execution. Defend yourself before the mercy of the inquisition and face the revenge of a restless spirit - with a twinkle in the inquisitor's eyes and the opportunity for lots of fun.

Hamburg: 1-Hour Harbor Cruise

8. Hamburg: 1-Hour Harbor Cruise

Discover Hamburg on a harbor cruise and admire views of the warehouse district and HafenCity. See the city with the most bridges in Europe, with approximately 2,400 structures over water, canals, channels, and docks. Climb aboard the boat and discover the many different attractions and sights in the city, depending on the tides and the day's events. Explore the historical Speicherstadt (warehouse district) with its canals, the modern HafenCity, the numerous bridges over the Elbe River, busy locks and container terminals, the Köhlbrand Bridge, and much more. Along the way, learn more about the city, its history, the incoming and outgoing ships, and anything else that interests you. Sit back and admire the views of the city on the sun deck or in the air-conditioned lounge with large panoramic windows.

St. Pauli: Reeperbahn Walking Tour with Olivia Jones’ historian Eva Decker

9. St. Pauli: Reeperbahn Walking Tour with Olivia Jones’ historian Eva Decker

Experience St. Pauli's background with heart, mind, and humor thanks to the Kiez expert par excellence: Doc Eva Decker. The historian and curator of the former St. Pauli Museum explain history in a well-founded, exciting, funny, and entertaining way. From the oldest house on the so-called "Transenstrich," you can stroll through what is perhaps the most diverse neighborhood in Germany. Past notorious establishments, legendary music clubs, and lesser-known places such as the Taj Mahal St. Paulis. Follow your guide past lively bars like the famous Olivia Jones Bar. Walk past the St Pauli Museum, and the Davidwache Police Station, which has appeared in countless TV shows and movies. Find out what life was like in Hamburg’s most famous district over the years, how it has changed, and how it functions today. See locals doing their thing in one of the most famous nightlife districts in Europe.

Hamburg: Guided Tour Elbphilharmonie excluding Concert Halls

10. Hamburg: Guided Tour Elbphilharmonie excluding Concert Halls

See the fascinating face of the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie and its beautiful Plaza. Get some exciting background information about the spectacular concert hall–from the original idea and implementation, to its completion difficulties and special features. Tour outside the building and learn about the façade and its other exterior features. Then enter the Elbphilharmonie on the Tube, the longest escalator in the world. Pass the large panoramic window then reach the Plaza: the hub of all activity and the link between the historical quayside and the modern glass structure. At the Elbphilharmonie Plaza hear everything you need to know about the concert halls and the venues and facilities within the building. Take the outside gangway of the Plaza and circle the entire building, discovering views of Hamburg's sights from all directions.

Frequently asked questions about Hamburg

What top attractions are a must-see in Hamburg?

What are the best deals and discounts on activities and attractions in Hamburg?

Insider tips: Planning a trip to Hamburg

Thomas Dowson is the founder of Archaeology Travel, a website for those seeking adventures in archaeology and history. As a professional archaeologist Thomas enjoys visiting archaeological and historical sites around the world. And sharing these experiences so that others can explore the world’s pasts more deeply. On his blog, you can find more information and all the details for planning a trip to Hamburg.

What should I do on my first trip to Hamburg?

Hamburg, more specifically the harbour of Hamburg, is the main attraction here. For anyone planning their first visit to Hamburg my recommendation for an essential, first experience is a harbour cruise. There is no better way to get a feel for this city and its history. From the UNESCO listed historic Speicherstadt (‘city of warehouses’), to the very striking 20th century Elbphilharmonie (concert hall). Whether you are interested in a general cruise about the port and its history or something more specific, such as the Hanseatic history of Hamburg, the choice of river cruises is broad.

What are some hidden gems to see in Hamburg?

Not exactly hidden in Hamburg’s harbour, but certainly half submerged is a Soviet submarine. Built in the 1970s, the U-434 submarine is still in very good condition and provides a near as real-life as possible experience of what conditions in a submarine are like. Visitors enter at one end, and then walk and even crawl through compartments to the exit at the other end. Of course there is a sense of claustrophobia. But this is nothing when you are told that this vessel would hold up to 78 men.

How much time should I spend in Hamburg?

Apparently the average visitor spends two nights in Hamburg. Like most big cities with a long history, you could easily spend a week in Hamburg and still come back for more. But two nights does seem rushed, that is only one full day. Two or three full days would be a better amount of time to explore the city: to take a harbour cruise, see the impressive town hall, visit St. Michaelis church and walk though the old warehouse district.

What food is Hamburg known for? 

For anyone with a sweet tooth, when in Hamburg you have to try at least one Franzbrötchen. Pastry is rolled in lots of butter and cinnamon sugar before being baked. History, or urban legend, has it that these pastries were introduced to Hamburg by Napoleon's troops. For a more substantial dish try ‘labskaus’, a stew made up of different ingredients including beetroot, which then gives it a pink colour. Local cuisine has not only been influenced by seafaring visitors from around the world, but also the culinary traditions typical of northern Germany.

What is the best way to get around Hamburg?

Hamburg is a big city, and the various points of interest are scattered about. Fortunately Hamburg has a very good public transport system, making getting about easy on the feet. Specifically for visitors, there are also the usual hop-on-hop-off buses, which follow routes around the city stopping at most of the main attractions. 

What are the best months to visit Hamburg?

Hamburg is a great city to visit during the Summer. It never gets uncomfortably hot, and it is a lot drier and less windy than it is during winter months and early spring. As the sun starts shining and spring flowers start blooming, so too Hamburg comes alive with street festivals, live music and art performances all over the city. Over four days in September and at many venues in the Reeperbahn, visitors can enjoy Europe’s largest club festival - the Reeperbahn Festival.

What is neighborhood Reeperbahn known for?

For a vibrant night scene head to the Reeperbahn in St Pauli. The entertainment heart of Hamburg. The street is lined with theatres and nightclubs, bars and restaurants. And it is not known as ‘the most sinful mile’ for nothing. You will also find sex shops, strip clubs and brothels. Look out for the Beatles monument, a reminder that the group built their reputation here as well as in Liverpool.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping? 

Hamburg is not only Germany’s second largest city, it is the most wealthy city. Not surprising then it is a shoppers paradise. You can find everything from flea markets to luxury boutiques and brands. Along the kilometre long Neuer Wall you will find a collection of the most exclusive shops in Hamburg. These shops sell everything from high end fashion and jewellery to designer furniture. Colonnaden not only has exclusive boutiques in historic architecture, the pedestrianised street hosts a monthly flea market. Good buys and antiques can be found at the many weekly and regular flea markets in Hamburg.

What is the best family-friendly thing to do in Hamburg?

Hamburg is home to the incredible Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway. This is no ordinary miniature railway exhibit. Fifty computers direct over 1000 trains over nearly 16,000 metres of track length that are set in reconstructions of nine geographic regions, including central Germany and Switzerland, USA and South America. There are over 269,000, over 9,000 cars and 130,000 trees. And a lot more. Besides visiting this vast model railway set, the organisers also stage special events. The most popular and booked out being the ‘culinary trip around the world’.

What are the best annual events in Hamburg? 

Hamburg has over 30 individual Christmas markets, which run from the Friday before the first Sunday of Advent until Christmas Eve. Many of the Hamburg neighbourhoods have their own markets, and there are several in the city centre as well. St Pauli has one of the most popular markets, and another one not to miss is the market in the vast square in front of the City Hall. There is even a Dogs Christmas market.

Other Sightseeing Options in Hamburg

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What people are saying about Hamburg

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 69,828 reviews

Excellent tour showing us all the sights of Hamburg. The only slight problem was finding where the bus started from after we got dropped off by the large lake in centre of city. Could have done with an information board.

Unser Guide (Karin) war sehr engagiert und hat uns toll geführt. Viele Hintergrundinfos und interessante Geschichten gehört. Sehr kurzweilige Führung.

Extremely friendly staff! Cheese and crackers were very tasty. Option of red, white and rose wine, each one was very good quality. Would recommend

My son and I had so much fun. The staff in workshop introduce the production in detail with interesting content. Good for both kids and adults.

Wry hard to find. Went onto google maps took us at other end of pier. Lucky to make it. Soon forgot about it as the trip was so enjoyable.