25 Happening Things to do in Hamburg (Highlights & Must-See Sites)

View of Hamburg Germany

So you want to be a Hamburger? I couldn’t resist, that’s just too much fun to say. Did you know that the people of Hamburg are called Hamburgers?! 

Well if you didn’t know. Now you know. There are so many incredible things to do in Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city and Europe’s second largest port city, that we were blown away! From exploring vibrant neighborhoods to cruising down the Elbe River there are tons of great things to do in Hamburg that any type of traveler would enjoy.

We love the fact that the locals are referred to as Hamburgers, that there are beautiful canals, great shopping, and great nightlife and entertainment in the city. And if you’re lucky to time up your visit to Hamburg with a festival or event, even better!

When we first visited, we weren’t sure what to expect, but after spending a few days here we found ourselves really enjoying this city, which is unlike anywhere else we had been in Germany previously. Most destinations we had visited had storybook villages, palaces or castles, known for their wine or beer, and really Hamburg just has its own identity.

Check out what we think are things not to miss when visiting Hamburg!

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What to See in Hamburg


Escalator up to the Elbphilharmonie view point in Hamburg Germany

One of the best things to do in Hamburg is catch the view from the tallest building in the city, Elbphilharmonie, aka Elphie, the most impressive newer building in Hamburg!

This gorgeous concert hall is located in HafenCity and can be visited for FREE! That’s right, for free!

If you get a chance, check out a performance here, but if you do not get the opportunity to hear music in the state-of-the-art concert hall, you can head up to the observation deck and view the Hamburg port, Elbe River, and city from all the way around the building.

There’s even a hotel inside the concert hall as well.

Hamburg City Hall

City Hall in Hamburg Germany

Another one of my favorite things to do in Hamburg or any Germany destination is check out the visit City Hall, or Rathaus. Everyone that we have seen has been an impressive building.

This one is no different, set in a neo-renaissance building, it’s is great for photos and is just steps away from other popular sites in the Alstadt quarter of the city such as Alster and some great shopping.

The current building you see today was finished in 1897 after the first Rathaus burnt down in a fire in 1842.

Don’t miss checking out the beautiful fountain in the courtyard of Hygieia, the Greek goddess of health and hygiene.

Visit the Coffee Museum / Kaffeemuseum Burg

Calling all coffee lovers, this is what to do in Hamburg for you! The Kaffeemuseum Burg or Coffee Museum gives visitors a chance to deep dive into the coffee trading history of Hamburg.

Since Hamburg is a port city coffee beans have been passed through the docks here for hundreds of years. And better yet, it’s located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of old warehouse buildings in Speicherstadt, which we also found fascinating to walk around.

After you learn about the long history of trade and coffee here, you can enjoy a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

Miniatur Wunderland

Night Scene in Minatur Wunderland in Hamburg

One of the more unique things to do in Hamburg is visit Miniatur Wunderland, the smallest world that will fascinate you! We recommend coming to Miniatur Wunderland right when it opens to try and avoid the crowds this incredible space brings in.

The tiny scale trains, towns, mountains, and airport will leave you in awe. We loved the added details to this growing exhibition like the interactive buttons that let you control what happens in the mini world in front of you or the fact that the world changes from day to night about every 10-15 minutes.

x Rated scene in Venice of Minatur Wunderland in Hamburg
This x rated scene is a couple having alot of fun and causing the house to collapse

If you look closely you can even find little x-rated figurines enjoying themselves with their lover in some of the scenes. The most obvious case of this is in Venice, there is a house that shakes and begins to crack and fall apart.

Once the wall collapses you are left with the vision of a bed going back and forth rapidly and a couple going to town. You sort of have to look closely for this as it’s in the back of the exhibit, but once you see it you can’t unsee it! If you’re keen to see more, there are entire albums dedicated to the peeping tom’s who found them all.

This is the kind of place you could spend hours at and visit multiple times and still not notice all the little details that went into creating this miniature world!

Enjoy a Drink at the Beach Bars

Beach Bars along the Elbe River in Hamburg

Move over Berlin beach bars, you’re not the only German city that’s known for its beach bars! One of the best things to do in Hamburg when you need a drink and a social setting is head on over to one of the beach bars.

There are some artificial beach bars throughout the city and there are actual beach bars along the Elbe River with sand! We enjoyed sitting in the sun with our toes in the sand at Strandperle Beach Bar.

While you don’t have your typical beach view overlooking the Elbe River and the industrial docks, it is still a nice place to hang out and have a cold one.


Speicherstadt in Hamburg Germany

A visit to Hamburg isn’t complete without visiting its UNESCO World Heritage Site, the largest warehouse district in the world! These warehouses aren’t your typical warehouses either, they are this huge compound of beautiful brick gothic revival buildings all along the water and canals of Hamburg.

This is one of the best things to do in Hamburg if you love taking photos, chasing UNESCO sites, and admire the architecture.

You can take a harbor tour through the area or visit Speicherstadt with some of its modern day attractions like Miniatur Wunderland, Hamburg Dungeon, and the Coffee Museum.

Take an evening cruise through Speicherstadt and see this beautiful area illuminated at night for an unforgettable experience. Book your tickets here.

MS Dockville Festival

MS Dockville Festival in Hamburg Germany

If you’re visiting Hamburg in August, you’ll definitely want to check out and see if your dates align (or see if you can get them to align) with the annual MS Dockville Music and Visual Arts Festival!

This annual festival is held along the Elbe River in the Wilhelmsburg district of Hamburg. The festival started around 2007 and went from being a small local festival to a festival with over 100 artists and over 25,000 attendees.

We went on our visit and had a blast, we thought the festival was laid back and much more intimate to popular music festivals we’ve been to in the past like Coachella.

We also really liked the green initiatives the festival took to reduce waste and plastic. Each time you bought a drink you received a token and if you returned the cup with the token you received 1 Euro back. You can bet that there were barely any cups or trash on the ground which we found to be something that I wish our music festivals back home could try.

Germany also has a ton of other great music festivals to check out too.

Check Out Hamburg’s Street Art Scene

Street art and graffiti scene in Hamburg Germany

We visited Hamburg right from Berlin, who is obviously known for its street art. We had no idea Hamburg had such a great street art scene too and were actually quite impressed with how it compared with Berlin’s scene. (I shouldn’t compare, but it naturally happened given the timing of our trip).

We really enjoyed walking through the streets seeing some of the work from both domestic and international artists.

During our visit, 0ne of the famous local street art you’ll spot around the city is Carlo the cat, once he’s pointed out to you you can’t miss him.

We also saw more of El Bocho with his sadistic Little Lucy who finds clever ways to end her cat in every piece she’s in.

One of the best areas to see street art in Hamburg is on Rosenhofstraße and Schulterblatt in Schanzenviertel. You can see more of where to find street art in Hamburg on this map.

CHOCOVERSUM Chocolate Museum

This next thing to do in Hamburg is for chocolate lovers and those with a sweet tooth! This chocolate museum takes you through the world of chocolate from the history to the process of making chocolate.

What’s cool is that you can book a guided tour with 6 tastings then make your own chocolate bar at the end of the experience! How sweet is that?

At the end, you’ll have to try to control yourself in the gift shop where they sell all kinds of chocolates and sweets you’ll want to take home.

Hamburger Dom

Hamburger DOM at night

Who loves fairs and festivals? We do! This is the best thing to do in Hamburg if you love rides, drinking, games, and carnival food!

The Hamburger Dom is a LARGE fair that takes place three times a year in the summer, winter, and spring. We were lucky enough to be visiting while the fair was going on and to say we were impressed is an understatement.

There were so many rides, and not just your typical fair rides but actual rollercoasters and even a water log ride! We also noticed how nice and new the rides seemed compared to fairs at home in the US with the run-down old machines that move from fair to fair every week.

We couldn’t help but also love all the different food and game options too!

If I had to describe how this really blew my expectations out of the water, I’d probably say this is what you see ‘fairs and festivals’ being portrayed in the movies. It lives up to that level of production!

Take a Mini Hot Rod Tour

While we were in Hamburg we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw these tiny little cars speeding by on the road. We aren’t talking about smart cars either, these were small hot rods barely big enough for a full grown man! It turns out this is one of the more eclectic things to do in Hamburg for the adrenaline junkie!

Join a 2 hour mini hot rod tour through the city of Hamburg and see the entire city by little car. I don’t know how much you’ll be able to see because you might get distracted by everyone looking at you, but it will be an unforgettable experience to say the least! Find out more information here.

You can also go kart around the city of Hamburg on a 2-3 hour tour seeing and stopping at some of the most popular spots in the city. For more information or to book tickets click here.

Walk Around the Reeperbahn

3 Zimmer Wohnung bar in Hamburg's Red Light District

If you’re looking for where the party’s at, you’ll want to head to the entertainment district at the Reeperbahn! The Reeperbahn is a street in Hamburg’s St. Pauli district and is known as being in the Red Light District.

The Reeperbahn is filled on both sides of the streets with clubs, bars, sex shops, and hotels. Walk around the neighboring streets and you’ll find more cool bars including the old and popular Zum Silbersack and other interesting bars with themes like 3 Zimmer Wohnung (3 Room Flat) where the entire bar is decorated to look like someone’s 3-room apartment.

There is even a street blocked off by barriers and guarded by female workers, this street is meant only for men to walk down as you can imagine what type of bars or establishments are down there. Anyways, don’t let the term red light district scare you away, the area is full of interesting bars and cool hangouts anyone would enjoy.

If you want to learn a bit about the history of the area as well as learn more about the red light district and the significant things in Hamburg that took place here consider this adult-only walking tour through the Reeperbahn. Book your tickets here.

Explore Schanzenviertel

Schanzenviertel Hamburg

Once a part of Denmark until the 1860s, this happening neighborhood is one the most desirable neighborhoods in Hamburg to live, to eat, to party, and to shop.

The area has all kinds of restaurants, independent shops, and street art covering the walls with a fun young scene. This area is now extremely gentrified and one of the most expensive places to live in the city but probably one of the most fun neighborhoods to stay in for a visitor.

Be sure to walk down Marktstraße for some great shopping or Rosenhoftstraße for some great street art.

Eat Schnitzel at Erika’s Eck

If you want an authentic local food experience this next thing to do in Hamburg is for you. Ericka’s Eck is an unassuming restaurant on a corner and walking inside you can’t help but notice the lack of natural light, it looks and feels like a hidden gem.

And it is, they serve up some of the best schnitzels in town. This spot has become popular and famous not only by the locals but by visitors like us. Only closed from 2-5 pm daily, you can get your schnitzel fix 21 hours a day.

If you’re not feeling especially hungry this place is not for you as the portion sizes are generous but delicious and you’ll want to eat every last bite from the mound of potatoes on your plate to the heaping portion of schnitzel. Be sure to come hungry!

Enjoy a Ratsherrn Beer

One thing we love doing while visiting anywhere in Germany (or other famous beer destinations) is try the local breweries! And Hamburg’s local brewery we were most excited about checking out was Rastherrn beer.

You’ll likely notice their marketing and logo across just about every bar you’ll encounter in Hamburg, and while you can try it all throughout the city, you can also go to the Rasterrn Brauerei and try it straight from the source!

Check out Karolinenviertel

Karolinenviertel in Hamburg Germany

Another hip neighborhood and amazing area in Hamburg to explore is the Karolinenviertel quarter. Considered North St. Pauli this area is filled with great nightlife and bars and more great shopping at independent shops and second-hand stores.

There is also a flea market every Saturday that is worth checking out as well if you find yourself here on the weekend!

There was once a popular club here called Yoko Mono, but after a court case from Yoko Ono declared they had to change the name, the club didn’t survive much longer after. We were told on our tour in Hamburg that the same club owner had named a bar John Lemon too.

Canoe Through The Canals

Canoeing in Hamburg Canals
Enjoying the canals with Yishyene of Small Crazy

Another fantastic thing to do in Hamburg is to canoe through the canals of Winterhude. This is a very wealthy district of Hamburg that is blatantly obvious as your paddling through the canals because of the large, and exquisite homes along the water.

We started our journey at Bobby Reisch Jetty on the edge of Alster and paddled our way through the canals. This is one of the most beautiful things to do in Hamburg and we highly recommend this activity as it’s so peaceful and gorgeous to be surrounded by the grandiose homes and lush green canalway.

Best things to do in Hamburg, Monkey Beach Bar

When you’re paddling pay attention to the café along the canal that sells coffee and drinks to canoers and kayakers! Also, if you go in the afternoon consider stopping at Monkey Beach Bar which serves up drinks and poke for nice waterfront lunch.

Shop and Dine in Winterhude

Pizza Social Club in Hamburg

This next thing to do in Hamburg pairs perfectly after canoeing through the canals since you’re in the heart of Winterhude. This posh area of Hamburg is best reached by taxi since there isn’t a lot of public transportation reaching this part of the city.

But don’t let that deter you from visiting this beautiful neighborhood full of great shopping and amazing eateries. We enjoyed an amazing lunch at Pizza Social Club who serves up tasty wood fired pizza and Italian cuisine.

See Hamburg from the Elbe River

Hamburg views from the public ferry

Another great thing to do in Hamburg is see the city from the Elbe River by cruise. There are tons of cruise tours that take place here or you can board the public ferry #62 at Landungsbrücken.

You’re able to ride the ferry with the Hamburg Public Transportation ticket, so whatever you’re using on the trains and buses also works on the ferry!

You can take the ride on the ferry about 30 minutes to the last stop, you can either get off and switch ferries to continue to the town of Blankenese, a gorgeous little wealthy fisherman village with great views, or stay on the ferry and make the return trip to Landungsbrücken where you started.

On the return trip you can also stop at any of the stops along the beach and walk to the beach bars too!

Check out the Exhibits at Bucerius Kunst Forum

Located right next to the Rathaus is another one of the best things to do in Hamburg if you want to delve into the art scene. Check out the Bucerius Kunst Forum, a museum with changing exhibitions and collections of art.

During our visit we got to see the Anton Corbijn the Living and the Dead exhibit, a famous Dutch photographer, music video director, and movie director known for his famous photographs of musicians.

There are about 3-4 different exhibits per year so whether you’re visiting Hamburg for the first time or a repeat there will typically always be something new for you at this museum.

Alster Lake

Alster Lake in Hamburg

Alster Lake is one of the most iconic spots in the city and one of the best things to do in Hamburg if you’re looking for a good photo spot or a fun water activity.

In perfect sailing weather, you will see tons of sailboats out on the Inner and Outer Aster Lake. You can also rent kayaks, bike around the path, or sit down and enjoy a packed picnic here!

Try Fritz Kola

Editorial credit: Angel Petrov / Shutterstock

If you want to support a local business check out Fritz Kola who makes soft drinks comparable to Coca-Cola and Pepsi. You can find Fritz Kola at just about every restaurant and store around Hamburg since the beverage is from this area.

What we found interesting as well is that Hamburg is often used as a test market for new products, so if you see something you’ve never seen anywhere else before it could be a test product only in Hamburg and you should give it a try!

Have a Drink at Altes Mädchen

Altes Mädchen beer store in Hamburg

Calling all beer lovers, this next thing to do in Hamburg is for you. Altes Mädchen is a brewhouse and restaurant located in the popular Schanzenviertel district. This is a great place to get the local Ratsherrn beer as well as shop for bottled craft beer from all over the world in the shop next to their outdoor patio.

Being in here made us want to go crazy and build our own six packs, but we had a night full of festivities so it was just a big tease this trip! We will for sure plan to have a fun mix and match beer night next time in Hamburg from their global selection!

Hamburg Dungeon

Editorial credit: David Esser / Shutterstock

Okay, now for one of the more macabre things to do in Hamburg. Learn about Hamburg’s dark history in the tour through Hamburg Dungeon with actors who make the entire experience come to life and feel real.

This interactive exhibit has different shows and rides to attend such as escaping from The Great Fire of Hamburg that took place in the 1800s to going on a recreated pirate battle.

Join the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

Things to do in Hamburg Germany

Want to see all the great things to do in Hamburg but short on time? Then the hop on hop off bus tour is a great way to see the city in a short period of time.

Your one day ticket includes popular spots like City Hall aka Rathaus, St. Michael’s Church, Speicherstadt, and HafenCity. Get on and off the bus as you please or sit and tour around the city listening to the audio commentary.

Book your tickets here.

Where to Stay in Hamburg

Superbude, pronounced like Super Buddah is a really fun option and an upscale hostel in Hamburg. There are three locations in the city.

We recommend the Schanzenviertel location, this is where we stayed, because the Reeperbahn might be a bit noisy.

Superbude isn’t your typical hostel, this hostel has private rooms with a cool flair and décor, a continental breakfast spread, bar, and café.

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