Travel Guide: Hamburg in 48 hours

We don’t know of many places where the culture and history of a harbour has blended with the city’s lifestyle to such a degree as in Hamburg. Germany’s second largest city has a unique appeal and surprised us in so many ways.

Hamburg in 48 hours

It wasn’t by accident that Hamburg was on top of our list on which places to visit this year. Exploring the different neighbourhoods and trendy hotspots with those big harbour cranes in the background gives the city an exceptional appeal. The youthful vibe, the many outdoor spaces and the cultural richness make Hamburg a very pleasant travel destination!

With so many things to do, we summarised our top attractions to spend your 48 hours in Hamburg to the fullest!

The basics

  • Currency: Euro (€)
  • Language: German
  • Airport: Hamburg Airport. The efficient S-bahn train takes you to the city centre in about 20 minutes

Day 1

Starting the day at the Jungfernstieg area, enjoy the wonderful architecture by the water of the Inner Alster. Many department stores are located here in fierce, mundane buildings which makes exploring the area very enjoyable. Even without entering the wonderful shopping malls!

Town Hall

From the Jungfernstieg area, walk towards the Rathausmarkt to visit the wonderful Town Hall. The Rathaus is beautiful from the outside and its entrance hall and courtyard is freely accessible. Make sure to walk inside!

Hamburg Town Hall Courtyard

When you have the chance, take the (payed) guided tour as the building’s architecture is amazing. English tours are rather limited though (weekends and only at fixed times) so make sure you come prepared!

Old town

Moving on, make your way to the Deichstrasse and the Cremon area. This oldest residential area dates back to 17th century and its narrow, cobbled streets and carefully restored houses and warehouses are definitely a must-see.

Hamburg Old Town

HafenCity

Crossing one of the bridges, the contrast between the oldest streets in Hamburg and the postmodern architecture of the massive HafenCity project could not be bigger.

The constantly evolving area is the largest inner-city development project in Europe and aims at rebuilding an outdated industrial part of the harbour. Resulting in a unique mix of reclaimed industrial buildings and modern structures, this is urban development on a scale unseen.

The blend of offices, residential houses, leisure areas, public spaces and luxury housings creates a very enjoyable area to stroll around.

The biggest eyecatcher here is definitely the Elbphilharmonie concert hall. The structure is built on a brick base of a former warehouse, its top a spectacular glass construction providing a 360-degree view of the area.

Take one of the longest escalators we have ever seen, to the 37 metres high public (this means free!) viewing platform. We spent a great amount of time here as the views over the city and the harbour are amazing!

Hamburg harbour sunset
Sunset view as seen on the roof of the Elbphilharmonie concert hall

Hamburger Kunsthalle

Make your way back to the Hauptbahnhof central station to visit one of Germany’s largest museums, the Kunsthalle. Their impressive art collections range from early 14th century paintings to the Old Masters until recent international modern and contemporary art.

Their huge collection provides plenty of variety while not too large to get overloaded.

Shopping

Stroll along the luxury stores in Neuer Wall and the boutiques of Jungferstieg or explore the more traditional Mönckebergstrasse where most department stores and international chains are located.


Day 2

Start your day early, as the morning sun over the Elbe river delivers great views over the harbour! When visiting on Sunday, make sure to walk past the Fischmarkt.

The lively atmosphere of this traditional fish market is a great experience. Start your day with a fish sandwich and a coffee while market barkers out scream each other in the background.

Old Elbe Tunnel

The story of the Alter Elbtunnel is as unique as the experience of walking through one of Europe’s oldest, still operational tunnels. The technical innovation was unseen when it was built in 1911 and served as a direct route for dock workers to the other side of the Elbe river.

Hamburg Alte Elbtunnel

Today, the lift cages serve a rather limited amount of cars since a new, modern tunnel replaced its purpose. This makes the Old Elbe Tunnel mostly pedestrian territory, providing a history-flavoured walk under the Elbe river.

On the other side of the tunnel, you can find great views over the city. Its location in the harbour area also makes this a great place to explore more industrial grounds.

St. Pauli

One of the most famous streets of Hamburg is definitely the Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli area. Being the centre of Hamburg nightlife, the street and its surroundings are packed with bars and night clubs. Additionally, it also serves as the city’s red light district.

Needless to say the experience here is rather special, especially after 10PM in the evening. However, it is the same wild nightlife that brought the Beatles to Hamburg to launch their career!

Make sure to explore the surrounding streets though. Once you get past the “trashy” establishments you discover a more pure Hamburg, where quirky shops and street art is all around.

Hamburg St. Pauli street art

Schanzenviertel

Keep on walking to enter Schanzenviertel and its adjacent Karolinenviertel. This laid-back, alternative area was one of our favourites. Discover the outdoor bars, yummy places to eat and independent fashion and design shops where you meet the people behind their products.

Its autonomous cultural center Rota Flora (or what remains of it) serves as the heart of the area, hosting events, flea markets and much more.

If you are looking for a place to eat, we can highly recommend the delicious Mamalicious restaurant. This small, cosy restaurant serves vegetarian food like you have never tasted before! They don’t take reservations, but definitely worth the waiting! Especially for their amazing blueberry pancakes!

St. Michael’s church

Walk back by the pleasant Planten un Bomen park to visit St. Michaelis. The so called Michel is a landmark in the city and its tower is seen from all around Hamburg.

Its tower provides a 106 metre high platform to overlook the city and its harbour. Walking up the tower you will discover the church’s history as well as its clock system.


Conclusion

All our Hamburg travel tips gathered on the map:

What we liked

  • The HafenCity area might be one of our favourite places in Hamburg. Close to the water, harbour cranes in the background and plenty of cool places to discover.
  • The hip and young atmosphere that is around certain areas of Hamburg was very much to our likings. Whether it was a cool design shop, a hip coffee bar or an a trendy restaurant, we felt the hipster vibe!

What we disliked

  • However one of Hamburg’s most known areas, we didn’t like the Reeperbahn much. The streets were full of thrash of the night before (we assume) and the bars and restaurants didn’t look very inviting. However, if you are out for a crazy drinking night or for a stag party, I could imagine this is the place to be.


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