Hamburg is a major port city in northern Germany, made up of hundreds of canals and is connected to the North Sea. Hamburg is the perfect European city break destination with lots of things to see and do!
James and I stayed in the stunning Reichshof Hamburg during our time in Hamburg – a beautiful art-deco style hotel with marble walls, ceilings and pink chandeliers. The central location is perfect, with just a short walk to the central train station and buses to get around the port city.
The rooms have big comfy beds, fluffy pillows and stylish decor – a lovely little slice of luxury! The breakfast buffet is also insane too so overall, it’s the perfect hotel for a city break in Hamburg!
First things first – as soon as you get to Hamburg you need to buy yourself the Hamburg CARD!
The Hamburg CARD is an experience and savings card, with unlimited travel on buses, trains and harbour ferries, as well as 100s of discounts on tourist attractions in the city including harbour tours, museums, theatre trips and restaurants and coffee shops.
James and I used this card quite a few times during our time in the city. They operate differently to the London Underground for example – you just need to print the Hamburg CARD out and have it on you at all times and present it when a guard asks to see it. There aren’t any ticket barriers or gates like we have on the London Underground, so it’s a really quick and stress-free process of getting around. Plus all the trains we went on were super comfy, clean and air conditioned!
The Hamburg CARD single ticket starts at €10.50 (for one adult and up to three children aged 6-14 years) and the Hamburg CARD Group ticket starts at €18.50 for up to five people of any age.
Take in the sights
As you can see by the photos – Hamburg is a beautiful city to just wander around and explore at your own leisure. On our first day in Hamburg, James and I headed out using the Hamburg CARD and hopped on and off tubes to explore the city. It’s quite an easy place to explore (or maybe it was James’ excellent Google Map skills) but it was a beautiful day to check out the old red brick buildings, various canals and the famous Speicherstadt – the largest warehouse district in the world where the buildings stand on timber-pile foundations.
It’s located in the port of Hamburg – within the HafenCity quarter – and was built for 1883 to 1927. The district was built as a free zone to transfer goods without paying customs, but as of 2009, the district and the surrounding area are under redevelopment. Speicherstadt was also awarded the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site on the 5th July 2015.
It’s also worth pointing out that the shopping facilities in Hamburg are fantastic! We stayed right near the main shopping district where there was every shop and department store imaginable – perfect for those who love shopping and exploring on a European city break.
Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg
Miniatur Wunderland is a world-famous model train and miniature exhibition in Hamburg – in fact it’s the largest model railway exhibition in the world!
The Miniature Wunderland exhibition is spread out over 5 floors, located in various themed worlds including Middle Germany, Switzerland, USA, Hamburg airport and Italy. It’s hoped by 2020 the exhibition will be complete, with at least ten new sections; plans are in progress to construct sections of France, England, Africa and Australia!
Tickets for Miniatur Wunderland start at €15.00 (which can be even cheaper when you show your Hamburg CARD!) and that entitles you to explore the exhibition at your own pace. The model trains are consistently running on tracks on each floor, and the lights are consistently going from day time to night so you can see the model villages in different lights. Thousands and thousands of hours have gone into creating this live exhibition, where you can see thousands of trains, buildings, lights and figures.
We didn’t get the chance to check it out, but there’s a cool Bistro restaurant with over 200 seats in the exhibition – you can either sit in one of the train compartments or in the lounge section to check out what is going on in the exhibition. The Bistro serves up a range of dishes, including pasta, salads, baked potatoes and the famous Currywurst!
The museum was founded in July 2000 and it continues to grow and develop – I can’t wait to see what new sections they add!
Open top bus tour
James and I only really had a full day to explore Hamburg, so we booked tickets for the Die Roten Doppeldecker open bus tour around the city to get a real feel for the place.
The open top bus tour made us realise how central our Reichshof Hamburg hotel was and how many attractions we would’ve been able to check out if we had the time. The open top bus tour tickets cost €18.50 per person (€16.00 per person with the Hamburg CARD!) and entitles you to hop on and off the bus all day at the various stops. The full tour takes around 90 minutes and takes you to various stops including St. Pauli Piers – the largest landing place in the Port of Hamburg, Planten un Blomen – a 47 hectare urban park and St. Michaeliskirche – the most famous church in the city.
We were given headphones (new sealed ones!) when we got on the tour bus so we could listen to the bus commentary in English – the guide can be translated into several other languages too.
International Maritime Museum
The International Maritime Museum holds the world’s largest private collection of maritime treasures in the world. It is housed inside Hamburg’s oldest existing historic warehouse in the city over 10 floors. The exhibition opened in 2007 and is a must-see for all fans of ships, boats and the military history! The exhibition began because of Professor Peter Tamm’s extensive collection of mini boat figurines: over 26,000 ship models, 50,000 construction plans, 5,000 paintings and graphics, 1.5 million photos, 120,000 books and numerous history uniforms and maritime objects.
The International Maritime Museum tells the stories of explorers and conquerors, captains and seafarers, offering a new insight into the maritime industry through 3,000 years of human history.
The exhibition is spread out over 10 floors and more than 11,000 square meters of exhibition space – making it the world’s largest private collection of its kind. Tickets cost just €13.00 per person (€9.50 with the Hamburg CARD!) which is a fantastic price for the many hours you could spend learning about the marine history of the world. You are free to explore the exhibition at your own pace, or you can book in for a private tour.
Fortunately James and I were shown around by Damien, whose knowledge on marine history was just phenomenal! He was so passionate about the exhibition and the marine industry, so it was super interesting being shown around the exhibition and finding out little nuggets of information along the way. The exhibition dates back to hundreds of years ago to the present day, learning about the port systems, model ships built by slaves and the evolution of ships, right through to the modern day cruise liners.
Other things to see and do in Hamburg:
James and I managed to cram in a lot to our day and a half trip to Hamburg, but there’s still so much more we would have loved to see and do. If you’re heading to Hamburg soon, don’t forget to check these out!
- There are dozen of boat tours taking place in Hamburg every day – a great way to see the city on the water!
- There’s a chocolate museum (I know right?!) called Chocoversum and I’m so gutted we didn’t have the time to check it out. Hamburg is the German chocolate capital, with 150,000 tons of cocoa imported to Germany via the port of Hamburg every year. Here, you can explore the museum for 90 minutes, sampling chocolate and then getting to make your very own chocolate bar!
- Visit the Elbphilharmonie, the city’s tallest inhabited building at more than 100 metres. The building’s design has been compared to waves and the sails of a ship. It is one of the largest and most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world, with space for up to 2,100 spectators.
- The Reeperbahn is a street and entertainment district in St. Pauli in Hamburg. It is a big entertainment hub and also the city’s major red-light district with dozens of night clubs, bars and restaurants.
- The Elbe Tunnel is a 426-metre tunnel 24 metres below the river, which opened back in 1911. The pedestrian and vehicle tunnel transformed the lives of many Hamburg works commuting from the right to the left bank. The architecture inside is the real charm, with vintage signing, maritime motifs and glazed tiles used throughout.
I had so much fun in Hamburg and I can’t wait to visit again. It has a very well deserved place on one of the best city breaks in Europe! Have you been to Hamburg before?
Keep your eyes peeled for my guide on what to eat and drink in Hamburg coming soon!
We were given complimentary tickets for some activities in Hamburg in collaboration with the Come to Hamburg project.