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What to See on a City Break to Hamburg

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

Hamburg, the 2nd largest city in Germany lies on the picturesque River Elbe. In its former life, the city was a key member of the prosperous Hanseatic League and today it’s a major centre for science and research. Home to the Elbphilarmonie concert hall, incredible artwork, St. Pauli’s Reeperbahn entertainment district and incredible shopping and dining, a city break to Hamburg should not be missed.

See the Industrial Architecture of Speicherstadt

Hamburg’s Speicherstadt is the world’s largest warehouse district and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Constructed on the River Elbe between 1883 and the 1920s its neo-gothic architecture is a sight to behold. The warehouse district is home to many of Hamburg’s weird and wonderful tourist attractions including Miniatur Wunderland, Automuseum Prototyp and Hamburg Dungeon which takes daring visitors on a ghoulish trip through the city’s history. There are also chic restaurants and cafes where you can sip latte and watch tourist boats as they glide by. However, one of the most exciting ways to see the architectural splendour of Speicherstadt is on a HafenCity Riverbus. Don’t be fooled, these are no ordinary modes of transportation, this is an actual amphibious bus which operates on land and water. It’s a great way to navigate the waterways and observe the district from a unique perspective.

Enjoy a Musical Performance at Elbphilharmonie

Dancing like a giant wave on the shores of Hamburg’s river, Elbphilharmonie concert hall or ‘Elphi’ as it’s known locally is an architectural work of art. It’s one of the largest and most acoustically advanced concert venues in the world and each year attracts a selection of top classical pianists, jazz ensembles and symphony orchestras. The impressive glass façade captures colours of the water and sky, creating an illusion of merging both together, and beneath, old brick warehouses which used to store goods during the city’s trading era still stand. The concert hall has a 360-degree public viewing area offering incredible city and river views, so take a glass of champagne and soak up the atmosphere as Hamburg illuminates before your eyes.

Take an Evening Cruise through the Harbourg

There’s no better way to see Hamburg than on an evening cruise along the harbour. So, why not do it in style on the modern paddle steamer MS Louisiana Star? Steaming chimneys, paddle wheels splashing and whistles howling - this eye-catching event ship is both authentic and magnificent. You can hire out the stern wheeler to watch firework displays on local holidays or to enjoy a lavish birthday party or celebration with buffet, drinks and dancing. The cruises take you past St. Pauli, the famous Fischmarkt, Elbphilharmonie concert hall and more. As you glide past old warehouses and docks at sunset, cocktail in hand on the upper deck, you can imagine what life was like during the Hanseatic era of Hamburg. 

Browse Sunday Morning’s Fischmarkt

Hamburg’s Sunday morning Fischmarkt is legendary. Located in St. Pauli district, revelers and restauranteurs head to the Elbe’s shores to barter over fresh fish or indulge in an early morning coffee after a night out. The market, which was established in 1703, is a must-see for those on a city break. It sells freshly caught fish, clothing, fruit, flowers and gifts and is open from 5am in summer and 7am in winter months. Many partygoers venture here after an evening of drinking and dancing at nearby Reeperbahn. The market is just a few minutes’ walk away and the perfect place to enjoy a hearty breakfast, drink more beer, shop or even listen to live jazz or rock bands! Get here early though, the market is only open until 9.30am and you really don’t want to miss it!

Discover European Art History in Hamburger Kunsthalle

The Kunsthalle in Hamburg boasts one of the most impressive art collections in all of Germany. Located 15 minutes’ walk from historic Speicherstadt, the museum takes visitors on a fascinating journey from the Middle Ages to the present day. Works by the Dutch Masters - Rembrandt and Jacob van Ruisdael, German Romanticists and the Impressionists are all on display here. There are also sections dedicated to video art, pop art and photography and themed exhibitions are held throughout the year. The museum is open daily except Mondays and offers peaceful respite and the opportunity to see fabulous artwork away from the hustle and bustle of Hamburg’s city streets.

Take an Evening Walk Along the Reeperbahn

In the heart of St. Pauli, Reeperbahn shimmers with neon lights and reverberates with sounds of techno music. Once a seedy red-light district in the 1960s, today, the Reeperbahn blossoms with cocktail bars, restaurants, theatres, cabaret show venues and art galleries. The Beatles played clubs here before they were discovered in the Cavern Club in Liverpool and today, their memory lives on with sculptures dedicated to the fab four and Beatles tours along the Reeperbahn. This lively street attracts international DJ’s with clubs like Mojo and Grosse Freiheit 36 on the young and hip crowd’s radar and there are plenty of bars and restaurants where you can stop for a cocktail or bite to eat. A visit to some sections of the Reeperbahn still require an open mind, but its days of appealing only to sailors and stag parties are long gone.

Discover Hamburg’s Cocktail Culture

Forget German beer gardens, these days cocktails are de rigueur in Hamburg. The city’s talented mixologists can create a plethora of beverages for you as you look on in awe. One of the best cocktail bars in the city is Le Lion – a kind of speakeasy-inspired bar famous for martinis and Gin Basil Smash. It’s that exclusive you have to make a reservation to attend. You can also try the Atlantic Lobby Bar in Hotel Kempinski. The elegant bar is decorated in maritime shades with dark-stained oak and wood panelled walls. If you’re walking in from the street, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped onto a ship. Side tables are created with suitcases and wooden shelves filled with artefacts tell stories of travel and adventure. The sophisticated bar specialises in international cocktails infused with herbs, spices and aromas from around the world, so find yourself a comfortable armchair and prepare to be wowed by a whole host of innovative global beverages. 

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