I arrived into Hamburg on a cruise ship and was immediately told that it’s impossible to walk into the city. It is entirely possible, and in fact quite pleasant to walk into Hamburg from the cruise terminal, a route which involves walking through the 111-year-old tile-lined Elbe pedestrian/bicycle tunnel.
In an attempt to stick to a small budget I stayed in a hotel just east of the main train station. The area in which it was located felt a little unsafe, but busy enough to not cause too much concern.
Tip 1: If you have the budget, I recommend staying in Hamburg City Centre, on the side of the train station where the Rathaus is located.
The Reeperbahn is a street in the St Pauli area that has a horrendous four-lane busy road running down the middle of it and which, during the day, feels enormously seedy and depressing. It may be more interesting at night, but it was far enough away from the city centre and was covered in so much trash and sleaze that I had absolutely no desire to return (plus I was exhausted!).
The posh part of town
Between Mönckebergstraße and Große Bleichen is a lovely collection of streets interrupted by two charming waterways running between the Elbe River and Alster Lake. The architecture here is more interesting and it’s one of the few picturesque parts of the city, albeit inhabited by prohibitively expensive shops.
In the centre of this area is the Rathaus, the city’s grand town hall adorned with statues of men who for the most part have impressive beards. Nearby is the Alster Lake, which is a pleasant place to circle or take a boat trip on.
Tip 2: Frittenwerk Hamburg is one of the cheapest places to eat in this part of town and offers OK dishes such as currywurst.
Perhaps the world’s best attraction
Miniatur Wunderland is a wonderland of miniature scenes from around the world, threaded together by 16km of model railway track. I spent 2 hours here, I could probably have done with another hour before kick-out time
Tip 3: Tickets for entry 2 hours before closing time are discounted by 20%, reflecting the time needed to see the entire attraction
The location of this attraction is in two of the red brick buildings of Speicherstadt, the world’s largest warehouse district which is worth strolling around and is easily walked to from the city centre.
Tip 4: Miniatur Wunderland has a LOT of buttons to push. Press the button by the mini chocolate factory and a little Lindt chocolate will be produced just for you
Where to get some views
At the western end of HafenCity, just next to Speicherstadt, you’ll not be able to miss the Elbphilharmonie concert hall. Its glassy, wavy edifice looks out over the Elbe and it’s well worth riding the curved escalator up to the viewing platform which runs around all four sides of the building.
Tip 5: You can get to the Elbphilharmonie viewing platform for free. Get your ticket from ticket office on Am Kaiserkai (you may not be able to gain immediate access during busier times)
A lot of fuss is made about the views of the city from the water. I wasn’t hugely impressed, but the ferries are a pleasant way of getting from A to B. Short journeys are priced at €1.80 and I enjoyed route 62 from Landungsbrücken Brücke 3 to Altona (Fischmarkt). The Fischmarkt building itself is worth seeing, both inside and out, and nearby there’s a U-Boot Museum if you’re into that sort of thing.
Hamburg has a wealth of cafés. Some are of the relatively-bland-but-good-value-chain variety, such as LE CROBAG. Others blend delicious hot chocolate (I’m not a coffee drinker and so hot choc quality is very important to me) with captivating views – the coffee shop looking down Bleichenfleet being a good example.
Perhaps the best café I visited was one that was recommended to me by Carolin from Solo Travel Story. Klein Und Kaiserlich on Am Kaiserkai is an elegant Austrian-style establishment where I tucked into a rich and perfectly-flavoured apfelstrudel for the reasonable price of €5.80. I understand that the coffee here is pretty good too.
Speaking of coffee, if you’re anywhere in the warehouse district then the chances are that, at some point, you’ll be blessed with the scent of roasting beans drifting from Speicherstadt Kaffeerösterei, surely a must-visit destination for you avid coffee drinkers.
Visit Hamburg as part of this free 13-day Germany itinerary (for Budget, Mid-range, and Luxury travellers)
I stayed in STAY! Boardinghouse, which was a good value and comfortable hotel, albeit in a not particularly interesting area
Hamburg Airport is an easy 25-minute train journey from Hamburg HBF