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On a very cold February weekend I visited Hamburg with my best friend. This was our first time visiting Germany aside from Berlin and we were really exited to visit another German City! Although tourists have been visiting Hamburg for a long time I feel that Hamburg is becoming a bit of an ‘up and coming city’ thanks to it having a bit of edge and cool-ness!
We had a great time and here’s what our 2 Day Hamburg Itinerary looked like with some extra tips to help you plan your City Break in Hamburg:
Day One in Hamburg!
We arrived late on a Friday night so we were ready to explore on Saturday morning. We stayed at the Best Western Premier Alsterkrug which is close to the airport but quite far from the City Centre, it meant we had to get the bus and a train into the City, but at least we managed to test out and get to grips with the public transport of Hamburg, which in fact, is very easy to use!
Tip: Hamburg is very walkable and if you’re in the centre and happy to walk you probably won’t end up even using the transport apart from getting to and from the airport, however if you are staying further out or like to use public transport, I would recommend getting the Hamburg Card which will cover all transport and give discount on sight-seeing trips, museums etc. You can find out about the Hamburg card here! Also, there are no barriers to any of the stations so if you do get on remember to buy a ticket, we didn’t get our ticket checked but it would be typical that you forget to buy a ticket, jump on a train because you can, and then get fined!
We got off at Jungfernstieg Station which is right in the City and I was pleased to see the very impressive Town Hall building sticking out above the other, more corporate buildings I of course headed there to get some snaps of this very German architecture!
The water was what had really drawn me to want to visit Hamburg, I love being by water and Hamburg has so many canals and rivers and actually feels like it’s right on the ocean, so we naturally drifted away from the Town Hall and down towards Hafen City, an area of the city that sits by the river and many canals.
I also found myself heading towards the red brick buildings, I had seen so many photos of these online, and I do love a red brick building, so pretty soon we were in the area I had seen so many photos of on Instagram and whilst crossing a bridge and looking down between the buildings and a long the canal I even said out loud ‘ooh I think this is the famous Hamburg Instagram spot!!’ What do you think??
I was also really surprised with just how many bridges there were! Every few meters there seemed to be a cast iron bridge, and I later found out that Hamburg has over 2,500 bridge which is more than Amsterdam, Venice and London combined and more than any other city in Europe! Crazy!
We walked around Hafen City, spotted the very impressive Elbphilharmonie Building which we had tickets for the next day and generally just took in the beautiful blue skies and the atmosphere of a very chilled city!
Tip: You can get a guided tour of the Elbphilharmonie Building which is a very popular thing to do and way to see this really impressive building. Buying a ticket like this will also save you trying to reserve one as you do need to get one in advance.
We were in need of coffee so headed back across the canals and back towards the city centre, it’s as if the coffee gods were on our side as I saw a place called Nord Coast Coffee Roastery on my phone and thought it sounded cool so we headed there. On arrival, with people queuing out of the door we realised that this must be one of Hamburg’s popular coffee and brunch spots! Luckily the queue was just for brunch so we grabbed a coffee and sat outside with the blankets provided and planned our next step.
Tip: I would really recommend going to Nord Coast Coffee Roastery for a coffee or brunch in Hamburg! If you go on the weekend and want brunch, book a few days in advance as the waitress said they book up quick!
I was really keen to head out on the water so after our very good coffee we headed towards the harbour and enjoyed walking a long the promenade.
I visited Hamburg with Come to Hamburg which is a blogger initiative to show off what Hamburg has to offer and their recommended boat trip partner was Barkassen Meyer which is on bridge 6, just up from the Hard Rock Cafe.
We got to their pier just before 1:00pm which was perfect as the boats depart every hour, on the hour. A ticket is €18.00, the boat was really nice, the windows were nice and big and even the ceiling was see-through so we had lots of light and heat, however the only down side was that the whole tour was in German!
We were given phones with English audio but the guy doing the tour in German was very loud and drowned out the sound of the audio a bit, plus he seemed to talk a lot more in German than what our English audio guide was so I felt like I wasn’t getting the best of what a tour can offer.
Tip: I would definitely suggest doing a boat tour as it was amazing to see the city from the water, it was so good to see all of the container boats on the other side of the river too as its something we just don’t see in day to day life, but make sure that you do a tour with an English guide or a tour where everyone has an audio guide and can switch it to their preferred language! If you have a Hamburg Card, see where you can get discounts with that.
These boat tours around Hamburg look great:
That being said, I did learn a lot about Hamburg from the tour, for example –
Hamburg is the largest city for musicals after New York and London!
The Elbphilharmonie was estimated to cost 75 Million Euros but ended up costing 789 Million Euros!
The area of Reeperbahn, known as the sinful mile is where The Beatles started their world career!
And the City of Hamburg dates back to the 9th Century!
Our next stop of the day was Lunch and it was well needed by 2:00pm. I had been told about Ban Canteen, a Vietnamese place with Vegan options so we headed there via the St Pauli area. St Pauli is where the Reeperbahn is which is now the red light district part of the city. It was pretty strange seeing sex shops and bars in the middle of the day but once we came off the main street and further into St Pauli we were so surprised by this side of the city. It felt cool, rundown, up and coming but safe, which is a weird combination! We liked it anyway and past lots of cool bars and places to eat!
Tip: To help understand the Reeperbahn, check out Man Vs Globe’s post – Don’t Fear the Reeperbahn!
I actually wish I had done a tour of the Reeperbahn area, I didn’t know they were a thing until I got back, these tours sound really intriguing!
Ban Canteen is only a small restaurant but its menu and its portions are huge! We shared the Summer Spring Rolls to start, followed by a huge bowl of Tofu Pho each, finished by sharing the Mango & Coconut Panna Cotta.. all of it was Vegan and all of it was delicious!
Tip: Ban Canteen may seem like a bit of a walk away depending on where you are in the city as its to the top of St Pauli but I really recommend going! If you’re not Vegan, don’t worry, it’s meat based too, if you are Vegan, check it out as there are lots of options! Also check out these Vegan places in Hamburg by Veggie Visa!
Tip: For more great places to eat in Hamburg check out this Hamburg Food Guide.
After our late lunch, we slowly walked back towards the Reeperbahn but at this point we felt a bit stuck with what to do next. We wanted a drink but the bars in St Pauli all looked a bit too dingy for this time of day so we headed back to the River where we came across StrandPauli. We were drawn in because of its beach bar vibe which in 0° which seemed very random but also very cool!
We were so surprised to see an outdoor deck area with sand on the floor and lots of people huddled in blankets, looking over the water and I couldn’t believe that we had found another gem!
I was sooo happy to see that the bar is pretty much West facing and the sun was due to set in about an hour so we sat outside with a glass of red wine, a blanket covering our legs, music in the background and watched the sun slowly go down. We headed inside afterwards and the bar tender mentioned that come Summer this place is so busy! Obviously it will be a lot more pleasant in the Summer weather wise but I felt lucky that we got to sit in peace and watch an incredible sunset without the crowds and it reminded me that often, the random places you find in new places are the best!
Tip: You have to go to StrandPauli, no matter what the weather is like and ideally for sunset!
Dinnertime came round quickly, once again we ended up on the Reeperbahn which was a lot busier now, we snuck off into the streets of St Pauli though and found an Italian place to eat. We did struggle with finding somewhere for dinner and kind of wished we had stayed in StrandPauli as they serve food too but the pizza’s were good!
Day Two in Hamburg!
The best thing to do on a Sunday morning in Hamburg is to go to the Fischmarkt aka the Fish Market! I have woken up many times on a Sunday morning to look on Instagram Stories and see someone I follow at the fish market in Hamburg. I’ve seen live music, people dancing, drinking beers and all before 9:00am, so I knew I had to go!
The Fish Market starts at 5:00am and finishes up at around 9:30am. We got to Landungsbrucken train station for about 8:30am which was the perfect time (considering the weather, more on that soon). Lots of people were heading to the markets at this time, although we noted that most of them seemed like tourists and that the locals were the people passing us leaving with baskets full of fruit and veggies!
We walked through an area of outdoor stalls selling lots of fish and fish sandwiches of course, but also cakes and fruits and clothes. It would have been really easy to get caught up in this and stay out here but I knew we needed to head further down to the inside market and I wasn’t disappointed when we got there!
Live music was blaring, people were dancing, the beers and Jaeger were out, some people looked like they had been up since last night, but luckily there was coffee on offer and seats for us who were still feeling sleepy from a night in bed! We didn’t get inside until about 9:00am so we only listened to about 30 minutes of music before it stopped and everyone slowly started leaving. For us this was a good amount of time, especially as it was a very cold morning and it had just started snowing, and settling!
Tip: I would recommend getting to the fish market for about 8:00-8:30am for a fuller experience, especially if you are visiting in Spring or Summer!
We headed back towards the City Centre, passing St Michael’s and St. Nicholas Church. Both of these churches have viewing platforms which I had hoped to go up, however it was really snowing by this point and the visibility was terrible so I knew there was no point.
Tip: I would recommend going up at least one of these churches, both cost €5.00 to enter the viewing platform. I saw that St Nicholas Church (second photo below) has a lift all the way to the top!
We were booked in for the Elbphilharmonie today so we headed back towards Hafen City however first we visited the International Maritime Museum. I’m not a huge museum fan but I did find this museum really interesting, we read a few bits about slavery which was awful to read but a good reminder, and on a more fun note we saw a huge lego cruise ship which was impressive!
Hafen City seemed very quiet on the weekend, I assume its busier during the week and office hours (or maybe it was because it was seriously snowing now as you can tell by my photos!). However across the canal and street from the International Maritime Museum is Wildes Fraulein Cafe so we popped in here for a coffee and once again, we came across a gem! The cafe is Alpine style I believe and has a gondola car inside it which proved fun for the children, we had a good coffee but most importantly they offer awesome brunches and food in general!
Tip: If you’re in Hafen City and looking for a cool cafe, head to Wildes Fraulein for coffee, brunch or lunch!
Finally we headed towards the very impressive Elbphilharmonie! We took the ‘Tube’ aka a cool escalator towards the top and then headed out onto the balcony. The balcony runs all the way around the building. Due to the weather we didn’t get to see much but luckily we had had the blue skies the day before so we had an idea of what was hiding behind the cloud! I really enjoyed going in here, its such an iconic building of Hamburg and Europe now its kind of a must visit!
Tip: Tickets are free however they are limited to a number of slots each day so it is advisable to book online, you can book here. There is a €2.00 booking fee and the tickets are emailed. The ticket says to print it out but I forgot and no one even looked at the ticket anyway so try to print it out but if not, you should be ok!
Lunch time called for a Burger at Better Burger Company, another place I had been recommended by Come to Hamburg. We headed back towards the Town Hall which we had seen the morning before, it really surprised us how quiet the city was, all the shops were shut which I guess is still normal for a lot of Cities (living in London for makes me forget that Sunday should be a quiet day!) and the snow was probably keeping people inside too!
Better Burger Company offers a few different types of beef burgers, a veggie burger and a vegan burger. You choose the burger, choose up to 5 toppings or sauces, add a side of fries and you’re in for a pretty awesome meal!!
Tip: Better Burger Company is a great place for lunch as its quick and relaxed so I would recommend heading there for lunch over dinner.
With the cold really setting in and the city being so quiet we decided to retreat into a bar.. again! We had searched beer tasting the day before and Barley & Malt had appeared. This is another thing that surprised me about Hamburg, we thought there would be a lot more pubs and we would see steins of beer everywhere but so far we really hadn’t, I guess this isn’t as common in Northern Germany?
Barely & Malt turned out to be an Irish Bar (trust us to find an Irish Bar!), but we were still tempted by its €7.00 craft beer tasting and I’m really glad we did head inside. It was quiet but we enjoyed sitting with a window view of the street, tasting 5 different beers!
Tip: I would really recommend doing the Craft beer tasting in Barley & Malt, especially if you’re on a budget as €7.00 for 5 small beers is good! It probably gets quite busy later on but they don’t allow stag parties which is good. Barley & Malt is also on the same street as Nord Coast Coffee Roastery!
Soon it was dinner time (we definitely lived for meals in Hamburg), the city was still very quiet so we headed randomly in the direction of Landungsbrucken station where we had started the day. Around St Michael’s church we noticed that a lot of restaurants seemed open. We really wanted a true German meal since we hadn’t had one yet, but all of the restaurants seemed to be Portuguese, Spanish, Brazilian and Italian which we thought was strange but as it was so cold we decided to jump into one that looked good. Luigi’s on Ditmar-Koel-Straße street caught our attention for some reason but I’m so glad it did!
Luigi’s is an Italian restaurant, it’s quite dark inside and has pumping music which seemed very out-of-place, especially on a Sunday considering we had experienced such a sleepy Hamburg all day! The rooms weave all the way back and the walls are full of graffiti and art and it’s all very random! The staff were so good and fun – cheeky and charming comes to mind, and the food was rally good, so all in all, we found another gem!
Tip: As I mentioned, we find it really hard to come across what I think of as German food (me being Vegan probably doesn’t help), so I would suggest embracing food from other Countries whilst in Germany, for example Vietnamese from Ban Canteen and Italian from Luigi’s!
And that was the end of our 2 days in Hamburg! We headed back to the hotel, relaxed in the spa for a bit, went to bed and flew back to London Monday morning!
Because Hamburg is on the water, it does get cold! If you can, I would suggest going outside of Winter!
As I mentioned, Sunday was so quiet in the City so heading to Hamburg during the week or a Friday and Saturday might provide a fuller experience. If not, a weekend is fine and maybe its busier on a Sunday when it’s not snowing!
Flights to Hamburg can often be so cheap! We flew there with Ryanair from London Stansted and back with Easyjet to London Luton, our flights were about £50.00 return in total but I have seen flights much cheaper on Skyscanner!
Staying in the centre of Hamburg is best, 25Hotels Hotel in Hafen City is a really good central hotel in Hamburg I have heard!
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I visited Hamburg with Come to Hamburg but all thoughts, opinions and ramblings are my own! Some of the links may contain affiliate links but at no extra cost to you! I want you to save your money for travel!