Hamburg Travel Guide
Hamburg's bubbly energy is displayed in everything from the emerging HafenCity to the cutting-edge fashion design and its humming nightlife to its reinvigorated dining. This northern Germany city is also a watery one, criss-crossed by canals, sidling the River Elbe and wrapping around a lake. You'll undoubtedly enjoy its beauty, but this cosmopolitan city also prizes its musicals, nightclubs, shopping and unparalleled Fish Market. For travelers interested in a German vacation, Hamburg might ... continue»
See all Top Things to Do in Hamburg»
See the Best Hotels in Hamburg»
The best time to visit Hamburg is the months between May and September when warm weather sweeps through the city. This also means that room rates are high, flights are packed and swells of tourists pour in. For fewer crowds and potentially lower hotel prices (room rates remain pretty steady year-round), visit in the fall. The weather will be brisk with temperatures in the 50s and 60s, but the benefits might be worth the chill.Best Times to Visit Hamburg»
The Alster lakes sit in the northeast of the nearly 300-square-mile city of Hamburg, and the majority of Hamburg's most popular neighborhoods are located to the south or west of the convergence of the Aussenalster (Outer Alster) and Binnenalster (Inner Alster) lake.
Accessible via the Mönckebergstraße, Jungfernstieg and Stephansplatz U-Bahn stations.
Hamburg's city center (also known as the downtown district or Central Hamburg) is located south of Alster Lake. One of the districts major arteries -- the Neuer Jungfernstieg -- contains the Colonnaden, a popular corridor of shops and cafés. Another main street, the Jungfernsteig, is also lined with designer boutiques and jewelry stores.
Also housed in this area is the uber-modern opera house, Hamburgische Staatsoper; the Hamburger Kunsthalle museum, with numerous pieces from the German Romantic period; the Laeiszhalle, which houses the Hamburg Philharmonic and the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra; and the neo-Renaissance Rathaus government building.
According to Fodor's, "Downtown was heavily bombarded during World War II, so many of the buildings here were constructed after the war, but many red-brick historic 19th-century warehouses, city mansions and historic landmarks have been restored to their old splendor and now house banks, insurance companies, and other big businesses."
Accessible via the Rödingsmarkt and Baumwall U-Bahn stations.
South of Hamburg's city center is the Harbour neighborhood (or Historic Hamburg), a district that rests on the northern banks of the River Elbe and greets sailors aboard the more than 1,500 ships that pull into the harbor, monthly.
A number of churches nestle off the Harbour's cobblestone streets, namely St. Michaeliskirche (Church of St. Michael) and St. Katharinenkirche (Church of St. Catharine). Both were constructed in the 17th-century, suffered major blows during the bombings of World War II and were reconstructed in the later 20th-century.
Accessible via the Baumwall U-Bahn station.
Just south of the Harbour, Sherman's Travel calls HafenCity, "Europe's largest construction site," since its currently undergoing major construction, due for completion in 2011, according to the Architectural Record. However, the finished project will contain warehouses converted into trendy shops, restaurants and apartments, and also a new concert hall, called the Elbphilharmonie.
Accessible via the St. Pauli U-Bahn station.
Maybe you've tried St. Pauli Girl beer -- the German beer with a busty blond on the label? Well, the St. Pauli district, located to the west of the city center, is an even more brazen interpretation of the St. Pauli Girl. Travelers with young ones beware: Along the Reeperbahn, a street that's the district's main attraction, you'll find sex shops, striptease shows and more X-rated entertainment.
Accessible via the Altona S-Bahn station.
Just west of St. Pauli is a smaller area called Altona, which is most notable for its open-air Fish Auction Hall and Market. Open on Sundays early to catch the late-night partiers and the early birds, the Fish Auction Hall and Market sells fresh fish, among other goods, including flowers, produce, antiques and German bratwursts.
Accessible via the Blankenese S-Bahn station.
Blankenese is located west of Altona, also on the banks of the River Elbe. You can travel to Blankenese by foot on the about six-mile Elbchausee, which is known for its picturesque charm. About Blankenese, Travel Channel says, "Famous for its white fishing huts, historic country residences, parks, gardens, views of the River Elbe and its winding paths and narrow stairways, this is a favorite haunt for locals and visitors alike."
Schanzenviertel & Karolinenviertel
Accessible via the Sternschanze, Feldstraße and Messehallen U-Bahn stations.
The districts of Schanzenviertel and Karolinenviertel are north of St. Pauli and are known as a multicultural area, complete with a varied array of ethnic bars, shops and restaurants.
Pöseldorf & Harvestehude
Accessible via Hallerstraße and Hoheluftbrücke U-Bahn stations.
North of the city center and on the western banks of the Aussenalster (Outer Alster) lake, Pöseldorf rests as an upscale residential district. Opulent villas and 19th-century townhouses line the streets of Pöseldorf and Harvestehude, which flock with Hamburg's famous and/or fashionable. Travel Channel says, "Everything is extremely trendy, which has led to the district being christened 'Schnöseldorf' ('Little Snot's Town') by locals."
Accessible via Eppendorfer Baum U-Bahn station.
North of Pöseldorf and Harvestehude is Eppendorf, another tasteful residential district. Sherman's Travel says, "Art nouveau buildings line the streets of this university neighborhood where everything from shopping to eating tends to be deliciously eccentric and offbeat." Don't miss out on the open-air market, Isemarkt, which sells flowers, produce and other foods.
Accessible via Hauptbahnhof Süd and Berliner Tor U-Bahn stations.
St. Georg is located northeast of the city center and is known as Hamburg's gay and alternative district. Filled with gay-friendly nightclubs and cafés, St. Georg is also the site of the yearly Christopher Street Day parade.
Be weary of pickpockets, especially in and around the Reeperbahn area. Women traveling alone should also take particular care when touring this area after dark.
If you're planning to swim in the Elbe River, writers warn of strong undercurrents and large waves (from passing ships) that can pull you under. You can also take a dip in the Outer Alster Lake, but keep in mind its relatively shallow depth (six feet in some areas to 16 feet in others).
The best way to get around in Hamburg is 1) by foot and 2) by the city’s extensive and super competent public transportation system. A suburban train (S-Bahn), a subway (U-Bahn) or a bus can take you everywhere your own two feet cannot. In fact, the system can even take you from Hamburg Airport (HAM) into the city center with relative ease and for only a few euro. Taxis are also available, and rental cars -- though an option -- are not recommended.Getting Around Hamburg»