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I just got back from a weekend in Hamburg and I know it won’t be my last. I’m here to share my tried-and-tested Hamburg itinerary so you can plan the perfect 2 days in Hamburg, Germany.
I love the diversity of Hamburg. As somewhere that was once a seaport and the heart of
Being northern Germany and a far cry from traditional Bavaria, you won’t see so many of the adorable timber-framed houses that you might associate with the country. The red brick warehouses and many, many canals actually made me think more of Manchester than Munich or Nuremberg! The waterways and quirky areas also reminded me of Copenhagen.
Accommodation: Booking.com / Hostelworld
Copy of Lonely Planet Hamburg
Getting there: flight (Skyscanner), train (RailEurope), bus (Flixbus)
That’s not to say there’s nothing traditional about the city: there are plenty of churches in the old town and lots of typical German foods to try. However catch a U-Bahn train a couple of stops and you’ll be in the heart of hipster Sternschanze with street art galore.
The shady red light district, St Pauli, gives the city a different dimension again. I’ll fill you in on the main areas of this diverse city before discussing what to do and see. Enjoy!
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Best season for a weekend in Hamburg
There’s no bad season to visit Hamburg, it really just depends on how much you can withstand the cold.
Average temperatures in January are around 0°C, while August can reach 30°C.
There are plenty of things to do in Hamburg in winter so wrap up warm and continue as normal.
Where to stay during a weekend in Hamburg
Anywhere in Aldstadt (Old Town) is a perfect location. Personally, I loved our location of Deichstraße as it was so cute and traditional, plus close to HafenCity as well as the old town sights.
Check your distance from the Reeperbahn/St Pauli area. Although these are cool and vibrant areas, I’d feel sorry for anyone wanting a nice mini-break and ending up above a strip club!
As usual, I’d recommend Hostelworld and Booking.com for finding hostels and hotels.
Hostels in Hamburg:
- For a homey hostel with 24-hour reception, free Wi-Fi, bikes for hire and a bar, go for Generator Hamburg. Check availability from €20.
- If you’re after a bright and clean hostel in stylish Sternschanze, opt for Pyjama Park Schanzenviertel. Check availability from €20.
Hotels in Hamburg:
- Budget: Superbude Hotel Altona has comfy rooms, a roof terrace and an onsite restaurant. Check availability from €65.
- Boutique: 25hours Hotel Altes Hafenamt has quirky, individually-designed rooms near stylish HafenCity. Check availability from €130.
- Treat: The George is right on the river and has a rooftop bar, sauna library and garden. Check availability from €110.
- Apartment: Eric Vökel Boutique Apartments are a 4-minute walk from Hamburg Central Station with a TV, living room and a fully equipped kitchen. Check availability from €110.
Getting to Hamburg
By air: Hamburg International Airport is 11km from the city. I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates.
Getting from the airport: Take a 30-minute ride on the S1 U-Bahn line. Get off at Jungfernstieg station rather than Hauptbahnhof (central station) as it’s actually closer to the city.
By train: Hamburg is well connected to other German cities and European capitals. Search trains to & from Hamburg on RailEurope.
By bus: You can also arrive and depart by Flixbus. Journies to Berlin start from €3! Search buses to & from Hamburg.
Top tip – to compare prices & durations of flights, trains and buses, use Omio.
Getting around Hamburg
Hamburg is a very walkable city but there’s also reliable public transport available should you need it.
Metro: The S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains are regular and easy to navigate, covering Hamburg and much of the surrounding area. Buy tickets in the station prior to boarding.
Cycle: Hamburg is a bike-friendly city. Unlock red StadtRAD bicycles via the mobile app.
Hop-on bus & boat: For a fun, tourist-friendly way to get around, get a combo pass for the hop-on-hop-off bus and water cruise.
By car: To explore further afield, hire a car from Hamburg Airport with Rentalcars.com. For an environmentally-friendly alternative, use carpooling service, BlaBlaCar.
Consider getting a Hamburg Card which includes unlimited transport and discounts on 150 Hamburg attractions.
2 days in Hamburg – best areas
These are a few of the top Hamburg neighbourhoods to check out.
The Altstadt: The Old Town is where you’ll find all the historical attractions like the Town Hall and various churches.
Deichstraße: Right in the heart of the Altstadt, this is the oldest (and prettiest) street in Hamburg and, in my opinion, the best place to be based. We had an awesome apartment here during our 2 days in Hamburg and it was within walking distance to most of the main attractions and two U-Bahn stations.
St Pauli: Prepare yourself for St Pauli; as the red light district it’s quite the contrast to the pretty old town. The area is worth a wander to get a better understanding of the city and explore the Beatles history. Take a walking tour led by local drag queen.
Sternschanze: This is hipster Hamburg with lots of street art and quirky shops and cafes. You’ll feel like you’re in Shoreditch or Berlin. Take a food & sightseeing tour with a local guide.
Speicherstadt: The old warehouse area of Hamburg is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the biggest warehouse district in the world. Take a Speicherstadt cycling tour or visit at night when it’s all lit up.
HafenCity: The newest area of the city, HafenCity is set around the port and Speicherstadt warehouses. The new elements of the area include Elbphilharmonie, the futuristic development and
Top 5 activities in Hamburg
- City centre and Speicherstadt cycling tour
- Beatles music and history walking tour
- Haunted Hamburg ghost tour
- Craft beer walking tour
- Evening lights boat cruise
Weekend in Hamburg itinerary
Let’s dive into the best places to visit during 2 days in Hamburg. We’ll explore the main areas during day one and get more immersed in cool neighbourhoods during day two.
Hamburg itinerary – day 1
We began our weekend in Hamburg by exploring the Aldstadt (old city) and HafenCity, the newest and most modern part of Hamburg, for contrast.
Since we were staying on Hamburg’s oldest street, Deichstraße, we began with brunch at Nord Coast Coffee Roastery. I can vouch for the pancakes and smoothie bowls here.
Take a free walking tour – 11am or 2pm
We continued our Hamburg itinerary with a Sandermans walking tour. This was a great intro to the city because our guide shared facts with us that we wouldn’t have known otherwise.
We started at the Town Hall, got a feel for the crazy architecture and saw a heartbreaking memorial for the city’s 42,000 citizens lost to WWII bombings.
Related activity: Hamburg WWII history tour
Go up the Elbphilharmonie building
The Hamburgers apparently aren’t huge fans of their new €789 million neighbour. You can see the shiny roof from all over Hamburg, adding a 21st century feel to the city.
Its purpose? A concert hall, tourist attraction, hotel and block of flats.
For tourists, you can visit for free by collecting a ticket and catching an escalator to the viewing deck which runs around the outside. The glass surfaces make for some artsy photo opportunities.
I’m not sure whether I’m a fan but I’m glad we included it in our 2 day Hamburg itinerary.
Related activity: secrets of Elbphilharmonie evening tour with a local
Take a cruise around the harbour
Continue your HafenCity explorations the best way: by boat!
A few ways to do this include:
Afternoon – Walk the bridges
Did you know Hamburg has more bridges than Venice and Amsterdam combined?
Walk from the Aldstadt to HafenCity or vice versa and you’ll see plenty adorned with love locks.
Feel inspired on the ‘Art Mile’
To add some culture to your Hamburg weekend, visit the museums on the Art Mile. A Kunstmeile Pass will let you visit all five for €36.
Instead, we just picked one: the Museum for Arts & Crafts which was right up my street with East Asian and Middle Eastern Art.
Evening – St Pauli & Reeperbahn
For a true taste of multi-faceted Hamburg, you can’t miss edgy St Pauli neighbourhood.
Beatles Platz: Fans of the famous four will want to pay homage at this square dedicated to the band. They regularly played in Hamburg and John Lennon famously said ‘I might have been born in Liverpool – but I grew up in Hamburg’.
Personally, I found the square underwhelming but I think this is because I didn’t learn any of the history. Take a walking tour to learn about the Beatles history: you don’t learn any facts by seeing the square alone.
Bars and nightlife: Although the red light district is a bit of a culture shock, the Reeperbahn is one of the best places in Hamburg for bars and clubs. A great way to visit without feeling overwhelmed is with a guide. Try a bar crawl with drinks (10.30pm) or browse more Reeperbahn tours to learn from diverse Hamburg locals.
If you’d prefer to visit in the daytime, take a 1.30pm walking tour with a local drag queen!
Dinner in Hamburg
There are lots of awesome dinner spots in Hamburg including Kartoffelkeller (translating as Potato Cellar) for hearty, carby German food.
If you fancy somewhere a little more hipster, visit Otto’s Burger in cool Sternschanze district.
Beer fans can explore the Hamburg craft beer scene at venues including Landgang Brauerei and ÜberQuell. For a fun afternoon activity, why not try a craft beer walking tour?
Keen to explore the best food in Hamburg with a guide? Browse Hamburg food tours.
Hamburg itinerary – day 2
For our second day in Hamburg, we’re going to leave the city centre behind and explore the riverside and hipster districts.
Since Hamburg is such a quirky city, it would be a shame to miss these neighbourhoods. They really add to the city’s culture.
Get up early for the Sunday Fischmarkt
For a vibey addition to your Hamburg itinerary, head to this famous morning market on the banks of the river. It’s renowned for opening at the same time as the bars close meaning clubbers head to the Fischmarkt for breakfast.
Alternatively, do what we did and get up early to arrive by 9am and explore before it closes at 9.30am. It’s still worth a visit for non-fish fans as there are loads of souvenirs and craft stalls as well as pastries and coffee.
Visit the Fischmarkt if you want to try Northern German cuisine during your weekend in Hamburg. Sample famous fischbrötchen AKA a fish sandwich or, that’s a bit much for the morning, tuck into a cinnamon pastry known as franzbrötchen.
Related read: the 30 best German dishes to try
Peek into the Elbe Tunnel
Another iconic Hamburg sight, the Elbe Tunnel runs under the river and connects the central city with the dockyards. It’s just 10 minutes walking from the Fischmarket making it a natural next stop for your Hamburg itinerary.
We didn’t walk the whole thing (it’s almost 2 miles long) and instead popped in to take some photos near Landungsbrücken station.
Climb St Michael’s Church tower
St Michael’s Church is one of Hamburg’s five most important churches and without doubt the most popular with tourists. The inside of the church is lovely but the highlight was catching the lift to the top tower where you’ll get a fantastic view out over the city.
During a Hamburg weekend trip, you can visit the evening bar open on Fridays and Saturdays.
Try pronouncing this mouthful! No seriously, can you? I can’t.
Hamburg isn’t home to as many traditional German timber houses as Bavaria but you’ll find this tiny, windy street full of them close to St Michael’s Church.
Sternschanze for quirky shops and street art
In the afternoon, catch the metro (or walk for 30 minutes) over to the coolest part of Hamburg.
Sternschanze is known for its cosy cafes, restaurants, bars, regular flea markets and street art. You’ll find lots dotted around Sternschanze so keep an eye out as you peruse the quirky shops in the area.
Suggested activity: food & sightseeing Sternschanze tour
Sunset view at Skyline Bar 20up
Head to Empire Riverside Hotel and catch the lift 20 floors to Skyline Bar 20up.
Prices are steep so my family and I each had a small $6 beer and nursed it for over an hour. Gotta do what you gotta do!
Extra activities for a weekend Hamburg
If you are looking to fill empty space while seeing Hamburg in 2 days or one of the above activities doesn’t appeal to you, consider the following…
Relax at Alster Lake
Because of the -5 degree weather during our winter Hamburg trip, we gave this activity a miss. However, I hear that these manmade lakes near the city centre are beautiful in spring and summer. You can run, walk or cycle around the lake path or enjoy activities on the water itself.
From March to October, you can explore Alster Lake by pedallo or boat cruise. Book an Alster lake cruise.
To get there, take the S1, S2, S3, U1 or U2 to Jungfernstieg station.
The Wunderland is the world’s largest model railway but it’s also a mini version of most of the planet. Admire Venice and New York in intricate detail. Entry costs €20 and it’s open from 7.30am-11pm.
Where to eat during a Hamburg weekend trip
I had so many great meals and coffees in Hamburg I wrote a separate blog about them.
From hipster eats to traditional potato and fish dishes, you won’t leave the city feeling hungry. Check out my Hamburg food guide for everything to eat.
Traditional foods to try in Hamburg:
- Fischbrötchen – the ultimate fish sandwich
- Labskaus – a corned beef dish with onion, beetroot a fried egg and side of pickled herring
- Aalsuppe – eel soup
- Franzbrötchen – a sweet pastry made with cinnamon
- Rote Grütze – red berries served with cream or vanilla sauce.
Let me know if you try any of these traditional Hamburg dishes. I think it’s fair to say only the last two sound particularly appetising!
Thanks for reading my weekend Hamburg itinerary
I hope you have a fantastic 2 days in Hamburg, see the sights and eat all the
Check out my other Germany posts:
- A complete Hamburg food guide
- A complete guide to Munich
- The best things to do in Nuremberg
- How and why to visit Nuremberg Castle
- How to spend a day in Wurzburg
- Quirky things to do in Berlin
See you next time for more adventures,
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TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR VISITING GERMANY
Getting around by air – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.
Driving in Europe – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in European countries (and all around the world).
For trains, I use RailEurope. The search feature allows you to compare prices, and they show live departure times on the website.
For buses, I use FlixBus. Find journeys between European countries from €1!
Use Omio to compare trains and buses in one search. It’s so handy!
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s some of the most affordable insurance out there but still covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!