Located in Northern Germany, the ancient port city of Hamburg has a long and illustrious history going back to the 9th Century. Canals, bridges and harbour-esque architecture dot the city, especially in the southern parts of Hafencity.
Given the position via train, between Dusseldorf and Berlin, I’ve made Hamburg a stopover point on several occasions. Staying just a few nights to enjoy the casual atmosphere, great restaurants and fantastic shopping.
Best time to visit: Spring/Summer. Hamburg gets cold in the winter, and like any city on a lake or ocean, much of the action happens when that water is usable. Visiting in the warmer months will get you great scenery of green and overall a great place to wander the city and explore.
Airport to Jungfernstieg: 30 minutes on the train, HAM >>Jungfernstieg Station. Google Maps.
Nice to know: Moin Moin or simply Moin, is used almost exclusively in the Northern region of Germany, specifically in Hamburg and means, generally, ‘hello’. The word originates from the Scandic languages, which makes sense given Hamburg’s proximity to Scandinavia. You’ll often hear locals in shops and others say a polite ‘Moin’ to each other.
Arriving in Hamburg
I’ve only ever arrived in Hamburg via train since I’m usually going to and from another major city and Hamburg makes a nice stopping point for a few nights.
As with any major city in Germany, train access is the best way to get around the country, both quickly and inexpensively. I personally find riding the train a relaxing procedure and enjoy the sights go whizzing by at 300km h.
The Hamburg Hbf. (main train station) is centrally located and walking too much of the main area of Hamburg around the Alster, the lake that Hamburg surrounds.
Seeing in Hamburg
Hamburg is full of surprises and a history that will keep you entertained around every corner. Architecturally the city is full of both modern and ancient buildings to keep the architecture photographer busy for days.
A Tomas Tip: the transit pass allows you to get on the boats from Hafencity to other points around the harbour, take advantage of this and take a pleasure cruise for a few minutes on one of the boats that go to various locations along the harbour.
The St. Pauli Elbtunnel takes you under the water. Originally built to move people and cars from the port side of the water to the city side, the tunnel is 24m below the surface and was completed in 1911. Make sure you check out this iconic destination, I recommend going to one side then back again, starting and ending on the St. Pauli side, then walking down to the docks to catch the ferry to Hafencity (Ferry Terminal Elbphilharmonie).
Hafencity is the original dock area and is still an active area today. Dotted with modern touches, bridges and old steelwork the area is a photographic dream. Also located in this area are the Westin Hamburg and the 25hours Hotel Hafencity. Enjoy a wander around the area and make sure you stop to capture a photo of the iconic building between the canals from the Poggenmühlen-Brücke bridge.
A Tomas Tip: washrooms are easily and quietly accessible in the 25hours Hotel Hafencity, through the main entrance is an open lobby and cafe-ish area so you usually find a number of people just floating around. Through some doors not far from the main entrance and down some stairs you’ll find a men’s and women’s washroom.
Fancy a walk and some ice cream (Eis, pronounced ‘ice’ in German) with great views of the lake? Great! The Alster is a great place to wander around the bike and walking paths, or even take a boat tour or kayak rental. The main area of the Alster and the greater section of the lake are separated by a car, pedestrian and train bridge.
One side you’ll find a large fountain, the other is more open. Much of the main area of the city surrounds this section of the lake and you can walk along the whole thing along the well-used bike and pedestrian paths. Just be sure to take some water and hope you don’t need to pee since it’ can get a bit difficult to find if you go too far. I recommend having a wander up to East/South side of the lake
Staying in Hamburg
Hamburg is a fairly affluent city, as such, you’ll find large hotel chains from Holiday Inn to Fairmont (the only Fairmont in Europe actually). I prefer to stay close to transit, sights and the general bustle of a city when I visit. Here are a few suggestions if you plan to visit Hamburg.
Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten
As the only Fairmont in Europe, this is somewhat of a special property I’ve had the privilege of staying at. Located on the Alster with lake view and courtyard, the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten, like the city, the hotel too has a fascinating history.
If you have the chance to stay here, try and book a room with a balcony facing the lake. You’ll enjoy a nicely appointed room, complete with all the amenities you’d expect from a Fairmont including a Nespresso machine and comfy queen bed.
Only the rooms on the upper floor have a balcony facing the lake, you can see the slanted roofline highlight these rooms from the street and you’ll soon understand what makes them special. With sweeping views of the lake, you’ll have a place to enjoy the sunshine on your private balcony complete with table, chairs and lounge.
Given the enjoyment of this space, I made a point to have my lunch on the balcony every day. Collecting some food from the ReWe across the lake and bringing it back for consumption and rest before going back out into the city.
For something more modern, chic and less expensive, try Barceló Hamburg. The sleek hotel is located just blocks from the main train station, making it an easy walk to and from if you’re arriving and departing by train.
With transit, shopping and food all within blocks you could exist within a small radius of this hotel, you can even visit the Hamburg Art Gallery (Hamburger Kunsthalle) with just a few minutes walk.
With nightly rates much lower than the illustrious Fairmont you’ll find yourself pleasantly satisfied with the Barcelo. Large and open rooms with modern aesthetic with king beds provide ample space to enjoy yourself when you’re in the room. Fast wi-fi makes staying connected super easy.
Sofitel Hotel Hamburg Alter Wall
The Sofitel Hotel Hamburg Alter Wall, is a great option especially if you’re looking to collect or use points with Accor. The Sofitel Alter Wall is located along one of the many canals in Hamburg with views of the canal and a gorgeous old building that just screams to be Instagrammed.
While this property is a bit further from grocery stores it’s just a hop and a skip from restaurants, transportation and shopping, so much shopping. With brands like TOD’S, Louis Vuitton, RIMOWA, Bally and Scotch & Soda down the street, if you’re into shopping this is the area for you. It’s right close to the first Lululemon in Germany too!
Other Hotel Suggestions
Some may not be right in the thick of it but offer great amenities and comfort.