Hamburg, the second-largest city and the biggest port of Germany is an ideal city break destination. Hamburg, blends in the perfect mix of remarkable architecture, alluring nature and imposing landmarks. Although it is a city always on the move, at the same time, it also has a reposeful aura. The astounding Elbphilharmonie is a perfect example of the modern-day Hamburg, whereas the seagulls screeching in the backdrop reminds you of how close you are to nature. One of my favourite activities in Hamburg was sitting at the harbour and watching the large cruises blowing their foghorns as the gentle morning breeze brushed my face. Here is my 2 days Hamburg Itinerary – Best things to do in Hamburg, Germany.
BEST OF HAMBURG IN 2 DAYS – HOW TO SPEND 48 HOURS IN HAMBURG, GERMANY
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HOW TO REACH HAMBURG
By flight: The simplest and most convenient way to reach Hamburg, is by air. It has an international airport, which is 9 km away from the city centre.
By road: Hamburg is well connected by intercity bus services in Germany and other neighbouring European countries.
Berlin to Hamburg – 289 Km
Hannover to Hamburg – 151 Km
Lübeck to Hamburg – 69 Km
By train: Several high-speed trains (ICE – Inter City Express) run between Hamburg and other German cities. Hamburg is also well connected to other major European cities.
HOW TO TRAVEL WITHIN HAMBURG
The best way to travel within Hamburg is on foot and by using public transport. It consists of city buses, S-Bahn and U-Bahn. The transport system is extensive, and all the tourist attractions are well connected.
If you are travelling to Hamburg by car, I would still suggest exploring the city using public transport. Finding a parking spot at every tourist attraction can prove to be a tedious job, and the parking fee inside the city is costly.
DAY 1 IN HAMBURG
Miniatur Wunderland which literally translates to “Miniature Wonderland” is the largest tourist attraction of Hamburg. It is one of its kind museum in the world, which has the largest model railway display. The museum began its construction in the year 2000, and since then it is growing constantly every year. Some of the theme worlds to look forward to are Scandinavia, Switzerland, Italy and Knuffingen Airport.
What makes Miniatur Wunderland so unique, are the details with which the models are made. The planes at the airport, actually take off. You can see a well-managed parking system, fully equipped airport fire brigade and a lot more. You name it, and the model has it all. Another interesting detail is the transition of time every 15 minutes. It changes from day to night and all the LEDs light up with military precision.
There are small red buttons in front of the models, which are connected to the miniature figures. Once you press them, some of the figures in the model come to action. For example, you can see a blacksmith hammering the metal, the cable car moving uphill, a man boring a hole in the ground and so on.
The entry to Miniature Wunderland is restricted to a time slot provided on your ticket. I highly recommend booking your tickets online to avoid waiting time.
HOW TO REACH: Get down at Baumwall station (U3). Walk 6 to 7 minutes to reach Miniatur Wunderland.
Flusskirche is Germany’s only floating church. The church was consecrated in 1952 and is moored to its current location since 2006. Apart from holding church services and weddings, Flusskirche also hosts cultural events, such as concerts and lectures.
HOW TO REACH: 3-minute walk from Miniature Wunderland
The famous Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg is one of the most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world. The magnificent building is known for its grandeur, splendid glass façade and wave-like rooftop.
The construction of this massive building began in the year 2007 and completed in the year 2016.
The base of the Elbphilharmonie is a former warehouse building, which now holds kaistudios, restaurant, parking place and a long curved escalator. The gorgeous glass structure sits on top of this brick façade building. The Westin Hamburg Hotel, concert halls and 45 luxury residential apartments are located in the glass structure.
From the main entrance of Elbphilharmonie, an 82-meter long escalator takes you to the Plaza. It is a Panoramic viewing platform situated between the old warehouse building and the new glass structure. The Plaza sits at the height of 37 meters above ground level and therefore offers gorgeous 360° views of the city.
The Elbphilharmonie Plaza is open to everyone. Even if you are not a concert goer, you can still enjoy the view from the Plaza, free of charge. Although admission to the Plaza doesn’t cost money, you still need to buy a free of cost ticket at the main entrance. The ticketing system ensures the presence of an only limited number of people at a time. Alternatively you can book your tickets online to the Plaza for 2 Euros.
HOW TO REACH: Nearest station is Baumwall (U3). From Flusskirche, Elbphilharmonie is at walkable distance.
ST. PAULI LANDUNGSBRÜCKEN
St. Pauli Landungsbrücken is a 700 meter long jetty along the river Elbe. In earlier days it was used as a landing stage for steamships. Today several boats, catamarans and ferries start their journey from Landungsbrücken. Apart from serving as a pier, Landungsbrücken is also a significant traffic junction. Both S Bahn and U Bahn has a station at Landungsbrücken by the same name.
The building of the jetty is characterized by two towers, with green domes. The tower on the east shows time and also the water level of river Elbe.
HOW TO REACH: Nearest station is Landungsbrücken (U3, S1 and S3)
OLD ELBE TUNNEL
The Elbe Tunnel which connects the Landungsbrücken pier to the southern banks of Elbe River was Europe’s first river tunnel. It was opened in the year 1911. It is a classic Hamburg landmark, a preserved historic site and a famous tourist attraction.
The square dome at the jetty houses large lifts which carry pedestrians and cyclists to the 24 meters deep and 426-meter long tunnel. The technical masterpiece attracts thousands of people from around the world.
For more than 100 years Hamburg residents have used the tunnel to go from one side of the river Elbe to the other. The freight lifts operate from 6 AM to 8 PM on weekdays and from 10 AM to 6 PM on weekends. The glass passenger lift functions round the clock and takes you to the tunnel free of cost.
HOW TO REACH: 2 minute walk from Landungsbrücken station (U3, S1 and S3)
Reeperbahn, a red light district is one of the most famous streets of Hamburg. But there is more to Reeperbahn, than just a red light district. It is also recognised for its nightlife and is known as the party hub of the city.
Reeperbahn is full of restaurants, cabarets, bars, theatres, galleries and nightclubs. Some of the famous must-sees include the Beatles monument and the Panoptikum wax figure museum. In the early 1960s, The Beatles performed at various clubs in Reeperbahn during their struggling period. To commemorate the importance of Hamburg in the life of “The Beatles”, a plaza was named after them. It is called Beatles Platz.
HOW TO REACH: Nearest station is Reeperbahn (S1 and S3)
DAY 2 IN HAMBURG
Chilehaus, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a famous ten-story building in Hamburg. Henry Brarens Sloman built the famous landmark and Fritz Höger designed it.
Henry Brarens Sloman left Hamburg for Chile in the year 1869, as a broke man. He set up a saltpetre factory in Chile and returned to Hamburg as a rich man in 1889. After few years of living in Hamburg, he bought the land and created the famous Chile house using 4.8 million bricks.
The pointed building is an eye-catcher due to its resemblance to a passenger’s ship. The eastward pointing protruding tip of the building is the sharpest angle of its type in Europe.
HOW TO REACH: Nearest stations are Meßberg (U1) and Mönckebergstraße (U3)
Speicherstadt in Hamburg is a warehouse district, the largest of its kind in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since July 2015.
The buildings in Speicherstadt stand on thousands of oak and timber pile foundation. The beautiful neo-gothic buildings of Speicherstadt are in sharp contrast to the modern-day buildings, constructed using steel and glass. The charming brick buildings and a network of canals and bridges make a visit to Speicherstadt remarkably unique and extraordinary.
HOW TO REACH: Nearest stations are Baumwall (U3), Meßberg (U3) and Überseequartier (U4). Speicherstadt is at walkable distance from Chilehaus.
Rathaus (The City Hall) is an impressive building in the heart of the city. It is not only majestic from the outside but the inside too.
You don’t have to hold a seat in the senate to visit Rathaus, as it is open to visitors. The tours are available in German, English and a few other languages. The imposing hall and ballroom are especially a must-visit.
The Hygieia Fountain, located in the courtyard of Rathaus, stands for health and hygiene. The fountain was built to commemorate the last Cholera epidemic in Hamburg when thousands of people lost their lives.
Rathausmarkt, considerable space in front of Rathaus is a popular venue for markets, concerts and fairs. If you are lucky enough to visit Hamburg around Christmas, you can enjoy a delightful Christmas Market at Rathausmarkt.
HOW TO REACH: Nearest stops are Rathaus (U3) and Jungfernstieg (U2, S1 and S3). Or you can walk for 10 to 15 minutes from Speicherstadt to reach Rathaus.
ST. NIKOLAI MEMORIAL
St. Nikolai Memorial houses a World War II museum and the ruins of the former St. Nikolai Church. It was the tallest building in the world from 1874 to 1876. Today it is the second tallest building in Hamburg.
The church was considerably destroyed in a series of air raids during the World War II, but the spire remained moderately unharmed. Today the same spire houses a glass lift, which takes the passengers to a viewing platform at the height of 76 meters. The viewing platform provides a bird’s eye view of the city.
The church’s crypt has a museum dedicated to World War II victims, and it also exhibits the history of the church from the medieval era to the current time. Photographs, documents, videos and audios display a gripping overview of life in Hamburg during World War II.
HOW TO REACH: Take a walk of 5 to 7 minutes from Rathaus to reach St. Nikolai Memorial. Nearest stations are Rathaus (U3), Rödingsmarkt (U3) and Stadthausbrücke (S1)
ST. MICHAEL’S CHURCH
St. Michael’s is the largest church in Hamburg with a seating capacity of up to 2500 people. It is the most famous landmark of Hamburg. 132-meter tall distinctive copper helmet tower makes the church omnipresent from almost all the locations in Hamburg.
The intricate white and gold interior makes it one of the most beautiful baroque churches in Northern Germany. The 1.50-meter tall copper statue of Archangel Michael is another distinctive feature of the church.
Another must-have experience at St. Michael’s is climbing 452 steps to reach the 82-meter high observation deck. From here a great view of the city and the harbour can be enjoyed. You can also take the elevator if climbing the stairs sounds daunting to you.
HOW TO REACH: Take a walk of 15 minutes from St. Nikolai Memorial to reach St. Michael’s Church. Nearest stations are Rödingsmarkt (U3) and Stadthausbrücke (S1).
Außenalster (Outer Alster) and Binnenalster (Inner Alster) are two artificial lakes in Hamburg. The outer Alster is the larger body of the two lakes. Two bridges(Kennedy Bridge and Lombard Bridge), separate the two lakes . River Alster was dammed in the 12th century, leading to the creation of the two lakes.
Today the lakes have become an essential part of the life in Hamburg. Historic buildings, Cafes, Restaurants and Green spaces dot the lakes. A 35-meter tall fountain at the centre of Inner Alster makes for a nifty travel photo backdrop. At Alster, you can take a leisure stroll around the lake, engage in watersports or simply relax under a tree. There is no better way to end your 2-day itinerary than enjoying a picturesque sunset at the Alster Lakes.
HOW TO REACH: Nearest station is Jungfernstieg (S1, S2, S3 and U1, U2)
BEST TOURS TO TAKE IN HAMBURG
Hamburg walking tour : There is no better way to know a city than exploring it on foot. Enjoy this informative tour for less than 3 Euros. This tour is perfect for all those people who like to learn about the stories that Hamburg has to tell while admiring its beauty. Book your tickets here.
Reeperbahn Guided Tour : Visiting Reeperbahn all by yourself for a first-time visitor can be an overwhelming experience. Take a public or a private tour and let your guide introduce you to the sinful mile. Book your tickets here.
Hamburg Hop-on/ Hop-off Bus and Boat tour : Want to explore Hamburg by both land and water? Look no more because this tour allows you to experience the attractions with a hop-on/ hop-off bus service. Tour the city at your own pace. At the end of your day, enjoy a boat ride and marvel at the beauty of the city from the river. Book your tickets here.
IS THE HAMBURG CARD WORTH IT?
Hamburg Card is a tourist card which allows unlimited travel on buses, trains and harbour ferries in Hamburg. With this card, you also get some discount on tickets to major tourist attractions. Hamburg card is valid from 1 to 5 days. You can also buy a group ticket for up to 5 people.
With the above itinerary, I did not feel the need to buy the card as I walked to most of the places. You can use single journey tickets to reach places which are not at walkable distance. If you are not a big fan of walking and would like to use public transport to reach from one place to another, then you should definitely buy it. Buy your Hamburg Card here.
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