Hamburg is one of those cities that is big enough to have plenty to do to fill your time, but small enough so that you can see a lot in a few days. If you can only spend 48 hours in Hamburg, maybe for a long weekend or during a tour around Germany, this guide to your Hamburg Itinerary will give you ideas of things to do in Hamburg.
With only 48 hours in Hamburg, you won’t want to spend too much time travelling from one place to the other, so I have grouped Hamburg things to do together and you can walk between them.
READ MORE: Hamburg Cruise Days 2019
Disclosure: I was hosted by the VisitHamburg Tourist Board, however, all views, opinions and photos are my own and remain the copyright of The Silver Nomad
How To Get To Hamburg
From the UK, the easiest way to get to Hamburg is by flying directly into Hamburg Airport. There are daily flights from most British airports. Check Skyscanner for a route.
The public transport links to the airport are excellent. The station for the S1 rapid transit railway is right under the terminal and takes you right into the centre of Hamburg. Trains are every 10 minutes from 6 am until 11 pm. For early morning and late-night flights, the trains leave every 20 minutes from 4.33 am and the last one leaves at 00:13 am at night.
As the Airport station is the end of the line, it doesn’t matter which train you get on, they will all be going to the centre of the city. Just look for the green “S” sign. The ticket machines take coins, notes and cards and give change.
How To Get Around During Your 48 hours in Hamburg
The best way to get around during your 2 days in Hamburg is by walking, hiring a StadtRAD Hamburg or using public transport.
Buying a Hamburg Card will save you money, give you unlimited transport on the trains, buses, harbour ferries and includes airport transfers. The Hamburg Card also gives you discount into various museums, sights, cafes and restaurants.
You can buy your Hamburg Card in advance so you have it ready when you arrive. It can be printed off, as an SMS on your phone or bought using the Hamburg App, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Part 1: A walk around HafenCity and Spiecherstadt
The Spiecherstadt represents over 125 years of Hamburg’s commercial area and behind the red brick facades, the warehouses used to store coffee, cocoa and spices. Since 2003 the area has been redeveloped into museums, exhibitions, coffee shops and restaurants. In 2015 the area, along with the ‘Chilehaus’ was named as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to their universal significance.
HafenCity is just south of Spiecherstadt and is a new city centre district with homes, offices, shopping, culture and leisure.
1: Discovery Docks – Let’s see how the docks work
If you have ever wondered what goes on at a working dock, welcome to the virtual reality world of Hamburg Docks at Discovery Docks. Interactive, state-of-the-art with projections and simulations, it brings to harbour to live with this digital experience.
After a short video about the docks, you are taken into the main room which is darkened, to begin with. In the middle is an illuminated model of Hamburg docks showing the movement of ships and vehicles around the port.
As the lights come up, you will see around the rest of the room there are various stations where you can watch and listen about wildlife, put on VR goggles and view under the hull of a ship, sit and using the controls move containers on and off ships virtually. There is so much to do and interact with that the time whizzes by.
Opening Times: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm (you should arrive 15 minutes before your allotted time)
Time needed: 1 hour
Address: Am Kaiserkai 60, 20457 Hamburg
2: Elbphilharmonie Plaza – phenomenal views over the Elbe and much more
The iconic Elbphilharmonie stands tall and proud above the harbour. A blend of a concert hall, hotel, residential accommodation, a restaurant, a shop and the amazing viewing deck.
After buying your ticket, take the 82-metre curved escalator up through the floors to the outside walkway and viewing deck of the Elphilharmonie and take in the panoramic 360° views over the city and port.
It is a spectacular building inside and out with sweeping curves, floor to ceiling glass walls and from the outside the glass on top of the old brick warehouse looks like sails, waves or even icebergs.
Opening Times: 9:00 am – 11:00 pm
Time needed: 1 hour plus
Address: Platz der Deutschen Einheit 1, 20457 Hamburg
Don’t miss: Just outside the Elphilharmonie Plaza, is a piece of graffiti-covered wall. It might be dismissed as a weird bit of sculpture, but actually it is a piece of the Berlin Wall!
3: Miniatur Wunderland
You may think that visiting a miniature railway sounds like something for kids, but welcome to the magical world of Miniatur Wunderland. Travel around the world and visit Switzerland, Hamburg, Venice, Scandinavia, Austria, the USA visit parks, funfairs and watch planes land, taxi and take off at the Knuffingen Airport, all in miniature.
Miniatur Wunderland is the largest Model Railway in the World covering over 1,490 square metres with over 260,000 figures, 389,000 lights, 9,250 moving vehicles, 1040 trains and locomotives and 40 planes up in the air.
Every 15 minutes, day and night are simulated, so you see streetlights coming on and buildings light up at night. In the Hamburg section, the model of the Elbphilharmonie opens up the Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev to reveal the audience inside.
Everywhere things are happening, and the attention to detail is amazing. It is one of Hamburg’s major attractions and is expanding (currently they are working on a South America section). It is well worth a visit, whatever age you are.
Opening Times: times change, so please check the website for details
Time needed: 1 hour plus
Address: Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg, Kehrwieder 2, 20457 Hamburg
4: Soak up the Maritime History of Hamburg at the Maritime Museum
Housed in one of the oldest warehouses in Hamburg, Kaispeicher B, the International Maritime Museum covers 10 floors of history, objects and interactive exhibits that bring the maritime world to life.
Each floor – or deck – has a different theme: explore the world of navigation from the times of Columbus and Magellan to modern-day GPS systems on Deck 1: Voyages of Discovery; or admire the uniforms, weapons, medals and different insignia on Deck 4: Serving on Board; If you are into maritime art, head to Deck 8: Art Collection with maritime art spanning over 400 hundred years.
Don’t miss the Lego model of the Queen Mary 2 – almost one million Lego blocks were used to build it!
Opening Times: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm daily
Time needed: 1 hour plus
Address: Koreastrasse 1, Kaispeicher B, 20457 Hamburg
5: Take a Boat Trip – admire the city from the water
One of the best ways to see the architecture around the docks and harbour area is to take a boat trip. Sail through the canals and admire the scenery while listening to the tour guide describe what you are seeing.
Part 2: Take a Stroll Around the City Centre
Hamburg City Centre has a mix of architecture combining the old and the new; shopping; culture; restaurants; department stores and even a lake to sit by.
6: Hamburg’s Impressive Rathaus (City Hall)
With 647 rooms, built in sandstone, the Rathaus (City Hall) stands in the Rathausmarkt. The Rathaus is the seat of Hamburg’s government and where the parliament and senate assemble.
You can join a guided tour around the Rathaus Hamburg’s City Hall and visit exhibitions housed inside. Don’t miss the beautiful fountain in the inner courtyard.
Open Hours: Mon-Sun from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Address: Rathausmarkt 1, 20095 Hamburg
Website: Hamburg City Hall
7: Stumble Stones – Stolpersteine Art Project
Outside the City Hall, there are 20 concrete square cobbles. They are slightly raised and, yes you could stumble on them. Part of a Europe wide art project to commemorate the victims of the Nazi regime who used to live or work at the buildings.
Each cobblestone has a brass plaque engraved with the name, dates of birth and death. There are around 5,000 in Hamburg, a sombre reminder. The cobbles commemorating the members of the Hamburg Parliament legislative assembly are in front of the City Hall. In Grindelhof Street, the 18 teachers of a Jewish school are remembered on the cobblestones there.
8: Kontorhaus District
The Kontorhaus District was built expressly for office use, which you may think is quite uninteresting, but the architecture is amazing. The UNESCO Heritage Site in Hamburg includes the impressive Chilehaus in the Kontor District. The design of the building, which is 10 storey high, is reminiscent of the bow of a ship.
9: Alster Lake and Jungfernstieg
In the middle of Hamburg, close to the City Hall, is the beautiful Inner Alster lake. A relaxing place where you can take a coffee, eat your lunch, maybe even join a boat trip, or just watch the world go by.
The Outer Alster is a tranquil space surrounded by trees, parks where you can relax, have a walk or try paddleboarding, boating, canoeing or kayaking for the more adventurous.
10: Visit St Michael’s Church
The baroque St Michael’s church has had its fair share of calamities; a lightning strike, fire and heavily bombed during WWII all took its toll on the church. The interior has five different organs and 20-metre high altar.
The church has an aged copper roof and up the 132-metre tall tower hangs Germany’s largest clock bell. Lower down in the clock tower, at 106 metres, is the observation deck where the awesome panoramic views of Hamburg and its harbour are revealed to you.
Address: Englische Planke 1, 20459 Hamburg
11: Take a tour with Hamburg City Cycle
If you fancy a bit of exercise while you explore the city, you can either hire a bike or join a tour with Hamburg City Cycle. Their most popular ‘Hamburg Compact’ tour includes Outer Alster lake, the town hall, St. Michel’s Church, Speicherstadt, HafenCity and St. Pauli.
Time needed: 3 to 3.5 hours
Address: Koreastrasse 1, Kaispeicher B, 20457 Hamburg
12: Saturday Night, time to hit the Reeperbahn
Ah the Reeperbahn, primarily known for its red-light district, the Reeperbahn has shaken off the really sleazy image and now is so much more. Filled with bars, restaurants, nightclubs as well as art galleries, theatres and cabaret clubs, sit and watch the world go by or join in the fun.
Look out for the Beatles monument, the Panoptikum waxwork museum and the Spielbudenplatz in the centre.
If you do want to explore the sex establishments, head to Herbertstraße just off the Reeperbahn; for ladies and minors, the street is a no-go zone for rather obvious reasons!
13: The Beatles in Hamburg
In August 1960, The Beatles played their first gig in Hamburg at the Indra Club. The club is in Große Freiheit Street, just off the Reeperbahn and is still open today.
On the corner of Große Frieheit Street and the Reeperbahn is Beatles-Platz. Shaped like a vinyl record, the circular, black-paved plaza is engraved with the titles of The Beatles’ most famous songs.
There are also silver steel silhouettes of the Beatles which make an excellent photo opportunity.
14: Sunday Morning: St Pauli Fischmarkt
Now you wouldn’t normally get up early on a Sunday morning to go to a market, but I highly recommend an early start to visit St Pauli Fischmarkt.
Join the late-night revellers from the Reeperbahn and have a fish sandwich in the main Market building while drinking hot coffee, or a beer if it takes your fancy while listening to one of the bands playing. The market opens at 5am during the summer or a more civilised 7am in the winter.
Outside the main building are all the stalls. From fruit and veg, clothing, souvenirs to flowers, and yes even fish, you can find it all at the market.
Summer (April — October) Sundays 5:00 a.m. — 9:30 a.m.
Winter (November — March): Sundays 7:00 a.m. — 9:30 a.m.
Address: Altona, Hamburg
Public Transport: U3 to Landungsbrücken or S1 and S3 to Reeperbahn
3 Recommended Hotels for your 48 hours in Hamburg
Keeping you within walking distance of most of the attractions mentioned, I have chosen 3 hotels that I have either stayed at or have been recommended to me.
Premier Inn Zentrum
Address: Willy-Brandt Strasse 21, 20457 Hamburg
Click to book the Premier Inn Zentrum
Motel One am Michel
Address: Ludwig-Erhard-Straße 26, 20459 Hamburg
Click to book the Motel One am Michel
GINN Hotel Hamburg Elbspeicher
Foodie Suggestions for your 2 days in Hamburg
A few suggestions of the best places to eat in Hamburg.
To experience the most delicious oysters in Hamburg, head to Mutterland Cölln’s, but not just for the oysters, but for the amazing salads like the Blöde Ziebe mixed salad with fresh goats cheese, roasted apple and honey-roasted walnuts, Pumpkin Risotto with wild herbs and pumpkin seeds risottos and Königsberger Klopse meatballs with mashed potato and beetroot salad amongst other dishes.
The restaurant is beautifully decorated with small panelled rooms and 30,000 hand-painted tiles telling Hamburg’s history. Don’t miss the delicatessens on the way out with chocolates, teas and other delicacies.
Address: Brodschrangen 1-5, 20457 Hamburg
Restaurant Strauchs Falco
Elegant lunch and dining near the International Maritime Museum. With a menu of tapas, ceviche and mouthwatering Kobe beef to tempt you blending oriental and Mediterranean flavours, all served in the beautiful surroundings.
Address: Brodschrangen 1-5, 20457 Hamburg
On the banks of the Elbe, in the St Pauli district eat traditional fare and drink Blockbraü where it is brewed. The hearty food like schnitzel, goulash and Dutch matjes (soused herrings) with apple, onion and cucumber in sour cream sauce, are all served with farmhouse bread.
Seating is at long tables either downstairs or on the upstairs gallery. With views over the Elbe, you can also go up to the top deck and take in the whole vista.
Address: Bei den St. Pauli, Landungsbrüken 3, 20359 Hamburg
With several different cuisines to choose from Speicherstadt market hall is ideal for a quick bite to eat while in Hafen City. On offer is sushi, Asian and European fusion, Indian, Mexican, French and American. Open until 6:00 pm daily.
Address: Sandtorkai 23/24, 20457 Hamburg
I am so pleased that you’ve chosen to visit the amazing city of Hamburg. Hamburg’s long history, UNESCO heritage sites, mix of culture and make it a top tourist destination in Germany. I am sure you will enjoy your time in this fabulous city. If you have any questions or messages please comment below!
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Larch has had wanderlust all her life, travelling as much as she can whenever she can. Now in her 50’s, she writes about her adventures on her travel blog The Silver Nomad to encourage travellers of all ages to look at different destinations. In early 2019, she qualified as a CAA PfCO Drone Pilot and now travels with her DJI Mavic Pro and Mavic Mini to capture aerial videos and photos to enhance her work.