Quirky neighbourhoods, a modern harbour district, top of the range shopping and hamburgers (of course!) are just a small sample of what you can find in Hamburg. I absolutely loved Hamburg. It’s a big city but a great walking city, with each district decidedly unique in character and atmosphere. In this guide, I share places to visit in Hamburg, Germany’s most eclectic city, and what you can expect when visiting the various districts.
Places to Visit in Hamburg Germany
If temperatures had made their way above freezing I would have explored a lot more but Hamburg was beautiful under snow. The city is well-equipped to deal with the snow and it’s still easy to get around and explore, but not so much on foot. This neighbourhood guide will give you an idea of things to do and places to go in Hamburg that you can do at any time of the year.
The bitterly cold weather precipitated an awful lot of cafe hopping and Schanzenviertel is the right district for that. We went from cafe to cafe alternating between freshly brewed mint tea and hot chocolate. It turned out to be a fun afternoon but we didn’t stick around to hang out at the bars which don’t get going until late. Rote Flora is one of the most popular bars that doubles as a cultural centre.
You might hear Portuguese being spoken as you walk around as there is a large Portuguese community in Schanzenviertel. This is not particularly important except for the fact that if your timing is right you can get fresh out of the oven, delicious pasteis de nata from a number of Portuguese cafes in the neighbourhood. Bairro Alto Portugiesisches Restaurant is a good place to start for coffee and pastries.
When to go:
The best time to visit is first thing in the morning for coffee and a pastry in a Portuguese cafe. Alternatively, go in the late evening to experience the bar scene.
Time to allocate:
An hour should be enough to start out the day with a visit to this small district. You might need a bit more time if you plan on visiting the pretty Schanzenpark.
U3 or the S-bahn to Sternschanze.
While Schanzenviertel is the place to go for cafe hopping and eating out, neighbouring Karolinenviertel is where you’ll find unique boutique shopping. Cool homeware stores, local fashion designers and quirky bookstores are prominent. Zardoz Records is an interesting spot for vinyl records but there are many other record stores too. You’ll find loads of vintage clothing stores, wine bars and a flea market.
Knust is a former slaughterhouse that now features live rock and indie bands. There’s some interesting street art around Karolinenviertel too.
Watch where you’re walking as scattered around the city are ‘trip stones’, slightly elevated stones which serve as a reminder of the former Jewish residents who were deported to death camps during the war.
When to go:
I suggest exploring Karolinenviertel in the afternoon so you can stop at cafes or bars in between browsing the cool stores.
Time to allocate:
I would allocate an entire afternoon and maybe stick around for dinner.
U3 to Sternschanze or Feldstraße.
U2 to Messehallen.
Map of Karolinenviertel
Hamburg’s harbour area has undergone (and is continuing to undergo) rapid new development with the new HafenCity district. As with most things new and young, it’s lacking a little in character but that is definitely developing and things progress.
The historic Fischmarkt (in operation since 1703) is located on the edge of St Pauli and is where you’ll find Hamburg’s famous fischbrötchen (fish sandwich). Along with fish, you can find fruit and vegetables, clothing, flowers and locally produced products. The Fischmarkt is close to the Reeperbahn, an area that is hugely popular for nightlife. You’ll find plenty of people partying through the night and then turn up for breakfast at the market.
When to go:
The best time to visit is on Sunday mornings when the market is in full swing.
Time to allocate:
I would allow a full morning to explore the market and taste the local specialties.
Summer (April — October) Sundays 5:00 am — 9:30 am.
Winter (November — March): Sundays 7:00 am — 9:30 am.
U3 to Landungsbrücken
S1 and S3 to Reeperbahn
Hamburg City Centre
Hamburg’s city centre is the place to go for shopping for all budgets and all styles. Jungfernstieg, Mönckebergstrasse, Neuer Wall and the Alsterarkaden are full of international and local stores. All are within walking distance of the beautiful Town Hall and of course, there are countless places to eat out in this district too.
Hamburg has some fantastic local produce which we tried whenever we could. The locally brewed Astra beer is very popular and I loved the different flavours of Fritz-Kola. Fritz-Kola is hugely popular around Germany but it started in a uni dorm room in Hamburg when two friends got together to make cola.
We even tried local hamburger joint Jim Block on Jungfernstieg. I wouldn’t say it’s amazing, it is fast food after all but it’s well-known and appreciated in Hamburg.
You can take a boat trip from the city centre along the Alster, starting at Binnenalster.
For more details on travelling in Germany, read our post: Road Trip Northern Germany, which provides an itinerary for places to go near Hamburg and elsewhere in the north of the country.
Where to Stay in Hamburg
During our city break to Hamburg, we stayed at Superbude St Pauli courtesy of Hamburg Tourism. Superbude is a cool boutique hotel/hostel in Schanzenviertel. It’s more of a hotel than a hostel but they have a couple of dorm rooms available and the common area definitely has a hostel vibe to it. I’d recommend Superbude if you want to enjoy Schanzenviertel’s cafe culture and the boutique shopping in Karolinenviertel. More importantly, stay at Superbude for the delicious breakfast waffles that you can make yourself.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels in Hamburg, Germany. This means we get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.