Last Updated July 28, 2022

Free and Unique Places to Visit in Hamburg

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Are you looking for some free and unique places to visit in Hamburg? Here are some must do things to add to your list. You can easily fill your day with these must see places in Hamburg. Grab a Hamburg Card, put on your shoes and let's go explore!

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Feature photo by Patrick Baum via Unsplash

Hamburg: Germany's Second Largest City

Hamburg city is in northern Germany, only two hours away from Denmark. Hamburg is such a unique city, which is why it gets roughly 7 million visitors a year. As for places to visit in Germany, it is the third most visited. 

It is located on the River Elbe and is a major European port. You can see all the cranes across the way loading ships at the harbour.

Enjoy a coffee on a floating café and watch the giant cargo ships go by the port city (I'll tell you where the best spot is).

It reminds me a bit of Chicago with all of the bridges crossing the canals within the city. It actually has more bridges than Amsterdam, Venice and London combined! 

It also holds a few other distinctions. It has the largest red light district outside of Amsterdam, known as Reeperbahn. Hamburg is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus Districts.

Hamburg Local Artist Feature

Support Local!

If you are looking for a great souvenir during your trip to Hamburg then support this local photographer.

You'll find their works throughout Hamburg's shops in tourist areas. 

Glinka Photography is a local couple that make these amazing pictures of Hamburg. 

Alexandra is an incredible photographer who captures the beauty of Hamburg like no one else. 

Glinka Photography

They mount them on wood in different sizes, which are easy to take home with you.

They make the perfect souvenir for yourself and someone else you need to bring something home for!

Definitely check out the Alpaca photos. They are just amazing

Some links on this post may be affiliate links.  Expand here to learn what that means.

To help keep this site going, I use some affiliate links. These links will take you to trusted travel partners that I love and it costs you nothing extra to purchase a product or use their service. I may receive a small commission, which I use to keep this site running. 

If you found this site useful and want to support it, all you have to do is use the links when booking. It's that simple.

Some people just want to say thanks by buying me a coffee. I do love coffee. Like a lot. I have seven different ways to make coffee at home....okay maybe it's an obsession. 

Airalo Eurolink eSIM

Stay connected and save money in Germany!

Travelling around Europe?

Just visiting Germany?

When I was traveling in Hamburg (on two separate occasions) I was a solo traveler. That being said, it is a city I will come back to for a family vacation because there are so many fun things to do with kids in Hamburg too. 

Visit an old Soviet submarine and go inside.

Walk a hidden community most tourists don't know about that is only accessible by a maze of stairs.

Don't take a special boat tour, use your transit pass to take a boat along the Elbe River to see a different side of Hamburg.

Don't forget to stop at one of the coolest subway stations you'll ever see. 

I'll tell you about these and much more, so let's get started! First we have to talk about getting around Hamburg. 

Getting Around Hamburg

Hamburg Main Train Station

Hamburg Main Train Station

If you arrive by train (one of the best ways to travel in Germany!) you'll arrive at Hamburg Hbf (Hauptbahnhof - Main Train Station) and by bus at the Hamburg ZOB (Zentral Omnibus Bahnhof - Central Bus Station).

The nice thing is they are right beside each other so arriving and departing Hamburg is really convenient.

Once you get into the heart of Hamburg, a lot of sites can be reached by walking.

I have always mixed using Hamburg's public transport and walking on all my trips. 

Find your train, bus and plane tickets to Hamburg here!

Hamburg Public Transport - The HVV

Once at the Hamburg Hbf you can get anywhere in the city using the U-Bahn, S-Bahn & A-Bahn (subways) and buses. 

There are two tickets I recommend in Hamburg. First, if you are comfortable, is getting a ticket at machine. They can be found in subway stations on the way in often or down on the platforms. 

They are easy to use, just make sure you choose English when you start and follow the instructions. You'll be one your way in no time!

DB Ticket Machine in Germany

DB Ticket Machine in Hamburg

If you plan on just taking the day and walking around and seeing some of the free things to do in Hamburg I recommend the 9am Day Ticket for traveling in Hamburg's AB zone. 

An all day ticket is €8.20, so you are better off going after 9am and use your savings for a coffee (at the dock cafe of course). 

I used the 9am Day Ticket every day. It's worth it if you plan on using the subway more than twice (a single one-way ticket is €3,50). It's good from 9am-6am the following day. This also includes the HVV ferry, which we'll talk about later.

9am Day Ticket (9Uhr Tageskarte) - 1 adult plus up to 3 children (6-14 y.o.) - €6,90 

If you are with a group of people the 9am Group Ticket is great. 

9am Day Group Ticket (9 Uhr Gruppenkarte) - Up to 5 people of any age - €12,90

A single one-way ticket is €3,50 (€1.67 if bought online in advance).

I tend to do a lot of walking, and everything in the area can be walked but after a long day it's nice to hop on and off. 

Go to the HVV Website for more ticket information. 


The Hamburg Card

I highly recommend the Hamburg Card

If you do plan on taking in some museums and tours then the Hamburg Card is the way to go. It gives you:

  • Unlimited travel by bus, train and harbour ferry (HVV)
  • Harbour tours, Alster trips and city tours: up to 30% discount
  • Attractions and museums: up to 50% discount
  • Musicals and theatre: up to 28% discount*
  • Restaurants and coffee shops**
  • Print from the convenience of your home or get an e-card by text to your smartphone.

*Remaining tickets for regular events at the box office

**20% on food when presenting the card before ordering

Hamburg Bus Bookshelf

Bookshelf on Hamburg Bus

You can get it in 1-5 days starting at:

Single (1 adult plus 3 children 6-14) starting at $12.00

Group tickets (5 people any age) starting at $20.00

You can get your Hamburg Card before you go and have it on your phone!


"This is my absolute favourite thing to see in Hamburg because it is such a unique place."

Need a place to stay in Hamburg?

Tours By Locals

Supporting locals is a great way to help the local economy, especially after the pandemic.

One of the best ways to see any city is when you can get a local to show you around. I have the fortune of having a friend that lives near Hamburg. 

For those that don't, check out Tours By Locals. In Hamburg they have 8 local guides offering a variety of unique experiences. These are mostly private tours, great for families or small groups. 

There is a great tour for first-timers! If you are interested in World War 2 history? There's a tour for that. Want to experience Reeperbahn with someone who knows it well? They've got that too. 

Free Places to Visit in Hamburg

Free Walking Tour of Hamburg

Often when travelling Europe, I like to do a free walking tour on my first day. It is a great way to learn about the city, get tips on other things to see, and even meet other travellers and learn what they have done.

One of the first things I recommend doing in Hamburg is taking the Sandeman's New Europe "free" walking tour. I put it in quotes because the tour is free, but you tip the guide after.

It's up to you to decide what you want to give. It's a great way to get familiar with the city and learn about the places to visit in Hamburg. 

Rathausmarkt, Hamburg

Rathausmarkt, Hamburg

They start at the Rathausmarkt (Town Hall Square) right by the city hall and the tour takes approximately 2.5 hours. This is an activity for solo travellers just as much as families.

Traveling by myself I met other solo travellers on a tour and we did other activities together after. The travel guides also really know their stuff. You'll learn things you never would by walking around on your own.

How to Get to There:

U-bahn & S-bahn

U3 to the Rathaus Station

U1, U2, U4, S1, S2, or S3 to the Jungfernstieg Station and walk south

Bus

Buses 3, 31, 601, 609 to Rathaus


Explore Hamburg by Ferry

Ferry in Hamburg, Germany

Ferry in Hamburg

Photo by Kahled Ali on Unsplash

Getting on a boat and going along the Elbe River is another must do in Hamburg. You can see the city on one side and the docks on the other side.

There are plenty of boat tours you can take in Hamburg that will cost on average €25 a person.

Here is the secret tip most tourists visiting Hamburg don't know. 

If you want to save some money, and just want to see Hamburg from a unique view and the shipping harbours across the way, you can do it with your bus, metro or Hamburg Card! These boats are part of the public transit system. 

If you are exploring around the Rathausmarkt head north and go to the Jungfernstieg S-bahn station. From there take the S1, S2, or S3 train to the Langdungsbrücken stop. Now walk down to the harbour you will find various docks where you can take one of seven ferries.

One of my favourites is Line 62 that you can catch at Landungsbrücken Brücke 3. This will take you to the Fish Market (more on that later), the Docklands, the Ubootmuseum, and Övelgönne Museum Harbour.

Switch on to Line 64 at Finkenwerder and take it back across the Eble to Teufelbrück where you can get off and watch the ships go by. Or head up to the Jenishpark for a walk through the park.  

Do it at Night

This is a one of the best places to visit in Hamburg at night. The docks across the Elbe River are lit up.

So is the Docklands building, a building in the shape of a ship which you can walk up to the observation deck!

Take the Line 61 and you will see the Köhlbrandbrücke which is lit up at night, a beautiful sight to see. 

Hop on Line 73 to Ernst August Schleuse down the Kanal or go to the Theater im Hafen dock and check out the great panoramic view of Hamburg from across the Elbe. 

So take advantage of your Hamburg Card or 9am Day Pass!

Docklands, Hamburg

Docklands, Hamburg

How to Get to There:

S-Bahn

If you are exploring around the Rathausmarkt head north to the Jungfernstieg S-bahn station. 

From there take the S1, S2, or S3 train to the Langdungsbrücken stop. Now walk down to the harbour you will find various docks where you can take one of seven ferries.

U-bahn

If you are exploring around the Rathausmarkt head south to the Rathaus U-bahn station.

From there take the U3 Subway to the Langdungsbrücken stop. Now walk down to the harbour you will find various docks where you can take one of seven ferries.


Treppenviertel in Blankenese

Treppenviertal, Hamburg

Treppenviertal, Hamburg

This is the best place to visit in Hamburg, day and night.

This is my absolute favourite thing to see in Hamburg because it is such a unique place.

A friend of mine was living in Hamburg at the time, an she was staying close by, so she recommended I find a vacation home in Blankenese. I found an apartment (with a 3/4 sized bathtub in the kitchen....yup...you read that right) in Blankenese.

That night she took me to the Treppenviertel. Treppenviertel translates into Stairs Quarter. This part of the city that overlooks the Elbe River and is a community of beautiful mansions connected by stairways.

No roads. If you live there, you can't park at your house, you have to park above the community and walk in. This includes when you have to bring groceries home. There were some houses getting renovations done while I was there, and all the tools and equipment has to be hiked up and down the stairs.

Best Place to Have Break!

Watching ship go by from a cafe in Hamburg

Watching ships go by from a cafe in Hamburg

If you follow the stairs down you will arrive at the shore of the Elbe. Here you will find a floating dock with a restaurant and cafe. Check out Ponton Op-N Bulln there. They have coffee, drinks and food with great views!

You can sit here and watch the giant ships go by on their way to the Hamburg harbour, as you sip your coffee.

It will take you about 15-20 minutes to navigate your way through the cobblestone stairs back up to the street. This is a must see place in Hamburg. 

How to Get There:

Had someone not shown me how to get here, I wouldn't have known it existed. Now I will pass this knowledge onto you! 

Step 1

Take the S1 to Blankenese.

Step 2

When you come out of the station head towards Erik-Blumenfeld-Platz and head West (right). 

Step 3

Turn south (left) on Blankeneser Bahnhofstraße.

Step 4

Follow it south. Keep going south between the HypoVereinsbank and the Apo-Rot Apotheke until you reach Blankneser Hauptstraße and turn West (right).

Step 5

Look for the Strandtreppe on the left side and take the stairs.

Step 6

You are now in the Treppenviertel. Go explore!

Make your way to down the stairs to the water where you will find a floating dock and you will find the Ponton op-n Bulln Restaurant/Cafe.

Tour By Local of Blankenese

If you would like a tour by a local of this area and much more, Bernd offers private tours for groups up to 8 people. You get an 3-hour tour in an air conditioned van to see: 

  • Town hall Altona
  • Heine park
  • Jenisch park
  • Deer park
  • Blankenese
  • Süllberg
  • Botanic park

See Bernd's tour here


Fischmarkt Hamburg Altona

Fischmarkt Altona, Hamburg

Fischmarkt Altona, Hamburg

For this one you'll have to get up early if you want to see the hustle and bustle of the Fischmarkt. It is one of the famous Hamburg tourist attractions, even for locals. 

On Sundays between 5:00am and 9:30am the Fischmarkt springs to life with loud barks of the fish mongers vying for your attention, hoping to sell you their fresh catch of the day. It's an early start, don't get there late like I did!

Even if you don't come for the fish, you can find fruit, flowers and souvenirs here too. The Hamburg Fish Market has been in full swing since 1704.

You can grab a bite to eat here while you take in some live music or just walk along the docks.

How to Get to There:

U-Bahn

Take the U3 to Landungsbrücken then walk west 14 minutes along the shore.

Take the 112 Bus to Fischmarkt. Optionally head down the docks Landungsbrücken Brücke 3 and take the 62 Ferry.

Bus

Take the 112 Bus to Fischmarkt

Ferry

Head down the docks Landungsbrücken Brücke and take the Line 61 or 62 Ferry to Altona (Fischmarkt)


Alter Elbe Tunnel (also called St. Pauli Elbe Tunnel)

Elbe Tunnel, Hamburg

Alter Elbe Tunnel, Hamburg

This 426m (1398ft) long tunnel was a technical wonder when it opened in 1911.

Its four large lifts on both sides carried people, carriages and cars to the tunnel. The tunnel runs 24m(80ft) under the Elbe River, making a more efficient way to connect central Hamburg and the highly important docks and shipyards across the way. 

It still operates today for pedestrians, bikes, and cars. It is always open to bike or walk the tunnel for free. Definitely add it to your places to see in Hamburg. 

How to Get to There:

S-Bahn

Take the S1, S2 or S3 to Landungsbrücken Station. Cross the street to the docks and walk west to Brücke 7 (Bridge 7), the domed building is the entrance. 


HafenCity & Speicherstadt

Hafencity Station, Hamburg

Hafencity Universität Station, Hamburg

HafenCity

This is definitely one of the places to visit in Hamburg in one day. There is so much to do in this area. HafenCity (Harbour City) Europe’s largest inner-city urban development project. 

Using your day 9am Day Pass or Hamburg Card, hop on the U4 and take it to the HafenCity Universität Station. Get out and watch the lights change in the station. It is a super cool thing to see in Hamburg. The lights fading in and out to different colours. It's really quite hypnotic. 

If you leave the station you can explore HafenCity by foot. HafenCity in general is a great collection of modern architecture of apartment and office buildings. Head south across the Baakenhafen Bridge and check out the Viewport observation tower or the view of the ships and harbour from around Lighthouse Zero on the western point.

Speicherstadt

Speicherstadt is located within HafenCity. This is the "City of Warehouses" and a UNESCO World Heritage site. This famous area was built in the 19th century from 1883-1927, this is the world's largest warehouse district that is built on top of wood piles. One of the oldest warehouses is home to the International Maritime Museum

Here you will also find Miniatur Wunderland, which is amazing. It is one of the top places to visit in Hamburg for families (but not only families!). We'll talk about it later on. 

From the HafenCity Station head north and walk through Lohsepark until you reach the Ericusbrücke pedestrian bridge. Cross it and keep heading north along Poggenmühle and across the road, you'll find another pedestrian bridge, the Poggemühlebrücke.

When you are on the bridge take a look to your left and you will see an iconic picture waiting to be taken, of the Wasserschloss. It is a moated castle built between 1905 and 1907. It has a restaurant and tea store in it now. 

See the route on Google Map here

Wasserschloss, Speicherstadt

Wasserschloss, Speicherstadt

Tours in Speicherstadt

Just walking around Speicherstadt is fantastic on its own. It is one of the top Hamburg places to visit.

If are looking for guided tours of the area where someone can tell you the history there are check out this walking tour of Speicherstadt & HafenCity. It does sell out, so make sure to plan ahead. 

Here is a list of some of the best to do. There is something for everyone. I'll talk in more detail of two of my favourites* in the next section. One of which was a life changing experience


"This exhibit and experience was life changing for me."

Unique Places to Visit In Hamburg (worth spending money on)

Next we will talk about three unique things you can do in Hamburg, that if you don't mind spending a couple of Euros, these are well worth the price of admission. Two are unique to Hamburg, and one (my favourite) you can find in other places in the world, but since you are here GO DO IT!

Dialog Im Dunkeln - (Dialogue in the Dark)

Dialog im Dunkeln Hamburg

Dialog im Dunkeln Hamburg

Photo by Alexandra Glinka 

Just a few steps north of the Wasserschloss, is an exhibition. There are many different rooms that represent things you see everyday. A market, a wharf, a street corner, and more.

The big difference here is, that you won't see a thing. Literally. For 90 minutes, you will see nothing. No this isn't some kind of crazy art exhibit. It is one of the best things to see in Hamburg and worth every penny. 

The Experience

All the rooms are in complete darkness. You are given a cane to navigate as if you were blind. Don't worry you are not alone. A legally blind person is your tour guide through their world.

In a group of 8 people you will quickly learn to use your other senses to discover where you are. You will experience what it's like to be blind.

At the end of the tour, you go into a bar (in complete darkness still), order a drink (bring a couple of Euros in change) and sit with your tour guide and the group to discuss your experience. You can ask your guide anything you want about what it's like being visually impaired. 

Life Changing

This may seem like a weird concept, and it did for me at first too. It was recommended to me by a friend that lives in Hamburg. It was the one thing she recommended I do on my visit. 

This exhibit and experience was life changing for me. Dialogue in the Dark was one of the top highlights of my trip.

If I could recommend one thing to spend your money on, this is the one.

How to Get There:

U-Bahn

Take the U1 to the Meßberg stop. Walk southeast to the Wandrahmsteg bridge that crosses the river. You'll see the Dialoghaus on the corner. 


Miniatur Wunderland

Just a 11 minute walk west from Dialog Im Dunkeln, also in the Speicherstadt area, is Miniatur Wunderland.

This great if you are traveling with kids, but I enjoyed it when I was a solo traveler in Hamburg.

As the name implies, it is an incredible miniature wonderland. Think model trains but 100 times cooler.

It is a miniature world, with recreations of places from around the world. There are trains, cars, boats, and airplanes all that move in a perfectly choreographed dance that brings this world to life. 

Unique Hamburg Experience

One of the big highlights is the Knuffingen Airport which has airplanes take off and land, bringing passengers to their gates, and even the Space Shuttle lands and emergency vehicles come out to meet it.

The whole world also goes through day and night cycle every 15 minutes or so. The world then takes on a totally different look and feel.

There is so much to see here. You will smile in wonder the whole time with how incredibly detailed it is. 

Behind the Scenes

You also get a behind the scenes look at how it's all done and made. They allow you to see how their modellers are building new parts of the exhibits, and how the they monitor and operate all the movements in this mini world with a wall of screens and computers. 

Whether you are traveling with kids, or are a kid at heart, Miniatur Wunderland is a truly magical place. 

U-Bahn

Take the U3 to Baumwall (Elbphilharmonie) and head Head east on Kehrwieder and turn left on Auf dem Sande. Follow the path along the river and turn right onto Niederbaumbrücke. Cross the bridge and you should see it beside the Hamburg Dungeon


U-434 Submarine Museum - Hamburg's U-Boot Museum

U-Boot 434

U-Boot 434 Museum Hamburg

If you are claustrophobic, this is not the place for you.

This is an ex-Tango class Soviet submarine. It's not often you would get to experience what it is like in a submarine.

When you see the submarine floating in the Hamburg harbour, it doesn't look that big. To think that 78 men lived inside this vessel is unbelievable. Going on a tour of the inside really gives you a sense of how tight it really was in there to work and live. 

It's been out of service since 2002 and in Hamburg ever since. It is chained to the bottom of the Elbe so the changing tides change the look of the submarine depending on the water levels. 

More info on the U-Boot Museum

U-Bahn

Take the U3 to Landungsbrücken then walk west 14 minutes along the shore or take the 112 Bus to Fischmarkt. Landungsbrücken Brücke 3 and take the 62 Ferry.

S-Bahn

Take the S1 or S3 to Reeperbahn and walk west on Reeperbahn, turn south (left) Pepermölenbek and follow it until you hit the river.

Ferry

Head down the docks Landungsbrücken Brücke 3 and take the 62 Ferry and get off at the Altona (Fischmarkt)

About the author

As you can tell, I'm not an Instagram model. This means I have to be frugal about travelling and have found many ways to save money when I travel. I made this website because I want to show you the way real people can travel, on real budgets. If you want travel tips for Europe, you are in the right place. If you want pictures of me staring off into a sunset, in front of iconic European landmarks....sorry wrong guy.


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