Speicherstadt, Hamburg

Free and Unique Things to do in Hamburg

Are you looking for some free and unique things to do in Hamburg? Here are some must-see things to add to your list.

Getting around Hamburg with public transport is one of the best ways to get around the city with ease. So if you are traveling on a budget, there are a lot of things to see and do in Hamburg and it doesn't have to cost a lot. 

I'll show you some of the free things you can do, and a couple unique things that are well worth experiences, even if they cost a bit. 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. 

10 Free and Unique Things to do in Hamburg

Find a Place to Stay in Hamburg Here!

Getting to Hamburg

Hamburg is located in northern Germany, about 2 hours south of the Danish border. It is easy to get to by plane, train, bus or car. 

Flying to Hamburg

You can fly to Hamburg's airport (HAM) but it's not the most economical way to get there from within Europe. Taking the train or bus to Hamburg is the cheapest way to get there, but sometimes you can find a cheap flight with a discount airline. If you are coming from further away, maybe the couple extra euros is worth it to save you 12 hours on a train.  

Bus to Hamburg

If you coming from closer cities like Berlin or Bremen you can take a bus for really cheap, and the travel time will be slightly longer than by train. Even if you book a bus last minute from Berlin it would only cost $12 US (depending on departure time). 

Trains to Hamburg

Taking the train from out of country or southern Germany is probably your best bet. It will cost more than the bus, but you will save a lot of time. So it comes down to which is more important to you.   

Driving to Hamburg

If you arrive by car you are most likely coming in from the A24 from Berlin, A1 from Bremen, and the A7 from Hanover (south) and Denmark (north).

If you just plan on spending the day, take advantage of the Park and Ride and take the the Regional Express lines into the city to Hamburg's Hauptbahnhof. It will save you the trouble of parking and dealing with traffic. Being a harbour city, there are many bridges and you won't want to spend your day navigating them. 


Getting to All the Free and Unique Things to do in Hamburg

Hamburg Main Train Station

Hamburg Main Train Station

With the train you'll arrive at Hamburg Hbf (Hauptbahnhof - Main Train Station) and by bus at ZOB

Hamburg (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. 

Hamburg Public Transport - The HVV

Once at the Hamburg Hbf you can get anywhere in the city using the U, S & A Bahns (subways) and buses. 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. I used this every day. It's worth it if you plan on using the subway more than twice. 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.) - €6,40

9am Day Group Ticket (9 Uhr Gruppenkarte) - Up to 5 people of any age - €12,00

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 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
  • check
    Musicals and theatre: up to 28% discount*
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    Restaurants and coffee shops**
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    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

Hamburg Bus Bookshelf

You can get it in 1-5 days:

Single (1 adult plus 3 children 6-14) starting at €10,50

Group tickets (5 people any age) starting at €18,50

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."

Free Things to do in Hamburg

Free Walking Tour of Hamburg

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. So 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 a little about it at the same time. 

Rathausmarkt, Hamburg

Rathausmarkt, Hamburg

They start at the Rathausmarkt (Town Hall Square) and it 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 There

U-Bahn: 

U3 to the Rathaus Station

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

Buses:

Buses 3, 31, 601, 609 to Rathaus


Explore Hamburg by Ferry

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. Not only do you get a unique view of the city and the shipping harbours across the way, you can do it with your bus, metro or Hamburg Card!

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, building,  the Ubootmuseum, Övelgönne Museum Harbour and end at Teufelbrück where you can get of and watch the ships go by or head up to the Jenishpark for a walk through the park. 

Do it at Night

There is nothing cooler than taking these Ferries 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


Treppenviertel

Treppenviertal, Hamburg

Treppenviertal, Hamburg

This is truly a hidden gem in Hamburg for me. 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 an AirBnB 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.

If you follow the stairs down you will arrive at the shore of the Elbe where you will find a floating dock with a few restaurants and cafes. You can sit here and watch the giant ships go by on their way to the Hamburg harbour, as you sip your coffee. It took me about 15-20 minutes to navigate my way through the cobblestone stairs back up to the street. This is a must-see place in Hamburg. 

How to Get There

  • 1
    Take the S1to Blankenese.
  • 2
    When you come out of the station head towards Erik-Blumenfeld-Platz and head west (right). 
  • 3
    Turn south (left) on Blankeneser Bahnhofstraße.
  • 4
    Follow it south. Keep going south between the Hamburger Volksbank and the Apotheke until you reach Blankneser Hauptstraße and turn West (right).
  • 5
    Look for the Strandtreppe on the left side and take the stairs.
  • 6
    You are now in the Treppenviertel. Go explore! Make your way to down the stairs to the water.

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. 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. 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 There

U&S-Bahn: 

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

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


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

Elbe Tunnel, Hamburg

Elbe Tunnel, Hamburg

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

How to Get 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 Station, Hamburg

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 colors. 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.

If you head north you can 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. You are also now in the famous warehouse district of Hamburg's Speicherstadt.

Wasserschloss, Speicherstadt

Wasserschloss, Speicherstadt

Keep heading north and you'll come to a unique exhibition I think everyone should experience. 


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

Unique Things To Do In Hamburg

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!

Your Dialog Im Dunkeln - (Dialogue in the Dark)

Dialog im Dunkeln Hamburg

Dialog im Dunkeln Hamburg

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, and more. The big difference here is, that you won't see a thing. For 90 minutes, you will see nothing. No this isn't some kind of crazy art exhibit.

All the rooms are in complete darkness, you are given a cane to navigate and 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. Experience what it's like to be blind. At the end of the tour you into a bar (in complete darkness still), order a drink (bring a couple of Euros in change) and sit with your tour guide and group and discuss your experience or ask your guide anything you want about what it's like being visually impaired. 

This may seem like a weird concept, and it did for me at first too. It was recommended to me from a friend that had visited 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.

Website: ​​​​Dialogue in the Dark

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. 

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. 

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. 

Get your Priority Entrance Tickets here before you go! 

How to Get There

U-Bahn: 

Take the U3 to Rödubgsmarkt and Head east on Willy-Brandt-Straße/B4 toward Rödingsmarkt, turn right onto Holzbrücke, continue onto Mattenwiete. You will see it when you cross the bridge.
Bus: 
From the HBF/Kirchenallee get on the #6 bus and take it to Auf dem Sande (Speicherstadt) stop. Walk straight ahead and you will find it.


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. 

How to Get There

The U-Boot Museum is located right next to the St. Pauli Fischmarkt.

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

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

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