As one of the largest countries in Western Europe, there is so much to be discovered outside of the popular tourist hot spots of Berlin and Munich – and Hamburg is one of them. There’s a whole bunch of things that make Hamburg the perfect destination for a weekend escape and in this article, you’re about to find out exactly why Hamburg should not be overlooked for a Germany travel itinerary. A vibrant port city with more bridges than Venice and Amsterdam combined, as well as being Northern Germany’s centre for shopping and culture, there is so much waiting to be discovered! Here’s a guide to the best things to experience over a weekend in Hamburg and everything you should see, eat and experience in two days.
How to Spend a Weekend in Hamburg
Checking in: Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg
A three-hour bus ride from Berlin delivered me to the central bus station in Hamburg and only about a ten-minute walk later I found myself at the grand Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg, my home for the weekend. As soon as I stepped into the lobby, with its hanging chandeliers, crackling fireplace and old world charm, I felt completely at home.
My luxurious, lakefront room was beautifully furnished and combined a contemporary touch with a sense of tradition. There’s also a private cinema and spa for winding down after a big day of exploring. Do I even need to describe how sumptuous the breakfast spread was? Complete with champagne, smoothie shots and eggs cooked to order, there really was no better way to start the day!
Things to do in Hamburg
Anyone visiting Hamburg can’t miss the Hamburg Rathaus (Town Hall) – one of the grandest buildings in the city. Its impressive façade is intricately detailed and a small entrance fee will enable you to explore the grand staterooms inside.
The Reeperbahn is Hamburg’s red light district, one of the most famous in Europe, along with Amsterdam’s famed district. It’s also the main centre for nightlife in the city and is lined with many bars and clubs – perfect for a Saturday night on the town!
Head down towards Hamburg’s port to explore the UNESCO-listed Speicherstadt, the largest warehouse complex in the world. Housed in beautiful brick buildings on the edge of the canal network, these warehouses used to store everything from coffee to spices to cocoa, all delivered to the port. I loved exploring this district and its waterways by foot.
If you’re in the mood for exploring Hamburg’s artistic and cultural heritage, head directly for the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the largest art museum in Germany.
Hamburg’s 800-year-old port is the second largest in all of Europe (after Rotterdam in the Netherlands) Take a boat tour, a ferry or just take a stroll along the waterfront.
Down near the Speicherstadt and the port area you’ll find a district called HafenCity which is, impressively, Europe’s largest developmental project of the 21st century. HafenCity is still under construction, but there is a lot to see already. Take a stroll along the waterfront to see the brand new office complexes, apartment blocks and hotels popping up all over the place.
Elbe Philharmonic Hall
The Elbe Philharmonic is a world-class concert hall positioned right on the waterfront. Although still under construction and deeply controversial, already it is a distinctive urban and cultural landmark of the city.
The Hamburg Fischmarkt (fish market) is an institution here and a dream for foodies. If you’re in town on a Sunday, when the market is open, don’t miss having brunch in the historic fish auction hall.
There’s no doubting that Hamburg is elegant and sophisticated and perhaps the best place to appreciate the old world grandeur of the city is in the Alster Arkaden. The historic arcades of this shopping district really are a beautiful place to shop your heart out!
Church St. Michaelis
Some call the Church St. Michaelis the most beautiful in northern Germany, and with its towering spire at 132m, it’s easy to see why.
Things to eat in Hamburg
Being located so close to the sea, Hamburg is known as a great place to eat fresh fish… not surprisingly! You can find it everywhere across the city and trust me, it is ALL delicious! Another thing that you just have to try when you’re in Hamburg is a Frikadelle, which inspired the American hamburger. Essentially it’s a pan-friend patty without the bun. Finally, for all you sweet tooths out there, don’t go home without ordering a Franzbrötchen (French roll), which resembles a flattened croissant with cinnamon and sugar and is particular to Hamburg. Sweet craving sorted!
With thanks to the Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg for welcoming World of Wanderlust on our visit to Hamburg. Words + Images courtesy of Rachel Bale.