Why You Should Visit Hamburg (Like, Now)

View from St. Michael's Church (Michel) in Hamburg, Germany
[The view from St. Michael’s Church should not be missed]
Over the course of our 3 months in Europe, my friend Stephanie and I ended up spending the bulk of our time in Hamburg. This was a total accident! But a very happy one.

I honestly wasn’t even really that excited to go to Hamburg in the first place – I really only went because we found a house sit there and it was for 2.5 weeks which I was stoked about (since we’d been traveling everywhere for about 1 week and I was ready to camp out in one spot for a hot minute), and because my friend really realllllly (like reallllly) wanted to go to Germany.

Canoeing along the Alster River
[Loved all the pretty garden houses/sheds that people had on the banks of the Alster River]
I was more like NORWAY! SWITZERLAND! AMSTERDAM! And I guess Hamburg? Since it exists?

(And I honestly prefer it to Berlin, too, for similar reasons that I preferred Lyon to Paris. But shhhh I didn’t say that…)

Dockland Office Building in Hamburg, Germany at sunset
[Check out that gorgeous sunset!! This is at the Dockland Office Building, and those are all a ton of stairs. I went for a run over there in the evening and it was so nice!]
But in the end, I feel like Hamburg is super underrated and it actually ended up coming on top as one of my favorite places! Here’s why:

THEIR BIKE RENTAL SYSTEM IS SO GOOD

Riding one of the StadtRAD rental city bikes in Hamburg, Germany
[The shittiest photo ever but it’s the only biking photo I have LOL]
I loved riding bikes here. So many people bike so the city definitely feels like it was built for it, and the motorists are used to cyclists (unlike in my hometown).

And their bike rental system (called StadtRAD) is so awesome! You do have to download an app in order to rent them, which I admit that I did not download, because I had a friend who always rented them for me lol, but it seemed pretty easy to use.

There are rental stations all over the city, and the first 30 minutes of each ride are free, baby! And after that, it’s only 10 cents/minute. Plus, Hamburg isn’t HUGE but it’s not small either, so biking is perfect. And, unless you go to Blankanese or down to the dock area it’s relatively flat which makes biking a real breeze! Learn more here.

A bus is one of the ways to get around via public transportation in Hamburg, Germany
[The notorious bus photo – like I swear they had PLENTY of room]
I also loved biking since there’s so much traffic within the city itself (I will forever refuse to drive in those often crowded and very narrow streets) and the buses aren’t always SUPER reliable (no joke, we once had a bus refuse to pass a car that was parked on the street when it totally could have driven around it! And sometimes the buses just randomly terminate their routes early on certain days – idk why). So, biking often felt like the path of least resistance haha.

THERE ARE PARKS ERRYWHERE

Picnic in a park in the Othmarschen area in Hamburg, Germany
[Picnic perfection in a random park/meadow in Othmarschen; cottage cheese on a bread roll]
There are SO MANY PARKS! They even have a huge cemetery, which sounds creepy (but tbh I like cemeteries? Something about the gravestones and reminder about mortality?), but is actually really really cool. It’s the 4th largest cemetery in the world, and the largest rural cemetery! And no, this does not mean the cemetery is out in the boonies (although if you live in central Hamburg you might think it is), but rather that it’s landscaped like a park.

Pathway through the Ohlsdorf Cemetery on a rainy day in Hamburg, Germany
[Pretty path through the Ohlsdorf Cemetery]
But if cemeteries aren’t your thing, fear not – there are OVER 1460 other non-dead people parks to choose from!!!

Needless to say, we had a LOT of picnics while I was there. You can rate a park on its picnick-ability by the presence and type of grass, scenery around it, how far you have to walk from the train station, wind, types of people that go, etc. And many parks in Hamburg rate really well based on that scale!

The Ohlsdorf Cemetery is just one of the 1460 parks in Hamburg, Germany
[The Ohlsdorf Cemetery is such a unique and HUGE park – I saw people running, biking, and walking through it when we were there.]
Plus Hamburg in the spring??? I am obsessed!!!

My favorite parks: Ohlsdorf Cemetery, Stadtpark, Planten un Bloomen, and Hammer Park. And all the random green spaces in the Othmarschen/Blankanese areas. Clearly I almost visited all 1460!!!!

Hammer Park is one of the 1460 parks of Hamburg, Germany
[I really enjoyed my runs through Hammer Park]
Tulips and daffodils are blooming in many parks during the spring in Hamburg, Germany
[Obsessed with all the flowers in Hamburg parks during spring]
When I go back, I want to check out Dahliengarten – basically a park full of Dahlias! Be sure to go when they’re in season, though – unless you’re really into Dahlia stems and leaves, in which case, be my guest. It looks like the peak is in September, but you can still see them in August and October.

VIEWS ABOUND

The view from the Elbphilharmonie at night in Hamburg, Germany
[The view from a famous concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie – and it looks like an intimidating word, but is actually pronounced pretty much exactly how it’s spelled]
The view of the city from St. Michael's Church (Michel) in Hamburg, Germany
[The view from the top of St. Michael’s Church – it’s beautiful but windy AF so be prepared and don’t wear a dress unless you want to have a major Marilyn moment]
There’s no shortage of good views in Hamburg! And they’re pretty easy to find – my favorites were Stintfang, anywhere in Blankanese, the Elbphilharmonie (free but you still have to get a ticket at the entrance booth for some reason), the ferris wheel at the DOM (€5, scroll down for a photo), St. Michael’s (costs €5), and the Dockland Office Building.

THE BRICK BUILDINGS/ARCHITECTURE

A brick building and bikes in the Othmarschen area on a sunny spring day in Hamburg, Germany
[A pretty brick house in the Othmarschen area]
A brick building with green shutters and rose bushes in the Othmarschen area on a sunny spring day in Hamburg, Germany
[JUST GIVE ME ALL THE BRICK AND ALL THE SHUTTERS AND ALL THE ROSE BUSHES although it would be much nicer if they were actually alive lol]
I LOVE brick. And there are TONS of brick buildings in Hamburg! And the architecture in general makes me happy.

SO MANY FUN NEIGHBORHOODS TO EXPLORE

View of houses in Blankanese in Hamburg, Germany
[A nice view in the Blankanese neighborhood, aka the kind of richer area on the outskirts of Hamburg]
I love that each neighborhood in Hamburg has such a distinct vibe! And they’re all pretty nice – like there aren’t really any ‘bad’ ones, so to speak. But they’re all quite different and fun to see how the vibe and building style changes as you meander from place to place.

Here’s a post on the different neighborhoods if you’re interested in learning more about them.

YOU’LL NEVER BE BORED

View of the brightly lit Hamburger DOM Carnival from the ferris wheel at night in Hamburg, Germany
[A pop up carnival that was taking place at the Hamburger DOM while we were there – this is the view from the ferris wheel! German carnivals are NO JOKE. Their rides can be intense and seem almost borderline unsafe at times haha]
Like most big cities, Hamburg has a lot going on! And there are all kinds of different fun events going on pretty much all the time. It’s also a huge expat city and has a large student population, so that gives it a fun/interesting vibe as well.

Crowds of people walking the streets in the Altona neighborhood on a sunny spring day in Hamburg, Germany
[A fun street fair in the Altona neighborhood]
You can rent a canoe, paddleboat, or a swan boat to explore the Alster Lakes/River in Hamburg, Germany - a perfect sunny spring day activity!
[We went canoeing on our last day there – I’d love to go back and ride the swan thing though haha]
Free fireworks at the Hamburger DOM carnival in Hamburg, Germany
[FREE fireworks that happened every Friday night at Hamburger DOM]

SUPER DUPER SAFE

Like, SUPER safe. Like you can ride the train back in the middle of the night by yourself and feel totally fine.

THE NIGHTLIFE IS SOME OF THE BEST IN EUROPE

The Skyline Bar 20UP in has a great view of the city in Hamburg, Germany
[The Skyline Bar 20UP is a really cool place to check out with a great view! And their drinks really aren’t expensive for how exclusive and fancy it feels]
Hamburg is one of THE best places to go out! And there are all kinds of different vibes – from the fun but also kinda trashy Reeperbahn (which is basically the Vegas of Europe in my opinion, and home to their red light district) to the more classy Sternschanze.

And the drinks are CHEAP (we’re talking €3 shots and beers) which just adds fuel to the fire. The trains also run really late, and on weekends pretty much all night, so it’s super easy to get around, too! Most places don’t charge an entrance fee, either.

Places are also open LATE. Like it’s super easy to party until 5AM if you’re really in that sort of mood!

A beach bar in Hamburg, Germany at sunset
[This beach bar was heaven in nice weather – and there are many a beach bars in Hamburg!]
But yeah, any vibe you want you can find! You can go dancing, you can have a chill night in, you can go to a strip club…And there are a ton of unique sex shops you can visit! The largest one, Boutique Bizarre in Reeperbahn, is really worth checking out.

And drinking in public is LEGAL (like many other places in Europe). In the US, you CANNOT legally have a beer/wine in public outside of an establishment like a restaurant or bar. In Europe, you can walk the streets freely with open beer or alcohol bottles! Just make sure you don’t have glass bottles in Reeperbahn, as that’s illegal (plastic is fine though!), but everywhere else glass is fine!

ALL DA WATERWAYS

Canoeing along the Alster River in Hamburg, Germany
[Canoeing down one of the waterways! We went on a day when it was kinda almost stormy looking so no one was out on the water, but the weather actually ended up being pretty much perfect!]
The banks of Außenalster (Outer Alster Lake) on a nice day
[The banks of Außenalster on a nice day – such a great place to have a picnic, or get a boat and go out on the water]
Like many cities in Europe, Hamburg has a ton of waterways. Hamburg’s got a huge river, the Elbe (and apparently you can go swimming there in summer!), and two lakes – the large Außenalster and smaller Binnenalster!

You can rent boats and paddle your heart out on the Außenalster – I actually went sailing last time! Which sounds like it would cost a lot, but was actually pretty cheap to do (although you do have to know someone who has a license).

The drive up cafe on the Alster River
[The ‘drive up’ cafe was the coolest!]
We also went canoeing in the Alster River when I was there which was really really fun. There was even a “drive through” ice cream stand that you could paddle right up to on the water!

EASY PEASY TRAIN SYSTEM

Trains near the Altona Train Station in Hamburg, Germany
[Red trains + pink cherry blossoms are always a good combo]
The public transportation (save for the occasional bus issue as mentioned above!) is incredibly easy to navigate. Yes, many European cities also have this, but I am still in awe coming from the US.

THEIR ‘BEACHES’/BLANKANESE

A beach in the Othmarschen area in Hamburg, Germany
[A beach in the Othmarschen area]
I love that Hamburg has so many beaches along the Elbe! Blankanese beaches are absolutely gorgeous, and so is that whole area.

A beach in the Othmarschen area in Hamburg, Germany at sunset
[Love the light in this sunset]

FISH MARKET IS A MUST DO

The Fischmarkt (or Fish Market) in Hamburg is a must see!
[You can get these really cool baskets filled with fruit or vegetables for €10 – it’s kinda worth it but also kinda not because a lot of the fruit in ours was a litttttle old]
This is a super cool and unique experience! Basically, it’s just lots of people shouting and trying to sell market foods/products and it’s all really exciting.

I was there for the last parts of the shouting, but I’d love to get there at the beginning although that’s at like 5AM which is waaaaay before I’d ever choose to wake up. So, another option is not going to bed and heading there after a night out 😉

And if you eat fish, a fischbrötchen (basically a fish roll sandwich thing) is apparently a must have.

ITS PROXIMITY TO OTHER LOCATIONS

The Holsten City Gate in Lübeck is a good day trip from Hamburg
[The Holsten City Gate in Lübeck]
Hamburg is so close to northern German beaches (which I have yet to visit but have heard lots of good things about!). And also Denmark – YES Denmark! I felt like such a geography fool but I really didn’t realize how close Hamburg was to Denmark. But it’s literally right above Germany. Oops.

Cobblestone streets and brick buildings in Lübeck, a good day trip from Hamburg
[Streets in Lübeck]
But yeah, since Hamburg is so far north, it’s literally closer to Denmark than it is to other southern German cities like Munich! Pretty crazy.

And as a lover of Copenhagen (I’d seriously consider moving there if it wasn’t so expensive) I love that it’s so close for an easy city getaway.

The banks of the Alster River in Hamburg, Germany is pretty and wooded
[Views from our canoe trip along the Alster River – felt like a literal fairytale]
Ice cream cones in Hamburg, Germany
[Ice cream, DUH! My go to is chocolate with rainbow sprinkles. I noticed that ice cream is MUCH cheaper than the US – think €2-3 scoops vs $5-7 in the US – but the US gives you much larger portions]
So, in summary, I was so surprised at what a beautiful, green city Hamburg is! There were many other things that surprised me about Germany, but my love affair with Hamburg was one that surprised me the most. It feels like a nice (and not overwhelming) little city bubble, and I like that.

Sunset at the beach bar in Hamburg, Germany
[YAY to sunsets]
I can’t wait to go back, and am already planning my return! 😉

Giant bottle of wine on the streets of Hamburg, Germany
[When there’s a life size bottle of wine you have no choice bu to stand next to it – after you drink it all of course]

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