Hamburg was the only city on my list which I could not find a chance to visit in Germany. I thought it will be better if I can go there in Christmas. If German cities are not in your travel list, I recommend you to check pictures in Christmas once again. I thought 4-5 days will be enough for visiting Hamburg, but I am kind of a person spending a lot of time for visiting small shops in Christmas markets and also tasting various street food, so if you are planning to visit in a time except Christmas, you may prefer to shorten your visit. I also found out that Bremen was very close to Hamburg, so I left a day for Bremen.
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany, so you may find many places to visit and things to do. What makes Hamburg unique in Germany is its harbor. It is the Germany’s largest port and Europe’s second busiest port after Rotterdam. In many sources Hamburg is called as the Germany’s Gateway to the World.
How to reach
I flied to Hamburg from my home country. It was very easy to reach city center from the airport. I used S-Bahn (S1) and just around 30 minutes I was able to reach city center. I will be telling more details about the some interesting details I have faced in the train station.
Considering Hamburg is located almost on the most north side of Germany, it makes it not very reachable from other cities by train. Your best option is Berlin, so if you have time to arrange 1 week, Berlin will the best option. Just in 1.5 hours you will reach from Hamburg to Berlin. If you buy tickets in advance, you may find a ticket around 25 EUR, but if you try to buy tickets for the next day the ticket prices will be around 70 EUR.
Amsterdam and Copenhagen are other options you may want consider visiting by checking the map, but there is no direct train from Amsterdam and both train journeys will be more than 5 hours.
HVV is the main company responsible for all types of transportation in Hamburg. My first recommendation for you is to download its mobile app and then download maps which you can use offline too. Below are the lines and some stops which I expect you may use in Hamburg:
- S1 – Hamburg Airport – Central Station – Wedel
- U3 – Central Station South – Mönckebergstrasse – Rathaus – Rödingsmarkt – Baumwall – St. Pauli
- U2 – Billstedt – Central Station North – Gansemarkt
In city center, I almost did not use any tickets, however some of the places are little far away the to the city center. I thought it would be a better idea if I leave all these places on another day. On that day, I preferred to buy a daily ticket. There are two types of daily ticket: 9 am Day Ticket & All Day Ticket. Only difference is 9 am Day Ticket is not valid between 06:00-09:00 but valid until the next day morning 06:00. However, on Saturday and Sunday (also holidays) it is valid whole day.
What was interesting for me in Hamburg was the separation of Hauptbahnhof (Central Station). This means, there is Main Central Station but also North and South parts of it. This was something I never saw in other countries. So, for example if you want to transfer from one metro line to another, you may have to go out and walk into South Side and then re-enter. Another interesting thing was the usage of cabin cars in metro when going to airport. When going from city center to airport, you have to use front cars in subway. At certain point, the cars on back side will not continue the line for airport. I was aware of these kind of things, but that was my first experience.
What to do
When I go to a country where all stores are closed on Sundays, I always do the same thing. This means, even I want to visit one of the places most, I leave it for Sunday. Miniatur Wunderland was the most important place I wanted to go in Hamburg, but I left it for Sunday.
Visiting Hamburg in December when the weather was below zero has only reason: Experiencing Christmas Market or like the Germans said Christkindlmarkt once again. Most people think there is only one Christmas Market on the most popular square of that city, however that is wrong. Yes, the most popular one is mostly located on the main city square, but you can see more than five Christmas Markets in Hamburg. It was same in Leipzig, Dresden, Prague, Munich. So, I recommend you to have an overview on maps about where Christmas markets are located.
My first stop was little bit shopping on Mönckebergstrassestreet. This is the main shopping which is located between Hauptbahnhof and Rathaus. A parallel street named Spitalerstrasse is also for shopping. St. Jacobi Church is located at the end of these streets. If you continue walking on the same direction you come from, you will eventually reach Rathaus. This is the most popular square and where the most popular Christmas market is located. While walking along Mönckebergstrassestreet, you will also pass St. Petri Church on your left and Europe Passage –a small shopping mall which is logical to go in bad weather- is located. This area is exactly a typical German area. Which city you go in Germany, you will almost see the same structures and stores.
Your next stops are something unique to Hamburg. If you continue walking when Rathaus is on your left, you will pass some small canals. It is like Venice made of German buildings. I am not saying it is better than Venice, but it was interesting to walk in a German city where there are many canals. The whole area is mainly for shopping too, but you will mostly see luxury fashion stores. Alster Arkaden is the most popular area which will again remind you Venice. One of the bridges in the area is Stadthausbrücke, so do not miss it. Two artificial Alster Lakes are also very close to here. In Christmas season, there was a big Christmas tree located inside the lake above Alster fountain. The area where people enjoy lake view is called Jungfernstieg.
Next day was enjoying the real experience of Hafen City. However, I had to wake up at 06:30 AM in the morning. On Sundays, in every season, people who live in Hamburg visit the most famous fish market. Unfortunately, it is open until 09:30. Fish market is not only for buying. You can either taste street food or you can visit the special fish market area in Altona. Going there is very easy. First you have to reach S-Bahn or U-Bahn station of Landungsbrücken. Then you can either walk 15 minutes or take bus no 112 going to west.
My next stop was visiting Miniatur Wunderland. Normally, there are other places close to fish market which is worth visiting but I leave them for later, because it was still early in the morning. So, I decided to go to best place in Hamburg: Miniatur Wunderland. I do not want to spoil the whole experience, but this place is a two-floor area where you can enjoy miniatur design of many countries. I have never seen an effort like this, be sure to catch details and leave around 2-3 hours for the best experience. In the souevenir shop, I highly recommend you to buy either DVD/Blu-ray or the book for more detailed information. You won’t regret it!
You may spend some time in the area where Miniatur Wunderland is located. The district is called Hafen City. One of the most interesting landmarks in the district is Elbphilarmonie concert hall. The new part of the building is the glassy one. The glassy part sits on an old building.
Next you may want to visit one of the oldest tunnels. You can either take the bus or walk. It will take around 20 minutes to reach there. The tunnel is called St. Pauli Elbtunnel. Hard Rock Cafe is located also there. After walking 500 meters under water in a tunnel you reach to Steinwerder. What expects you is really nothing, you only have a better panaromic Hamburg view, but walking in a tunnel like this is one of the unique experiences in Hamburg and it is completely free.
Hamburg has also a red light district, but do not expect something like in Amsterdam. First you have to reach St. Pauli U-Bahn station. Reeperbahn is the street name where these kind of shops or places exist. I have never liked these kind of places, but in Christmas, it has an adult Christmas market. This means there was a striptease show every 30 minutes after certain time. So, if you are unhappy about the end time of classic Christmas markets, one in Santa Pauli will be open longer.
Your not only but best option is visiting Bremen… Click below picture for my info about my daytrip to Bremen in Christmas season….
- Airport – https://www.hamburg-airport.de/en/bus_rail_and_transfer.php
- Train – https://www.bahn.de/p/view/index.shtml
- HVV – http://www.hvv.de/
- HVV – tickets – http://www.hvv.de/en/tickets/single-day-tickets/overview/index.php
- HVV – routes & lines – http://www.hvv.de/en/timetables/line-route-networks-plans/overview/index.php
Reaching Bremen from Hamburg
- Niedersachsen Ticket – https://niedersachsenticket.de/infos-zum-ticket/
- Niedersachsen Ticket – https://www.bahn.de/p/view/angebot/regio/regionale-tickets/niedersa/niedersachsen-ticket-plus-groningen.shtml