Welcome to our city guide to Hamburg in 48 hours!

About Hamburg…

With more than 1.7 million inhabitants, Hamburg is Germany’s second biggest city just after Berlin. More than 30 percent of Hamburg residents have a migrant background. The city’s cultural diversity has a long tradition: for centuries, people from around the globe have been arriving in Hamburg via the port. It’s Germany’s largest port and is named the country’s “Gateway to the World”.

Why did we choose Hamburg?

We wanted to go north, with a plan to go to Denmark and Sweden (to enjoy our Inter Rail pass, that does not cover Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), so Hamburg was in our path. Also, we heard about the beauty of this city and its port, but actually didn’t know much more when we got there!

First day

We wanted to get to know the city, so we decided to do a free walking tour – we found Robin and the Tour Guides in the internet. Their historic city center tour every day at 11 AM with 2 hours of duration. The meeting point is the main entrance of Hamburg town hall. The tour guides have a yellow umbrella and the tour is available in English, Spanish and German.

The tour started at the Town Hall (Rathaus), the seat of the government of Hamburg. They explained about the history and importance of the city in the past and about its fire of 1842.

Then we went to visit Alster Canal. The Alster is a right tributary of the Elbe river. While the Elbe river is a tidal navigation of international significance and prone to flooding, Alster is a non-tidal, slow-flowing river, so it can get a 7 meter difference when the high tide comes. There there was still some sign of the old buildings of the city before the fire and a cafe to relax.

After that we visited Memorial of St. Nikolai where they told us about the destruction of the city in the second world war. The church lies now in ruins, with only its tower remaining, serving as a memorial and an important architectural landmark. The tour continued to Deichstrasse, Elbphilharmonie (new opera house) and ended in St. Michael’s Church, a protestant church (and the most famous in the city).

Portuguese quarter

We found out that in Hamburg there is a Portuguese quarter. So, we decided to go there for lunch. The Portugiesenviertel consists of just a handful of streets around the Ditmar-Koel-Straße in the Neustadt district that are home to over a dozen Portuguese, Spanish and Italian restaurants, bars and bakeries. It was fun to walk around and search for all the Portuguese typical food and to see “Bom Apetite!” written on the menus. It is also cheap, so a good option for your lunch!

Portuguese Quarter in Hamburg

Planten un Blomen

After the lunch, we went for a walk to the Planten un Blomen park in central Hamburg. This park is really beautiful, and was an amazing place to relax and just see the fountains and lakes. Also, there is also a botanical garden with a tropical greenhouse and the largest Japanese garden in Europe that has free entrance – if you are feeling cold, go in there, it is acclimatised! In front of the botanical garden there is also beautiful stairs with chairs so that you can just sit back and watch the gardens and the lake.

Second day

Alster Lake

In the morning we went to see the Alster Lake – there are actually two, the Inner and the Outer Alster – that flow to the Elbe river. The parks surrounding the lake are a great place to barbeque (a national sport), to enjoy the sun’s bliss or to go for a jog around the lake. Water sports are also possible, since boats, canoes and kayaks can be hired at many spots all around the Alster in the Summer months. Most of all, it is beautiful to see the silhouette of the city on the lake.

Saint Pauli

We liked the first tour so much, that the next day we went to another free walking tour with Robin and the Tour Guides to discovery St. Pauli area. This tour is also daily and starts at 2PM near the Hard Rock Café by the harbour. From the harbour you can see the port where the containers arrive and where the Yachts are built. We started the tour by taking a ferry boat (number 62 – you have to pay for the ticket, but it is only 1,6 euros) to its first stop, the fish market (Fischmarkt – where if you stay till Sunday, there is a real fish market from 5AM to 9h30AM).

Then we went to St. Pauli Hafenstrasse, a symbol of resistance against the city’s development plans. There you can see the painted buildings with graffiti with words of anger against the establishment. After that we visited the Beatles-Platz, where we found a Beatles statue and where they used to play in their time in the city (from August 1960 to December 1962).

The tour finished in the nightlife Hamburg streets, Reeperbahn and Herbertstrasse, where the prostitution industry (legal in Germany, in some areas) blooms, where you can see Friedrichstrasse, where women are not allowed (!!) and only men can pass and see them in window displays.

We loved this city life! With its harbor, its parks, its alternative scene, and even a street that remembers home… Of course, two days are never enough, but if you only have that, to enjoy the free tours it’s a great idea to know Hamburg.

To summarise…

  • Do not miss the Free Walking Tours! They are worth it and a great way to get to know the city if you have little time!
  • The Portuguese Quarter for lunch is a great option!
  • Check out the gardens in Hamburg, they are beautiful and a nice place to relax!
  • Although prostitution is legal in some areas of Hamburg, women are not well seen walking trough those streets (there are stories of trowing trash at women passing) so be careful and avoid those areas…

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Check out our other city guides – Copenhagen in two days!

City guide - Hamburg in 48 hours