What can you do with 24 hours in Hamburg? Quite a lot, it turns out! Sam and I kicked off our recent trip to Germany in the northern port city of Hamburg, and while we only had one full day to explore, we hit the ground running ready to eat, see and do as much as possible.
After a solid’s night’s rest, we seemed to have kicked the jet lag, and we spent our day exploring the red-brick warehouses of Speicherstadt, touring the port by boat, eating our fill of pickled herring, enjoying the city views from Elbphilharmonie Plaza, taking part in a chocolate-making workshop and a whole lot more.
So if an action-packed day sounds like your idea of a good time, read on for our 1-day itinerary to Hamburg!
24 hours in Hamburg, Germany!
Explore Speicherstadt on foot
We kicked off our morning in Hamburg with a walk through Speicherstadt. This is the largest warehouse district in the world, but I assure you it’s far more magical than it’s name suggests; when I say warehouses, I’m talking about Neo-Gothic red-brick structures that stand on timber foundations along the canals.
Speicherstadt is located in Hamburg’s port area within the HafenCity quarter, and it’s probably the image that comes to mind when you hear the city’s name.
The buildings here date from 1883 to 1927 and they are works of art. These warehouses have towers, alcoves and cranes that were once used for loading goods on and off boats.
It’s no surprise that Speicherstadt is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We spent the morning crisscrossing the neighbourhood and wandering down back lanes with cameras in hand. It was a walk without a particular destination in mind, but that’s how we enjoy experiencing a new city.
Our favourite find of the day was the Coffee Plaza, where I got Mr. Coffee Enthusiast to pose in front of the roasted coffee bean.
Try a pickled herring sandwich
Then we went in search of food! Being the foodies that we are, Sam and I were very excited to try the Fischbrötchen.
This is a traditional dish that’s very popular in Northern Germany due to its proximity to the North Sea and Baltic Sea.
The dish consists of fish on a bun (typically herring) with various toppings that can include onions, pickles and various sauces.
We tried the ones at Brücke 10 on St Pauli Landungsbrücken, which came highly recommended.
We ended up ordering two different interpretations of the dish: Sam got the classic pickled herring on a bun which is known as the Bismarck, and I chose the fried and marinated herring known as the Brathering.
Both herrings were served with white onions on a freshly baked bun. The sandwiches were delicious and made for an excellent meal on the go on a busy day of sightseeing.
Walk across the Old Elbe Tunnel
The Elbe Tunnel first opened in 1911 as both a pedestrian and vehicle tunnel that allowed people to get to the other side of the River Elbe.
The event was a big sensation as it essentially connected central Hamburg with the docks and shipyard area, making the commute to work in one of the world’s biggest harbours so much easier.
Here you had these two 6 meter diameter tubes buried 24 meters beneath the surface and running 426 meters in length. How convenient!
Today, the Old Elbe Tunnel is still in use by both locals and visitors.
In order to reach the tunnel, you can take the spiralling stairs or ride the old elevators with their rattling wooden doors.
It really is an experience, and while we technically didn’t need to get to the other side of the Elbe, we still enjoyed walking across.
Take a boat tour of the Port of Hamburg
Another activity that we did in Hamburg was take a tour of the port. There are numerous tour operators to choose from, so you’ll have lots of options depending on your budget and how long you want to be out on the water.
We ended up doing the classic 1-hour tour with Barkassen-Meyer. They have one daily departure in English from April to October; otherwise the commentary is in German, but they do give you a booklet that has information on all the landmarks along the route.
This tour allows you to see some major city landmarks from the water and also experience a working port.
It was amazing to see the how the giant cargo ships were loaded with containers right in front of our eyes. I felt tiny as we cruised past.
An alternative to the boat tour is to ride ferry #72, which does a triangular circuit from Landungsbrücken Brücke 1 to Arningstraße to Elbphilharmonie.
You won’t get to hear any history or see the working port up close and personal, but if you just want a taste of being out on the water, then it’s really nice sitting on the top deck and doing a loop or two.
Join a chocolate-making workshop
One of the funnest activities we did in Hamburg was take a chocolate-making workshop at Chocoversum.
This is Hamburg’s very own chocolate museum, and over the course of 90 minutes, we got to hear a brief history of chocolate-making and make some chocolate of our own. We were particularly excited for the latter!
Once inside the chocolate laboratory, we were tasked with creating our dream chocolate bar. We could choose between milk chocolate or dark chocolate, and add a total of 3 special ingredients (any more and it would overwhelm the chocolate bar).
I made a milk chocolate bar with roasted coconut, cranberries and amarettini. Meanwhile, Sam made a milk chocolate bar featuring sugar-coated ginger bits, coconut and white chocolate chips.
We then left our chocolate bars to cool in the fridge while we continued with the rest of our guided tour through Chocoversum.
Along the way, we got to try the cacao bean once it’s been roasted, and we also got to sample chocolate at different stages of production. It was a really fun interactive experience and one that I think can work for both adults and children.
Getting to take the chocolates home as a souvenir was a really nice touch…even if we ate them before going back home to Canada.
Go up the Elbphilarmonie Plaza
Later that evening, we went to the Elbphilarmonie, which is a massive concert hall located in Hamburg’s HafenCity quarter.
The building combines a glass structure that sits atop a former brick warehouse. Some say the structure is meant to resemble a hoisted sail, while others say it’s a wave or even an iceberg.
I think the interpretation of a hoisted sail is very fitting given Hamburg’s history as one of the world’s leading ports.
While we didn’t get to attend a concert, we did make it up to the observation deck, known as the Elbphilarmonie Plaza, which is located on the 8th floor.
You can walk the full perimeter of the deck for 360-degree views of the city; you can look out over the port, watch as the cranes continue to expand HafenCity, peep the steeples in the city centre, and get an idea of how spread out Hamburg really is.
We went at sunset and while it was a little bit overcast, we still enjoyed the experience.
Visit Miniatur Wunderland
Though our visit to Hamburg may have been brief, we knew we couldn’t miss visiting one of the city’s most famed attractions, Miniatur Wunderland!
It’s kind of hard to describe this place, but imagine a scale model of the world with a focus on transportation.
Inside Miniatur Wunderland you’ll find 15,715 meters of train tracks that recreate epic train journeys across Europe, there is a miniature airport complete with LED lights that simulate take-offs and landings, and then you have these incredible scenes of holiday destinations across Europe – all in miniature scale!
My favourite part was watching the trains travel through the Alps – it made me want to hop on a train and see these places in real life and life-sized!
Before visiting, I kind of thought this place was just for families with kids, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
Have dinner at NENI Hamburg
We ended our 24 hours in Hamburg with dinner at NENI Hamburg, an Israeli restaurant located in the Altes Hafenamt Hotel.
I ordered their Jerusalem platter which had a bed of hummus with dollops of tahini, drizzled olive oil, chunks of roast chicken, red and green peppers, and pita bread. It was a feast of a meal and I enjoyed every last bite.
Meanwhile, Sam couldn’t leave Hamburg without trying a hamburger, so he got a burger with a twist! He ordered the pulled beef burger braised in maple syrup and served on a brioche bun with cheddar cheese, BBQ sauce, pickled chilli and a side of spicy sweet potato fries with mango aioli.
A very memorable dinner!
Spend the night at Hotel Altes Hafenamt
During our stay in Hamburg, we stayed at the 25hours Hotel Altes Hafenamt.
The hotel is located in a historic Neo-Gothic, red-brick building that was formerly the Port Authority Building, and it also happens to be the oldest building in HafenCity.
The best part of the stay was being situated in walking distance to Speicherstadt.
This, in my opinion, is the best neighbourhood for anyone visiting the city because you are surrounded by Hamburg’s historic red-brick buildings and you really get a sense of this being a port city with the many bridges, canals, and all the boat activity in the harbour.
And that concludes our 24 hours in Hamburg! As you can see there is quite a bit to do in the city, and while we only scratched the surface, we were quite happy with everything we managed to experience with one full day in the city.
This was a great introduction to Hamburg and we still have plenty left to see on a future visit to Germany.
Next up is our day trip to Lüneburg, which is a super easy destination to visit from Hamburg.
This trip was made possible in partnership with the German National Tourist Board and Hamburg Ahoi.