A weekend break in Hamburg: what to see and do

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What to do in Hamburg: Elbphilharmonie concert hall at night

With two UNESCO World Heritage sites, a magnificent new concert hall and Germany's most popular tourist attraction, Hamburg is welcoming a new wave of visitors

Make the most of 48 hours in Hamburg with our expert guide to the city's attractions, food, drink and entertainment.

Germany’s second-largest city is one of contradictions, where old and new nestle side by side in perfect harmony. Red-brick behemoths and cobbled streets gradually give way to utilitarian new builds of all shapes and sizes as you venture south to HafenCity, the Elbe River and Hamburg’s proudest monument, the Elbphilharmonie concert hall.

Gaze to the north of the city to discover the elegant shopping district of Jungfernstieg and further west for the grittier St Pauli, where the Beatles spent their formative years.

Read more from our travel experts:

Day 1: What to do in Hamburg

You can explore Hamburg by open-top bus, bike or segway – but the best way is by foot. Begin with the cobbled streets of Speicherstadt – do look upwards to admire the green-capped rooftops of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Discover attractions such as the Maritimes Museum, housing 3000 years of maritime heritage (tickets €13), and the Miniature Wonderland (adult tickets €15), Germany’s most popular tourist destination where entire landscapes are laid out on a minuscule scale.

What to do in Hamburg: Elbe River

The River Elbe flows through the centre of Hamburg, past St Catherine's Church.

Where to eat

Lunch: Perched between two branches of the canal, Wasserschloss Speicherstadt boasts arguably the best situation in Hamburg. Book in advance to secure a terrace table with canal views, and choose from dishes such as salmon with marinated salsify and black root purée (€12).

Dinner: Persevere through the bustling streets of St Pauli to Freudenhaus where you’ll find red velvet banquettes, gilded cherubs and traditional German dishes, such as kartoffelsuppe, a smoky potato-based soup with bacon, salmon and horseradish (€7.50).

Where to stay

Budget: Motel One’s most central Hamburg hotel, Am Michel, blends maritime tradition with modern hotel design. Children under 12 stay free and pets are welcome with advance notice. Double rooms from €94 (plus city tax).

Mid-range: Splash out on the ultra-modern Adina Apartment Hotel on Willy-Brandt Strasse. A stylish new hotel with cool minimalist rooms and all mod cons, plus a pool, sauna and gym. A studio king room comes complete with kitchenette. From €135 (room only).

Day 2: What to do in Hamburg

Rise with the lark and head back to St Pauli, this time to the waterfront for the vibrant Sunday Fischmarkt (5am – 9.30am). Discover fresh produce of every kind and purveyors selling their fare with operatic bravado. After you’ve had breakfast (more on that below), follow the waterfront east a short way until you reach the Elbe Tunnel at Landungsbrücken. Take the lift down and cross the river from beneath the water via this early 20th-century engineering feat.

From Steinwerder on the other side of the river, join a ferry tour back across to Landungsbrücken and further along the harbour towards HafenCity and its spectacular new arena.

What to do in Hamburg: St Pauli Fischmarkt

The St Pauli Fischmarkt – eat, drink and be merry.

Where to eat

Breakfast: Baked goods are plentiful at the Fischmarkt, but the quarkballchen  – sweet doughnut-like filled balls dusted with sugar – are not to be missed. If you’re feeling famished, fischbrotchen (fried fish sandwiches) are a must.

Lunch: Head to the café above the Kaffeemuseum on St Annenufer for some of the best coffee in town. Enjoy a slice of savoury tart – followed by a wedge of home-made cake – and peruse the enticing caffeinated merchandise on sale.

Visit the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall

Do some research and splash out on tickets to a show at the stunning Elbphilharmonie concert hall. Admire 360-degree views across the entire city from its viewing platform before an evening in its Grand Hall, with its perfect acoustics.

Alex visited Hamburg thanks to BMI Regional and the Hamburg Tourist Board.

Travel tip from a Hamburg local

‘Beatles fans should visit Gretel & Alfons on Große Freiheit, their favourite Hamburg pub in the early days.’

Stefanie Hempel, Hempel’s Beatles-Tour, Hamburg

Do more with Boundless

Save money with Barrhead in Hamburg

Enjoy the 4-star Movenpick Hotel, four nights – room only – flights from London Stansted. From only £289 per person.

Enjoy the best of what Hamburg has to offer while staying at the elegant Renaissance Hamburg Hotel.

What to do in Hamburg: tunnel under the Elbe river

Explore Hamburg through the tunnel under the River Elbe.

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