Hamburg is Germany's second-largest city, the richest judged by per-capita income, and its most important port. It's popular with German tourists who come here to enjoy Broadway-style musicals, eat fish, watch soccer games, marvel at its mighty port, and experience the fabled nightlife of the Reeperbahn (the German answer to "Sin City"). Foreign visitors are in the minority, and American tourists are rare. The city's fishy maritime atmosphere — with a constant breeze and the evocative cries of seagulls — gives Hamburg an almost Scandinavian, Dutch, or English feel that's worlds away from the sun-drenched, Baroque joviality of Bavaria. With almost no pre-1850 buildings still standing (aside from five towering church steeples), Hamburg's city center is a people-friendly but charmless collection of office buildings and brand-name chain shops — not unlike the downtown cores of many gentrified American cities. Like many port towns, Hamburg still has its rough edges, and a short stay can be memorable.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Quickie City Bus Tour Convenient way to learn about the history, and future, of this sprawling city.
▲▲▲ Harbor and Port Guided Boat Tour Excellent chance to marvel at the city's mighty container port and burgeoning HafenCity.
▲▲ Reeperbahn Walk A stroll through Hamburg's famous red-light district, sizzling with Broadway-style theaters, nightclubs, and lots of ladies.
▲▲ St. Pauli Landungsbrücken Harborfront Atmospheric people zone with boardwalk ambience, ferry docks, and views of the port.
▲▲ Harbor Tour by Public Ferry Low-cost, do-it-yourself tour of the harbor with views of port action.
▲▲ Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall Unfinished, architecturally striking centerpiece of the new HafenCity development.
▲ City Hall Hamburg's architecturally eclectic, century-old Rathaus.
▲ St. Nicholas Church Bombed-out church memorializing the destruction of WWII, with observation deck and museum.
▲ Hamburg Museum Sprawling exhibit of the city's history since its founding in B.C. 800.
▲ HafenCity and Speicherstadt Exciting new urban development featuring Elbphilharmonie concert hall and repurposed warehouses with attractions.
▲ Miniatur Wunderland Tiny world with (full-sized) German families thrilling to the model trains.
▲ International Maritime Museum Huge former warehouse filled with exhibits on nautical history, both military and civilian.
▲ BallinStadt Emigration Museum Germany's version of Ellis Island, now housing history exhibits instead of emigrants.
Binnenalster and Aussenalster Hamburg's two lakes, with inviting waterside promenades, chic shops, and a thriving boating/biking scene.
Kunsthalle Expansive art gallery with works by Old, New, and Modern Masters.
Arts and Crafts Museum Three floors filled with decorative arts.
St. Michael's Church Historic church with panoramic view tower.
"Shoulderblade" Neighborhood Colorful, artsy, and edgy district with fun eateries.
St. Pauli Elbtunnel Old industrial tunnel leading beneath the Elbe River to panoramic Hamburg views from the opposite bank.
SS Rickmer Rickmers Century-old sailing ship expertly restored by a corps of volunteers.
Speicherstadt Museum Traces the trading history of "Warehouse City."