Easily one of Germany’s most well-loved destinations, Hamburg is a great place to spend the weekend, whether it be during one of its many yearly festivals like the Harbour Birthday or Hamburger Dom festival, or simply a weekend city getaway. Stroll along the Alster, explore the renowned Warehouse District or take a boat trip through the city’s innumerable canals. And if you’re feeling peckish, don’t forget that Hamburg has a reputation for delicious fresh fischbrötchen (fish sandwiches), as the Germans would say “Lecker, lecker, lecker!” Here are a few tips for making the most of your time in Hamburg.

Souvenirs and Cruise Ships

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Start your weekend off right with a visit to the St-Pauli Landing Stages by the sea, where you can enjoy the multitude of cafes, seafood restaurants and colourful souvenir shops. Take a breath of the sea air with a boat cruise through the city’s many canals – some of the routes even let you use a normal S-Bahn or U-Bahn (public transport) ticket to enter. Two of the most well-loved lines are the 62 and 72 which bring you to the harbour museum, the Elbe Philharmonic Hall as well as the renowned HafenCity. Cruise ships depart from Hamburg’s harbour throughout the year so make sure to take advantage of the incredible view of the Elbe and its many ocean liners from the jetties dotted along the pier. The Queen Mary 2 undeniably attracts the most onlookers.

Old Memories and Miniature Trains

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Hop on the number 72 ferry which will take you to the Elbe Philharmonic Hall, Hamburg’s new concert house which, inspite of its unfinished construction status, remains a beautiful sight to behold. A former tea, cacao and tabacco storehouse, Kaiserspeicher A forms the facade of its foundation. From there, it’s not far to the Speicherstadt, a massive warehouse complex in the centre of the city. Once upon a time, spices, teas, coffee and carpets arrived here from all corners of the globe. Today, offices and galleries occupy the restored warehouse spaces.

Take a mini trip around the world in the Miniatur Wunderland’s train set while you’re there and tour Hamburg, Scandinavia, the Alps and even Las Vegas. Boasting over 6,000 houses, 10,000 cars, 330,000 trees and 400,000 figures in the entire set, it’s the world’s largest miniature train set.

Hamburg’s Green Heart and the Carnival of the Earth

Planten un Blomen im Herbst - flickr: knehcsg

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the busy city with an excursion to the city’s idyllic “Planten un Blomen” park. Stroll through the Botanical Gardens, enjoy some of the herbs in the apothecary gardens or simply relax with a tea in the Japanese Garden tea house. Particularly beautiful in the summer with the colourful lights and fountains, the sounds of live classical music serenade the park on evenings throughout April and October.

5:00 a.m. in Hamburg

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A visit to Hamburg would never be complete without a trip to the famous fish market in Altona. Every Sunday morning from 5:00 a.m., vendors set up shop and begin hawking everything from fish to flowers. And if you’ve spent your evening in a bar or club on the Reeperbahn or the Schanzenviertel, a visit to the market in the early morning hours is practically a requirement. Though it may seem a bit strange, indulge in a local ritual by scarfing down a delicious fischbrotchen before heading home. When in Rome, right? Alternatively, head for the market just before closing time at 9:30 p.m. That way you’ll be sure to score the biggest bargains as vendors adopt an “everything must go” approach to sales. So, grab a basket of fruit and head to the shores of the Elbe for a cosy picnic and relax while watching the huge ships sail past.

Last but not Least…

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From there, it’s not too far to another one of the city’s most breathtaking landmarks, St Michael’s Church, affectionately referred to as “Michel”. Those with the stamina to reach the top will be rewarded with an amazing panorama over the city. Then, jump on the U-Bahn or walk over to Hamburg’s Town Hall and the Jungfernstieg. Once upon a time, families paraded their unmarried daughters down the promenade in the hopes of securing an appropriate suitor but nowadays, tourists and locals alike simply relax on the banks of the Alster. As soon as the ice is thick enough, it is transformed into a Winter Wonderland and Hamburgers flock to the Außenalster lake to a walk across the icy surface. And in typical German fashion, a plethora of stalls pop up alongside offering the frostbitten walkers hot mulled wine and delicious sausages.

Have you ever been to Hamburg? What is your favorite city break destination?

Madeline Sinclair

Madeline Sinclair is a Canadian expat living in Berlin who loves cooking and travelling more than anything. She once missed a flight and spent 30 hours in Gatwick airport - a mistake she's sworn never make again.