Hamburg… Well, I’ve completely fallen in love with Hamburg. It looks like Rotterdam’s and Copenhagen’s love child that was raised in Berlin. Cool and classy with a great attitude. That’s how I would describe it. I could easily imagine myself living in it.
Although the second largest city in Germany with almost 2 million people living in it, it’s often overlooked by people visiting Germany. Often described as a large port and an industrial city, images of unpleasant grey place are something many people have in their minds when thinking about Hamburg. But, that couldn’t be further away from the truth. I’ve spent a weekend in Hamburg with my family and here is my itinerary for a perfect (kids friendly) weekend in Hamburg.
Weekend in Hamburg
I was invited to Hamburg by Come to Hamburg and have spent a long weekend there with my husband and a 4-year-old son. We’ve planned a relaxed weekend, but filled with activities both interesting to him and to us. A long weekend is a great amount of time to be spent in this city. However, you could easily spend a week there, because there are just so many things to do in Hamburg.
How to get there
*By car: We came to Hamburg by car. It was an easy five and a half hours drive from Amsterdam. Highways are good (and free of charge) both in the Netherlands and Germany. The only thing is that there are often construction works on German highways, so little traffic jams could always happen.
*By train: Three years ago I travelled to Hamburg by train from Amsterdam, and it was also easy and convenient. The German railway system is excellent, and there is even a children area in many trains where they can be louder and play with other kids.
*By plane: The city has an international airport, so you can also quickly fly there from anywhere in Europe.
Hamburg is cozy
One of the first things I’ve noticed while there is that Hamburg is such a liveable city. Large pedestrian zones, green areas, cultural events and restaurants are just some of the things I liked there.
It has that German cosiness I love so much. You can especially feel that in restaurants and beer houses. All the food there is comfort food. And it’s delicious! Beers are awesome. And the service is very personal. I could spend hours only by sitting in those German beer houses talking with people around me. It’s definitely a social moment having a meal in a restaurant there.
Hamburg loves technology
It’s also the city where engineering and mechanics are big. I have a feeling like half the city is working in something related to technology. And like they are completely passionate about it. I’ve seen so many strange vehicles while there. There are so many exhibitions related to technology organised, as well. Old cranes and maritime equipment are all around the city displayed as exhibits glorifying achievements of technology. Visiting ‘Miniatur Wunderland’ was a great way seeing that technology used to entertain people.
Hamburg has some amazing architecture
Architecture in Hamburg is diverse and so beautiful. Many old monumental buildings are giving you a feeling the city was significant and wealthy during history. Then, there are many industrial brick buildings in the area of the port. Those are not some cheap warehouses, but a beautiful (well preserved) buildings decorated with bricks and glazed tiles. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015 and are called “Speicherstadt” (Warehouse District). And then, there are many modern buildings there, on which their architects were playing with design, material and light. The city is very photogenic because of that. And I’ve seen many local people just wandering around taking pictures of their city.
Itinerary for a perfect weekend in Hamburg
Since there are so many interesting things to see and do in Hamburg, one can easily spend the whole week by exploring this lovely German city. That’s why I’ve created the itinerary here for a perfect weekend in Hamburg (that’s also kids friendly).
Saturday in Hamburg
We’ve left Amsterdam early in the morning and drove towards Groningen, Basel and then Hamburg. Weather was beautiful, so travelling was easy and convenient. We’ve came to Hamburg early in the afternoon and have checked in at our Best Western Alsterkrug Hotel. We were starving and decided to have lunch in a hotel before going to explore Hamburg. We’ve started in a real German manner with schnitzel and a beer. And it was a delicious start of our Hamburg adventure!
Public transport in Hamburg
Tickets for public transport were included in our hotel stay, and conveniently there was a bus station just in front of it. Public transport in Hamburg is easy to use. There are buses and metro (U Bahn). It’s quick, safe and the names of the stations are clearly marked. So, it’s effortless to navigate it. I would recommend getting a Hamburg Card so you can use it for a public transport and for discounts to some sights and museums.
The best first introduction to the city is just by walking around it. We’ve started from the very heart of Hamburg, from its City Hall. And have continued by strolling around the canals and its old port.
#1 – City Hall in Hamburg
Although it looks older, Hamburg’s City Hall (or Rathaus in German) was built at the end of the 19th Century. It’s still the place where the city’s mayor has his office and where the official meetings are held. A beautiful building was built in the Neo-renaissance style to mark the prosperity of Hamburg and Prussia at the time. Rathausmarkt Square, where it’s located, is a busy meeting place of many locals and visitors. There’s always something happening around (there was a dog exhibition organised while we were there), so it’s a great place to feel the everyday life of the city.
#2 – Canals and bridges in Hamburg
Hamburg is a city built on water. Three rivers are passing through it and, since it’s a large port, water and canals are everywhere. It is actually the city with the most bridges in the world. There are around 2,300 bridges in Hamburg (although, some sources are stating there are even more of them). So, when talking about a true ‘Venice of the North’, that title should definitely go to Hamburg. Or, should we rather say that Venice is the ‘Hamburg of the South’? Whatever we’re going to call it, some of those bridges are really beautiful, and I loved walking past them.
#3 – Dialogue in silence
Dialogue in silence was probably my favourite thing we’ve did in Hamburg. It’s a workshop organised in one of those beautiful old industrial former port buildings. It’s a one and a half hour long interactive workshop during which you’re learning about the world of deaf and communication without words being spoken. We have gotten headphones at the beginning of it and were in total silence for the rest of our time together. But, it was so amazing to see how we could communicate, share our feelings and introduce ourselves without any words. We were guided by a man who’s deaf, and he was so amazing in a way he made us understand his world in such a positive way. Here is a blog post Emma from Ettie and me wrote about it, where you can read more about a Dialogue in silence.
#4 – Walk around the HafenCity in Hamburg
Still, under a huge impression from a Dialogue in silence, we continued wandering around the canals and an old port of Hamburg. Many buildings are not in use by a port any more, so they were transformed into the offices and cultural institutions. It’s so surprising how liveable that area is today. There are many modern residential buildings there, with playgrounds, parks and street art. We’ve seen many people fishing or preparing to go on rides with their canoes and boats. Some were so friendly that they’ve even shown their catch and some huge fish to Karlo.
#5 – Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg
One of the most interesting modern buildings in Hamburg is its music hall. It’s the largest music hall in the world and was opened to the public in 2017, after ten years of building. It was quite controversial because it exceeded expected costs by four times and in the end, its construction cost 870 million Euros. A former warehouse was used as a base for the building. So, it’s a great combination of industrial brick architecture with a modern upper part made of glass. You can climb to its platform and enjoy the view of Hamburg from it. Or, if you would like to get the whole experience, attending one of the performances there, could be a great way to enjoy in a culture of Hamburg.
If you would like to learn more about Elbphilharmonie and how it was built, you can join the tour on a link here!
#6 – Canal cruise in Hamburg
Something I didn’t have a chance to do at the end, but would definitely do if I had more time, would be going on one of the canal cruises organised in Hamburg. You can enjoy in Hamburg’s bridges and architecture from the water and learn about its history. You can reserve your place and book a canal cruise on a link here.
Sunday in Hamburg
Next day we were woken up by a beautiful sun outside and were ready to spend it by exploring Hamburg more. We’ve had a tour in the International Maritime Museum scheduled at 10 AM, so that’s where we headed after a nice breakfast in our hotel.
#1 – International Maritime Museum Hamburg
Located in one of those former warehouse buildings, International Maritime Museum Hamburg is definitely a place where you could easily spend the whole day. On its 9 floors (or ‘decks’, how they call them) maritime paintings, ship models and other objects related to maritime history are exhibited. It’s a great place for adults, but it’s also perfect for kids. There is a huge model of Queen Mary 2 made of Lego on the first floor. During the weekend we were visiting it, the International Ship Modelling Days were taking place in a museum. It was great to talk with people creating these models and to see how passionate they are about that.
If you would like to visit International Maritime Museum in Hamburg, you can get your tickets on a link here!
*TIP: If you’re anything like me and need to have your coffee break at least twice per day, then I have a great place for you. Public Coffee Roasters is a lovely place with a really good coffee and some delicious cakes. We’ve stopped there on our way from the Internationales Maritimes Museum to the Chocoversum and really liked it.
#2 – Chocoversum in Hamburg
Well, Chocoversum is not your regular chocolate museum. It’s a place where you’ll learn how chocolate was created from the fruit on a tree until the final product. You’ll also learn how real chocolate should taste, you’ll, of course, taste many of them and will finally create your own chocolate. And you’ll amusingly do all of that. Tour there lasts for an hour and a half, but it’s so interesting and interactive, that even Karlo enjoyed it completely.
*TIP: Book your tickets and a guided tour in advance, so you’re sure you’ll get a place on one of them. You can do that on a link here.
#3 – Lunch at the Hofbräu Wirtshaus
Since I was in Bavaria for the first time some ten years ago, I’m in love with traditional German cuisine. Especially when it’s cold outside and you need something to warm you up, visiting some of the traditional beer houses is the best thing to do. Although Hofbräu is originally from Munich, they have branches in other German cities, as well. And I was so happy when I’ve found one in Hamburg, too. I’ll just say that we had our lunch in a huge wooden barrel (of course, Karlo picked up a table for us) and it was great.
After our lunch, we’ve just strolled around the city for a while. We’ve walked over the bridges and next to canals. Just sat on a bench for a while observing the city.
#4 – Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg
Our last stop that day was a place related to engineering and technology I was mentioning at the beginning of this post. Miniatur Wunderland is the biggest model railway in the world. They’ve created models of parts of Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and America. It contains around 1,040 trains and around 260,000 figures. There is a model of the airport where planes are landing and departing. And every few minutes lights are switching to show how the ‘wonderland’ looks like during a ‘daylight’ and a ‘night’. There are so many details on models and so many things happening in it. From firemen being busy with taking care of a building in a fire, football match happening at the stadium or trains transporting passengers from one side of the model to another.
If you’re going to visit Miniatur Wunderland, I would suggest you get your tickets in advance. You can buy them on a link here.
Monday in Hamburg
#1 – Kids at work
On a Monday morning Karlo and I went to a big indoor playground called the ‘Kids at work‘. It was located only a few bus stops from our hotel, so we were there early and had a few hours to play before we’ve headed back home. There are few stations where kids can play with different things like a kitchen, kinetic sand or train models. It’s clean, people working there were very polite and was, in general, a great place for kids. If we were living in Hamburg, we would be spending many rainy days there.
#2 – HafenCity Riverbus
Taking a ride in HafenCity Riverbus is probably one of the coolest things you can do in Hamburg. Sadly, I’ve missed it at the end, because only kids older than 5 could ride on it. It’s a city bus, that can go into the water and is becoming a river bus then. Such a cool vehicle! It’s definitely one of the reasons why I had an impression of Hamburg being a city where engineering and technology are big. Where else can you go sightseeing in something like that?
Hamburg is absolutely a city with some beautiful architecture, great cultural scene, lovely people and with so many things to do. Making it a great (long) weekend destination, it’s a place that should definitely go to your bucket list!
*Many thanks to Come to Hamburg and their partners for organising this trip for my family and me. We had a great time and enjoyed every second of it. However, as always, all opinions are my own.
*This post contains some affiliate links!