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Free Self-Guided Hamburg Walking Tour: Highlights & Overlooked Gems (With Map!)

Free Self-Guided Hamburg Walking Tour: Beautiful view of Hamburg city center with town hall and Alster river.

With its distinct Scandinavian vibe, numerous canals, and bustling port, Hamburg is a city like no other in Germany. It is a city of many faces with the neon-lit Reeperbahn at night, verdant parks, and where elegant historic structures stand juxtaposed with towering steel-and-glass buildings. Due to its flat terrain, it is a fairly walkable city and a Hamburg walking tour is one of the best ways to see its many sights, important landmarks and soak in the charming atmosphere. This post includes a map for a self-guided free walking tour of Hamburg. Enjoy your walk! 🙂

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Why Choose This Free Self-Guided Hamburg Walking Tour?

This free self-guided Hamburg walking tour itinerary is perfect if you are short on time and trying to save some money. With our free map, you can follow the route quite easily without having to hire an expensive guide for the day.

The tour will take you past the city’s major attractions, landmark public buildings, places of worship, cultural venues, restaurants, and cafes. You’ll also learn a few lesser-known facts about Hamburg along the way.

The tour will take you through the center of Hamburg, principally focusing on the attraction studded areas of the Old Town and the UNESCO World Heritage Speicherstadt warehouse district.

Hamburg Walking Tour Itinerary

The free Hamburg walking tour covers a total distance of approximately 9.2 kilometers (5.7 miles). The tour starts at the Hamburg Central Station and terminates at the Old Elbtunnel. Feel free to take a break if you feel jaded along the way.

I have included some cafes and restaurants in the map where you can take a breather and grab a bite. On this Hamburg walking tour, you will see:

  1. Hamburg Central Station
  2. Kunsthalle Hamburg
  3. Binnenalster
  4. Alster Arcades
  5. Jungfernstieg
  6. Bleichenfleet
  7. Hamburg Stock Exchange
  8. Hamburg Town Hall
  9. Bucerius Art Forum
  10. St. Peter’s Church
  11. Mönckebergstraße
  12. St. James’ Church
  13. Kontorhausviertel & Chilehaus
  14. Poggenmühlen Bridge & Speicherstadt
  15. HafenCity & the International Maritime Museum
  16. St. Catherine’s Church
  17. St. Nikolai Memorial
  18. Nikolaifleet
  19. Deichstraße
  20. Elbphilharmonie
  21. St. Michael’s Church
  22. Cap San Diego
  23. Rickmer Rickmers
  24. St. Pauli Landing Bridges
  25. Old Elbtunnel

1. Hamburg Central Station

Self-guided Hamburg walking tour: View of the Hamburg Central Station, characterized by cast-iron-and-glass architecture. C: Gestur Gislason/shutterstock.com

Kick-off your Hamburg walking tour at the Hamburg Central Station (Hamburg Hauptbahnhof). It is conveniently located on the eastern periphery of the Old Town and is a good starting point for discovering Hamburg.

It is not Hamburg’s most beautiful train station building (I reckon that honor goes to Hamburg Dammtor) but the Neo-Renaissance style building is still pretty impressive.

The station’s cast-iron-and-glass architecture evokes the grandiose self-confidence of imperial Germany. The station is northern Germany’s most important railway hub and serves around 500,000 passengers and visitors station daily, making it one of the busiest stations in Germany.

There are plenty of cafes, specialty stores and a wide range of food choices inside.

Directions

Your next stop is the Kunsthalle Hamburg (2) which can be easily reached by heading north on Glockengießerwall. You’ll be walking a distance of 350 m.

2. Kunsthalle Hamburg

Hamburg Museums: The Hamburg Kunsthalle is one of the must-see attractions in Hamburg and one of the highlights of this self-guided walking tour.

The Hamburg Kunsthalle (Art Gallery) is one of the most interesting art galleries in northern Germany. It opened to the public in 1869 and the collection provides a chronological review of European art movements, with a strong focus on 19th-century German Romantics, with works by Caspar David Friedrich and Philipp Otto Runge.

The Old Masters section includes work by the likes of Lucas Cranach the Younger, Goya, Rembrandt, and Rubens.

A four-story, cubelike extension, the Galerie der Gegenwart (contemporary gallery), was built in 1996. The modern art collection is quite large and especially strong in 20th-century art and greats like Francis Bacon, Munch, Picasso, Warhol, and Yves Klein are on display.

Directions

Your next stop is the Binnenalster (3). You’ll be walking a distance of 350 m.

3. Binnenalster

Free Self-guided Hamburg walking tour: View of the Binnenalster, the smaller of the two artificial Alster Lakes in Hamburg. It is one of the top things to see in Hamburg.

The next attraction on this free self-guided Hamburg walking tour the Binnenalster (Inner Alster), the smaller of the two artificial Alster lakes. It is separated from the larger Außenalster (Outer Alster) by the Kennedybrücke and the Lombardsbrücke.

It enhances much of Hamburg’s inner-city charm and is lined on three sides by elegant buildings that form a beautiful backdrop to the water. In the middle of the lake is the Alster Fountain, shooting water nearly 40 m (130 feet) into the air. It operates between 9 and midnight from March to November.

The lake itself is about 2 meters deep and popular for all kinds of watersports. It is also popular with joggers going on their exercise runs and locals meeting up for coffee at one of the several kiosks and bars on the tree-lined banks. There are plenty of benches to sit down and take in the scenery.

Fun Fact

Hamburg was founded by Charlemagne as Hammaburg in AD 808 shortly after defeating the Saxons and forcing their conversion to Christianity. The etymology of Hamburg is a bit uncertain. The first element ham derives from the Old High German word “hamma”, meaning “back of the knee” or “bend”, in reference to the city’s position on a river bend promontory; or Middle High German hamme “enclosed area of pastureland.” Burg is German for “fort,” in reference to the moated castle built there in 825.

Directions

Your next stop is the Alster Arcades (4). You’ll be walking a distance of 500 m.

4. Alster Arcades

Shopping in Hamburg: The elegant Alster Arcades are one of the best places for high-end shopping in Hamburg. They are also one of the highlights of this self-guided Hamburg walking tour. C: ruzanna/shutterstock.com

The iconic Alster Arcades (Alsterarkaden) are one of the main points of interest in Hamburg. The Alster Arcades are one of Hamburg’s most exclusive places for high-end shopping and elegant dining.

The numerous boutiques and fashion stores selling designer goods here lure visitors to loiter for a while, as do the wine bars and bistros. The bistros add a bit of Mediterranean flair, especially in summer.

The Alster Arcades were constructed after the Great Fire of 1842, in which the majority of the buildings between Binnenalster and Rathausmarkt burned down. The elegant colonnade was designed in Venetian style and is home to numerous street cafés that offer a lovely view of the water.

A poignant and sober monument that pays tribute to the men and young boys of Hamburg that perished in the First World War stands opposite the Alster Arcades. The inscription on one side translates as ‘Forty thousand sons of the city who sacrificed their lives for you’.

This monument did not please the Nazis, however, who erected a more belligerent monument in the vicinity of Dammtor station.

Fun Fact

Hamburg is one of the wealthiest cities in Germany and home to the most millionaires in the country.

Directions

Your next stop is Jungfernstieg (5) which is just around the corner of the Alster Arcades.

5. Jungfernstieg

Shopping in Hamburg: View of classical buildings on the elegant Jungfernstieg promenade, one of the top things to see in Hamburg. C: Anamaria Mejia/shutterstock.com

Taking a stroll down Jungfernstieg is one of the best things to do in Hamburg. The street is one of Hamburg’s oldest dating back to 1235. Its favorable location on the Binnenalster led it to be popular with the hierarchy.

In the old days, rich families used to bring their unmarried daughters (Jungfern in German) for a stroll in search of a prospective groom. Thus, it acquired the name ‘Jungfernstieg’.

It has undergone several changes along the way and in 1838 Jungfernstieg became the first street in Germany to be asphalted. With the addition of new grandstand-like steps along the edge of the shore, Junfernstieg is easily among Europe’s most attractive promenades.

Flagship stores of the fashion elite are also located here, alongside exclusive jewelry and interior design shops. Not to worry though if you’re on a budget, there are more affordable stores located in the stately Neoclassical buildings.

The Alex im Alsterpavillon (Alster Pavilion), Hamburg’s best-known café, is also situated on Jungfernstieg, directly on the Binnenalster.

Directions

Your next stop is Bleichenfleet (6) which is best observed from Bleichenbrücke. You’ll be walking a distance of 450 m.

6. Bleichenfleet

What to see in Hamburg: The beautiful Bleichenfleet is one of the several canals along this self-guided walking tour of Hamburg. C: Oscity/shutterstock.com

One of the things you’ll notice when taking a Hamburg walking tour is that the city is surrounded on all sides and filled to the core with water. As a consequence, a network of 22 canals twist and weave their way around the inner city and offer marvelous views of the surrounding architecture.

Hamburg doesn’t quite live up to its moniker of ‘Venice of the North’ but there are still some good ones. One such canal is Bleichenfleet which is a straight line of water, office buildings, and mirror images.

Fun Fact

The word fleet comes from the medieval German word “fleten”, which was used to describe the flow of water. However, unlike the canals, the fleets were originally dependent on the tide, and their water level fluctuated with the tide. Many of the fleets were gone in the 19th century and in the existent ones, locks regulate the level of water today.

Directions

Your next stop is the Hamburg Stock Exchange (7) which lies straight down the road at Adolphsplatz 1. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.

7. Hamburg Stock Exchange

Things to see in Hamburg: The Hamburg Stock Exchange building is one of the must-see sights on this free self-guided walking tour of Hamburg. C: Claudio Divizia/shutterstock.com

The Hamburg Stock Exchange (Börse) was founded in 1558 and is reputed to be the oldest institution of its kind in Central and Northern Europe. The building was designed in the late-Classical style in 1841 and was one of the few buildings to survive the Great Fire that ravaged most of the old town, including 71 city blocks and 1,749 houses the following year.

The stock exchange is connected to the Town Hall, creating an impressive ensemble. The Stock Exchange is run by the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, which also has its headquarters here.

Floor trading of stocks and securities ended in 2003 and the Grain Exchange is the only active commodity exchange that still remains.

Directions

Your next stop is the Hamburg Town Hall (8) which can be reached via turning left on Große Johannisstraße. You’ll be walking a distance of 280 m.

8. Hamburg Town Hall

What to do in Hamburg: A visit to the gorgeous Hamburg City Hall is one of the best things to see when sightseeing in Hamburg.

The Hamburg Town Hall (Rathaus) is undoubtedly one of the top 10 sights in Hamburg. It stands in stark contrast to much of the understated nature of Hamburg. Nothing was held back in the construction of this Neo-Renaissance palatial building, erected in 1886–97.

It is really a massive building, built atop 4,000 wooden stakes, with dimensions of 111 meters by 70 meters, and its tower is impressive 112 meters high.

It has 647 rooms – and for some reason, the Hamburgers seem proud that this is apparently six more than in Buckingham Palace. The facade is richly adorned with the bronze statues of 20 former German emperors.

You’ll also notice that the entrance portal of the Town Hall is adorned with sculptures, paintings, and Hamburg’s coat of arms.

The Hamburg Town Hall is the seat of the Hamburg City Council and Senate. The fascinating interior of the Rathaus can only be seen on guided tours.

The lovely fountain in the interior courtyard commemorates the cholera epidemic of 1892 when almost 9,000 people were killed in just over two months. Hygieia, the Greek goddess of health watches over the waters from the top of the fountain.

The adjacent Rathausmarkt square is the heart of Hamburg and the place where many concerts, festivals, and protests take place.

Directions

Your next stop is the Bucerius Art Forum (9) which lies just beside the Hamburg Town Hall.

9. Bucerius Art Forum

Free self-guided Hamburg walking tour: The richly embellished facade of the Bucerius Art Forum is one of the best things to see when sightseeing in Hamburg. C: Jocian [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Another impressive building in the Old Town is the former Reichsbank building near the Town Hall. This neoclassical building was built between 1914–17 and features a richly embellished facade depicting several workers in various professions and trades such as senators to water carriers on the building’s gables.

It is now home to the Bucerius Art Forum (Bucerius Kunst Forum) which mounts four exhibitions annually covering themes from classical times to the present day. The museum commissions guest curators from around the world to create shows that cover every art period and style.

Fun Fact

Hamburg’s cityscape is primarily dominated by buildings dating from the 19th and 20th centuries with only a few older buildings still standing today. This is due to the enormous destruction caused by the Great Fire of 1842 and the flurry of bombs that rained on the city during World War II. A smaller factor is that Hamburg natives have always preferred tearing down old buildings and replacing them with new ones.

Directions

Your next stop is St. Peter’s Church (10). You’ll be walking a distance of 500 m.

10. St. Peter’s Church

Churches in Hamburg: The St. Peter's Church is one of the five principal parish churches in Hamburg and one of the highlights of this self-guided Hamburg walking tour,

The skyline of Hamburg’s center is dominated chiefly by the towers and spires of its five main churches. The oldest of these parish churches is St. Peter’s Church (St. Petri Kirche), thought to have been built in the 11th century.

The church was expanded into a Gothic hall church in the 14th century and was finally completed with the addition of the second nave in the 15th century. Very little was left of the facade when the church fell victim to the Great Fire of 1842 and the church was rebuilt in Neo-Gothic style and was modeled on the original.

Amazingly, the church suffered only relatively minor damage during World War II and has many old artworks that were rescued from the fire. The lion doorknob on the left door of the main portal dates from the 14th century and is considered the oldest artwork in Hamburg.

The church spire is 132 meters high and visitors can climb 544 steps to the viewing platform at 123 meters. The view of the inner city from here is sublime, and the climb is worth the effort.

Directions

Your next stop is Mönckebergstraße (11) which is just beside the St. Peter’s Church.

11. Mönckebergstraße

Shopping in Hamburg: View of Mönckebergstraße, one of Hamburg's premier shopping streets. C: Sterilgutassistentin [GPL (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Hamburg is a veritable shopper’s paradise. The spectrum of goods on offer ranges from the elegant and chic to the unique and you can find stuff from fashion and jewelry to furniture and antiques, from interior design to arts and crafts. This probably explains why it is regarded as Germany’s shopping capital.

Mönckebergstraße is the premier shopping street in Hamburg that leads from the Rathausmarkt to the Central Station. The street swells with local and out-of-town shoppers on Saturday and public holidays.

Directions

Your next stop is St. James’ Church (12) which can be reached by going down south on Ida-Ehre-Platz, and turning left onto Steinstraße. You’ll be walking a distance of 180 m.

12. St. James’ Church

What to see in Hamburg: The St. James' Church is one of the five principal churches in Hamburg and one of the must-see attractions when sightseeing in Hamburg. C: Lepneva Irina/shutterstock.com

St. James’ Church (or Hauptkirche St. Jacobi) is the second of five principal parish churches that you’ll be seeing on this free self-guided walking tour of Hamburg.

It was built in the second half of the 14th century and has undergone a lot of change since then thus incorporating elements from every century in its design. Its tower rises to a height of 123 meters.

The church took a severe battering during World War II but most of the art treasures were saved. Of special note are three early 16th-century altars and a marble pulpit from 1610.

The 1693 Arp Schnitger organ is the marquee attraction of the church, and with 3,880 pipes, it is the largest Baroque organ in Northern Germany. Even Johann Sebastian Bach played this instrument.

Directions

Your next stop is the Kontorhausviertel & Chilehaus (13) which can be reached via Steinstraße and Mohlenhofstraße. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.

13. Kontorhausviertel & Chilehaus

Free self-guided Hamburg walking tour: The Kontorhausviertel is one of the must-see sights in Hamburg.

The Kontorhausviertel, with its many impressive office buildings, is one of the best things to see when exploring Hamburg on foot. These huge buildings were designed in the Expressionistic style of the 1920s.

The buildings are characterized by their reinforced concrete and red-brick facades, copper thatched roofs, broad windows, and imposing entrances.

Some of the buildings included here are the Sprinkenhof – which is the largest office complex, the Montanhof – with its many bay windows, and the Meßberghof – with its charming spiral staircase that winds its way up to eleven storeys.

Hamburg sightseeing: The iconic Chilehaus (Chile House) is one of the highlights of this self-guided Hamburg walking tour.

The most striking of these edifices is the ten-story Chilehaus, which is arguably the most famous office building in Hamburg. Due to its thin, unconventional form, it has been nicknamed “Ozeanriese” (ocean giant).

The building is reminiscent of the prow of a ship due to its angular form, especially when viewed from the prow side in the east. The Chilehaus was constructed between 1922-24 and soon became an emblem of both Brick Expressionism architecture and Hamburg’s economic revival post WWI.

A staggering 4.8 million bricks were used in its construction! The name “Chilehaus” comes from a Hamburg merchant, Henry Barens Sloman, who derived his wealth from trading in Chile and commissioned the building.

Directions

Your next stop is Poggenmühlen Bridge & Speicherstadt (14) which can be reached via Wandrahmsteg. You’ll be walking a distance of 350 m.

14. Poggenmühlen Bridge & Speicherstadt

Things to do in Hamburg: The view of the Wasserschloss castle from Poggenmühlen bridge is one of the best instagrammable locations in Hamburg.

There are many instagrammable locations in Hamburg but my favorite one is the view from Poggenmühlenbrücke (Poggenmühlen bridge). I reckon the main reason why this place is so popular is the presence of Wasserschloss in the background.

This moated red-brick castle lies on a peninsula at the confluence of Wandrahmsfleet and Holländischbrookfleet and is girdled by mighty storehouses. Despite the name, no royalty resided in the building; instead, it was used by dockworkers, and now you will find a tea shop and restaurant inside.

Fun Fact

Hamburg has approximately 2500 bridges, which is more than the number of bridges in Amsterdam, London and Venice combined.

Free Self-guided Hamburg Walking Tour: View of the Speicherstadt, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best things to see in Hamburg.

The surrounding Speicherstadt is one of the best places to see in Hamburg. The area was established at the end of the 19th century and grew to become the largest warehouse district in the world.

There are a total of 15 warehouses and a series of individual buildings, the vast majority of which are constructed in the eminent Neo-Gothic architectural manner.

The buildings here stand on oak piles and are covered with a distinctive red brick outer layer with entrances from land and water. Warehouses are typically five to eight storeys tall and equipped with winches.

The warehouses, which once stored precious commodities like cocoa, cotton, rubber, silk, tea, and spices now mainly house electronic goods and oriental carpets.

Since the 1980s, Speicherstadt has been undergoing a transformation into elegant office spaces, showrooms, restaurants, and apartments. A mesmerizing atmosphere is created here in the evening by light projections on buildings, bridges, and canals.

Speicherstadt is a major tourist attraction today and includes several museums among its many attractions. Along with the Kontorhaus district, it was deservedly made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.

Directions

Your next stop is HafenCity & the International Maritime Museum (15). You’ll be walking a distance of 600 m.

15. HafenCity & the International Maritime Museum

Things to do in Hamburg: The waterside quarter of HafenCity is one of the must-see attractions along this self-guided Hamburg walking tour.

HafenCity is the new waterside quarter encompassing the Speicherstadt that was formally established in 2008. Sprawling over 220 hectares, it is the largest urban construction project in Europe of the 21st century and is being built partly on a site that a generation ago was deemed as an industrial wasteland.

This city within a city is expected to double the population of downtown Hamburg with thousands of new waterfront condominiums, glistening high-rises, offices, art galleries, shops, restaurants, and cafes.

Many of the most interesting things to do in Hamburg are in HafenCity. The zealous project is slated to be finished between 2025 and 2030, but visitors can already revel at some of Europe’s most visionary architecture here. I would definitely love to return to Hamburg to witness it after it has been finished.

What to see in Hamburg: The wonderful International Maritime Museum is one of the best museums in Hamburg and one of the highlights of this self-guided walking tour of Hamburg. C: saiko3p/shutterstock.com

Since 2008, the oldest preserved warehouse (Kaispeicher B) in HafenCity has been home to the International Maritime Museum, the largest seafaring museum in the world. It is a fascinating place to discover more about Hamburg’s rich maritime history and all things sea-related.

The museum’s ten storeys are littered with more than 40,000 exhibits that include model ships in various scales, navigation instruments, nautical charts, blueprints, and numerous other items.

Remarkably, virtually the museum’s entire collection was amassed by one man, Peter Tamm, the former chairman of Europe’s largest digital publishing house Axel Springer SE.

Fun Fact

Hamburg is Germany’s most important media city. It is home to more than 13,000 companies in the industry. Popular German language publications like DIE ZEIT and DER SPIEGEL have their headquarters in Hamburg. Many successful films have used Hamburg as a backdrop such as ‘Hanna’ and ‘The Odessa File’.

Directions

Your next stop is St. Catherine’s Church (16) which can be reached by going north on Osakaallee and Bei St. Annen. You’ll be walking a distance of 550 m.

16. St. Catherine’s Church

Hamburg sightseeing: The St. Catherine's Church is one of the main churches in Hamburg and one of the best things to see in the city,

St. Catherine’s Church (St. Katharinen) is the third of the five main churches that you’ll encounter on this Hamburg walking tour. It has been around since the 13th century and is known as Mariner’s church due to its vicinity to the water.

The base of the tower is the sole remnant of the original building. The top of the 116-meter tower of this church is beautifully capped by a Baroque-inspired steeple with arches– a characteristic feature of Hamburg’s skyline.

Like the St. James’ Church, St. Catherine’s Church incurred heavy damage during World War II and was subsequently rebuilt and restored. Like most Lutheran churches, it is quite simple from the inside with amazing stain glass windows and a beautiful wooden carving of St Catherine.

Directions

Your next stop is the St. Nikolai Memorial (17) which can be reached via Neue Gröningerstraße and Willy-Brandt-Straße. You’ll be walking a distance of 500 m.

17. St. Nikolai Memorial

Free self-guided Hamburg walking tour: View of the St. Nikolai Memorial, one of the must-see sights in Hamburg.

The erstwhile St. Nikolai Church (St. Nicholas’ Church) was erected in the 12th century and was one of Hamburg’s five principal churches. The church was rebuilt in the Neo-Gothic style after the Great Fire of 1842 and eventually rose to a height of 147 meters.

During the air raids (Operation Gomorrah) of World War II, much of St. Nikolai Church suffered heavy damage barring the spire.

However, it was decided not to rebuild the church and the ruins of the original church have become a memorial to the tragic consequences of war and serve as a solemn plea for world peace. The crypt was converted into a museum with a permanent exhibition on the destruction of Hamburg.

A glass elevator whisks visitors up to a viewing platform 76 meters high from where you are accorded wonderful views of Hamburg, as well as historical photographs of the cityscape, permitting an intriguing contrast of the skyline before and after 1943.

History 101: Operation Gomorrah

Hamburg was a chief target for Allied bombers during World War II due to its large port, munitions factories, and transportation links. After studying what, The British decided to use the same techniques on Hamburg that were employed by the Luftwaffe during their bombing of Coventry (Coventry Blitz) in 1940. The air raids began on the 24th of July but were most severe on the night of July 27, 1943, when the RAF Bomber Command hit targets first with explosive bombs to open roofs, and cut through streets & water supplies(making it hard for firefighters to respond), then followed up with incendiary bombs. Temperatures of nearly 1000°C set the streets ablaze, uprooted trees, and cars were tossed into superheated air. In three hours, the inferno killed approximately 35,000 people, and reduced 21 square kilometers of Hamburg to rubble and ashes. At the end of the eight-day bombing campaign, which included US raids, about 42,000 people had perished and countless were left homeless. The firebombing of Dresden that took place two years later is more well-known, but more people died in Hamburg. The attack was given the codename “Operation Gomorrah” after the biblical city of Gomorrah, which was completely consumed by fire and brimstone by divine judgement.

Directions

Your next stop is Nikolaifleet (18) which is best observed from the Holzbrücke. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.

18. Nikolaifleet

What to do in Hamburg: View of the lovely Nikolaifleet, one of the most instagrammable locations in Hamburg and one of the highlights of this free self-guided Hamburg walking tour.

You’ve now arrived at one of the most photogenic locations of our free Hamburg walking tour. The Nikolaifleet is the prettiest one of Hamburg’s canals. It used to be the main river mouth where the waters of the Alster flowed into the Elbe River.

Get your cameras ready here as the gentle curve of Nikolaifleet and the backside of the buildings on Deichstraße provides an unforgettable view.

Directions

Your next stop is Deichstraße (19) which lies just around the corner from Holzbrücke. You’ll be walking a distance of 150 m.

19. Deichstraße

Hamburg sightseeing: The old merchant houses on Deichstraße are one of the top things to see on this Hamburg walking tour.

One of my very favorite things to do in Hamburg is taking a stroll on Deichstraße. This former 14th-century merchant street is a throwback to ‘Old Hamburg’ and provides a peek into the city’s Hanseatic past.

It was here in the warehouse of the house at No. 42 that a fire broke out in 1842, a fire that turned into a huge conflagration lasting several days and left approximately 20,000 people homeless

Fun Fact

The Hanseatic League was an alliance of trading guilds that established a trade monopoly along the coast of Northern Europe in the Middle Ages. By joining the Hanseatic League, Hamburg’s fortunes flourished and it became the leading German trading and warehousing city between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

The majority of the 17th-19th merchants’ houses on Deichstraße have since been restored to their original state, thanks largely to nonprofit foundations. Plaques on the exterior of the buildings convey information about the storied history of some of the houses here.

The house at No. 37 survived relatively unscathed and it is the last merchant house in Hamburg that has remained in its original state.

Several restaurants have now opened up in these old houses. It is also interesting to see the narrow channels that run between the houses and lead to the water.

Directions

Your next stop is the Elbphilharmonie (20). You’ll be walking a distance of 650 m.

20. Elbphilharmonie

Free self-guided Hamburg walking tour: View of the waterwave-like structure of the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall, one of the best things to see in Hamburg.

The Elbphilharmonie or ‘Elphi’ is the newest star attraction to Hamburg’s cityscape. An absolutely phenomenal structure, this daring landmark is the centerpiece of HafenCity.

Perched atop a former cocoa warehouse on water, its shimmering glass facade resembles an undulating water wave and reflects on the city’s maritime past.

The interior includes a spectacular concert hall, a hotel, a public plaza, restaurants, 45 luxury apartments and a huge viewing platform with a 360-degree panoramic view of the city and the harbor. It’s free to gain entry to the main foyer and to walk around the building for views of the city.

Directions

Your next stop is St. Michael’s Church (21). You’ll be walking a distance of 1 km.

21. St. Michael’s Church

Things to do in Hamburg: View of the St. Michael's Church, one of the main churches in Hamburg.

St. Michael’s Church (St. Michaelis) is the newest and the last of the five main churches that you’ll be seeing on this free Hamburg walking tour. This church, affectionately known as ‘Michel’, is the city’s most beloved landmark and Hamburg’s skyline wouldn’t be the same without the presence of its 132-meter high tower.

To say that St. Michael’s Church has a storied history would be putting it mildly. The first church, built in 1649–61, was felled in 1750 by a lightning strike; the second, built in 1750–62, burned down to the ground in 1906 and was completely rebuilt in 1907–12 with the aid of numerous donors.

You’ll notice that just above the entrance, Satan is depicted writhing at the feet of the Archangel Michael who is shown vanquishing the Devil with a cross-shaped lance.

The interior of St. Michael’s Church is tastefully decorated in Baroque fashion and features an imposing altarpiece, some amazing organs, and a spectacular marble pulpit.

The church’s vast 17th-century crypt is one of the largest in Europe and contains 2400 tombs of some prominent Hamburg natives. The observation deck at 106 meters offers some of the best views of Hamburg and the surroundings.

Directions

Your next stop is the Cap San Diego (22) which can be reached by heading south on Schaarmarkt and Neustädter Neuer Weg. You’ll be walking a distance of 650 m.

22. Cap San Diego

Hamburg sightseeing: View of the Cap San Diego, the world's largest museum ship and one of the major attractions on this self-guided Hamburg walking tour. C: travelview/shutterstock.com

The harbor is the true heart of Hamburg and you will come across a vast cornucopia of sightseeing boats, harbor tours, and ferries among the docks and massive containers. Due to Hamburg’s rich maritime history, there are some prominent ships moored at the harbor.

One famous vessel is Cap San Diego, the world’s largest museum ship stretching 159 meters, known as the ‘White Swan of the South Atlantic’.

This ship was built in Hamburg in 1961 and operated as a general cargo vessel between Europe and South America. Besides excursions to Cuxhaven and Kiel and during parades, the Cap San Diego lies anchored at its dock at the Überseebrücke.

The ship’s interiors provide a riveting idea of what it was like to live on board from the museum’s exhibits.

Directions

Your next stop is Rickmer Rickmers (23) which can be reached by heading left on Elbpromenade. You’ll be walking a distance of 500 m.

23. Rickmer Rickmers

What to see in Hamburg: View of Rickmer Rickmers, a famous three-masted sailing ship which is one of the must-see sights in Hamburg. C: Aleksandr Simonov/shutterstock.com

The three-masted Rickmer Rickmers sailing schooner is one of the highlights of the port of Hamburg. This 97-meter long freighter has had a long and colorful history after its construction at the Rickmers shipyard in Bremerhaven in 1896.

It was initially used in the saltpeter trade with Chile and from 1912 till 1962 was used by the Portuguese Navy as a cadet school ship. The ship’s figurehead (designed to protect the ship against bad luck and to watch over its course) is modeled after the four-year-old grandson of the founder of Rickmers shipyards.

Rickmer Rickmers has been moored as a museum ship at Landungsbrücken since 1987. It’s a great pleasure to roam the decks, exploring the crew’s and officers’ quarters, the galley, and even the engine room.

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you can climb the ship’s masts and rigging that rise to 35 m on Saturdays and holidays.

Directions

Your next stop is the St. Pauli Landing Bridges (24) which can be reached via Bei den St. Pauli-Landungsbrücken. You’ll be walking a distance of 350 m.

24. St. Pauli Landing Bridges

Hamburg sightseeing: No Hamburg walking tour would be complete without seeing the landmark St. Pauli Landing Bridges, one of the best things to see in Hamburg.

No sightseeing tour of Hamburg would be complete without paying a visit to the iconic St. Pauli Landing Bridges (Landungsbrücken). The Landing Bridges comprise ten floating pontoons, measuring 700 meters in total. The long passenger hall, which forms part of the complex, was built in 1907–09.

The initial Landing Bridges were built in 1839 as a place for steamships to dock before heading overseas. Today, the complex consists of the Art Nouveau reception halls, with archways to the pontoon, two corner towers, and cupolas. New pontoons were added after the complex suffered heavy damage during World War II.

Virtually all harbor cruises depart from here. The buskers, souvenir stands, and boat companies touting their tours create a colorful hustle and bustle. Numerous restaurants, bars, and food kiosks are also found along the St. Pauli Landing Bridges.

There’s nothing quite like taking a break here to breathe in the sea air and watching the ships sail by while munching on some delectable fischbrötchen (a simple bun sandwich made with fish that is extremely popular in Hamburg) and gulping down chilled suds 🙂

Directions

Your next and final stop of this free self-guided Hamburg walking tour is the Old Elbtunnel (25) which lies adjacent to the St. Pauli Landing Bridges. You’ll be walking a distance of 50 m.

25. Old Elbtunnel

What to see in Hamburg: View of the famous Old Elbtunnel, longest river tunnel in the world and one of the highlights of this free self-guided Hamburg walking tour.

The Old Elbtunnel (Alter Elbtunnel) aka the St. Pauli Elbtunnel is an iconic part of Hamburg’s industrial heritage. Built in 1911, at a depth of 24 meters under the Elbe River and spanning a length of 426.5 meters, this is the longest river tunnel in the world.

The revolutionary tunnel was built as a means for enabling easier access for thousands of harbor workers living on the north side of the Elbe to get to the shipyards on the south side, where they were employed.

The tunnel is 6 meters in diameter and is decorated with light-blue ceramic tiles that feature glazed terracotta reliefs of nautical motifs and vintage signage. The northern entrance at Landungsbrücken with its vivid green dome Art Nouveau building adds to the elegance of this place.

You can descend down to the tunnel from the northern entrance. It takes less than 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other. The Old Elbtunnel is open 24/7 and is free to enter.

What Else to See in Hamburg

Obviously, there are plenty more things to see and do in Hamburg than what we have covered in our walking tour.

Places like the bohemian Sternschanze & St. Pauli districts, the iconic Reeperbahn, the beautiful Planten un Blomen park, the winding alleys and mansions of Treppenviertel Blankenese, and many more sights all deserve to be seen.

Where to Stay in Hamburg

Since most of Hamburg’s attractions are located in the city center area, it is best to select a hotel close to the center. Even if you stay further out, it’s a good idea to stay anywhere on the metro line (i.e. 5-minute walk from the nearest metro station), which is part of Hamburg’s excellent public transit system.

Hostel: Generator Hostel, a great choice right next to the Central railway station

Budget: Motel One Hamburg-Alster, unpretentious choice in the St. Georg district

Mid-range: Hotel Europäischer Hof Hamburg, an excellent choice within 2 minutes of the Central railway station

Splurge: Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg, a sumptuous top-choice pick on the Alster that has been the first choice of celebrities visiting Hamburg. It has also served as a set for numerous films


Now, what do you think? Did you enjoy our self-guided walking tour of Hamburg? Are there any other stops that we should be adding? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hi there, I'm Mihir! I was born in India, raised there and in Australia before spending nearly a decade in Finland. I suffer from chronic fernweh and am always looking forward to a new adventure. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, beer, classic movies, history, cricket, and Australian Rules Football. Oh, there's also my partner in crime Jacky who's not too bad either 😉

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