The Perfect 2 to 3 Days in Hamburg Itinerary

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by Paola Drexler

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Planning out a 2 to 3 days in Hamburg itinerary is an excellent way to see all of the top highlights in Germany’s second-largest city. Boasting a historic port, interesting neighbourhoods and a thriving arts scene, Hamburg has a lot to offer visitors no matter how long you have to spend here.

This guide will take you around the highlights of this lovely city – covering both the well-known areas and some off-the-beaten-path gems. So if you’re considering a visit to Hamburg, you’re sure to end up leaving with a piece of the city and lots of great memories.

How Many Days in Hamburg?

We’d all love to have unlimited time to kill in Hamburg and discover every corner of the versatile city – you’ll feel the same once breathing in the salty sea breeze.

However, most of us only have a few days and thus you might be wondering whether 2 days in are enough or if it’s safer to go with 3.

Hamburg is filled with so much culture and history while simultaneously serving as a key transportation hub for Europe’s largest economy. Just a heads up, if you want to visit the famous Fish Market, be sure to be in the city on a Sunday morning to experience its magic – this means a weekend in Hamburg is going to be the best option for you. 

If you have the time, then 3 days in Hamburg are ideal. While in 2 days you can squeeze in most of the highlights, 3 days will allow you to experience the city to its fullest and get the most out of your itinerary.

City of Hamburg
City of Hamburg

Getting To & Around Hamburg

Hamburg is home to its own international airport, making a city break to this German metropolis an easy option from countless European destinations (and some further afield).

From Hamburg airport, you can take a quick 25-minute tram ride straight into the city centre. If you prefer to rent a car (you can browse for options) you’ll probably have to reserve in advance and if you’d rather get a taxi then you can find plenty of them right at the airport exit as well.

Of course, you can also reach Hamburg from most major German and European cities (like Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne or Dusseldorf) on an international train or bus. Those modes of transport have the perk of dropping you off right at the centrally located main railway station. You can view schedules here.

Once you’re in the city, it’s extremely easy to walk around and hop on a tram, bus or even a ferry when necessary. Since parking in large cities is always a headache, we would recommend exploring the city using the excellent German public transportation.

These options are simple and affordable, plus you get to immerse yourself in Hamburg. You’ll save by buying a Hamburg Card in advance which gives you unlimited public transportation with free or discounted prices at main attractions and restaurants in the city.

You can purchase an individual ticket or Hamburg Card at a grey and red HVV ticket machine. With trams going every couple of minutes during the day, you will never have to wait too long for the next ride.

Hamburg Hauptbahnhof
Hamburg Hauptbahnhof

2 to 3-Day Hamburg Itinerary

We’ve made it from the airport to our hotel and we’re ready to hit the ground running in Hamburg. There is so much to see and experience in the city, so put on your comfortable walking shoes and get your camera ready because we’re making sure you get an excellent overview of Hamburg in 3 days. 

Day 1 – Reeperbhan & St Pauli

There’s nothing like getting to know a city by strolling through its narrow streets and experiencing the atmosphere first-hand. On your first day, you start with a leisurely walk to see some of the main attractions and climb a historic church tower to get a birds-eye view of the city and find your bearings. 


Start your walk at one of Hamburg’s must-see attractions, the famous Reeperbahn, also known as “Sin Mile”, in the iconic St. Pauli district – a great part of Hamburg to explore.

You might have heard the stories of the red-light district, which used to welcome sailors from around the world in search of some intimacy to take their minds off the sea. Today, the neighbourhood is largely gentrified and is home to the St. Pauli football club.

Hamburg’s red-light district is also considered the biggest in Europe hosting the famous Reeperbahn nightlife.

Fun fact, before they were famous, The Beatles performed at a few clubs on the Reeperbahn and John Lennon was quoted saying he “grew up in Hamburg.” After your morning stop, you will understand why.

Start your tour on the east end of the street at the Alter Elbpark. While strolling down neon-lit Reeperbahn, make sure to note the Casino Reeperbahn on your right – open until the early morning hours 7 days a week.

You’ll then pass Hamburg’s most famous musical house – the Operettenhaus – on your left and iconic Davidwache further down which is a historic brick police station featured in many German TV shows.

Finally, take a left turn right after the station and stop at the Herbertstraße entrance. Women and minors be warned, this is a small street where we’re not allowed to enter and where the original heritage of the Reeperbahn still lives on today.

If you want to learn more about the history of this district, you can organise a guided tour here.

St. Pauli district in Hamburg
St. Pauli district

Alter Elbtunnel

Originally built to help dock workers navigate more directly from one side of the river Elbe to the other, the Old Elbe Tunnel runs 24 meters (about 79 feet) deep under the stream and connects the two shores. It has become a great attraction for its art, lamps and beauty and is one of the best things to do in Hamburg.

Visitors and city residents wishing to explore the tunnel can take a free lift or work their way through 260 steps total. Those driving can get across for a small fee in a hydraulically driven cage.

Old Elbe Tunnel
Old Elbe Tunnel

St. Pauli by Day

All around St. Pauli, you’ll find mesmerising graffiti and street art, people are encouraged to be as loud and flashy as they want. Aside from The Beatles, the area is big on music in general.

If you’re visiting Hamburg in September, you can take part in the annual Reeperbahn Festival which showcases international artists you may know as well as new, up-and-coming musicians.

If you’re travelling to the city in July, you can experience German music at its finest at the Schlagermove Parade around the first week of July.

Here you will hear all kinds of popular German disco and party songs. Even if you don’t speak or understand the language, you’ll leave knowing how to sing a few of the catchy tunes.

You can also try to catch the biggest festival in Northern Germany, Hamburger Dom, which takes place three times a year. You’ll find all the beloved fair rides, German food and other entertainment for the whole family.

St. Michael’s Church

Now after finishing the “Sin Mile” and taking a short detour, it’s time to climb up St. Michael’s Church, also known as the Michel, in Neustadt.

As the largest church and one of the main Lutheran churches in the city, unlike other churches that were originally Roman Catholic, the Michel was built Protestant from the start.

The church received its name from the dedication to the Archangel Michael, whose statue you can see at the front of the church.

Once you hop on the lift or walk up the stairs to reach the top, you will get a gorgeous overview of Hamburg. After the breathtaking view, you can spend time exploring the crypts and the impressive main floor of the church.

St. Michael's Church in Hamburg
St. Michael’s Church in Hamburg


You’ve completed an exciting day in Hamburg, now it’s time to unwind at one of the many cute restaurants in Portugiesenviertel, Portuguese Quarter, near the riverbank.

Around the 1970s, many Portuguese and other southern Europeans moved to this area for the low cost of housing and close proximity to the port for those who wanted to take advantage of the job opportunities there.

Despite the Portuguese population in the neighbourhood having declined over time, it is still a great place for a lovely dinner with the majority of restaurants in the quarter still serving Portuguese, Spanish and other international dishes.

Whether you are in need of some tapas, pizza or fish, you’ll definitely find it here.

Day 2 – Hamburg Harbour

Hamburg is well-known for its harbour, with its port being the third largest in Europe and the largest in Germany. No wonder that with over 2,500 bridges, Hamburg is the city with the most river crossings in the world.

The city is lovingly referred to as the “Venice of the North” but it even has more bridges than Venice, Amsterdam and London combined! Today you will cross plenty of those.


If you’ve ever flipped through a book about Germany, you most likely saw a picture of the iconic Speicherstadt, its red-brick warehouses with the canal flowing in between the buildings and numerous bridges uniting them. This is a notable focal point on the port of Hamburg.

The Speicherstadt is one of the largest warehouse complexes in the world and stands on just oak poles on the Elbe River. Given the beauty of the neighbourhood and its historic significance, it was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.

Speicherstadt – the Warehouse District in Hamburg


Just a short 10-minute walk away from the warehouse district towards the Altstadt and past the Rathausmarkt (the town hall square), you’ll come across a second UNESCO World Heritage Site —the Kontorhausviertel, which includes the first strictly office-only buildings in Europe.

The Kontorhausviertel, or Kontorhaus District, with its impressive architectural buildings that include some from the Brick Expressionism era, was built around 1912.

While in its early years the district was home to low-income families, today you can find quaint shops, cafes and hip restaurants. If you need some caffeine or a snack, you’ll find it here.


Next, you’ll walk down to the Baakenhafen Brücke and across the bridge to HafenCity.

This fairly new area is known for its modern architecture, which is a great contrast to the Speicherstadt. HafenCity is home to many of the major media companies and to the newest landmark in the city — the Elbphilarmonie.


As part of the HafenCity on the harbourside, the Elbphilharmonie is one of the newest additions to the city but people had to wait patiently for 10 years to see its completion after multiple construction delays.

With its grand opening in 2017, the unique concert hall held its first concert in January of that same year.

If you want to take a peek inside, you can book a tour or attend a concert there. To tour the concert hall, it will cost around €20 per person and you have the choice of a German or English language tour.

During the tour, you will get the full story of the Elbphilharmonie, covering its history, troublesome construction and musical relevance.


The International Maritime Museum

For those having chosen to visit Hamburg in 2 days, this will be the last stop of your city trip.

The International Maritime Museum is located in a warehouse in HafenCity and will give you a taste of Hamburg’s 3,000 years of nautical history. Its 10 floors are full of history and information and have something for people of all ages.

If maritime Hamburg does not interest you and you would rather like to go deeper into other parts of the city’s history, then the Museum of Hamburg History could be great for you. You can buy entry tickets here.

Alternatively, if you want to experience Hamburg’s history through art then the Hamburger Kunsthalle is perfect for you.

International Maritime Museum in Hamburg
International Maritime Museum

Day 3 – Boat Tour, Gardens & Nightlife

Boat Tour

If you walked too much on the first and second days, that’s no problem because on your third day will take a harbour boat tour to see the city from a different perspective. For those who only do 2 days in Hamburg, the following is what you might miss out on.

On the boat tour, you’ll be sure to see the magnificent Elbphilarmonie and all its architectural wonder by the water. As the boat zooms by, you’ll get to see the industrial side of the harbour where huge containers, tankers, ships and cranes live.

Along the way the guide will point out where some international celebrities have lived, for example, you’ll get a great view of the popular German singer Helene Fischer’s Hamburg apartment.

You can organise a day boat tour here or an evening tour here.

Alternatively, consider heading just north of the Alstadt and enjoying the lovely vibes of Alster Lake – a large, tranquil lake in Hamburg’s city centre.

Church of St. Nicholas

After the enjoyable boat tour, you’ll head over towards Altstadt to visit the Church of St. Nicholas. Like the Michel, the original St. Nicholas church was one of five of the Lutheran main churches in the city and was built in 1195.

It was originally built of wood but was unfortunately destroyed in 1842 due to a fire. It was then rebuilt with bricks but was again destroyed during World War II.

Today, what was left of the church still stands in Hamburg as a memorial and is the second-tallest landmark in the city. An elevator was added to the structure in 2005 and visitors can ride it up to the top for a grand panoramic view.

Planten un Blomen

Right in the heart of the city, you’ll come across the magnificent Planten un Blomen Park. Here you’ll find various plants and flowers blooming depending on the season with different themed gardens spread throughout the park, like the popular Japanese gardens.

The park includes an assortment of fountains that not only illuminate both day and night but also fill the air with classical music. You can enjoy the music and view, while smelling the delicious scent of lemon and fig trees.

Waterfall in Planten un Blomen
Waterfall in Planten un Blomen

St. Pauli at Night

To bring the trip full circle, for your last night return to St. Pauli to experience the nightlife at full swing. See firsthand how the atmosphere changes once the sun sets.

Visit one of the many clubs and bars in the area, or simply take a stroll down the fully lit-up street and soak in the vibrant life around you. You’ll certainly find plenty of fun ways to conclude your 3 days in Hamburg on “Sin Mile.”

You can organise a night tour of St Pauli here.

Where to Stay in Hamburg

Hotel St. Anne – This 3-star hotel is a great option for mid-range travellers in Hamburg. Centrally located within easy reach of the city’s highlights, they have a number of rooms to choose from, a breakfast buffet available and a lovely outdoor terrace to enjoy.

THE MADISON Hotel – For those after a luxury option in Hamburg, this 4-star hotel is sure to satisfy. They have a number of plush rooms on offer, plenty of wonderful amenities to ensure you have a great stay and an unbeatable location for exploring all this city has to offer.

Eric Vökel Boutique Apartments – This aparthotel is an excellent option for those who want the comfort and convenience of their own flat while visiting Hamburg but with the amenities of a conventional hotel. They have a number of apartments available and a fantastic location for getting to know the city.

Backpackers St Pauli – Located in the St Pauli neighbourhood, this hostel is an excellent option for budget and solo travellers to Hamburg. They have a range of both dorms and private rooms available, a great location and good common areas and shared spaces that make meeting other travellers easy.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Hamburg hotels!

Hamburg is filled with history, culture and all sorts of entertainment. Whether you have 2 or 3 days to spend exploring, you’ll definitely have a fantastic time and long-life memories by the end of your trip. With all the delicious treats and fun activities, you’ll start planning your next visit even before you leave.

Are you planning a visit to Hamburg? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Paola is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the state of Arizona in the USA, she lived in Germany before moving to the United Kingdom. Paola loves spending her free time travelling in Europe and sometimes ever further afield.

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