Weekend in Hamburg: A budget-friendly itinerary
If you’ve only got a weekend to spare in Hamburg, we’ve got you covered. Our budget-friendly two-day itinerary hits all of the port city’s major highlights while leaving enough flexibility for personal preferences and surprise discoveries.
There’s a lot to discover during 48 hours in Hamburg—let’s get to it!
9:00 AM: Hamburg’s most popular attraction
Beat the crowds by showing up early at Miniatur Wunderland, the model railway display to end all model railway displays. This incredibly detailed model world is the city’s most visited spot, and attracts over 1 million people a year. Plan at least two hours to take in all the intricate details in this magical attraction. (For much more about this, including a video, check out our previous post on the wonders of Miniatur Wunderland.)
11:00 AM: Quick tour of the warehouse district
Meander over the bridges and through the alleyways of the Speicherstadt, the brick waterfront warehouse district where Miniatur Wunderland is located. These modest facades now store the world’s largest selection of Persian-style carpets, as rug dealers fleeing Afghanistan with their inventories in the wake of recent wars have joined the Iranians long resident here.
Speicherstadt is a popular warehouse district in Hamburg. Photo: Abhijeet Rane
11:30 AM: Strolling through Deichstrasse & Michel
Cross back over to the city and stroll through the Deichstrasse on your way to the Michel (also known as St. Michael’s Church), which has become one of the symbols of Hamburg. The Deichstrasse is Hamburg’s oldest street; its half-timbered houses are the only ones that survived the fire of 1842, which broke out at its northern end.
12:00 PM: Concert and a view from the church tower
The Michel holds a short prayer service, followed by an organ concert, daily at noon. Entrance to the gorgeous yet understated church is free, but you’ll want to pay for a ticket to climb the Michel’s tower (€4) to get the best views over the entire city. Because the tower also has an elevator, this is a fantastic option for those with limited mobility or traveling with children.
1:30 PM: Lunch in Schanze & Karo
Walk along the Ludwig-Erhard-Strasse and Millerntordamm until you reach U3-St. Pauli. From here, you can catch the subway two stops northward to Sternschanze, where you can grab lunch at your restaurant or cafe of choice in the unique Schanze- and Karovierteln. Not sure where to go? You can check out recommendations for the area here.
Note: If you’re inspired by the picks in that article and would like to do some shopping in these neighborhoods, note that Saturday is the only day to do so, as stores in Germany are generally closed Sundays. The area’s many unique shops offer a full afternoon’s worth of happy perusing, as well as plenty of cafes to grab a seat for relaxing and soaking up the neighborhood. It’s easy to tack on the following ferry ride at the end of your shopping, or, if you prefer, to your Sunday afternoon.
A ferry cruises by the beach at Strandperle along the river Elbe. Photo: Raban H.
3:00 PM: Ride a ferry across the Elbe
Head down to Landungsbrücken and hop on the Cheapo harbor cruise (okay, it’s a ferry) plying the Elbe River to Finkenwerder and back (#62, departures every 15 minutes). The city’s ferries are the same price as a regular public transportation ticket; if you’re getting around town with a day ticket or HamburgCard, you ride for free. Plan at least one hour for your round-trip ride.
3:45 PM: Cafe break along the harbor
Depart the ferry at Neumühlen/Övelgönne for an afternoon refreshment break. Exit the ferry platform area and walk westward toward the sand beach. Take off your shoes and keep strolling westward on the beach; you’ll eventually reach the classic Strandperle beach cafe, an excellent spot to enjoy a beer or coffee while soaking up the sun and some of the best atmosphere Hamburg’s harbor has to offer.
4:45 PM: Back to Landungsbrücken before a night on the town
Pick up the ferry again and head back to Landungsbrücken. From here it’s a quick hop on the S-Bahn to Altona train station, where you can pick up picnic ingredients at Lidl (the discount grocery store) and start our Cheapo’s night out in Hamburg itinerary! This plan guides you through some of the best and most affordable of Hamburg’s night life, with options for both early birds and night owls.
Breakfast at the Fischmarkt
The morning begins with breakfast at the Fischmarkt, either 5:00 AM for true night owls or 8:00 AM for the early birds (although the earlier you can plan to be here, the more fun you’ll have at the Fischmarkt). Night owls will want to head back to their hotel and sleep it off—they can simply push the following itinerary back as necessary.
The dramatic Dockland building has a rooftop terrace open to the public. Tobias Mandt
9:00 AM: Climb up a rooftop terrace for free
From the Fischmarkt, take the ferry one stop westward to Dockland/Fischereihafen. Climb the outdoor steps of the ship-shaped Dockland office building for a fantastic (and free!) view of Hamburg’s harbor from the building’s modern rooftop terrace.
9:30 AM: Fun boat trip
Catch the ferry back to Landungsbrücken, then take the S-Bahn eastward to Jungfernstieg. From here, you can hop on the Alster boat trip of your choice: the Alsterkreuzfahrt (€12, departs quarter past every hour, 2-hour round trip) and Alsterrundfahrt (€14.50, departs every half hour, 1-hour round trip – limited service also in winter) are crowd pleasers, aren’t too long and are relatively inexpensive. With the former, it’s possible to disembark 1-2 stops before arriving at Jungfernstieg, if you’d like to enjoy a stroll along the Alster shoreline.
The handsome city hall in Hamburg dates back to 1886. Photo: FAbi-DE
11:15 AM: Explore city hall
Make your way to Hamburg’s Rathaus (city hall), an impressive neo-renaissance structure finished just before the turn of the 20th century. In order to see the highlights of the interior, you’ll need to join an English-language tour, offered at a quarter past every hour (between 10 AM and 4 PM Sundays) for just €4.
12:00 PM: Meal break in Sternschanze
From the U3-Rathaus station, catch the subway to Sternschanze for brunch or lunch. Early birds or night owls who didn’t make it there the night before might head to Erikas Eck for gigantic portions of German classics (not the best option for vegetarians).
Planten un Blomen is a lush botanical garden in the heart of the city. Photo: Peter Engel
1:30 PM: Relax in a botanical garden or museum
Spend the afternoon lost in Hamburg’s lovely Planten un Blomen park. There are numerous gardens to explore, a free “old” botanical garden (open Sundays from 10 AM to 5:45 PM in summer, 3:45 PM in winter), water-spray games that are fun for kids and adults alike, regular concerts and events (check the schedule here), and even surprises like a radio-controlled boat rally! If you missed it on Saturday, catch the water organ concert at 2, 4 or 6 PM.
If the weather’s bad, a trip to one of Hamburg’s many excellent museums might be in order. You can find a basic list (in German) of all current exhibitions on in the city here. Further information in English can be found on each museum’s website.
Final bite before heading home
Before catching your train onward or to the airport, stop by Lades, just a short walk from Hamburg’s main train station, for some of Hamburg’s best Döner Kebap (under €4) or rotisserie chicken and sides (under €6) and many varieties of tea on offer for just €1. If you’re spending the evening, try the Flammkuchen at Jimmy Elsass (open from 6 PM Sundays).