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Germany’s second biggest city and its biggest port is also one of its most cosmopolitan destinations. As such, Hamburg has many attractions to offer visitors; but it all can add up quickly and your holiday could end up being very expensive. If you are visiting this vibrant city and want to save some money, here is a nice selection of free things to do in Hamburg.

Go for a Stroll in the Planten un Blomen Park

Hamburg’s most famous park stretches along the city centre all the way down to the harbour. This beautiful urban park features one of the largest Japanese gardens in Europe, a daily display of fountains “dancing” to music, and a tropical greenhouse.

During spring, when a lot of flowers are in bloom, the views are spectacular. In the summertime, there are a few festivals and performances taking place in the park; while in winter, visitors can enjoy skating in the ice rink.

Good to Know

Access to the park is free. The Wasserlichtkonzerte (a free show combining fountains, lights and music) takes place every evening from May to August at 10 pm and in September at 9 pm. You can bring something to sit on and a picnic to have a nice little evening outside, but do get there on time as it tends to get very busy!

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Visit the Elbphilarmonie

Designed by the prize-winning Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, who also conceived the Tate Modern building in London, the Elbphilarmonie has quickly become one of the most emblematic buildings in the city. After almost ten years in the making, this amazing concert hall finally opened its doors in January 2017.

The Elphi, as it is popularly known, is located in the HafenCity district and is one of the largest and most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world, even rivalling the Sidney Opera House. So don’t miss your chance to see it inside!

Good to Know

With a plaza ticket, you can visit the Elphi. Plaza tickets for a same-day visit are available on site free of charge. If you prefer to reserve a pre-determined time slot in advance (or simply to make sure that you will gain access on the day you want), you can book your ticket online (at least one day in advance and for a €2 booking fee).

 

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Admire the Architecture at HafenCity

The HafenCity is a waterfront neighbourhood that features some of the most ambitious architectural projects in Hamburg, with the Elbphilarmonie building (see above) commanding lots of attention. This area used to be one of the most neglected parts of Hamburg.

Today, the HafenCity is one of Europe’s biggest building projects and the place to see some great examples of modern and sustainable architecture. You can get an overview of the project at the Kesselhaus InfoCenter and take one of their free walking tours.

Good to Know

The free guided can be done by foot or bike and last about two hours. These tours are also available in English for groups of at least 10 people and with prior registration. You can register here.

 

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Soak in the Atmosphere of the Altona Fish Market

Every Sunday at the break of dawn, one of Hamburg’s best shows gets underway. Starting at 5 am, the Altona market comes to life with the cries of fish vendors, bargain hunters looking for the best deals, and sleepy-eyed tourists eager to see the show. By 9:30 am, it’s all over; so you should definitely make the effort to get there early or… after a late night out if you are up for it.

The market has been open for business for over 300 years, and it’s become one of Hamburg’s iconic landmarks.

Good to Know

Entrance to the market is free. If you feel like having a snack, try a Fischbrötchen (fish sandwich) for €3 and a beer, also €3.

 

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Cross the Alter Elbtunnel

Also known as the St. Pauli Elbe Tunnel, this subterranean passage has been used by pedestrians for over a hundred years to cross under the Elbe river to the other side of the city. The Old Elbe Tunnel was the first river tunnel on the continent.

The tunnel is almost half a kilometre long (less than a third of a mile) and runs at a depth of 24 metres. It’s worth a visit because of its historical heritage. Besides, you’ll get rewarded with stunning views of the city’s skyline from the other side of the river.

Good to Know

You can cross the Old Elbe Tunnel on foot, by bike and even by car. No matter the way you choose to do it, it is still a fascinating experience.

 

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Wander Around the Speicherstadt

Recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the red-brick buildings that line the Speicherstadt are the world’s largest continuous warehouse complex. The district was built as a free zone to store goods coming into and out of Hamburg’s port.

The Speicherstadt lies just next to the HafenCity. Its fantastic 19th-century brick buildings offer a great contrast to the modern architecture. Today, some of the old warehouses are still used to store goods, but others have been transformed into museums, such as the Speicherstadtmuseum, which highlights the history of this area, and Spicy’s Gewürzmuseum, a museum about herbs and spices.

Good to Know

Walking around the Speicherstadt is free, of course. However, if you would like to see it from a different perspective, you can also hop on the Evening Illumination Cruise, which takes you to see some of the most iconic sites, such as the Speicherstadt, the Elbphilarmonie, the HafenCity, and more at night when they are all lit up.

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Check Out the Street Art

As you can imagine, a city with such a cosmopolitan atmosphere as Hamburg’s is a great place to find a vibrant street art scene. From large-scale murals to clever and colourful paste-ups to everything in between, you’ll find plenty of street art in Hamburg to keep you busy.

Some of the best places to find street art in Hamburg include St. Pauli, Schanzenviertel, and Karolinenviertel. In these areas, you can find works by some very well-known street artists, such as El Bocho, Rebelzer and 1010.

Good to Know

The best way to find street art is to simply wander around these areas and keep your eyes open. Also, this map should help you find some of the bigger murals in Hamburg. Keep in mind that street art is not permanent and some murals might be gone by the time you are in Hamburg, but don’t worry, there’ll probably be some new ones as well!

 

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Walk Around the Outer Alster Lake

Located in the heart of Hamburg, the Outer Alster lake is a man-made lake that is one of the preferred spots by anyone who loves to spend time outside and do some outdoor activities. Here you will find plenty of people jogging, walking around, paddleboarding, kayaking, etc.

If you are into jogging, you should definitely go for a run around the lake. The paved route measures almost 8 kilometres (almost 5 miles) and you’ll get to see Hamburg’s stately villas along the way.

Good to Know

And if you are up for a different experience and do not mind spending a bit of money, you can rent a rowboat or a canoe. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon.

 

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Explore the Reeperbahn

Now, this is not an activity for everybody. The Reeperbahn is Hamburg’s vast red-light thoroughfare. It’s perhaps not as graphic as Amsterdam’s but it is still Europe’s largest. So even if you are not searching for something in particular, it is still worth it to see what all the fuss is about.

Also, you might be surprised with how crowded it can get on busy nights. That is mainly because there are also a few trendy nightclubs and bars.

Good to Know

The area comes alive after 4 pm and it is generally safe to walk around. Or, if you prefer, you can take part in a Reeperbahn 2.5 Hours Guided Tour (for Adults Only), which covers the main highlights of the area.

 

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Ride the Ferry

Did you know that you don’t have to book an expensive boat tour to experience the port of Hamburg? You can simply hop aboard one of the city’s harbour ferries, which will take you around the river.

The most popular routes to take are ferry 62 from Landungsbrücken to Finkenwerder, ferry 64 from Finkenwerder towards Teufelsbrucke, and ferry 72 from Landungsbrücken to the Elbphilarmonie.

Good to Know

Although it is not technically free, riding the ferries is included in the city’s transit day pass. We thoroughly recommend you get one, since they are not that expensive and are quite useful to easily get around the city. If you don’t have a pass, you can just pay for a single transport ticket (€3.30).

 

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Map of Free Things to do in Hamburg

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Photo Credits

Cover and Pinterest image courtesy of Claudio Testa via Unsplash.
All images embedded from Instagram belong to their respective owners.

Have you been to Hamburg? Are there any other free things to do that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment and let us know!

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