I saw a lot of Denmark when I was studying in Aarhus, and I also took a quick trip to Germany when my class ended! I spent three days exploring Hamburg, and it was such a great city to see for my first time in Germany. I think tours are the best way to see a new city and learn about snippets of history you won’t see on Wikipedia, so I did a free walking tour of Hamburg and we saw tons of amazing historic sights in Old Town! 🙂
Free walking tour of Hamburg
I’ve done free walking tours before (New Orleans has some awesome ones!), and for Hamburg, I booked a tour with Robin and the Tour Guides and they were great! (And this post isn’t sponsored, I just loved the tour). We started at the Hamburg Rauthaus, or town hall, which I think is the prettiest building in Hamburg! We got to see inside the building and learned that the current building was built in the 1880s after a massive fire in 1842 destroyed a lot of the town.
There used to be many homes in the area around the town hall, but since it took a long time for Hamburg to rebuild after the fire, people had already moved to other areas of the city. So shops and office buildings were built in that area instead, which is how it still is today. Our tour guide said that if you walk around at night, that area is basically a ghost town after the shops close.
Binnenalster, an artificial lake in Hamburg
St. Peter’s Church was built around 1310, but there were other churches built on that site previously. The church has lion-head door handles made of bronze, and they’re actually the oldest piece of art of Hamburg! You can go to the top of the tower, but our tour guide recommended not going on windy days because you actually feel the tower swaying in the wind.
Canals in Hamburg
Did you know that Hamburg has more canals and bridges than Venice, Amsterdam, and London combined? I didn’t! Hamburg sits along the Elbe River and has over 2,500 bridges, which is more bridges than any other city in the world. We got to cross lots of little bridges, and it was interesting to see the historic and modern bridges together. I didn’t get to do a boat tour while I was in Hamburg, but I’ve heard great things about the canal tours if you have the time!
St. Nikolai Church was built in 1874, and at that time, it was the tallest building in the world. It’s still the 5th tallest church in the world today.
Hamburg has a lot of historic buildings, but not all of them survived WWII. St. Nikolai Church was bombed pretty heavily, but instead of tearing it down or rebuilding, Hamburg turned it into a WWII memorial. It was pretty haunting to walk along the ruins, and there’s a small museum where you can learn more about it. You can also take an elevator to the top of the spire to get some views of the city. The church has a bell carillon that was installed to be part of the memorial, and we were lucky enough to get to see the daily performance at noon.
Hamburg Warehouse District
Hamburg has the largest warehouse district in the world! The district, Speicherstadt, sits across the river from the Old Town, and I wish I had more time to explore it during my trip because I had heard of some great spots there. It’s also where the Miniatur Wunderland is located, which I also wish I had time for.
The Elbphilharmonie is one of the largest concert halls in the world! It’s built on top of an old warehouse and the glass part on top was made to resemble a hoisted sail or iceberg, and it actually houses apartments and hotel rooms. It just opened in 2017, so it’s still pretty new to Hamburg!
St. Michael’s Church is the largest and most famous church in Hamburg, and the clock is the largest one on a church in Germany. It’s one of the few churches that was built to be a Protestant church rather than being converted during the Reformation. The current building was completed in 1786 and has been repaired from fires and WWII bombings. It’s known for being the church where Brahms was baptized and confirmed!
I loved the free walking tour of Hamburg, and as you can see, I learned a TON about the city! So if you’re planning a visit, I highly recommend doing a canal tour (which aren’t free) or a free walking tour of Hamburg so you can see amazing sights and learn about the city’s interesting history 🙂