Germany’s capital city Berlin and the birthplace of Oktoberfest, Munich, receive most of the world’s travel magazine accolades. It’s no surprise that Hamburg doesn’t strike many travelers as one of the country’s must-see cities. However, as the country’s wealthiest, second largest city, it has gained notoriety in the past decade for its diverse neighborhoods, thriving nightlife, historic architecture, and beautiful waterways. Here are just seven things to know before planning a trip to Hamburg.
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#1: Save Big on Public Transport with the Hamburg CARD
No matter the length of the trip, the Hamburg CARD proves essential for budget travelers. Starting at just € 9.50, the card provides unlimited travel by bus, ferry, and train, which is worth the ticket price alone. But buyers also receive up to 30 percent off harbor tours, up to 50 percent off museums, and up to 25 percent off restaurants and souvenir shops.
Last-minute travelers should consider weekend availability for cheap hotels in Hamburg. It sounds counterintuitive, but this is the time when most business travelers have left the city and hotels sometimes offer lower rates as a result.
#3: Don’t Forget the Swimsuit
When the weather heats up, Hamburg’s River Elbe becomes a magnet for locals and tourists. Travelers looking to get in on the action should pack a swimsuit and head to its banks to relax in the sun with a cocktail and a snack.
A boat tour is among the best ways to see the city, particularly the Speicherstadt. This largest warehouse district in the world is uniquely built on timber-pile foundations. Travelers can also simply stroll Hamburg’s streets or take a guided bike tour.
#5: Modern Hamburg Dining is Fresh and Seasonal
Let’s be honest: German cuisine has always gotten a bad rap. Traditional restaurants offer many of the country’s mainstay dishes, including pickled herring, hamburger steak, eel soup, and bratwurst, which may not excite most travelers. However, as a proudly green city, modern Hamburg is now increasingly focused on combining fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients in new and exciting ways.
#6: Look to Shoulder Season for the Cheapest Rates
Like many destinations in the Northern Hemisphere, May through September is the ideal time to visit Hamburg. It’s the warmest and most beautiful time of year; however, it’s also the busiest and most expensive. Budget travelers should instead look to spring and fall. The weather is cooler, the crowds are thinner, and flights and hotel rates drop considerably.
#7: Don’t Miss the Unique Miniatur Wunderland Model Railway
Whether you’re a train buff or not, Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland model railway is fun, unique, and incredibly impressive. With nearly 40,000 feet of HO scale track, it’s among the largest in the world. Divided into seven sections – the Alps and Austria, Hamburg, America, Scandinavia, and Switzerland – it occupies more than 12,000 square feet of floorspace.