One of my favorite cities in Germany is Hamburg. While many people may not flock to Hamburg in winter, it certainly has enough to keep one occupied for a weekend break. This is a guide of things to do in Hamburg during winter.
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8 Cool and Alternative Things to Do in Hamburg in Winter
I love traveling to places during winter. In fact, I much prefer it. I don’t enjoy sweating and in Germany, where air conditioning is a luxury and not a commodity, I often find it hard to get cooled off when traveling during the summer months. And while I love having a terrace beer or coffee as much as the next guy or gal, I’ll gladly have one inside to avoid traveling during warmer months.
Many people in Hamburg will tell you to ‘come back during the summer months’, and while I’m sure summer has a lot to offer, don’t shun winter travel to the city. There are so many things to do in Hamburg, Germany during the winter months. Some are fairly obvious, but others take a bit of research to get planned.
I am completely convinced that Hamburg has a lot to offer tourists and travelers no matter what time of the year they travel to the city whether it be for just a day in Hamburg or much, much more. But, Hamburg in winter won’t let you down if you plan accordingly.
What to Pack for Hamburg in Winter
If you’re traveling to Hamburg in winter, prepare for dark and grey days. Also, prepare for cold weather. Here are a few items I suggest bringing with you to Hamburg.
⇒ Mobile power bank: Hamburg doesn’t experience a tropical winter and therefore the gross weather will deplete your phone’s battery. Welcome to Germany. In order to avoid having a dead phone at all times, you will definitely want to bring a mobile power bank along with you. I recommend this one that is a bit heavy, but powerful.
⇒ Europe power strip (for US plugs): One of my favorite tips for those traveling to Europe is to bring a power strip with you. You can either use an adapter or buy one with a different plug but then you can put all of your other cords into it. I love this one as it has USB sections to plug things into.
⇒ Dry Bags from The Friendly Swede: A favorite travel must for me is a dry bag and I always tote around my dry bag from The Friendly Sweden when I am on the road. They keep my equipment dry in otherwise lousy weather places (ahem… Hamburg). They are a great investment for travelers and don’t really cost too much. Click here to see the dry bags I use.
Germany Resources to Bring With You
If you’re heading to Germany for a break that is longer than just a weekend, you may want to invest in a good travel guide or phrasebook. Below are a few of our recommendations for each. Lonely Planet is popular for its hidden gems, Fodor’s popular for its practical information and details on sights, and Berlitz for its great language learning.
Do You Need Travel Insurance for Germany?
Yes, you definitely need to prepare travel insurance before hitting the road to Germany. While Germany is pretty safe and it is unlikely you will need it, you really never know. We recommend getting insurance with the Norwegian company, SafetyWing. They have affordable policies and worldwide coverage and are an excellent choice for travelers.
Best Tours in Hamburg
Hamburg is such a cool and quirky city but it is sometimes hard to see it all yourself if you have limited time or want to explore each sight a bit deeper and get more information. There are few great tours available in Hamburg and here are our recommendations:
- Hamburg Harbor: Light Tour
- Elbphilharmonie, Speicherstadt & HafenCity Tour
- Hamburg: 3-Hour Culinary Tour of the Schanzenviertel
- Speicherstadt & Hafencity: Self-Guided Scavenger Hunt
- Hamburg Discovery: Bus Tour with Harbor & Alster Lake Cruise
Renting a Car in Germany
Are you wanting to rent a car for your winter trip to Hamburg? Driving in Germany can be fun, yet a bit daunting for those not comfortable behind a wheel. Germans are safe drivers, but yes, they do drive pretty fast! I only recommend renting a car if you’re comfortable and want to experience the autobahn at its finest. You don’t need a car in Hamburg city, of course, but outside of the city you may want one.
Hamburg City Pass
One of our top recommendations for getting the most out of a city is to grab up the city pass if one is available. Hamburg has a great city pass and it is affordable and offers freebies and many discounts to those visiting the German city.
What to Do During Winter in Hamburg
Take a Break in the Forest
I know you’re asking yourself why I listed ‘going to a forest’ first, but trust me. I like the forest probably 99% more than the average person, but I especially love visiting and getting lost in the forests of Northern Europe during the winter. I find them creepy and haunting and particularly photogenic.
Hamburg has quite a few green spaces, parks, and city forests… which is something I was extremely surprised and pleased about when visiting. We happily walked through them when we found them and the fog was heavy which added to the mystery of the place.
Another great thing about forests in Germany? There is a high probability that you will see dogs in them. Pretty much a win-win situation, if you ask me.
Hop On a Hamburg Cruise at Dusk
While this activity may be enjoyed better in summer due to the weather, I can highly recommend it as a winter activity, too. The reason? Fewer crowds and you get to do it at dusk (which is like 3pm in Hamburg in winter).
The cruise starts off going through the historical district of Hamburg and then takes you through the industrial and port part of the city where you will sail through shipbuilding docks, seeing historic German warships and massive container ships.
Enjoy Hamburg’s Best Cafes and Coffee
The coffee and cafe scene in Hamburg is amongst Germany’s best. It was easily one of the top things I was looking forward to in Hamburg in winter and that season is the best time to explore it and explore it thoroughly as it gives you an excuse to take refuge in cafes all day. I tend to prefer specialty coffee, but the city caters to all types of coffee and tea lovers.
Click here to find out which Hamburg cafes I recommend for awesome coffee.
Visit the Hamburg Planetarium
We went out to visit the Planetarium when in Hamburg and unfortunately, our tickets got mixed up, so we didn’t have a chance to actually do anything there. On the other hand, I am really happy we actually ventured out that way as we discovered some cool parks along the way.
And… the Planetarium looks amazing inside. I am a nerd for all things space and astro- and it seems as though the Planetarium really would have been something I would have thoroughly enjoyed.
The Hamburg Planetarium is one of the oldest in the world and also one of the most visited ones. They have several shows and exhibits that will not only impress the kids but also the adults.
To find out more information, check out their Website.
Indulge in Hamburg’s Craft Beer Scene
One thing I love in particular about Hamburg is that it is the epicenter of craft beer in Germany. Many would be quick to say that Berlin reigns king, but I beg to differ. I have always found Hamburg on the cusp of something bigger and the brewers in Hamburg more willing to experiment.
Maybe it is the Nordic feel to the city? Or maybe the locals just have this ingenuity about that that inspires them to go big or go home. Whatever it is- I’m diggin’ it. Click here to read about craft beer in Hamburg.
Are you wanting to learn more about craft beer in Hamburg? If so, this tour takes you around the city where you will get to learn about and taste the local Hamburg beer. Definitely worth it, in my opinion!
Check out Awesome Hamburg Street Art, Markets, and Everyday Life
Hamburg has a unique feel to the city compared to that of what you’ll find in other parts of Germany. There are a few weekend markets in Frankfurt, but perhaps nothing as cool as the ones you will inevitably stumble upon in Hamburg.
Street art rules the streets and the locals go about their everyday routine in such a cool and careless manner. Down where I live in Frankfurt, life is stiff and everyone looks slightly more stressed than our neighbors in the north. I must say I prefer the effortlessness of the north.
Trace Someone’s Search for a Better Life at Emigration Museum BallinStadt
This museum is something I had always wanted to check out in Hamburg. Most of my ancestors came from Eastern Europe (others were native Americans) in search of a better life across the Atlantic in the United States. In fact, some of my ancestors came through the same halls that I walked when I went into this museum.
I have done a bit of research in the past regarding my ancestors and it was really fascinating and humbling to be standing in an area where so many people seeking new and better lives for themselves and their future generations.
The Emigration Museum BallinStadt doesn’t take long to navigate through and doesn’t just house stories and memorabilia from emigration from centuries ago, but also stuff from recent migrations. If you are interested in visiting, it is easily reached via public transportation from the city center. There is a restaurant/cafe on-site.
To find more information, check out their Website.
Go to Miniatur Wunderland
Off the path? Not particularly. Obscure? Yes. My partner went to the Minature Museum of Hamburg (Miniatur Wunderland) and found it very crowded, but a good time spent if you want a unique perspective on the city and other cities around the world. The museum is split into different countries and you have the opportunity to see scenes from the daytime and nighttime in the different areas.
There is also a full-scale control room where the museum ensures that the model trains and planes all run correctly and take off the way they are supposed to. In addition to that, there is also a miniature airport that was added recently which is where the planes land and take off.
Unfortunately, due to the incessant Sunday crowds, he left the museum pretty quickly, but said he would have thoroughly enjoyed it had it been on a weekday and there were fewer children around (sorry, kids!)
Where to Stay in Hamburg
I highly recommend staying at the Movenpick Hotel in Hamburg for your weekend getaway. While it may be a slight splurge for some budgets, the amenities and location more than make up for it.
The hotel is also super-centralized and near everything I mentioned above in this guide- or it is a quick tram or train ride away. They also have different tiers of rooms making this a luxury accommodation or a mid-range on, depending on which tier you book. I highly, highly recommend the Movenpick Hotel in Hamburg.
Are you looking for something a bit more budget-friendly? If so, Hamburg has several options but our favorite is Pyjama Park. They have two locations- one in St. Pauli and the other in Sternschanze. The colorful hostel is friendly and welcoming and you will be located in a great place no matter which one you choose! Click here to check rates and availability for Pyjama Park.
Is Hamburg on your list? What is your favorite thing about the city or what do you recommend travelers do when there?
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