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Public transport ferry | © Pixabay
Public transport ferry | © Pixabay
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A Budget Traveler’s Guide to Hamburg

Picture of Ilze Ieviņa
Updated: 1 March 2017
Hamburg may be Germany’s richest city, but there’s plenty to see and do for even the most budget-savvy traveler. These are Culture Trip’s top tips for making the most of this exciting metropolis without digging deep into your pockets.

Walk through the city

Most of Hamburg’s iconic sights and landmarks are free and accessible at any time. Admire the beautiful City Hall, walk around the Lake Alster, and relax in the sun at the Planten un Blomen park. Stroll along the canals of the historic Speicherstadt warehouse district, marvel at modern architecture at the HafenCity, and enjoy panorama views of the harbor from the Plaza of the magnificent Elbphilharmonie music hall. Roam through the bustling harbor, walk through the Old Elbe Tunnel, and see the famous Fischmarkt. These and other sights won’t cost you a cent.

Take a free city tour

If you want to find out more about Hamburg and its history, a free city tour is a great way to start. Robin and the Tour Guides offer daily walking tours of the historic city center starting at the City Hall and tours of the harbor and the St. Pauli district starting at the Landungsbrücken. Also SANDEMANs’ free walking tours begin at the City Hall and within two-and-a-half hours will introduce you to Hamburg’s main sights. For a more unusual experience check out Haunted History Hamburg and Alternative Hamburg tours. Enjoy, and remember to tip generously.

Go for a harbor ferry ride

Why spend money on expensive boat tours around one of Europe’s biggest harbors when you can take a harbor ferry instead? The HADAG ferries won’t cost you more than a public transport ticket. The line 62 is the most picturesque and perfect for a round-trip to the southern shore of the Elbe and back. The ferry ride begins at the Landungsbrücken and makes scenic stops at the famous Fischmarkt, the rhomboid Dockland office building, and the Oevelgönne Museum Harbor.

Public transport ferry | Pixabay
Public transport ferry | © Pixabay

Ride the U3 circle line

A trip on Hamburg’s oldest metro line is as good as any hop-on/hop-off bus. A round-trip of the 23 stops takes around 40 minutes and most of the route is above ground. You’ll enjoy some of the best views across the harbor and the Speicherstadt, picturesque canals, elegant old residential neighborhoods, and former workers’ districts. Escape the tourist crowds and find out more about the city and its people. HVV, Hamburg’s public transport provider, has even prepared a free audio guide for German speakers.

Enjoy a water light concert

During the summer and autumn months the Planten un Blomen park in the center of Hamburg hosts daily light fountain concerts. At nightfall the Parksee lake becomes a magical backdrop for colorful fountain shows. The music repertoire varies from classic compositions to movie tunes and tango music. Between May 1 and August 31 the concerts take place at 10PM, and between September 1 and October 3 at 9PM. Do as the locals – come early and bring a blanket and a picnic basket.

Light fountains at the Planten un Blomen | Pixabay
Light fountains at the Planten un Blomen | Pixabay

Explore the botanical garden

The Planten un Blomen park has another treasure in store: the five interconnected greenhouses of the Old Botanical Garden, built for the International Garden Festival of 1963. The 2,800 square meters (30,000 square feet) of space hosts five climate zones, from a rainforest to a desert. The different plants, temperatures, and humidity levels make each greenhouse feel like a different world. Once there, visit Europe’s largest Japanese garden, and explore the rose garden and the apothecary garden of medicinal herbs and plants.

Attend a free music concert

Hamburg is a top destination for music lovers and the good news is that you can enjoy superb performances completely for free. Attend a jam session at the legendary Birdland jazz club, or a classical concert at the Hochshule für Musik und Theater. Dance to rock, punk, and reggae music at Wutzrock, a free three-day music festival in July, or experience the ultimate summer-in-the-city feeling at the Knust Acoustics Sommersessions. In Hamburg you’ll find a great free concert every day of the week.

Go to a street festival

The people of Hamburg love a good street festival, and there are many to choose from all year round. There are major events like the Hafengeburtstag – the harbor birthday – every May, and the Alstervergnügen every September. Festivals celebrating city districts like the Altonale, the Schanzenfest, or the Stadtfest St. Georg. Even some streets host popular festivals like the Osterstraßenfest, Bernstorffstraßenfest, or the Eppendorfer Landstraßenfest. No matter the scale, head to a street festival to listen to music, sample good food, enjoy various attractions, and even browse stands of a flea market.

The Altonale street festival | © Urban Explorer Hamburg / Flickr
The Altonale street festival | © Urban Explorer Hamburg / Flickr