The Ultimate Guide to Hamburg's Art Scene

Ausstellung "Von Poussin bis Monet. Die Farben Frankreichs | © Ulrich Perrey
Ausstellung "Von Poussin bis Monet. Die Farben Frankreichs | © Ulrich Perrey

The second-largest city in Germany, Hamburg has a vibrant art scene that offers something for everyone. With acclaimed permanent collections of German Romantic painting, as well as contemporary photography and varied temporary exhibition programmes of internationally renowned artists, Hamburg’s reputation as a prominent arts capital is firmly established. Here, Culture Trip guides you through the eclectic cultural venues every art lover should visit.


Near the Alster – Hamburg’s 160-hectare (395-acre) city-centre lake – lies the Kunstmeile (art mile). Here, all within walking distance of each other, are the five major art institutions: the Bucerius Kunst Forum, the Deichtorhallen Hamburg, the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the Kunstverein Hamburg and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe. Each boasts stunning collections of contemporary and historical art in a range of media, from painting and sculpture to photography and applied art. It’s worth buying the Kunstmeile pass so you can visit them all at a reduced rate of €36 (£30/US$38 – discounts available). Below, we highlight three of these famed art institutions.

Bucerius Kunst Forum. Photo | © Wolfgang Neeb

Hamburger Kunsthalle

Boasting a phenomenal permanent collection of art from the past 700 years, the Hamburger Kunsthalle offers visitors a rich overview of European art history through an array of periods and styles. These include important German mediaeval paintings and the golden age of 17th-century Dutch painting. The Kunsthalle’s enviable collection of Old Masters is counterbalanced by the contemporary works housed in the Galerie der Gegenwart in response to the changing landscape of contemporary art. Make sure you see German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog during your visit.

Casper David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, c. 1817 at Hamburg Kunsthalle | © Cybershot800i/WikiCommons

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG)

With over 500,000 objects from antiquity to the present, MKG tells the story of 4,000 years of human history through a celebrated collection of art and crafts. Their Art Nouveau holdings are world-renowned, as is their example of famed Danish interior designer Verner Panton’s orange canteen. Emphasising the connection between recent and historico-cultural topics, MKG also presents intriguing exhibitions on everything from comics to fashion icons such as Coco Chanel.

MKG. Photo: | © Marcel Krecks

Deichtorhallen Hamburg

Housed in two former market halls, the stunning steel and glass industrial architecture of the Deichtorhallen is the ideal backdrop for its presentation of contemporary art and photography. In the grandeur of the northern Deichtorhalle, the focus is on large-scale exhibitions by internationally acclaimed painters, sculptors and designers, which in the past have included Andy Warhol, Martin Kippenberger and Louise Bourgeois. The southern Deichtorhalle concentrates on photographic exhibitions, and hosts the Triennial of Photography Hamburg every three years.

Innenansicht der Sammlung Falckenberg - Deichtorhallen Hamburg während der Ausstellung von WIM WENDERS. Foto: Henning Rogge / Deichtorhallen.

The must-visit art galleries

There are more than 50 independent galleries to discover in Hamburg. The highest concentration of these can be found in the Fleetinsel area and the Kontorhaus district, but if you go a littler further a field you can encounter some of the most exciting emerging and urban art the city has to offer.

Produzentengalerie Hamburg

In the labyrinthine industrial canal district, you’ll find one of the city’s leading contemporary art galleries, Produzentengalerie. Founded in 1973, it’s known for its innovative exhibitions of internationally renowned artists like Ulla von Brandenburg and Astrid Klein.

Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof

Set up 17 years ago by two artists in the former first-class waiting room of the Hamburg–Harburg Station, Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof bridges the gap between museum and commercial gallery with a critically engaged roster of contemporary art shows.

Courtesy Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof

Feinkunst Krüger

The premise of Feinkunst Krüger is to promote the work of young artists, giving them the much-needed step up the art career ladder. Just one year off its 20th anniversary, the gallery continues to present an engaging monthly exhibition programme.

Affenfaust Galerie

Affenfaust Galerie has established a respected and much-needed platform for urban art in the last couple of years alongside organising the KNOTENPUNKT Festival. In their collection of industrial spaces, the gallery hosts a distinctly broad range of shows as well as street art commissions around the city.

Affenfaust Galerie. Photo: Dominik Wolf

Discover Hamburg’s Street Art

Take the Alternative Hamburg tour to discover the best street art populating Hamburg’s urban landscape. Run by a group of enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides from various backgrounds, you’ll encounter a mixture of international and local graffiti and street artists on the pay-what-you-like walking tour.

Robi The Dog. Photo: | © Wim Jansen

Invest in starting your art collection at the Affordable Art Fair Hamburg

In November, 80 local, national and international galleries will showcase a veritable feast of contemporary art at the Affordable Art Fair Hamburg. With thousands of works – including paintings, prints, sculpture and photography – priced under €7,500, this four-day art fair is the perfect place for a budding art collector to find fresh new talent for their home. And, with a free crèche for children between 2–10 years old, you can peruse the isles of the Hamburg Messe und Congress Centre without distraction as you invest in your collection.

Courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hamburg

Discover the alternative art district

Set up in 2009 to save an extraordinary set of historic buildings in the heart of Hamburg from demolition, Gaengeviertel offers a diverse programme of events for both locals and international travellers. At the centre of this vibrant alternative area of the city is the old 20th-century factory on Valentinskamp (it’s listed on the cultural monuments of Hamburg register) where the majority of exhibitions, concerts, workshops and talks are hosted.

Ehemaliges Fabrikgebäude im Gängeviertel, Hamburg-Neustadt. Valentinskamp 34a, Eingang im Torweg. Erbaut 1903. Früher wurden hier Gürtel und Schnallen hergestellt. | © Pauli-Pirat / Wiki Commons

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