The Top 14 Things to See and Do in Hamburg This Winter

| Photo by Moritz Kindler on Unsplash

For many of us, the winter holidays can be the most hectic and stressful time of the year. There is nothing like a visit to the beautiful North German city of Hamburg to see that the festive season can be completely different. Each winter, the city transforms into a fairytale Christmas capital, where festive spirit is found without searching, holiday shopping is fun and it’s almost impossible not to relax and enjoy the magic of Christmas time. So whether you’re with your partner or group of friends, we’ve found the perfect activities to get you into the Christmas spirit.

1. Indulge your taste buds

Market, Seafood, Street Food, German

The festive season would not be the same without the scrumptious food that comes with it it. And if anyone can do it right, it’s the Germans. A visit to a Christmas market is not complete without sampling glühwein (mulled wine) or warm fruit punch. Along with that, why not try sugar-roasted almonds, lebkuchen (gingerbread), marzipan and stollen (fruit cake)? And, of course, don’t forget hearty treats like sausages grilled on an open fire, golden potato pancakes with apple sauce, roasted mushrooms in garlic sauce, as well as special Hamburg delicacies.

2. Explore a shopper's paradise

Architectural Landmark

1530_HH_Rathaus_Weihnachtsmarkt_2-14_4(m) Kopie_variant_2

Beyond the Christmas markets, Hamburg‘s shops and department stores will not disappoint even the most selective holiday shopper. In the heart of the city, ornately decorated storefronts along the Jungfernstieg boulevard and the Neuer Wall shopping street both invite you to discover luxury brands and famous designers. World-famous labels line nearby Mönckebergstraße and Spitalerstraße, but don’t forget to check out the city’s hip local brands and quirky independent boutiques.

3. Let the Elbphilharmonie take your breath away

Concert Hall

The Grand Hall
© Jann Wilken
Even though events at Hamburg‘s grand Elbphilharmonie concert hall are booked out months in advance, a visit to the city’s architectural masterpiece is a must. At a height of 37 metres, where the historic warehouse and the modern glass structure meet, a public viewing platform known as the Plaza is open to everyone. During the short winter days, the 360° views across the harbour, with city centre decked out in festive lights, just might take your breath away. Tickets for same-day visits of the Plaza are free but you can also escape the queues and book them ahead for just two euros.

4. Dance on ice

Park

Even though Hamburg is far from mountains and the snow is unreliable, it’s perfect for a winter sport that will put a smile on your face and colour on your cheeks: ice skating. Glide under the stars at Planten un Blomen park, where one of Germany’s biggest ice skating rinks awaits you. Every Friday and Saturday night at 7 pm this winter wonderland becomes a party on ice, with music played by live DJs. On top of this, several Christmas markets offer smaller ice rinks where you can skate to your heart’s content.

5. Have a world-class night out

Architectural Landmark

Culture Trip knew it all along, but now a study by Hostelworld confirms it: Hamburg is the best place in the world for a night out. The nightlife of the city’s diverse neighbourhoods will keep you awake long after the Christmas markets and shops have closed for the day. The undisputed heart of the city’s party life is legendary Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli district, while Sternschanze attracts a younger, alternative crowd.

6. Enjoy wellness and ultimate relaxation

Architectural Landmark

What better way to unwind from the busy holiday season than visiting a spa or thermal bath? Hamburg‘s oldest bath, the Kaifu-Sole, offers a romantic experience where couples can indulge in thermal salt waters, while the elegant Holthusenbad offers exquisite saunas and massages. The Emotion Spa and the Meridian Spa both provide everything you’ll need for the ultimate pampering experience, and Float Hamburg invites guests to relax while weightlessly floating in salt water. Whatever your wellness preferences, you can find a day spa that will deliver.

7. Let your heart soar to music

Church

Throughout the Advent season, Hamburg‘s churches and concert halls offer a diverse program of choir and orchestra performances, organ music and church music concerts, both classic and contemporary. There’s nothing quite like listening to harmonious Christmas music in candlelight to feel the holiday spirit and find the peace and beauty of this special time of the year. Search for upcoming events here. Join a Hamburg music tour for the ultimate experience.

8. Explore the nearby towns

Historical Landmark

Weihnachtsmarkt/christmas market Lüneburg 3

When you think you have seen what Hamburg has to offer, continue exploring the nearby towns to discover more North-German Yuletide magic. Within easy reach from Hamburg, you’ll find the charming small towns like historic Lübeck, famous as the birthplace of marzipan, or medieval Lüneburg with its saltwater thermal baths. Another special experience is the Gut Basthorst agricultural estate, which hosts a Christmas market with over 300 artisans and craftspeople.

The Best Christmas Markets in Hamburg

All recommended by Marion Kutter.

9. Historical Christmas Market at the Town Hall

Market

Weihnachtsmarkt_Rathausmarkt_1

The most beloved Christmas market by locals and visitors alike is the fairytale-like market at the foot of the elegant Town Hall, where Santa Claus flies across the wooden market stands in his carriage pulled by reindeer three times a day – at 4 pm, 6 pm and 8 pm. The stalls and huts are elaborately decorated with lights and garlands and sell handmade artsy things rather than plastic toys. Shop around the individually themed alleys for wood carvings, glass art, beeswax candles, amber jewellery and lanterns. Culinary treats range from Nuremberg gingerbread to Hamburg’s speciality Schmalzkuchen.

10. White Magic at the Jungfernstieg

Architectural Landmark

Weihnachtsmarkt / christmas market

Look no further than the enchanting White Magic market on Alster Lake to discover that the modern spirit of Hamburg extends to the city’s Christmas markets. On the lake shore, white tents stand in the place of the traditional wooden huts, serving as an enchanting backdrop to a very different vibe of festive magic. The inviting aromas of mulled wine, cinnamon and roasted almonds waft across the water where, in the middle of the lake, a Christmas tree illuminates the winter skies.

11. Santa Pauli

Market

Santa_Pauli_10

The free spirit that makes Hamburg a perfect party location is reflected by some of its Christmas markets, too. Located on Reeperbahn, the Santa Pauli market is equal parts kitschy and cool. As befits a market in the middle of the Hamburg‘s former red light district, the stands mix the traditional with the erotic. Like the Kietz itself, the market is loud, frivolous and extravagant.

12. Christmas Market at the Gänsemarkt

Market, German

The quaint Gänsemarkt market focuses on traditional Christmas market experiences. The smell of roast almonds and Glühwein hovers over the square; vendors sell hand-crafted goods made from wood, glass, wax and wool and Christmas songs qently hum in the background. A highlight for kids is the Advent Sundays when Santa Claus hands out presents.

13. Christmas Village in Ottensen

Architectural Landmark

The cosy Christmas market in Ottensen is one of Hamburg’s most authentic and an excellent choice if you’re visiting with kids. The wooden huts have been designed with great attention to detail, evergreen garlands and lights decorate the market square, while vendors sell crafts, trinkets and international foods, from Italian pesto to Swiss raclette cheese.

14. Winter Pride

Market

Around the corner from Hamburg central station, pink gates open up to the city’s gay and lesbian Christmas market Winter Pride. Organised by the local LGBTQ community, the alternative market baits even Christmas grinches with indie and electro DJ sets instead of choirs singing Christmas carols. Other events include fun games such as ‘Homo Sweetheart’ and ‘Rubbish Secret Santa’. The profits go towards charitable projects of the queer community.

Visit Hamburg now to discover the delights of its historic, modern and naughty Christmas markets!

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