Hamburg is a fantastic city. It really deserves more than one day, but if you don’t have a lot of time, you can still enjoy Hamburg in a day. It’s easy to take a day trip to Hamburg from Berlin since they’re not too far from each other and there are lots of train connections. In this post, I’ll show you how to get from Berlin to Hamburg and what to do in Hamburg in one day.
Why should you take a day trip from Berlin to Hamburg
If you’re spending more than 3 days in Berlin, it’s a good idea to plan a day trip so you can see a little more of Germany.
Hamburg is a great option because it’s a totally different kind of city than Berlin. Hamburg is in northern Germany and is connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River. The city has an interesting maritime history since it’s been an important port city for centuries.
The Beatles had their big break in Hamburg, so if you’re a fan, Hamburg is a must. The city is also great for exploring arts and culture. And you’ll notice quickly that Hamburg’s architecture and overall look and feel is different than Berlin’s.
Take a day trip from Berlin to Hamburg, and trust me, you’ll find there are more than enough things to do in Hamburg in a day. It might even inspire you to return for a longer trip someday.
Where to stay in Hamburg
If you decide you’d rather spend a night or two in Hamburg, you won’t regret it. You could easily fill several days with activities in Hamburg. In general, Hamburg tends to be more expensive than Berlin, and that is reflected in the hotel prices as well.
Hotels in Hamburg
How to Get from Berlin to Hamburg by Train
Trains from Berlin to Hamburg run frequently enough that this is probably your best option for a Berlin to Hamburg day trip. The ICE (Intercity Express) trains take about an hour and 46 minutes, while the IC (Intercity) trains make a few extra stops and take about 2 hours and 5 minutes.
The ICE trains usually cost more than the IC trains, but it’s not a huge difference. Then you have to decide if you’d rather save a few euros or shave 20 minutes off of your journey in each direction. And if you book ahead of time, sometimes the price is the same, so it’s a easy choice to book the faster train.
Another good option is FlixTrain. FlixBus is a popular bus company in Europe, and while I wouldn’t recommend the bus for a Berlin to Hamburg day trip because it takes a lot longer, their FlixTrain takes about 2 hours.
They don’t have as many trains per day, but on most days they have trains leaving early in the morning and returning late afternoon and in the evening. This is perfect timing for a day trip from Berlin to Hamburg.
The Berlin to Hamburg train time is from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof. Deutsche Bahn’s ICE and IC trains and FlixTrain also stop at Berlin Südkreuz (before the Hbf) and Berlin Spanau (after the Hbf).
Deutsche Bahn will give you a little more flexibility, but FlixTrain will most likely save you money.
What is the Distance from Berlin to Hamburg?
Hamburg is located northwest of Berlin in the northern part of Germany. The driving distance from Berlin to Hamburg is almost 300km (almost 186 miles). This means it could take you around 4 hours to drive to Hamburg from Berlin.
This is why I recommend NOT driving. Taking the train is actually a lot faster, and you won’t have the stress of figuring out driving rules and parking.
Things to do in Hamburg in One Day
You won’t get to all of these, but there is a lot you can see and do in Hamburg in one day. Some are nighttime activities that might be a little hard on a day trip, but if you decide to spend the night, you could easily enjoy the nightlife. Pick a few that suit your interests and enjoy!
Here’s a look at what to do in Hamburg in one day on a day trip from Berlin.
Marvel at the Miniatur Wunderland
For those who like things on a small scale, the Miniatur Wunderland is the ideal place to visit – even if you’re a grown up. Here you’ll find a teeny tiny world featuring scale models of various European and international landmarks, including buildings from the USA and Hamburg itself. But the star of the show here is its railway: the largest model railway in the world!
I go to Miniatur Wunderland every time I’m in Hamburg, and I can’t stress to you enough how wonderful it really is. Some sections change every time. Really pay attention to the details when you’re there, and you’ll catch some funny hidden Easter eggs.
Book your tickets ahead of time though because the lines can be really long.
Take some downtime in Literaturhaus Café
Housed inside a building that dates back to 1839, Literaturhauscafe is an elegant place to eat in Hamburg. The neoclassical building itself was once a dance school that was left to fall into disrepair. But it was lovingly restored by an anonymous philanthropist in 1985, bringing it back to its former glory. Today this restaurant is perfect for special-occasion meals.
Go on a Port of Hamburg tour
Though it’s on a river, Hamburg is Germany’s largest port. In fact, 9,000 ships dock here per year and its historic 27 miles of wharf. Taking one of the boat tours around this area means you’ll be able to get up close and personal to the gargantuan shipping industry that has put Hamburg on the map. You’ll get to see a different side to the city while you’re at it.
Dance the night away at Logo Club
Going strong since 1974, Logo Club is one of the oldest music venues in the city. After World War II, what would become Logo Club was first built as a furniture shop, later making the change to student hangout which hosted concerts now and again. Today it’s a happening hotspot for alternative music, dubbed “Hamburg’s loudest sauna” (it gets hot in there!).
Enjoy the nightlife at Reeperbahn Red Light District
This legendary mile-long street is one of the most popular attractions in Hamburg. A buzzing part of the city, situated in St Pauli, it’s one of the largest red light districts in the whole of Europe. Lit with neon and strewn with bars and clubs, mixed with strip clubs, brothels and sex shops, simply wander around Reeperbahn and you’ll soon find out why it’s called “the most sinful mile”.
Remember the Beatles
The Beatles have a strong connection with Hamburg. From 1960 to 1962, the band played gigs at several different clubs in Hamburg’s Reeperbahn neighborhood, and this is where they really started getting attention and eventually made their first recording. Today you can visit some of the clubs they played at, such as Indra Club and Kaiserkeller, though many have changed names. Be sure to stop by Beatles Platz, a square honoring the band. You can even take a Beatles tour in Hamburg to learn more about their iconic connection to the city.
Be in awe of the Speicherstadt
The Speicherstadt is the largest warehouse district in the world. Built between 1883 and 1927, the red-brick buildings stand on timber pile foundations of oak logs. Here, among its 26 hectares of canals and multi-storey warehouses, all connected by bridges, Germany’s trade of textiles, tobacco and tea made the city a global hub. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Learn about European art at the Hamburger Kunsthalle
Hamburger Kunsthalle is one of the country’s largest art museums. Set over three buildings – dating from 1869, 1921 and 1997 respectively – the gallery tells the tale of 700 years of European and German art history. Here you’ll find masterpieces from the likes of Cezanne, Rembrandt, and Manet. It’s a great thing to do on a rainy day in Hamburg.
Spice things up at Spicy’s Spice Museum
With Hamburg’s important role in trade and shipping, the city has played a big part of the spice trade. One of the museums in the Speicherstadt district is Spicy’s Spice Museum where you can learn about how spices, tea, and coffee have been shipped from one end of the world to the other by way of Hamburg throughout the past 500 years. It’s quite and interesting and fragrant museum.
Head to Flohschanze flea market for unique bargains
Head to the happening Schanzenviertel district on a Saturday and you’ll be able to enjoy the Flohschanze flea market. Made up of multiple stalls selling vintage threads and second-hand goods, you’re bound to find pretty much anything and everything on sale here. What’s more, it’s cheap, too. It makes for a fun way to spend an hour or two browsing through books, records, clothing and antiques.
While Saturdays bring the flea market to “Schanze” – as it is dubbed by locals – this alternative neighborhood is also well worth exploring any other time of the week. This is Hamburg’s hipster haven and, despite some troubled times during 2017 protests, the district thrives with cool coffee shops, boutiques and alternative hangouts. It’s a lively neighborhood full of character that may well have you wandering its streets for the entire day.
Get a glimpse of Elbphilharmonie
Elbphilharmonie is another of Hamburg’s landmark buildings. Even if you don’t have a ticket to see an orchestra in action, just laying eyes on the striking architecture of curving glass and steel atop a red-brick foundation – a nod to its historic warehouses – is enough to wow onlookers. You can even buy a ticket to go to a viewing platform at the top for some fantastic views of Hamburg from above. It’s one of the largest concert halls in the world and, costing €886 million to construct, it’s also one of the most acoustically advanced.
Stroll around Planten un Blomen
Translating to “Plants and Flowers”, this urban park spreads across 47 hectares in the center of the city. It’s a wonderful place to take a breath of fresh air and enjoy soaking up its sculpted landscapes. First planted in 1821, you’ll find an array of different gardens here, from Japanese gardens and rose gardens, to a tropical greenhouse. Don’t forget to stop for a moment and take in the epic fountain display.
Swing by the St Michaeliskirche
This church has been a landmark of Hamburg since the 18th century. Crowned by an eye-catching green copper dome, locals call it “Der Michael” (simply, “The Michael”). With capacity for 2,500 people and its white stucco interior accented with gold, it’s considered one of the most beautiful Hanseatic Protestant Baroque churches in Europe. Time your visit for midday when the organist demonstrates the church’s acoustics with a free recital. This is another great place to climb for views of the city from above.
Learn all about Hamburg’s seafaring history at the International Maritime Museum
This sizeable museum is located in the HafenCity quarter of Hamburg, and is home to more than 40,000 items relating to all things seafaring and maritime trade. Here you’ll find model ships, maritime art, uniforms and many, many photographs. It’s all based on the private collection of journalist Peter Tamm, who started collecting when he was six years old.
Explore the Rickmer Rickmers ship museum
Rickmer Rickmers sits permanently in the Hamburg Harbor, but this ship sailed all over the world for nearly 90 years. Since 1983, it has been a museum where you can go inside and explore the decks and quarters of the ship. It’s a three-masted ship, but it was sometimes powered by steam and diesel engines, and you can also visit the engine room.
Take time to reflect at Concentration Camp Neuengamme
Hamburg, like other cities in Germany, has an inescapable history when it comes to World War II. It’s here, just 10 miles southeast of the city, that you’ll find what was once the largest Nazi concentration camp in northern Germany. From 1938, more than 100,000 people entered through the gates at Neuengamme. Firstly political opponents, then all those persecuted by the Nazi authorites: gay people, Roma and Jews among them. The grounds have been maintained as a memorial site with an exhibit that tells the story of the atrocities carried out in the camp.
Wander the St Pauli Fischmarkt
Located on the banks of the River Elbe, this historic fish market has been in operation since 1703. Today it’s not just about the catch of the day: here you’ll also find everything from clothing, to fruit and vegetables, and flowers. It’s still a popular place to spend a Sunday morning. In fact, it attracts over 70,000 locals who come to browse, buy and sample fresh fish.
Go back in time at Jenischpark
Part of the stately home of the same name, Jenischpark is actually the oldest landscaped park in the city. With its wide sweeping lawns and English countryside feel, it’s a particularly charming spot to visit on a sunny day. Make sure to bring a picnic and relax in the historic setting. Or you could enjoy a cup of coffee at one of two museums located in the park.
Enjoy the lakes
The harbor isn’t Hamburg’s only important body of water. The Inner and Outer Alster Lakes are important pieces of the Hamburg landscape. Go for a boat tour, rent a boat yourself, or simply stroll along the banks of the lakes. The parks near the lakes are also a great place for cycling or having a picnic.
Watch the world go by at Entenwerder1
Over in the Rothenburgsort district you’ll find Entenwerder1 – a cool cafe floating on the Elbe itself. This is a local favorite for creative types to come and sip smoothies or a coffee, watching the boats go by on the river. Next door you’ll find a golden cube; originally an art installation, today it doubles up as additional seating for the cafe itself.
Climb the stairs in Treppenviertel Blankenese
For an idyllic location to explore in Hamburg, you’d be hard pressed to find one more charming than Treppenviertel Blankenese. Treppenviertel translates to “Stairs Quarter”, which is apt considering the hilly setting, with alleyways and old mansions, as well as beaches and parks lining this riverside landscape.
Get lost in Gängeviertel
Literally translating to “Alleyway Quarter”, Gängeviertel was once the living quarters for city workers and dates back to the 19th century. This historic labyrinth of streets and alleyways was ravaged by a cholera epidemic, leading to its decline. Though under threat of being demolished in 2009, the area was preserved as a piece of Hamburg’s history. Nowadays it’s a cultural space run by a non-profit collective hosting an array of free creative events, exhibitions and celebrations throughout the year.
Stop to admire Hamburg Rathaus
This is Hamburg’s historic town hall and has been since 1897. The building itself is an impressive structure with soaring spires and an ornate sandstone facade, giving it its color-based name. Visitors can enter daily from 8 am to 6 pm, where you can learn more about the history of the Rathaus itself. If you’re visiting during the Christmas season, the square in front of the Rathaus holds the city’s main Christmas market.
Take a trip on Ferry 62
In order to understand more about what makes Hamburg tick, you have to head out on the water. The best way to do this is by taking Ferry 62. This public ferry is not a tourist attraction but rather a local convenience. The trip starts and ends in Landungsbrücken, and makes stops at the Fischmarkt, Altona district and Strandperle among other places. You can ride using a standard Hamburg public transport ticket, and you can get on and off at any dock.
Check out the architecture of the modern HafenCity district
HafenCity (translating to “PortCity” in English) is an ambitious modern development in the center of the city. Situated on a river island in the Elbe, it was established in 2008, when work began on developing the derelict port area. Also encompassing the UNESCO-recognized Speicherstadt, next to these historic warehouses you’ll find impressive postmodern architecture, shops, hotels and residential buildings. The best way to take it all in is to hop on a free guided tour, which leaves the Kesselhaus InfoCenter.
Soak up some rays at Strandperle
Hamburg may not be known for its sandy beaches, but surprisingly it does have them. And Strandperle, a simple yet popular snack stand and restaurant, is located on one of the most popular beaches. Make sure to pack your beach gear, find yourself a deck chair, pivot towards the sun and order yourself a drink or two. It’s a laid-back, local favorite which gets particularly busy on hot weekends. Here during winter? The heated marquee makes it a cozy spot for a warming drink.
Eat a fish sandwich
Quick sandwiches are easy to find throughout Germany, especially at bakeries and markets. But in Hamburg you’ll find a lot more fish sandwiches, or Fisch Brötchen, due to the city’s location near the sea. This is a German food you should try when in Hamburg since it’s a regional specialty you’re unlikely to find in places that are more inland, like Berlin.
Visit Le Lion for some chic cocktails
Like cocktails? Then you should definitely make some time in your schedule to pay a visit to Le Lion. Pass through the doors here and you’ll find a classy world of upscale decor and classic cocktails. It’s almost like going back in time. Make sure you dress smartly, otherwise you may not be let into this exclusive bar.
Check out the Portuguese Quarter
The Portuguese Quarter has been home to many of Hamburg’s Spanish and Portuguese residents since the 1960s. The area centers around Ditmar-Koel-Strasse in the Neustadt district and is the perfect place to go to soak up some Iberian culture – not least in terms of food. Paella, tapas bars, delicious seafood, pastel de nata – it’s all here in this small and charming neighborhood.
Stroll through Ohlsdorf Cemetery
Like the famous cemeteries of London and Paris, Ohlsdorf Cemetery is well worth a visit if you’re in Hamburg. Dating back to 1877, at 966 acres it’s the largest cemetery park in the world. More than 1.4 million of Hamburg’s residents have been laid to rest in this peaceful setting, with memorials, mausoleums and chapels scattered throughout the picturesque parkland. Visitors come to stroll the grounds and to pay their respects at the graves of notable Hamburgers. Guided tours are available.
Go underwater at the Submarine Museum
The U-434 Submarine Museum is docked in front of the Fischmarkt market hall, and it is a fully functional submarine. This Soviet underwater sea vessel is from the 1970s, but it has served as a museum since 2002. Even though it is one of the longest non-atomic submarines in the world, at 90.16 meters (295.8 feet) long it’s still incredibly cramped considering it was built to hold up to 78 men. Take a tour to really experience the tight quarters and learn about the ship’s history.
Walk through Alter Elbtunnel
You may have seen the River Elbe from above, but now it’s time to dive below it on an adventure underground. Also known as the St Pauli Elbtunnel, this pedestrian passageway first opened to the public in 1911. It runs for 426 yards, 80 feet below the surface, and is a historic space filled with Art Deco fixtures and fittings: think pearly tiles, colorful artwork and angular lighting. Best of all – it’s free!
Book a tour for your trip to Berlin
Berlin Travel Resources
I want you to have the best trip to Berlin, and hopefully this guide for a day trip to Hamburg from Berlin is helpful. But there are lots more tips on the site!
Here’s what you should know before coming to Berlin. From practical tips to quirky facts about the city, it’s all in there.
Read this helpful packing list for Berlin so you know what to bring and what to wear.
You’re probably going to be using public transport to get around Berlin. Read this handy guide to Berlin’s public transport system and how to get around Berlin.
Visiting Berlin? Don’t forget travel insurance!
It’s always a good idea to travel to Berlin with a valid travel insurance policy. Travel here is reasonably safe, but you never know when something could happen. You need to be covered in case you have an accident or become a victim to theft.
We recommend World Nomads insurance for travel. Travel insurance helps you recover your expenses and continue to enjoy your trip.