Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city, is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular cities in the world. It lies on the Elbe River in northern Germany and has one of Europe’s largest and busiest ports. It is known for its great shopping, delicious food scene, and canals, rivers, and streams crossed by nearly 2,500 bridges.
Sightseeing in Hamburg is a delightful experience, whether it’s your first time in this German city or you call it your second home. The Elbphilharmonie in the HafenCity quarter is a must-visit landmark, but art enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the chance to see the beautiful temporary art exhibitions at Bucerius Kunst Forum and other art centers at Kunstmeile, the renowned Art Mile. There are also ancient buildings, stunning baroque churches, art galleries, and other cultural institutions that remain open until past midnight.
The sky is the limit when it comes to tours and adventures here and many of the activities can be enjoyed for free. If you’re just getting to know the city and what it can offer, your first stop should be the best museums in Hamburg. From displaying modern paintings and contemporary art to introducing the history of spices and numerous model ships, you’ll find a museum that will satisfy your curiosity. Don’t forget to drop your bags off at a luggage locker in Hamburg, as not all cultural facilities have spaces for large suitcases, backpacks, or bags.
Museum of Hamburg History
Located on the former early 17th-century Bastion Henricus site, the Museum of Hamburg History is a history museum under the Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg. It opened in 1922, bringing to life the city’s 1,200-year history through exhibits, programs, and events.
The Museum of Hamburg presents Hamburg’s interesting past, from its early beginnings during the 9th century until today. Visitors will also discover everything from the 14th- and 15th-century pirates to how the city transformed into a modern metropolis and became one of Europe’s most valuable ports.
The first floor of the building is entirely for the exhibition dedicated to a history tour. There are also permanent exhibitions that chronicle the eventful history of Jewish inhabitants in Hamburg, historic homes, modern railways, fashion, art, music, and more.
Location: Holstenwall 24, 20355 Hamburg, Germany
International Maritime Museum
The city’s oldest standing warehouse is now home to the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg. It’s a large maritime exhibit in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Speicherstadt. The museum was born from a young boy’s passion for collecting all things nautical. Peter Tamm collected everything related to maritime history throughout his life.
Today, the Maritime Museum in Hamburg contains one million pictures, around 100,000 books, 38,000 miniature ships, and countless nautical instruments, maps, telescopes, uniforms, oil paintings, and other maritime-themed collectibles. The museum is housed in Kaispeicher B, a heritage-listed building and one of the city’s oldest well-preserved buildings in the harbor.
Location: Koreastraße 1, 20457 Hamburg, Germany
Deichtorhallen Hamburg is one of the largest exhibition centers for photography and contemporary art in Europe, with an exhibition space of 10,000 square meters. It is a must-see attraction conveniently located at the center of Hamburg, luring in anyone passionate about art.
The Deichtorhallen International Photography & Art Museum has three buildings under its property: the House of Photography, the Hall for Contemporary Art, and the Falckenberg Collection. In addition to the exhibitions and architectural monuments, it features restaurants, a bookshop, and cafes where you chill after soaking in the stunning European art at the museum.
To witness the exquisite exhibitions of the museum, you can visit any day of the week except on Mondays. Opening hours are from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM, but they extend until 9:00 PM every first Thursday of the month.
Location: Deichtorstraße 1–2, 20095 Hamburg, Germany
Hamburger Kunsthalle is one of the country’s most important and largest art museums. It was founded in 1817 by a local art society but wasn’t built in 1869. It became a symbol of civic engagement when private donors paid two-thirds of the cost of building the art museum. It expanded in 1921 and 1997 and is now an expansive exhibition space in Germany.
The museum’s permanent collection reflects unique art from eight centuries. It’s also one of Germany’s most substantial public art collections. It includes the Collection of Old Masters, with a focus on northern German medieval paintings by Master Francke and Bertram von Minden.
For fans of modern art and contemporary art, you’ll discover paintings, sculptures, and beautiful art pieces. Visitors can look back at 19th-century art, including paintings by Philipp Otto Runge, Caspar David Friedrich, Wilhelm Leibl, Adolph Menzel, and many more. Kunsthalle also houses prints, drawings, and historical archives.
Location: Glockengießerwall 5, 20095 Hamburg, Germany
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG)
When translated from German, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) directly translates to the Museum of Arts and Crafts Hamburg. This museum has become one of the most important museums of applied arts in Europe. It is also one of Germany's prominent design institutions and a must-visit museum dedicated to decorative arts and fine art.
The collection includes antiquity, new media, and contemporary innovations, encompassing 4000 years of European, Islamic, and East Asian culture. MKG was opened in 1877, and for years, it has preserved its crafts and can still be enjoyed on the several floors of the structure.
To enjoy this experience, you can check out the museum every Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. If you want to visit at night, make sure it’s a Thursday as they extend 3 hours, closing at 9:00 PM.
Location: Steintorplatz 1, 20099 Hamburg, Germany
BallinStadt Emigration Museum
Museums usually focus on arts and crafts, but if you’re in Hamburg and want to try something different, visiting the Emigration Museum Ballinstadt is perfect. The 2,500-meter exhibition space is where you can find the dreams and stories of people from decades ago.
In this museum, you can explore and learn about the four eras in the history of immigration and emigration. The exhibitions center on the life and journey of the five million emigrants who left their homes to find hope in a better life. An audio guide is available in Polish, German, English, or French to accompany visitors through the permanent exhibition. You can also book a group visit if you’re heading down with your friends.
After a tour, refuel and relax at the Nach American restaurant. You can order coffee, snacks, cakes, or lunch. The museum's opening hours are subject to changes, but for November and onwards, they’re open every day of the week except for Monday.
Location: Veddeler Bogen 2, 20539 Hamburg, Germany
Let the unique scene take you to the world of local herbs, exotic spices, coffees, and teas at Spicy's Spice Museum. It is housed in a historic warehouse in Speicherstadt, boasting more than 900 exhibits and over fifty examples of spices and herbs you can try, smell, and touch. Even if you don’t know how to cook and, perhaps, are unfamiliar with more than half of the spices at the museum, you’ll be guaranteed a fun experience.
The world’s first spice museum has been in the area since 1993. This specialty Hamburg Museum will show visitors the process of spices and herbs from cultivation to the finished product. The exhibits also feature old mixing, sieving, and dosing machines, a roller mill, original containers, tamping works, and carts that tell the interesting story of processing the spices.
Location: Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg, Germany
Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg
Hamburg is known for its stunning architecture, old bridges, and historical sites, making it an ideal spot for a holiday trip for tourists. One of the many attractions you shouldn’t miss out on is the Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg, a Guinness World Record holder of the most extensive cross-scale model railway system in the world.
The idea of building the model started in 2000, with the brains of brothers Frederik and Gerrit Braun. Two decades have passed, and now it has become one of Hamburg's most visited and popular areas. Besides the railway system model, you can also enjoy the miniature models of different countries and airports. To discover what more the museum offers, you can visit all year round from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM. It's only a 10-minute drive from Hamburg Hauptbahnhof.
Location: Kehrwieder 4, 20457 Hamburg, Germany
One of the best things you can do during your stay in Hamburg is to experience the fun at Chocoversum. This chocolate museum offers a captivating, one-of-a-kind experience for chocolate lovers and anyone with a sweet tooth. However, visiting the museum isn't all about snacking and enjoying chocolate. You will be entertained in a 90-minute guided tour throughout the area.
Perhaps the most exciting part of this museum is that you get to participate in a chocolate-making workshop. You can have the chance to create your own chocolate bar and customize it as you like, and even take that chocolate home.
Chocolate lovers of all ages are welcome to enjoy the museum. If you want to experience the sweet side of Hamburg, you can visit any day of the week from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Location: Meßberg 1, 20095 Hamburg, Germany
German Port Museum
The German Port Museum is a new cultural institution at the Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg. It will feature the PEKING, a 1911 sailing cargo ship, which will serve as the figurehead at the Port Museum’s entrance, which is currently located at Hamburg Port.
The German Port Museum already has over 500,000 artifacts relating to the cultural and economic history of the port. It aims to provide a modern way to help people understand how Hamburg’s port developed into a major location for international trade.
Location: Kopfbau des Schuppens 50A, 20457 Hamburg, Germany
What are the best free museums in Hamburg?
Who says a trip to the best Hamburg museums should cost a lot? If you know where to go and when to visit, you can take advantage of free tickets at known museums in the city. One of the cultural attractions to explore is the Museum of Hamburg History. You usually have to pay an entrance fee, but if you come on Thursday from 5 PM, you can enjoy free admission. Families with children don’t have to worry, as it remains accessshible for young people under 18 during its opening hours.
Which are the best museums in Downtown Hamburg?
There are numerous museums in Hamburg City Center, and many of them are just a short walking distance from each other. The best ones largely depend on your interest or what you want to experience.
But suppose you’re an art enthusiast who wants to discover more of German’s modern and contemporary art by prominent local and international artists. In that case, you’ll have all day to see everything that the Hamburger Kunsthalle has to offer. Another option is the Deichtorhallen Hamburg, which is suitable for photography and art enthusiasts.
Are there any cheap museums in Hamburg?
Some tourists or even locals tend to stay away from cultural centers thinking it would cost a fortune to enter and see the exhibits. But that’s not the case in Hamburg, especially if you have the Hamburg CARD. You’re entitled to discounts if you’re a CARD holder and can upgrade it for more offerings.
But if you don’t have a Humburg CARD, you can still benefit from budget-friendly museums like Spicy’s Spice Museum. An admission ticket for adults costs below $5, and a family of two adults and two children only needs to pay around $10. Even the ticket fee for groups is low!
Explore the Best Museums in Hamburg
Hamburg has long established a reputation as a thriving cultural center. For years, an impressive number of exhibition venues and art centers have opened their doors to display stunning art pieces and European art. No matter your interest or budget, you’ll likely find the best museums in Hamburg to help you delve deeper into the city’s colorful history and appreciate art through displays and permanent exhibitions.