The city of Hamburg is located in northern Germany right by the Elbe River. Hamburg has been an important city for most of its time, partially because of its port which is the 3rd largest in the globe. It is the country's second largest city with nearly 2 million people calling it home, and many of the locals consider it to be the world's most beautiful place!
Most travelers who visit Hamburg are inclined to agree, since the town has a sort of charm with its pretty architecture and canals. It is sometimes called the "Venice of the North" because of its waterways, and is actually home to more bridges than London, Venice and Amsterdam combined!
If you ever get the opportunity to visit this city we urge you to take it since a trip to this gorgeous town will be unforgettable. We know that traveling can sometimes be expensive, but there is no need to worry since we've put together a list of free things to do while you are here. It is always worth it to keep your belongings at a Hamburg luggage storage locker where they will be safe as you explore the city. There is much to see, so don't let heavy bags slow you down!
Visit the Hamburg Zoological Museum
Some of this town's top highlights are its museums, and you will have quite a lot to choose from. The city has some wonderful science and art museums, although most of those cost money to enter. If you want to visit a museum for free then the Hamburg Zoological Museum is your best choice!
Although it is small at only 21,000 square feet, this museum houses over 10 million objects in its collection, making it one of Germany's most important research centers for biodiversity and evolution. Its displays are filled with some pretty cool artifacts like rhinoceros skeletons or preserved birds and crocodiles. Here you can learn about everything from tiny bugs to massive whales! Come learn all about the diversity of the world's species as well as the effects of human actions towards climate change and biodiversity decline in their new multimedia exhibit. If you're lucky there might be a special event or exhibition going on.
Follow a Free Walking Tour
If you really want to learn more about a city then the best place to learn is from the locals. There are a few fantastic walking tours available in different parts of the city, and lots of them are actually free! Check out one of the Hamburg harbor tours which begin daily at 2 pm at the Landungsbrücken floating dock by the Hardrock Cafe. On your tour, you will be brought to some of the nicest places in the area, like St Pauli and Reeperbahn.
While you are walking through the neighborhood your tour guide will tell you a little bit about Hamburg's history over the years, such as the '80s squatting movement to more recent developments. There is another guided walking tour offered in the old town beginning at 11 am by the Hamburg City Hall, and it can tell you the fascinating and lively tales of Hamburg over the last 1,200 years. The tour begins at the Town Hall and will bring you past some of the city's most beautiful buildings and can introduce you to the area's hidden gems as well!
Explore the Old Elbe Tunnel
The Alter Elbe Tunnel, or St Pauli Elbe Tunnel, is one of the best attractions that you can do for free in Hamburg. It was originally built back in 1911 to connect the Landungsbrücken and St Pauli Piers and was used by workers to move underneath the River Elbe. Today the tunnel remains open for both locals and tourists to marvel at since it was quite an engineering breakthrough at the time that it was built.
The tunnel spans 426 meters, and once you cross over to the south side of the river you will be rewarded with some beautiful panoramic views of the city. The passageway is quite stunning itself, being made with ornamental white tiles and spacious rounded ceilings. Cars can still enter the tunnel, although you will probably only spot pedestrians and bikers using it. It is open all day so you can even walk through it at night if you want to!
Stop by the St Pauli Fish Market
If you are looking for a way to fill your Sunday morning then the Hamburg Fish Market is the place to be. We hope that you are an early riser since the open air market is ready for business beginning at 5 am, and by 9:30 am it is all packed up and put away. Since it is open so early, some night owls even stop by just before heading to bed! The market has been running since way back in 1703 and is now a weekly tradition.
Despite its name, you can buy much more than fish here. Cheese, fruits, vegetables, flowers, souvenirs, and all sorts of other treats and items are sold in its stalls. Of course, you can also find a local fishmonger selling fresh fish cooked in every way imaginable which can be perfect to bring back home as a lunch. Check out the Fish Auction Hall as well. The whole market is quite vibrant and live music is played on site, too.
Stroll Through the Planten un Blomen
Planten un Blomen is the name of the huge urban park in Hamburg that serves as a meeting space, playground, events venue and the perfect escape from the busy city streets. There is quite a lot to see here, including the botanic garden and an amazing fountain display, Wasserlichtkonzerte, where the water dances along with the music. The fountain, as well as different plays and concerts, can be enjoyed for free during the summer months. Once the weather gets colder you can bring your skates to enjoy the ice rink.
Other attractions in the park include a rose garden, a botanical garden and a tropical greenhouse where you can see all sorts of amazing plants. One of the Planten un Blomen's main highlights is that it is home to Europe's largest Japanese garden!
Admire St Michael's Church
There are lots of reasons to visit St Michael's Church, and the fact that it is completely free is a bonus. Locally known as St Michaelis, this baroque church dedicated to the Archangel Michael has been a landmark of Hamburg since its creation in the 18th century. It is quite an impressive building that can hold up to 2,500 people, and you should definitely step inside while you are here. The interior of the building is decked out with beautiful white stucco and golden embellishments, and it has fantastic acoustics which are demonstrated by an organist every day at noon.
During your visit, it is definitely worth climbing up the spiral staircase to the observation deck which features picture-perfect views of the surrounding city. The most recognizable part of the church is the copper roof which has a 433-foot tall tower housing the biggest clock bell in all of Germany, and it is part of the reason that St Michaelis is one of its most famous churches.
See the Incredible Miniatur Wunderland
As you might have guessed by the name, the Miniatur Wunderland is basically a miniature world made from model ships, trains, boats, airplanes and even UFOs moving around buildings and trees to recreate different places from around the world. The vehicles, miniature amusement rides and other moving pieces all move together in sync which really brings the small world to life, and watching everything go in person can be an amazing experience.
This activity will definitely be a hit for those who are traveling with kids, although people of all ages, as well as solo travelers, can appreciate the work that was done to create it. The model world is complete with lights during the night scenes and an extreme amount of detail. See if you can spot some of the hidden displays, like a play being performed at a concert hall or the murder scene with flashing cop cars!
Reeperbahn is the place to go when you want an exciting night out, even if you have to save money. It is the red light district of Hamburg city and is filled with all of the most popular attractions and entertainment options. There is a little bit here for everyone to enjoy, and if you don't want to spend a lot you can still have a fun time walking around and enjoying the active atmosphere!
Around the area, you will find a great collection of bars, clubs and restaurants where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat, as well as some fascinating museums that bring in people from all over the city. This neighborhood is also known to be the birthplace of the international career of The Beatles. Just a short distance away at the crossroads of Reeperbahn and St Pauli you will find the Beatles Platz, a square dedicated to the famous musicians!
Discovering HafenCity will probably take you all day, but it is such an interesting place that you will definitely want to check it out! Today it is a symbol of the future of Hamburg and is the biggest urban renewal development project in all of 21st century Europe. HafenCity is set to be the newest neighborhood in the city center of Hamburg.
This once neglected port area now houses some of the best examples of modern architecture, and if you visit while it is still in development you will get to see this part of the city come to life! Come see new office buildings, restaurants, waterfront apartments and a university as they are being added to the area. So far, the main attraction is the Elbe Philharmonic Hall which has already become a landmark in the neighborhood.
Check Out Speicherstadt
Speicherstadt is also known as the old warehouse district of Hamburg and since 2015 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its name even translates to "City of Warehouses" and spans nearly 65 acres. It is located right inside of HafenCity so consider visiting both areas at once if you have the time! It can be really interesting to see the contrast between the new and old parts of the city.
Speicherstadt dates back sometime between 1883 and 1927 and has quite an interesting history to it. Want to learn more about the area? Take a trip to the Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg, or get spooked at the Hamburg Dungeon attraction. You will find the Miniatur Wunderland mentioned above in this part of the city as well.
Go on a Bike Ride
You might not know that Hamburg is one of the most bike-friendly places in the world alongside Amsterdam and Copenhagen. You will see just as many, if not more, people biking around than walking or driving, and this is partly because of their fantastic bike sharing system! You will probably spot the StadtRAD bike stations around S-Bahn and U-Bahn, and everyone is welcome to use them while they are in the city. Check out the company's website to find out how you can sign up.
The thing that makes these bikes so great is that they are completely free to use for the first half hour. After that, it costs only €0.08 per minute! You can use them to go on city tours or harbor tours, to get between the other free attractions on this list or just to explore Hamburg. If you are looking for a nice place to take a bike ride we suggest going to Alster Lake.
Vacationing in Hamburg, Germany on a Budget
When it comes to free things to do, Hamburg has quite a lot of options, like going on a guided tour around the city center or strolling around the town's biggest park. You can even just walk around the town admiring the concert halls and old buildings of the warehouse district or catch a glimpse into the future of the newest parts of the city for free. Browsing and shopping is always a fun pastime too.
Although Hamburg Hauptbahnhof can get you all around the city, we suggest that you try making your own Hamburg tours using their bike sharing system to see the tunnel under the Elbe River or the other attractions found around every street corner! By taking advantage of a few travel tips and planning things out, it can be easy to save money while visiting Hamburg, Germany.