After the capital of Berlin, Hamburg, with its nearly 1.9 million residents, is the second-largest city in Germany.
It’s also one of Germany’s federal states and is bordered by Schleswig-Holstein to the north, and to the south by Lower Saxony.
Though it’s not located directly on the North Sea, it’s connected via the River Elbe, which has made it a commercial hub for centuries, and one of the country’s economic powerhouses.
Hamburg features a variety of historical sites, tons of natural beauty, and all the big-city attractions international visitors expect.
Below are 15 of the best tours of Hamburg.
1. 3 ½-Hour Bike Tour
Despite its bustling streets and millions of residents, Hamburg has many areas that are perfectly accessible to those traveling by bike.
On this 3 ½-hour guided tour, eager peddlers will be taken to many of the city’s most iconic attractions, including St Michael’s Church, the Alster Lakes, the Town Hall, and the world-renowned Reeperbahn.
Brief stops are made at each attraction; participants will have time to ask questions, snap a few photos, and have a quick drink before heading off to the next site.
Due to the city’s relative flatness, tours are appropriate for those of most ages and levels of physical ability.
2. 2-Hour Hamburg Port Tour
According to commerce statistics, the Port of Hamburg is second only in volume to Rotterdam. It’s almost always abuzz with arriving and departing freight vessels from all over the world.
The port is largely responsible for Germany’s economic might and features one of the most modern overseas container facilities on the continent.
It’s also home to fish markets, seedy stretches that cater to sailors’ every whim, and historical attractions as well.
This 2-hour tour is a pleasant alternative to city tours and leaves plenty of time to explore on your own or hook-up with another two or three-hour tour afterward.
3. Evening Illumination Cruise through Harbor
Evening cruises around Hamburg’s harbor are the perfect way to end an exhausting activity-filled day.
As the evening light fades, the city becomes awash in vibrant light that makes for truly remarkable views.
The bustling container terminal is an impressive sight, as are the bevy of canals, the International Maritime Museum, and the Marco Polo Tower – to name just a few included attractions.
Along the way, guests will benefit from anecdotes of local history offered by their guide, and get a totally new perspective of the layout of the city, as well as its history, cultural, and maritime commerce tradition.
4. City Tour with Hop-On Hop-Off Ticket
Discovering Hamburg on your own terms couldn’t be easier for those who purchase hop-on-hop-off city tour tickets.
Hop-on-hop-off tours give savvy travelers access to a number of sites and allow them to see and experience the things that interest them while ignoring those that don’t.
For many guests, there are too many attractions to visit in a day, but perennial favorites include the St. Pauli Piers, Miniature Wonderland, Hans Albers Square, and the Reeperbahn.
Depending on the weather and their level of exhaustion, guests may choose to stay on the bus as little or as much as they want—at least until something strikes their fancy.
5. Haunted Hamburg Tour
From long-lost ghost ships and medieval witches to demons and the downright unexplainable, Hamburg is an eerie place after dark.
This two-hour guided night tour is a perfect fit for lovers of the odd and macabre. It offers guests a slice of the city that isn’t often experienced by more traditional tourists.
Along with their guide, guests will make their way to several supposedly haunted sites that seem perfectly normal by day.
The Reeperbahn, St. Catherine’s Church, and the Quarter of the Crooked Moon are all on the itinerary, but tours are best left to those 12-years and older.
6. 3-Hour Culinary Tour of the Schanzenviertel
Featuring a staggering number of nearly unpronounceable epicurean destinations for English-speaking visitors, this 3-hour culinary tour is still a popular option for lovers of all things food-related.
Many of the city’s oldest neighborhoods are known for their distinct cuisines. On this tour, guests will have ample time to explore them, meet locals, and sample a variety of traditional and contemporary dishes.
Tours stop by at least five different locations and include elements of history, politics, and contemporary issues that most guests find intriguing, like gentrification, commerce, and labor issues.
Guests are encouraged to show up with empty stomachs and open minds.
7. 1-Hour Harbor Cruise
For centuries Hamburg and other Hanseatic cities dominated much of the region’s maritime trade, and the city still boasts more canals, bridges, and locks than nearly any other place in Europe.
Seeing the city from the water on this 1-hour harbor cruise tour is an excellent use of valuable vacation time, because it covers parts of Hamburg that those stuck on land just won’t see.
Tour highlights include impressive bridges, the container terminal, and the Speicherstadt warehouse district.
Tour vessels include shaded sun decks and ample indoor seating for those who prefer cold drinks and air-conditioning to sun and sea breezes.
8. Following the Footsteps of Olivia Reeperbahn Tour
According to those who’ve already experienced it, Hamburg’s Reeperbahn neighborhood is akin to Las Vegas, only sleazier and more glitzy.
Also an uber-concentrated pocket of everything that makes Hamburg what it is, it is, therefore, a must-visit attraction for the adventurous and un-prudish.
The area features a little bit of everything – from seedy cocktail bars and drag-queen shows to iconic football stadiums and cabaret venues.
Though it’s generally the exclusive realm of the young and crazy, this 2 ½-hour tour has its fair share of older visitors as well, so if you fall into the latter category, consider stepping out of your comfort zone.
9. Hamburg Harbor Light Tour
As the sun drops behind the skyline, Hamburg’s harbor becomes engulfed in a myriad of lights that make it particularly stunning.
In fact, the lights at the port and container terminal are so bright that they cast the city in an aura, making the skyline stand-out against the night sky.
This evening tour lasts 90 minutes and includes engaging historic narration from the captain-guide along the way.
Visited sights vary slightly depending on the tide and season, and a number of special tours are offered periodically, so check to see what’s on their schedule before booking your excursion.
10. Sex and Crime in St. Pauli
Hamburg’s St. Pauli District has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the city’s grittiest neighborhoods.
It’s a pleasant mix of gangsters, strip clubs, show bars, and training facilities for world-class boxers.
On this two-hour tour, guests will experience a side of the city that’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
Led by their guide, participants will learn about the competing gangs that vie for control of the area, colorful criminals who’ve stalked the streets of the red-light district in the past and visit a few of the city’s most unique clubs.
Tours begin and end at a central Hamburg location.
11. HafenCity 3-Hour Food Tour and Elbphilharmonie Visit
Even by value-packed combo tour standards, this 3-hour HafenCity food and Elbphilharmonie option is quite a gem.
The tour combines elements of food, history, culture, and the city’s robust and bustling economy into one streamlined package.
Things kick-off with a brief intro and food tasting in HafenCity.
Guests will also visit a warehouse complex that’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ride on the country’s longest escalator, and take in panoramic views of the sprawling city and harbor below.
At the Elbphilharmonie, you and your group will learn about the renowned music venue before continuing on to the tour’s culinary finale.
12. Ticket to the Panoptikum Waxworks
Guided tours are great options for travelers looking to make the most of their time, but some attractions don’t warrant the extra cost of a live guide.
The Panoptikum Waxworks is the oldest facility of its kind in the country. It features more than 100 amazingly lifelike figures of celebrities, politicians, scoundrels, royalty, and historically significant figures from all over the world.
Each exhibit is accompanied by an explanation of just who it is that you’re seeing. As such, there’s not much use in having a guide along for the ride.
Audio guides are available in multiple languages, as are local professional ones if you’re interested.
13. 1 ½-Hour Chocoversum Tour
German chocolatiers have been churning out some of the world’s most sought after confections for countless generations.
This short tour of the Chocoversum Museum is not only fun and unique, but engaging and educational as well, making it a great fit for those of most ages.
It’s an interactive experience, which means that guests will see and learn about the chocolate-making process from beginning to end, and they’ll have the opportunity to get involved if they so desire.
Admission and multiple samples are included, and each guest gets their own chocolate bar to take with them when the tour is over.
14. Guided AIDA Ship Tour with Lunch
For many international travelers, the thought of being crammed into a tiny cabin on a crowded cruise ship for days on end isn’t too appealing.
But for those who’d still like to get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the magnificent vessels, this guide AIDA ship tour would be a great way to spend three hours.
AIDA’s cruise ships are known for the abundant amenities and fun activities designed with younger travelers in mind.
Guests will see parts of the ship that are typically off-limits, and get insider’s insights into how everything works.
Tours include a buffet-style lunch and non-alcoholic drinks.
15. St. Pauli Nighttime Tour
Like beer and shots?
Prefer to rub elbows with bimbos, sailors, pimps, and criminals rather than boring tourists?
If so, read on, because this whirlwind nighttime tour of Hamburg’s St. Pauli area has your name on it.
Along with their guide, guests will follow in the footsteps of prominent visitors – like the Beatles – who decided it to slum it for an evening in the city’s most sinful quarter.
Interesting tales of debauchery and tomfoolery abound; you’ll hear them in all their splendor while imbibing and people-watching in one of the city’s standout attractions.