Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Hamburg City Guide
Art, Archaeology & History

With origins that go back to the Stone Age, Hamburg is better known for its maritime history. A strategic location on the Elbe River as well as its political independence is what has made Hamburg an important and prosperous trading centre for centuries. As is reflected in the official name, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. This maritime heritage is as important today for the city’s commerce as it is for tourism. In 2015 20th century offices and 19th century warehouses built on timber-pile foundations, the Kontorhausviertel and Speicherstadt respectively, were added to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. Hamburg’s music and entertainment scene is as significant as the city’s maritime industry.

Reasons to Visit Hamburg

Museums & Art Galleries,

Architectural History,

Historic Ships, 

… and Christmas Markets.

Interesting Things to Know About Hamburg

Wherever you are in Hamburg you are never far from water. Around 61 km² of the Hamburg area is water. With that much water there are going to be a few bridges. There is the Köhlbrandbrücke from the 1970s, which is 135 m high with a total length of 3,618 m. At only 50 m in length, an older and very photogenic bridge is Brooks Bridge built in 1887 in the Speicherstadt. In fact there are over 2,000 bridges. Estimates vary between 2,300 and 2,500. Whatever the actual number is, that is more bridges than in Venice, London and Amsterdam put together. Also, don’t miss the Pauli Elbe Tunnel, opened in 1911, it is free for pedestrians. But the car lifts still work today, taking vehicles down to the tunnel level, 24 m below the surface.

Hamburg has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, both added to the list in 2015. They are the Speicherstadt and the Kontorhausviertel. The Speicherstadt is a late 19th century warehouse district. What is unusual about these warehouses is that they are built with timber-pile foundations; made from oak. Using timber for pile foundations is not that uncommon, but the Speicherstadt has the largest number of such buildings in the world. The Kontorhausviertel is collection of large office buildings on the southeastern edge of the Altstadt. They were erected in the 1920s and are typical of what is known as Brick Expressionism common in Germany at that time.

The origins of the Hanseatic League arose out of two agreements between Hamburg and Lübeck signed in 1241. The first stated that both cities would defend their freedoms and privileges together. The second called for securing the road between the two cities against bandits, and that anyone expelled from the one would not be permitted to enter other city. In 1264 the main road between Hamburg and Lübeck was cobbled in Hamburg and called Steinstraße. It is the third known cobbled road in northern Europe, and there is still a street bearing that name in Hamburg.

Hamburg is known for its varied and vibrant music scene; in history as it is today. In 1678 the first civic opera house in Europe opened in Hamburg. Now the Striking Elbphilharmonie, on the Elbe River, is one of the largest concert halls in the world. And one of many, many music venues around the city. Well known German composers Joannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn were born in Hamburg. And although not born here Georg Philipp Telemann, arguably one of the most prolific composers, died in Hamburg. He was the musical director of the main churches from 1721. A few hundred years later, the Beatles launches their careers in Hamburg. Beatles Platz in the St. Pauli district was named, and decorated, in their honour. Today the city is well known for its Indie music scene. But there are many and varied musical festivals throughout the year.
Not surprisingly Hamburg was of great strategic importance in World War 2. And the Allied forces unleashed devastating bombing raids on the city, its shipyards, U-boat pens and oil refineries. Many tens of thousands of civilians were killed, while others fled. Much of the city was destroyed. Hamburg was home to a Neuengamme concentration camp. Prisoners from this camp were on board the SS Cap Arcona when in May 1945 the ship was bombed by the Royal Air Force near Neustadt in Holstein. Said by many to be the worst single maritime atrocity in World War II.

Find Places to Visit in Hamburg

Five Popular Attractions in Hamburg

Rickmer Rickmers Hamburg

Rickmer Rickmers

Hamburg Speicherstadt Unesco


Hamburg Elbphilharmonie


St Michaels Church Interior

St Michaelis

U Boat Museum Hamburg

U-Boat Museum

Hamburg Travel Ideas

Christmas Markets in the Hanseatic City

From 27 November to the end of December, Europe’s second largest port city is the historical and magical setting to over 30 Christmas markets. In the historic market square in front of the ornate Town is the city’s largest Christmas market. Popular with children is Spielzeuggasse, where merchants from around the world sell their handcrafted toys. Fleetinsel combines Hanseatic tradition with the city’s contemporary urban vibe.

Explore Hamburg more deeply

What to See in Hamburg

Archaeological Museum Hamburg

The museum was founded more than 120 years ago, then with a focus on the history of Harburg. Now drawing on a collection of around 1.5 million artefacts, the archaeology museum in Hamburg tells the story of the history of the greater Hamburg area, from prehistory to the more recent metropolitan times. It is one of the largest museums in northern Germany. The museum is known for its use of innovative display techniques to make the history of a large metropolitan area such as Hamburg accessible to children and adults.


Arts & Crafts Museum Hamburg

One of Europe’s most important museums showcasing the applied arts, with arts and crafts, interior design and photography from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The museum also has important collections of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman artefacts on display.  Over 4,000 years of applied arts are displayed in galleries spread over three floors in a building that was intended to resemble a  neo-renaissance palace. Some of the highlights include a 5th century BC krater from Apulia, Etruscan reliefs, the red Speigel Canteen and an example of the ‘New Frankfurt’ fitted kitchen.

Cap San Diego

The Cap San Diego is a general cargo ship that is now the world’s largest civil museum ship. Built in the early 1960s, the ship used to sail between Germany and South America until it was decommissioned due to the dominance of container shipping. Almost sold off for scrap, the city of Hamburg bought the ship and group of former dock workers restored the vessel to its former glory. These days the ship is mostly to be found in the port of Hamburg, when visitors are able to explore nearly all parts of the ship, from the bridge to the machine room. As a fully functional ship, the Cap San Diego often takes short trips where visitors become passengers.

Plan Your Trip to Hamburg

Hamburg Travel Planner

Sightseeing Essentials for Hamburg

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