This Time You Absolutely Only Have Two Hours In Hamburg

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Spend Two Hours in Hamburg

The best thing about Deutsche Bahn’s Across-the-Country 1-day rail pass (the “Quer-durchs-Land” ticket or QdL for short) is that it’s very cheap. Forty eight euros for two people on any regional train in Germany: that’s an unbeatable offer.

Journeys take a little longer than on the fast IC trains, that much is for certain, and their trajectories may be slightly more convoluted, but that can be a benefit, too.

"Spend two hours in Hamburg Hauptbahnhof"

Side facade of the Hamburg Central Train Station

Recently, on our way back from a hike in the Mecklenburger Seenplatte, for example, we took the opportunity to break up what would otherwise have been a very long train journey to make a two-hour stop in Hamburg. Two hours in Hamburg are not a lot for such a big city, Germany’s largest after Berlin, but we had been there several times and knew where to go. In the end, we were surprised how many of the city’s main sites we were able to cover.

"What to see with two hours in Hamburg - Binnenalster"

Hamburg Binnenalster

"Arcades in Hamburg "


"What to see with two hours in Hamburg - Swans and ducks on the Alster in Hamburg"

Swans and ducks on the Alster

From the central train station, head straight (down Mönckebergstraße) for the so-called Binnenalster, Hamburg’s poshest mile. Along its banks, you can find some of Germany’s biggest private banks, most expensive hotels and fanciest restaurants.

"Hamburg City Hall

Hamburg City Hall

The huge and opulent building on the artifical lake’s southern shore is Hamburg’s City Hall, built in the 19th century with the era’s typical sense for flash and grandeur.


"Alster Arcades in Hamburg"

Alster shopping arcades

Walk down past the Alsterfleet canal, underneath the Alsterarkaden colonnades, before turning right on Stadthausbrücke and heading for St Michael’s Church, Hamburg’s main landmark since it was built in the 17th century – famous not least because it was the first building of the city that many of her visitors, coming from the sea, were able to spot in the distance.

"St Michael's church in Hamburg"

St Michael’s church

"Interior of St Michael's church in Hamburg"

Inside St Michael’s church

The church may look rather austere from the outside, but the interiors are as tacky as a West End theatre. (Entrance is free, but you are encouraged to donate €2 when you leave. Alternatively, you can squeeze by the burly lady who guards the exit door. Best to wait, probably, for one of the other tourists to distract her with a question – that’s what I did, anyway.)

The street on the right hand side of the church, by the way, leads you straight to St Pauli – Reeperbahn, Star Club and all that. (Unfortunately, we had no time for that.)

"The harbour of Hamburg"

Hamburg’s Harbour

Instead, we turn left out of the church, past the modern offices of Gruner & Jahr, one of Germany’s largest publishing houses, in the direction of the harbour, one of the ten largest in the world .

"Hamburg's Docklands"

Hamburg’s Docklands

Turn left to head for the Speicherstadt (“warehouse town”), my favourite part of Hamburg and one of Europe’s greatest works of 19th century architectural engineering, grand and graceful at the same time, a cross between Venice and London’s old docklands. The buildings were all warehouses once, of course, but are today mainly occupied by theatre companies, museums and tourist attractions such as the “Hamburg Dungeon”.

"Hamburg's Docklands"

I could easily have spent the rest of the day walking from canal to canal, but there was no time. Instead, we took the subway train back to the city centre (if you have a Länderticket or a QdL Ticket, you are also free to use subways and S-Bahn trains) and had just about enough time for a quiet cup of coffee outside in the April sun on Mönckebergstraße, the city’s main shopping street, 5 minutes away from the central train station.

"A statue in front of a cafe in Hamburg's main shopping street Mönckebergstraße"

A statue in front of a cafe in Hamburg’s main shopping street Mönckebergstraße

28 comments to This Time You Absolutely Only Have Two Hours In Hamburg

  • Alex, in summer, almost certainly yes. In twilight or full darkness: probably yes, but the risk is certainly greater if only slightly, and if you feel uncomfortable with that, you may want to take it easy.

    Hamburg may be a bit of a rough town by European standards, but European standards are generally very high. Unprovoked attacks on single men would be reported in next day’s newspaper – that’s how rare they are. (For women, of course, it’s a different story. I would not advise a young woman to stroll through Hamburg’s harbour area after dark.)

  • Alex Wayne

    Hello! Like many mentioned, googled for 2-hours. But I have one more question: I will be arriving 8 pm on a Monday to central station. Would you recommend to go around at that time? Is it safe? I am traveling solo.

  • Glad it was of help to you, Beth! Hope you have fun in Hamburg.

  • Beth Q

    This is excellent. I’ll have few hours lay over in Hamburg and reading this gave me the feeling of “I got this!” So I thank you!

  • Glad it could be of help, Florentina. Enjoy your two hours in Hamburg.

  • Florentina

    I have a train conection in hamburg of 2.5 hours tomorrow. Typed on google “2 hours in hamburg” not expectin anything and tadaaaaa:) thanks!!! Looking forward for my 2 hours tmrw:)

  • Hey Michael- thanks for this! I put in “2 hours in Hamburg”in a search engine, looking for inspiration on how to spend my final morning here before catching a train, expecting nothing really, and up this popped! Nicely written and supported by the photos :)

  • I know, I know – so much planet – so little time :-)

  • You mean you haven’t been to Hamburg yet, Lynne. Then, you just have to.

  • Thanks for sharing this Michael. I’ve given up on a bucket list – there are so many places I’d like to discover :-)

  • Hahaha, I’m not much of a potato eater, but I definitely love bratkartoffeln too.

  • When I visited Hamburg, it was my first time in Europe, and I didn’t really know what to expect. What i liked a lot about Hamburg was that it was actually very similar to my hometown of Toronto in many respects, albeit a lot older with a much more rich history. Can’t wait to go back one day! I need more bratkartoffeln.

  • I love Hamburg – would be very happy to live there! My favourite attraction is the Museum für Völkerkunde (Museum of Ethnology) – it has one of the biggest collections of South-East Asian shadow puppets in the World, amongst alot of other amazing things from everywhere.

  • It is very cheap, Jools, as long as you are ready to travel longer.But of course you can always do it as we did, cut the long journey and sightsee a town in between.

  • Jools

    I liked Hamburg, not that i recall much of it now! Will have to go back. Good value railpass you got there.

  • I really want to get there!

  • Wow…looks like combo of Amsterdam and Venice. Stunning pics my friends!! And now, must add to my bucket list!

  • Yes, there were so many offerings inside those old warehouses, but we really didn’t have the time.

  • I fell in love with Hamburg this past year. Great tips for spending a couple of hours. I really like Speicherstadt, too — visited Miniatur Wunderland while there.

  • It’s amazing what you can see in 2 hours and the feeling of accomplishment you can feel afterwards. Haven’t been to Hamburg yet; would love to go. That tented place has me curious- looks like a street markets. Love those!

  • I’ve walked the same steps. Great idea!

  • Great idea to break up your trip this way! You did cover a lot of territory in 2 hours too. I’ve never been to Hamburg but the harbors of Germany are interesting. Love the ships with their sails.

  • Jeremy Branham

    Nice job making use of your time. Unfortunately, some stops don’t allow for this because the airports are so far away. Glad you got to see experience a little of Hamburg. I wish I had more time to get out and check out places when I traveled. This makes me wish we had more train options here in the US so I could do this.

  • Yes, and expect more this kind of posts, Ted, because in our trips, we always make sure we stop by a town or city, big or small.

  • You definitely made the best of a two hour layover. And you also got a nice post out of it too.

  • Right you are, Leslie. Happily, the wife is not much into shopping.

  • Looks like you packed in art and architecture! (If not a hiking odyssey) :)

  • Looks to me like you got an incredible amount done in two hours. It’s kind of fun to see how much you can fit in – and what a nice way to break up the journey.

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