Visiting Hamburg in winter is not top of most people’s to-do lists.
Hamburg may be the second-largest city in Germany, but many travellers looking for winter city breaks tend to forgo Hamburg in favour of cities like Berlin or Munich, leading to Hamburg getting overlooked.
However, after recently visiting Hamburg in December, I can promise you that if you’re looking for a vibrant, festive German city to escape to for a long weekend, Hamburg is where it’s at.
This trip was my second visit to Hamburg, and despite the cold, I fell even more in love with the city and all of the quirky and unusual things it has to offer.
So, if you’re contemplating taking a trip to Hamburg in winter (or even spending Christmas in Hamburg!) just keep reading, because this guide includes all you need to know to plan your visit.
A Guide to Hamburg in Winter
Hamburg at a Glance
Known as the ‘Gateway to the World,’ thanks to its humongous port, Hamburg is located on the Elbe River in northern Germany.
This Hanseatic city has a population of just under 2 million people, with the larger Metropolitan Region of Hamburg being home to 5.1 million.
With its impressive port, grand historic buildings, and tonnes of interesting things to see and do, Hamburg makes a great city break, especially if you’re coming from the UK – the flight is less than 90 minutes!
Winter in Hamburg is great fun, but Hamburg in December is an especially special time, with Christmas Markets, festive parades, a real life Santa flying over the main square, and more Glühwein than you could ever drink.
It’s also a great city to visit during the colder months, thanks to the abundance of interesting museums and other indoor activities where you can shelter from the cold whilst still enjoying the city.
Below are some of my top recommendations when it comes to things to do in Hamburg in winter.
Good to know: Please note that as I experienced the run-up to Christmas in Hamburg, many of the activities mentioned have a festive focus, but you can still enjoy most of them after Christmas as well!
Psst – this is a guide to visiting Hamburg in winter, but if you decide to go in September, you might want to check out the Reeperbahn Festival, the biggest of its kind in Europe!
Best Things to Do in Hamburg in Winter
Wondering what to do in Hamburg in winter?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you!
Below are my personal favourite things to do in Hamburg in December (and the winter months!).
Escape from the cold in some Hamburg museums
One of the best things to do in Hamburg when it’s raining or cold outside is to take the opportunity to explore some of Hamburg’s excellent museums – seriously, museums are some of the best places to visit in Hamburg in winter!
Miniatur Wunderland is one of Hamburg’s most famous museums and holds the Guinness World Record for having the largest model railway in the world!
Every year, this museum attracts more than 1 million visitors, and you’ll find miniature representations of everything you can imagine (and more!).
Other Hamburg museums I recommend include:
Hamburg Dungeon – The macabre among you can dive into Hamburg’s dark history with live actors and spooky rides to get your adrenaline pumping.
Hamburg International Maritime Museum – This 40,000+ item exhibit is the largest private maritime collection in the world, and gives a comprehensive view of the sea and oceans, and how cultures have explored them throughout the millennia.
Spicy’s Gewürzmuseum – Discover over 900 exhibits from the last five centuries that tell the story of spices, including an audio guide and tasting samples.
Hamburg Emigration Museum BallinStadt – Learn about the crucial role that Hamburg played for millions of emigrants as they left Europe for the ‘New World,’ and learn their fascinating migration stories.
View Hamburg from the water
One of the best ways to see the Hamburg skyline is from the water.
I’ve taken two harbour tours of Hamburg now, and even on a freezing day in November, I still recommend taking one (you can sit inside and still enjoy the views!).
Departing from the Landungsbrücken, you’ll be able to enjoy Europe’s largest warehouse district and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Gothic Revival architecture (the Speicherstadt), admire the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, and marvel at the juxtaposition between tradition and modernity in Hamburg’s architecture.
Tours come with an audio guide, and drinks are available to purchase on board.
Fondue at StrandPauli
During the warmer months, StrandPauli is Hamburg’s hippest beach club, but if you’re visiting Hamburg in winter, you’ll still want to head to StrandPauli to cosy up inside with candles, fairy lights, and stunning views of the Elbe.
Outside, huddle around log fires while drinking Glühwein and apple punch, before heading inside to sample StrandPauli’s famous fondue bourguignonne (where you cook meat in hot oil rather than dunking bread in cheese).
Good to know: StrandPauli books up fast (we were very lucky to get a table), so be sure to make your reservation in advance. You can find their website here. Their winter season begins at the beginning of November and continues until the end of March.
Who doesn’t love a spot of ice-skating in winter?
Me, that’s who. I hate it.
However, for those that do enjoy ice-skating, there are several ice-skating rinks in Hamburg open throughout the winter period, and ice-skating is one of the most popular Hamburg winter activities.
The biggest is EisArena, which hosts live DJs on Fridays and Saturdays and ladies’ nights every two weeks.
There’s also Wandsbeker Winterzauber, where you’ll find cute wooden huts selling mulled wine and gingerbread cookies, as well as an ice-skating rink surrounded by Christmas trees.
For a more comprehensive list, check out the Hamburg tourism website.
Good to know: Hamburg’s outdoor ice-skating rinks are open until March.
Naughty souvenirs at Santa Pauli
There’s so much to say about Santa Pauli that I wrote an entire blog post about it (which you should definitely check out if you’re planning a trip to Hamburg!).
In a nutshell though, Santa Pauli is Hamburg’s X-rated Christmas Market, where you can buy sexy souvenirs, order shots with names like ‘Santa’s urine sample,’ and watch cheeky strip shows and drag queens on the main stage.
It’s weird, it’s wonderful, and it has to be seen to be believed.
Good to know: The Santa Pauli Hamburg Christmas Market runs from 13 November to 23 December. You can find Santa Pauli by entering ‘Spielbudenpl. 5, 20359‘ into Google Maps (or clicking here). The closest train station is the S-Bahn Reeperbahn station.
Winterworld at 60 Seconds to Napoli
60 Seconds to Napoli, an Italian chain restaurant in Germany, hosts the Winterworld Hamburg in their outdoor area, and it’s definitely one of the most festive places to enjoy a meal in the city!
Enjoy your favourite pizza in one of ten heated igloos, or choose from their special selection of winter drinks and crepes. The igloos are surrounded by Christmas trees and giant candy canes, and there’s also a catchy Christmas soundtrack.
Be sure to try their Christmas tiramisu or apple crumble pizza with cinnamon blossom sugar and vanilla ice cream.
Good to know: Winterworld Hamburg runs from 31 October until April. You should reserve your spot online to avoid disappointment.
Watch a Christmas Parade
If you’re lucky enough to visit Hamburg in December, then you may get a chance to experience one of Hamburg’s Christmas parades!
Taking place on the first four Saturdays in December, Hamburg’s Christmas parades spread festive joy throughout the city, with dancing angels, elves, and reindeer parading through the city accompanied by colourful floats, festive music and Santa Claus himself!
Good to know: The Hamburg Christmas parades take place on 2, 9, 16, and 23 December. They occur twice a day (2:00 pm and 5:00 pm), starting from Mönckebergstrasse Shopping Street.
One of the most quintessential things to do during Christmas in Hamburg is to treat yourself to a steaming mug of Glühwein, or ‘mulled wine.’
Acceptable at any time of day, and sold everywhere from Hamburg’s many Christmas Markets (more on those in a minute), to upmarket bars, cafes, and restaurants, you’ll find it difficult to avoid!
Christmas Markets in Hamburg
Winter in Hamburg wouldn’t be complete without the legendary German Christmas Markets.
The Hamburg Christmas Market is known as the Weihnachtsmarkt, and there are actually over 30 Christmas Markets in Hamburg!
Naturally, some are better than others, and below are some of the Hamburg Christmas Markets that I visited and would personally recommend.
Hamburg’s main Christmas Market can be found just in front of the stunning Neo-Renaissance Town Hall (Rathaus).
Not only is the backdrop majestic, but you can also catch Santa flying his sleigh over the square three times a day (at 4, 6, and 8:00 pm)!
Shop for handcrafted souvenirs, gorge on all the traditional Christmas food you can think of, and soak up the festive atmosphere.
This is probably the busiest Christmas Market in Hamburg, so if you don’t like big crowds, I recommend heading to another Hamburg Christmas Market.
Good to know: The Weihnachtsmarkt is located on Rathausmarkt Square. The nearest public transport is the U3 Rathaus. All areas of the market are accessible without steps. The Weihnachtsmarkt is open every day from 11:00 am till 9:00 pm every day from 27/11/2023 and 23/12/2023.
City Christmas Market
Walk from Hamburg Central Station towards the Town Hall and you’ll find stalls dotted all along Spitalerstraße shopping street, as well as nearby Gerhard-Hauptmann-Platz.
Help yourself to a mug of hot Glühwein or a hearty bratwurst and browse for some unique Christmas gifts for family and friends.
Good to know: These Christmas Markets are open from 23/11/2023 – 23/12/2023. They are open every day from 11:00 am – 11:00 pm. The closest public transport options are Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) or U3 Mönckebergstraße.
Marché de Nöel in Stadthöefe
2023 saw a new edition to the Hamburg Christmas Market scene – the Marché de Nöel in the historic courtyards of the Stadthöefe.
Copper-roofed huts serve Champagne, hot Aperol, mulled wine, and winter beer, as well as hearty nibbles like potato rosti, meat loaf rolls, and (of course) bratwurst.
There is a more sophisticated air about these markets, with their fur-covered wooden seating and copper mugs, and you can also enjoy live music, gospel choirs, and DJs – there’s even a fortune-teller’s hut!
Good to know: These Christmas Markets are open from November 23rd to December 23rd.
See a burlesque show
Seeing a burlesque show in Hamburg is something you can do all year round, but there’s something extra indulgent about escaping from the cold winter’s night into a world of cabaret and striptease.
I went to a performance at the Bunny Burlesque (Hamburg’s only dedicated burlesque club) hosted by Setty Mois and featuring an enchanting cast of burlesque queens.
The show was 60 minutes long, the venue was exquisite, and I can’t recommend it enough. The ticket price also includes entrance to the after party, so it’s well worth it.
Good to know: You can find out more and book tickets on the official website.
Hop-On, Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus
One of the best things to do in Hamburg in winter is to jump on a hop-on, hop-off bus!
This allows you to see all of the main sites and learn about the city without freezing to death, and it’s also a great way to orient yourself within the city.
As the name would suggest, you’re free to get on and off as you please, but my friend and I stayed seated on the top deck for the duration of the 90 minute tour, enjoying the chance to rest our feet and warm up!
The audio guide, with its kitsch music, was particularly amusing (unintentionally so), and I also learnt a lot about Hamburg that I didn’t previously know.
Good to know: The Hamburg sightseeing bus has 20 stops and you can get on and off as many times as you like. The audio guide is available in 11 different languages, and a ticket costs 18.50 EUR. You can buy yours here.
Head to a chocolate museum!
The one thing that I’ve not had chance to do in Hamburg yet that I really want to do, is pay a visit to the city’s very own chocolate museum.
A guided tour at the Chocversum will take you through each stage of the chocolate-making process, tasting all the chocolates as you go.
Finally, you’ll get to take everything you’ve learned and create your own chocolate bar to take home with you!
Book your guided Chocversum tour here!
A kaiserschmarrn is technically an Austrian dessert, but it’s also super popular in Germany, and definitely something you should include in your list of what to eat in Hamburg.
Kaiserschmarrn is a light and fluffy pancake that is shredded into lots of little pieces, dusted with icing sugar, and served hot with apple sauce, plum sauce, raisins, and various other fruit compotes.
Good to know: Kaiserschmarrn must be prepared fresh, and so most restaurants advise that it will take 30-40 minutes to arrive at your table. Bear this in mind if you’re in a rush!
Enjoy John Lewis vibes at Alsterhaus
Alsterhaus is Hamburg’s most famous department store, and much like Harvey Nichols, is stuffed to the gills with luxury shops.
Shopping enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the Alsterhaus at any time of year, but if you’re enjoying Christmas in Hamburg, you’ll want to make the most of the extravagant decorations and John Lewis vibes here.
There are all kinds of establishments spread over the six floors of the Alsterhaus, but the most interesting to me were the food offerings.
From a dedicated truffle shop (Artisan de la Truffe), to a bar serving Balik salmon and caviar delicacies (Caviar House & Prunier), and a cheese counter with over 120 types of raw milk cheese (Fromage & Bistro), even your most discerning foodie friends will be taken care of.
To top off your visit, head to Veuve Clicquot, the world’s first ever Veuve Clicquot champagne boutique, to drink the sparkling wine and buy flutes, coolers, and other accessories.
Hamburg Weather in Winter – How Cold Will It Be?
The weather in Hamburg gets very chilly during the wintertime, with temperatures ranging from -1 to 5°C (30 – 40°F).
The wind from the North Sea can feel biting at times, and it’s also not uncommon to get snow in Hamburg.
You should also know that Hamburg is a very rainy city, with up to 20 days of rain in Hamburg in December!
For context, I’m from the UK, which isn’t exactly known for its warm weather, and I was freezing in Hamburg (plus, it only took a few hours for my lips to start cracking!).
With that being said, a woolly hat and some hand warmers will go a long way (neither of which I had), and remember to wear layers under your coat, because the heating is always cranked up indoors!
How to Get to Hamburg
Hamburg is a short flight from the UK, and many budget airlines fly to and from Hamburg.
My flight from Manchester took just 1 hour and 15 minutes, meaning that I had more time to enjoy exploring the city.
Hamburg Airport is about 8km north of the city centre, and you can get into the centre by taking the train.
Hamburg’s Hauptbahnhof is Hamburg’s Central Station and the busiest rail station in Germany (I was so overwhelmed when I arrived here!).
The train from Hamburg Airport to Hauptbahnhof takes 25 minutes and costs about 3.50 EUR.
From here, you can walk or switch to the S-Bahn (train), or the U-Bahn (underground) to reach your final destination.
Alternatively, you can also book a direct transfer ahead of time to save you the stress.
Getting Around Hamburg in Winter
Hamburg is a large city, and while many of the main attractions are close together, you won’t want to be out in the cold for longer than necessary.
When I visited Hamburg, I used the Hamburg CARD, which gets you free public transport (including to/from the airport), as well as major discounts for many Hamburg museums and attractions.
You can choose from a single day pass, or get a card that will work for up to five days (it works out cheaper, the longer you stay), and I highly recommend it as it will save you a lot of money.
Where to Stay in Hamburg
There are hundreds of accommodation options in Hamburg (which you can find here), but the two Hamburg hotels that I recommend are the Superbude Hamburg St Pauli, which I stayed in during my first trip to Hamburg, and Villa Viva Hamburg, which I stayed in more recently.
What these hotels both have in common is their industrial, hipster vibe, making them perfect for younger travellers.
The colourful rooms at Superbude St. Pauli are decorated with recycled furniture and newspaper wallpaper, and it’s in the trendy Sternschanze district, just a 15 minute walk away from the Reeperbahn.
If you’re travelling as a group, you can book a private room for up to six people, giving you all the amenities of a hotel, but with fun hostel vibes.
Check rates and reviews on Booking.com. Check rates and reviews on Expedia.
The other hotel I recommend is the brand new Villa Viva, created by the Viva Con Agua team.
Most of the profits at Villa Viva go towards promoting access to clean drinking water around the world (in other words, the bigger your bar tab, the better!), and the décor is minimalist and industrial, with huge murals in the rooms created by local artists.
Villa Viva is a quick 10 minute walk from the Central Station, and is home to a gourmet restaurant (Viva Cantina) with an innovative menu, as well as the super stylish ‘RoofDrop’ bar.
Check rates and reviews on Booking.com (I couldn’t find Villa Viva on Expedia, but if you do then please let me know and I will include it here!).
Hamburg in Winter | Final Thoughts
So, there you have it – Hamburg might just be the ultimate winter city break destination!
From its cosy Christmas markets and dazzling lights to its hearty winter grub and cool museums, Hamburg really has got it all.
Whether you’re into festive vibes or you just want to escape the chill with a hot cup of cocoa, Hamburg has something for everyone.
So, next time you’re planning a winter getaway, consider giving Hamburg a shot – you won’t be disappointed!
That’s about all I’ve got for today’s post, but as always, if you have any questions then please let me know in the comments section below and I will get back to you!
Until next time,
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