Hamburg harbor tours – boat trips, walking tours, things to see and do

Hamburg Harbour tour

Almost all of the seven million tourists who visit Hamburg every year also explore Hamburg harbor for its stunning views and exciting activities. 

Port of Hamburg is a massive draw for both tourists and locals. 

From numerous viewpoints at the harbor, visitors enjoy fascinating sights, explore the water in boat tours, or go on walking tours of the historic HafenCity and Speicherstadt.

In this article, we explain everything you need to know before booking a Hamburg harbor tour.

1. About Hamburg Port
2. Hamburg Harbor boat tours
3. Evening Illumination Cruise
4. Cruise and Elbphilharmonie
5. Harbor walking tours
6. HafenCity food tour
7. Things to see in Harbor

About Hamburg Port

Founded in 1189 by Frederick I at a strategic location near the mouth of the river Elbe, the Port of Hamburg has been Central Europe’s main route for centuries.

Thanks to the 13,000+ seagoing vessels that sail through the Elbe every year, Hamburg Port is the largest in Germany and second-largest in Europe.

Port of Hamburg is imposing in size and second only to Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe.

As a result, Hamburg has emerged as one of the prosperous cities of Europe. 

Because of the flourishing Hamburg harbor, the city is also known as the ‘Gateway to the World.’

Interesting Fact: Did you know that Hamburg is also known as ‘The City of Bridges’? It has more bridges than both Venice and Amsterdam combined. 


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Best Hamburg harbor tours

Since the port is as old as the city of Hamburg, one of the best ways to experience its rich history and culture is by booking a tour of the harbor. 

There are two ways visitors can explore the harbor – by walk or by a boat tour on the Elbe river.

Or you can go the full distance with the most popular tour in Hamburg – the tour of Elbphilharmonie, Speicherstadt and HafenCity.

These tours of areas around Hamburg’s port are available with English guides as well as German guides. 

Hamburg boat tours

According to visitors who have explored Hamburg harbor by both land and water, the city shows its best side from the water.

A visit to the Hanseatic city can’t be complete without a boat trip around the Hamburg harbor. 

Visitors get to choose from many types of Hamburg harbor boat tours.

1. Evening illumination cruise through Hamburg harbor

These boat tours operated by Rainer Abicht are also referred to as the Hamburg evening harbor cruise.

It is a romantic boat trip through the illuminated Speicherstadt, HafenCity, and the Hamburg port.

Besides the fascinating highlights of Hamburg, you also see illuminated ocean liners and container cranes, etc. 

Illumination cruise through Hamburg harbor
Image: Abicht.de

Here are some of the Hamburg landmarks you will see from the boat – Zollkanal, Wasserschloss, International Maritime Museum, HafenCity University, Marco Polo Tower, Elbe Philharmonic Hall, St. Pauli Piers , Überseebrücke, Rickmer Rickmers, Cap San Diego etc.

This one-hour illumination Cruise through Hamburg harbor starts at 7.30 pm.

Boat tour price

Adult ticket (15+ years): €20
Child ticket (5 to 14 years): €10

Kids below five years get in for free. 

2. Hamburg harbor lights tour on a barge

On this 90 minute tour, you cruise the illuminated Hamburg harbor onboard a traditional barge.

If you prefer a relaxed, romantic time, this boat tour is the best way to see the city’s lights and sights from the water.

Hamburg harbor lights tour on water
Image: GetYourGuide

You travel through the historic Speicherstadt (depending on the tide) and the modern HafenCity to see numerous city highlights, not to mention the illuminated container terminals. 

All visitors onboard the boat get a relaxing drink. 

This tour, operated by Maritime Circle Line, starts at 7.30 pm and 9.30 pm. 

Boat tour price

Adult ticket (16+ years): €20
Child ticket (7 to 15 years): €9

Kids below six years get in for free. 

3. Maritime flair: two-hour tour of Hamburg Port

Best family friendly experience in Hamburg

If you are traveling with your kids, this 2-hour tour of the Hamburg Harbor is highly recommended. 

During this multi-faceted, award-winning tour of the Port of Hamburg, visitors see the contrast of tradition and modernity. 

Besides the city’s regular highlights, you also check out the little fishing town along the Elbe and the state-of-the-art container complexes, fish market, old cutters, and massive cruise and container ships. 

Rainer Abicht operates this boat tour, which sets sail from the St. Pauli Piers.

Boat tour price

Adult ticket (14+ years): €24
Child ticket (5 to 13 years): €11

Kids below five years get in for free.

If you are short on time, check out this one-hour Hamburg Harbor cruise.

4. Harbor Cruise and guided tour of Elbphilharmonie

If you are in Hamburg for a short visit, this is the perfect combo tour to book – it includes a cruise around the harbor and a visit to Elbphilharmonie, the most popular attraction in the German city. 

Hamburg Harbor Cruise
Image: GetYourGuide

You can choose to visit Elbphilharmonie first and then take the harbor tour, or go on the harbor boat tour first and then visit the Elbphilharmonie.

During the cruise, you will also get to admire the Elbphilharmonie from the water. 

The cruise also travels through the canals of the Speicherstadt – the Hamburg Warehouse District. 

Combo tour price

Adult ticket (14+ years): €29
Child ticket (4 to 13 years): €14.50

Kids below three years get in for free. 

5. Hop On Hop Off bus & water ticket

This excellent combo includes a one-day sightseeing bus ticket and one water tour. 

You can either opt for the one-hour Alster Lake Cruise or the two-hour harbor cruise on Elbe river for the second leg of this tour.

If you don’t want to get on a boat to tour the harbor but would prefer to discover its different parts such as the Warehouse District, HafenCity, etc., by bus, check out this tour.

6. Cheapest Hamburg harbor tour by boat

At €12 per person, this is the cheapest Hamburg harbor boat tour.

Since this tour starts from Pontonanlage in the Binnenhafen, opposite the Miniatur Wunderland, it is a perfect second activity of the day. 

During this tour, visitors experience the World Heritage Site of Speicherstadt, the classical harbor promenade, the Elbe beach, and the shipyards.

Boat tour price

Adult ticket (14+ years): €12
Child ticket (4 to 13 years): €5

Kids below four years get in for free. 


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Walking tour of Hamburg harbor

Ideally, visitors must try and explore Hamburg harbor from both water and land. 

However, if you are short on time or money, we recommend you opt for a walking tour of the harbor because you get to see more of the historic part of the city. 

1. Elbphilharmonie, Speicherstadt & HafenCity tour

HafenCity panorama
A view of HafenCity. Image: Thecityateyelevel.com

You start this tour by visit Elbphilharmonie, which offers stunning views of the Hamburg harbor from its Plaza.

Next, you stroll through the historic warehouse district Speicherstadt and get to know modern HafenCity, which was earlier part of the Hamburg port.

This two and a half hour tour is available in both English and German.

2. Speicherstadt & HafenCity tour

If you have already seen Elbphilharmonie, this is the perfect Hamburg harbor tour for you because it focusses on its two major parts – Speicherstadt and HafenCity.

You take a guided walk in-between canals, historic warehouses, and castles and discover Hamburg’s historic harbor.

Some of the prominent highlights you will see along the way are Elbe Philharmonic Hall, Wasserschloss, Chile House, etc.

Follow the link to check out yet another exciting tour about how the historical port city and the modern HafenCity are growing together

3. HafenCity three-hour food tour and Elbphilharmonie visit

This trip is a tour of Hamburg Harbor with a difference – the focus is less on the harbor and more on the area’s food. 

This 3-hour guided walk starts in the heart of HafenCity, and then moves to Speicherstadt and finally to Elbphilharmonie.

HafenCity food tour
Image: Hamburg.com

During the journey, you stop at five great restaurants to savor tasty international appetizers.

Your last food stop will be at Störtebekers restaurant on the sixth floor of Elbphilharmonie, after which you can go up to the Plaza for stunning views of the Hamburg harbor. 

Cost of the tour: €39 per person

4. Party harbor tour with Olivia Jones

This 90 minutes tour is a trip around the harbor with a difference.

You get onto a boat along with Olivia Jones, Germany’s most popular Drag Queen. 

Onboard one of the traditional shipping company Abicht’s boats, all visitors enjoy music, dance, and sing along.

After 75-minutes of taking in Hamburg’s skyline from the water, you get off the boat at Landungsbrücken and head towards Olivia Jones Bar, where the party continues.

Bonus Tours: If you are in Hamburg with a special someone, check out this Romantic Harbor Cruise with Wine and Cheese. Or if you are holidaying with your kids, follow the link for the best family Hamburg harbor tour.


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Things to see in Hamburg harbor

The numerous ships that have sailed through the Hamburg harbor over the centuries have shaped the city, and it is visible in many places – Reeperbahn, St Pauli, and the port itself. 

We list out the best things to see and do in the harbor –  

1. St. Pauli Piers

St. Pauli Landungsbrücken is a 700-meter-long pontoon that is connected by ten flexible bridges to the mainland. 

St Pauli Landungsbrücken
Image: Wikimedia

They are also known as St. Pauli Landing Stages or St. Pauli Landing Bridges.

Harbor tours, ferries, and passenger ships leave from these piers. 

Tourists can explore the restaurants, curio shops, and cafes while enjoying the view of the harbor. 

The old Elbtunnel (Old Elbe Tunnel) starts from close to St Pauli Piers. 

2. Elbe Tunnel

Elbe Tunnel is a century-old 400-meter-long (one-fourth of a mile) underwater bridge that connects St. Pauli-Landungsbrücken with Steinwerder peninsula in the port of Hamburg. 

St Pauli Elbe tunnel
Image: Hamburg-port-authority.de

The Elbe Tunnel is open to pedestrians, cyclists, and tourists all through the day, and entry is free. 

Historical lifts on either side of the tunnel carry vehicles 24 meters (79 feet) below the surface so that they can use the tunnel to reach the other side of the Elbe.

3. Hamburg Fish Market

The Hamburg harbor fish market is right next to St. Pauli Piers and, despite its name, also sells fruit, flowers, clothing, souvenirs, etc. 

In the summer season, it opens every Sunday from 5 am and in the winter season from 7 am. All through the year, the fish market closes at 9:30 am.

Despite the early hours, it is a huge tourist attraction. 

If you don’t mind an early 5 am start, you must try out this morning tour of Reeperbahn, Hamburg Port, and Fish Market.

4. Museum at Oevelgönne harbor

This dockside exhibition is on the Elbe beach and consists of 20 odd classic ships moored at the Neumühlen quay.

These ships mostly date from 1880 to 1960 and played a role in enhancing Hamburg’s value as an influential port city. 

The ships on display at Museumshafen Oevelgönne were once wrecks rotting away at various locations but now have been restored thanks to years of painstaking labor.

Visitors can stroll along looking at the ships, and some of them even offer guided tours. 

6. Elbphilharmonie

The Elbphilharmonie or the Elphi is a massive concert hall in HafenCity.

More than four million tourists visit Elbphilharmonie every year to stand on its Plaza and see the Hamburg harbor’s stunning views.

Elbphilharmonie on Hamburg harbor
Image: Elbphilharmonie.de

Elbphilharmonie is also the home to the longest escalator in Europe. 

It is the most popular attraction in Hamburg, and hence always crowded. 

To avoid lengthy waiting times, you must book a guided tour of Elbphilharmonie or a walking tour of Elbphilharmonie and surrounding areas.

7. Miniatur Wunderland

Miniatur Wunderland is a tiny world with trains, busses, airports, offices, and of course, miniature people from all cultures. 

Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg
Image: Miniatur-wunderland.com

Miniatur Wunderland is popular with both kids and adults alike and attracts more than 1 million tourists annually. Book tickets

This attraction has 15 kilometers of miniature railway track, 11000 railway wagons, 4,110 buildings, etc. 

5. Cap San Diego, Überseebrücke

Cap San Diego is the largest seaworthy museum ship globally and is docked in the Hamburg harbor.

Cap San Diego Museum in Hamburg
Cap San Diego museum is in a ship. In the background one can see Elbe Philharmonic Hall. Image: Hep-hamburg.de

The cargo ship sailed the seas of South Atlantic from 1961 and 1988 and got the nickname ‘White Swan of the South Atlantic’ for itself. 

Tourists can climb aboard and explore the ship – for example, they can find out how the seamen dined, how they slept, how the engine room worked, how the cargo as stored, etc. 

You can go on a self-guided tour of the ship or book the captain’s quarters for the night. 

8. Hamburg Dungeon

Hamburg Dungeon at Speicherstadt brings back to life the darkest events of the city’s history.

Special effects and professional actors enact historical events such as the great fire of 1842, the disastrous flooding of 1717, the execution of Störtebeker, etc. 

Over 90 minutes, visitors get to see 11 different shows and enjoy plenty of action on two fun rides. Book Hamburg Dungeon tickets

9. Klaus Störtebeker’s statue

Klaus Störtebeker was a 14th-century pirate, beheaded in 1401 at the Grasbrook in today’s HafenCity.

However, his legend has been associated with Hamburg in many ways. 

It is believed that the Crown of St. Chaterine’s Church is made up of Gold found in the mast of Störtebeker’s ship. 

Even the pirate flag of the football club FC St. Pauli is a tribute to Störtebeker.

The restaurant in Elbphilharmonie, the newly inaugurated Hamburg landmark, is also named after the famous pirate. 

Klaus Störtebeker’s monument is a two-ton bronze statue that shows him naked and tied up before his execution. 

Its pedestal bears the words ‘God’s friend and the world’s enemy’.

10. Willkomm Höft

Hamburg may be the kindest port in the world. 

After all, it is the only port where every ship is welcomed and bid farewell with the country’s national anthem. 

Set up in 1952, Willkomm Höft (‘Welcome Point’ in English) has played more than 150 national anthems and greetings in the ships’ national languages.

Willkomm Höft
Image: Wedel.de

More than 50 ships pass the Welcome Point daily.

Besides the travelers on the ships, the locals and the tourists also enjoy spending time at Willkomm Höft and listening to the greetings. 

Some also try out the restaurant at the facility with the same name. 

11. Elbe beach

The Elbe beach near Övelgönne is popular with tourists and locals. 

You can visit the kilometer-long beach on the Elbe for leisurely walks and watch massive container ships in the harbor. 

Elbe Beach, Hamburg
Image: Hamburg.de

Many cafes and restaurants dot the beach, and all of them have outdoor seating. 

Visitors can check out Museumshafen, which is next to the beautiful beach.

12. Rickmer Rickmers

Rickmer Rickmers is a cargo ship built in 1896, now docked in the Hamburg harbor as a floating museum. 

Rickmer Rickmers, Hamburg
Image: Hafen-hamburg.de

Tourists board the ship to see the carefully-restored boat, which gives an insight into life at sea more than a century ago. 

The ship is divided into three sections:

  • The Museum area, highlighting the ship’s history
  • The exhibition area, where exhibits such as nautical objects and photographs, etc. are displayed
  • The restaurant which serves authentic Hamburg dishes

To explore the ship, visitors need the Rickmer Rickmers entry ticket

13. Marco Polo Terraces

The Marco Polo terraces are a meeting point in the middle of HafenCity with comfortable seating and stunning views. 

You get to see beautiful sights of the backdrop surrounding the Grasbrook harbor. 

Tourists are known to visit Marco Polo Terraces to relax and, at the same time, enjoy the hustle and bustle in the harbor and HafenCity. 

Magellan Terraces, another cool place to hang out, is just 300 meters (1000 feet) from Marco Polo terraces.

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