Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city, holds a significant place as a major port connected to the North Sea. In December, it transforms into a festive paradise with a blend of traditional markets, iconic landmarks, and vibrant cultural experiences. Read all about our recent trip to the Hamburg Christmas Markets and more.
During December, Hamburg hosts over 30 Christmas markets. Each one has a slightly different vibe but they all have delicious decicacies, souveniers, gluhwein and more. Some are more busier than others and more spaced out. I would recommend trying out a few when you visit Hamburg. Here are the ones we ventured to:
- Historic Christmas Market at Rathausmarkt:It’s the most popular, featuring a flying Santa spectacle. Santa makes an appearance every few hours after 3pm. The green stalls are all set up in rows making it easy (when less busy) to go up and down. There are several stores here with a carousel in the middle. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle you can go inside the town hall for free to have a look at the architecture
- Jungfernstieg Market: set against the backdrop of Binnenalster lake expect art and craft stalls. The location is apt and the view of the lake with the lit up tree in the middle is beautiful.
- Gerhart-Hauptmann-Platz Market:It is known for having a small pine forest and a great place to get away from the city centre bustle. Prices are slightly cheaper than the market about.
- Santa Pauli:A different take on traditional markets with a disco and an adult-only zone. Some stalls has interesting products and not what you would expect in a Christmas market. It’s got a disco ball and pink Christmas trees.
- Winter DOM:North Germany’s largest funfair, filled with lights and enchanting displays. I did feel like a big kid here.
Landmarks and Sightseeing:
Beyond the markets there are so many sights to explore :
- St Michaels Church: Situated in the old town, it the old historical landmark and beautiful to see inside and out. It was a very snowy day and we went up. Not the best day to go to the top but the views were very pretty. You cannot see the lit up markets from here if that is what you want to see from an aeriel view. With the Hamburg card it was 6 euros each.
- Elbphilharmonie (Elphi):Known for its fabulous concerts and architecture it is home to the longest curved escalator in the world. It also offers panoramic views of Hamburg and is the new town landmark
- Wander through the red-brick warehouse district , Speicherstadt, Deichstraße (the oldest street), and vibrant Reeperbahn. Walk by the Portuguese district too in new town. A great selection of Portuguese and Spanish restaurants
- Miniatur Wunderland: This is a wonder on its own. It is the largest model railway in the world. The work and attention to detail is just mind blowing. It is suitable for all ages. We booked our tickets online about 2 weeks before. You can spend a good 4 hours here. The lighting transitions from day to night every 20-30 minutes. We did not do this but i recommend booking the guided tour cause you get to go behind the scenes. Then you know you have not missed anything.
- Free Walking Tours: These tours offer insights into the city’s history and lesser-known spots. It is something we try and do whenever we go on a city break. I thought we would be the only ones turning up in the -1 degree snow but there were about 20 in our group all wrapped up and ready to explore. Kalvin was a fab guide at Robin tour guides Robin and the Tourguides. We got some fantastic recommendations and tips from him and learnt about the history of Hamburg.
- Visit Beatles- Platz and see where the Beatles first had their gig before they became famous (Indra Club). This is Hamburg’s red-light district and also popular nightlife location (Reeperbahn). It is a total contrast to the main city however shows that every city has its high and lows.
- Boat Trips from St. Pauli Piers: Experience the extensive harbour infrastructure while enjoying a boat trip. The English audio is not widely available on them even the more expensive ones. We went on an hour one on Rainer Abicht Elbreederei and it was a great ride up and down the river however it was all in German despite it being advertised as English audio available.
One thing I have learnt is they love fish, potatoes and bacon in Hamburg and I am here for it! Some meals we had:
- Fish Sandwiches at Brücke 10: Known for the city’s best fish sandwiches at an affordable price. For less than 10 euros we had the traditional picked herring one and a fried one. The bread is like a crusty roll and works really well with the fish.
- German Sausages at Christmas Markets: A must-try traditional delight. The buns they serve are smaller than in the UK but sausage the same size. The main one was Brakwusrt but there were stalls with other types.
- Krustenbraten: pork roast is a German staple and they serve it thinly sliced with cranberry and cocktail sauce in a bun with fried onions. This was my favourite dish. It is supposed to be crispy pork but there was no crispiness- just lots of succulent pork
- Hamburg prides itself in high quality fish and it is popular in many restaurants. Ola Lisboa was recommended to us. We shared the Pannfisch which had 2 pieces of pan fried fish, potatoes with bacon and salad. Potatoes with bacon are very common in Hamburg and I am here for it.
- Brunch at Nord Coast Coffee Roastery: Experience a good brunch and some amazing coffee at this Roastery. It gets very busy even on week days. Try and book if possible. We enjoyed the two sourdough dishes they had. One with porcini butter scrambled eggs and one with broad beans and poached egg.
- Cosy candle lit dinner at, Restaurant Kartoffelkeller. The vibe is cosy and warm. It has several potato dishes even desserts so you know you are in for a treat. I had their potato soup and Kev had the omelette. They were both generous portions and enjoyable,
- Another cosy spot is the Hüttenzauber Neuer Wall, an alpine hut that gives you all the hygge vibes. This is only open during the Christmas markets.
- Relish fancy cocktails at award winning The Bohemian Bar . Creative cocktails and relaxed ambiance, the cocktails will set you back 17 euros but worth it for that extra special treat. Kev had the Lego one and I had the Michelangelo one.
- Have a drink whilst overlooking the lake at Störtebeker Elbphilharmonie. There is a restaurant, cafe and bar in the Elphi. This industrial type bar has views of the lake and the cocktails were great.
- As well as Gluhwein, try the German Feuerzangenbowle. It is mulled wine that has rum soaked sugar loaf dripped into it. It’s aka fire punch. It tasted very similar to the normal mulled wine and not sure how much rum flavour goes into it because it’s set on fire.
Efficient public transport, including buses, trains, and harbour ferries, makes exploring Hamburg convenient. The Hamburg Card provides unlimited travel and discounts on various attractions, including panoramic tower views. You can get the card from 11.90 euros pp and can be bought online beforehand. Much cheaper than the UK.
December in Hamburg is a captivating blend of festive cheer, architectural wonders, and culinary delights. Whether it’s the glittering lights of the markets or the breath-taking views from iconic landmarks, this city promises an unforgettable winter experience.
Last year we spent Christmas in The Hague. Read all about it here.
Disclaimer: I was gifted the travel and some food however all opinions are my own.