More than the Reeperbahn: A Backpacker’s Guide to Hamburg

The city of Hamburg is named from it’s castle which was built under the orders of Charlemagne in 808 AD. The city was originally called Hammaburg; “burg” means castle. In World War II, Hamburg was heavily damaged during Allied air raids. In the 1960’s, the Beatles launched there career here playing at various clubs. Today, you can visit a monument to them in Beatles-platz.

No, hamburgers were not actually invented here. However, German immigrants in the US were inspired by a local specialty, hamburg steaks, and they created the American staple that is now known as the world-famous hamburger today.

Fast Facts

  • Language: German (56% of Germans speak English)
  • Currency: Euro
  • Climate: Temperate with hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters.

A (brief) history of Hamburg

CITY is perfect for 

  • Backpackers; Hamburg is well-located between major destinations including Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Berlin making it the perfect stop on a Eurail adventure.
  • Stag/Bachelor Parties; the infamous St. Pauli’s neighborhood has a reputation for some of the best nightlife in Europe thanks to it’s many clubs and bars as well as the city’s major red-light district
Kunsthalle Art Museum

How To Get There

Air: Hamburg Airport (HAM) serves +130 destinations, most of which are located in Europe. Ryanair, EasyJet, Eurowings, and Condor often have the cheapest tickets.

Rail: Hamburg Hauptbahnhof has long-distance trains with routes that connect to other cities in Germany and abroad. Here are the international routes available as of January 2019:

  • Intercity Express services (ICE 75) Copenhagen – Næstved – Nykøbing Falster – Puttgarden – Lübeck – Hamburg
  • EuroCity services (EC 7) Hamburg – Bremen – Münster – Dortmund – Düsseldorf – Köln – Bonn – Karlsruhe – Freiburg – Basel – Zürich – Chur
  • EuroCity services (EC 27) Hamburg – Berlin – Dresden – Prague – Brno – Bratislava – Budapest

Road: If you’re looking for a cheap, last minute option Flixbus and Eurolines DE are two bus companies I can recommend.


When to go

Well, it depends! I went in December to see Hamburg’s Christmas Markets. The main christmas market, Weihnachtsmarkt, is held in front of city hall. There’s also Santa Pauli, a unique, x-rated one near the Reeperbahn. Read more about my experience in Hamburg here.

Hamburg is home to Germany’s largest music festival, the Reeperbahn Festival, which is held in September every year. The 4-day festival attracts over 40,000 attendees and features +900 events including concerts, conferences, and artistic programs.

However, if you want to enjoy the city’s waterfront and parks the best time to visit is between May and September when the weather is warm and dry.

Hamburg Weihnachtsmarkt

Where To Stay

St Pauli – for those who want to be in the heart of the nightlife, this is the best place to stay. There are many pubs, clubs, and cabarets scattered throughout the neighborhood but the most famous stretch is the Reeperbahn.

Saint Georg – located in central Hamburg, this area is perfect for those who want to be close enough to experience it all. You will be in close proximity to many attractions including City Hall, Nuer Street (shopping area), and Alster Lake. (I stayed here at the Generator Hostel– we picked it because it was within walking distance to the main train station and had good reviews).

Altona-Altstadt – west of St. Pauli you will find the Altona-Altstadt neighborhood, which has some of the best historic architecture in the city. If you’re in Hamburg on a Sunday, make sure to visit the Fish Auction House for the weekly public market serving fish, fruit, and other goods.

Kunsthalle Art Museum

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