Hamburg is our favourite city for a chilled out weekend in Germany, we’ve visited a lot and we love it! It is a fantastic starting point if you’re heading to Wacken Open Air Festival – our favourite festival in the world. There is a lot to see in Hamburg but it’s also a great city to wander with no set plans. When we visit Hamburg we tend to spend most of our time in and around St Pauli. This guide for a weekend in St Pauli, Hamburg will focus on spending most of your time in this area.
A word of warning though, this area is not for everyone! In St Pauli you’ll also find the infamous Reeperbahn. Nicknamed the most sinful mile (and for good reason), this long street is one of Hamburgs two main nightlife areas. Here you’ll find a plethora of nightclubs, strip clubs and sex shops. It’s also the city’s main red light district. These attractions are not what draws us to St Pauli however, there is more to see. But you can’t escape seeing this scene while walking around St Pauli so if this is likely to spoil your stay then the St Pauli area is not for you.
We think Hamburg is a great city to spend a few days, and the St Pauli neighbourhood is not just for stag parties! Here is our guide to get the most of a weekend in St Pauli, Hamburg.
Getting to Hamburg
Hamburg is a very accessible city from most of Europe. You can pick up pretty reasonable flights at most times of the year. You’ll land at Flughafen Hamburg, Hamburg‘s international airport which is approximately 30mins outside of the city.
You can get an Uber from the airport for a fairly reasonable price alternatively the train system is fast and pretty cheap. However with an Uber or Taxi you have the advantage of door to door service and so can get straight to your hotel rather than walk from the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station).
Where to Stay
We recommend booking accommodation in the St Pauli neighbourhood, or at least near an S-Bahn or U-Bahn station. As I said in the intro, we love St Pauli and tend to spend most of our time in this area when visiting Hamburg.
There are two hotels we recommend in St Pauli, the first is East. East is a design hotel – we love these types of hotel, they’re always a bit quirky. It’s a 4* property and just 5 minutes walk from the U-Bahn system to get around Hamburg with ease.
The second hotel we recommend in this area is a NH Collection Hotel in St Pauli. This is another 4* property but with a totally different style – a bit Scandinavian, very clean and uncluttered. It’s also very close to the U-Bahn system.
Day 1 – St Pauli and HafenCity
If you can find an early flight then go for it and aim to land in Hamburg early afternoon on your first day. Head straight to your hotel to drop your bags before getting straight back out into the city to start exploring.
After you have dropped off your bags head towards the river where you’ll find St Pauli Landungsbruken. Here you will find loads of seafood restaurants, this area is quite touristy so prices are a little inflated here, but well worth a look.
If seafood is not for you then on your way to Landungsbrucken stop by Pizza Bande where you can get a delicious pizza and drinks at very reasonable prices.
HafenCity and Landungsbrucken
If you like then in Landungsbrucken you have the opportunity to take a boat tour, you can choose the type of boat you like, anything from massive liners to Louisiana style paddle boats. We tend to just wander around this area, there are some quiet coffee shops and a place you can get some Häagen-Dazs ice cream with a river view. There are also a range of shops and chain restaurants nearby – like Hard Rock Cafe. So pretty much something for everyone, even those who want a taste of home.
The HafenCity quarter is worth your time to check out. It is an area to the east of Landungsbruken, so ideally placed to walk off your lunch. HafenCity is an upmarket area with converted warehouses and fancy apartments. In this area one building that really stands out is the Elbphilharmonie which is a concert hall with a striking facade.
For your first night in St Pauli check out some of the bars – there are many. We can recommend starting at Zwick for both drinks and a decent bar meal. The music and decor are right up our street too – a perfect start to a night out in St Pauli. You can find Zwick by the St Pauli U-Bahn stop, at the end of the Reeperbahn.
If you are visiting Hamburg in March, August or November a great alternative to bar hopping is to spend time at the DOM. You can enter right across the street from Zwick. The DOM is a seasonal fair, a bit like a carnival, and it is huge!
The DOM is a great place to spend a few hours, day or night. We love wandering around seeing all the rides and games, as well as checking out the bars and street food stalls. It’s a must do for us if we’re visiting Hamburg while it’s on, we tend to go at least twice if we’re in the city for a few days.
Day 2 – St Pauli and Hamburg-Neustadt
If you stayed out late on the Reeperbahn last night, or at the DOM, you will be thankful for a relaxed start to the day. Head towards Binnenalster, the smaller of the Alster Lakes. The Jungfernstieg U-Bahn station is right next to Binnenalster but set out on foot.
Planten un Blomen
Walking from St Pauli to Binnenalster takes you through the gorgeous park Planten un Blomen. This park, 45-hectare in area, is made up of smaller themed parks and gardens. Planten un Blomen stretches all the way from the St Pauli U-Bahn station to Hamburg Dammtor railway station.
Within Planten un Blomen you can find Japanese themed gardens, rose gardens, terraced gardens and conservatories. There are play parks, skate parks, mini golf and chess! You will find a variety of places to eat, drink and relax throughout and it feels as if you have left the city all together.
There is so much more to see outside of Planten un Blomen though. We recommend you don’t spend more than a couple of hours here on your first visit to Hamburg. Just enough time to see the highlights.
Leave the park at Hamburg Dammtor and continue walking towards Binnenalster. You will find yourself in the city centre of Hamburg which is next to St Pauli.
Alster Lakes and Lunch
When you arrive at Binnenalster you might be ready for lunch about now, or at least a coffee. There are a few cafes right on the waterfront of Binnenalster, we can recommend ALEX Hamburg. You can enjoy the relaxing waterfront view while resting your legs after walking the length of Planten un Blomen! You wouldn’t know you were in the centre of a major city.
If you are up for a bit more walking then the entire banks of the Alster Lakes have footpaths and tracks for walking, as well as kept lawns for lazing in the sun. There were a few sailing clubs which use the lake for practice, and you will see plenty of people out kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding during warmer weather. It’s well worth walking around the Alster Lakes if you have time.
If stopping for lunch at Alex Hamburg when you first arrived at Binnenalster was too soon then we have another recommendation on the east side of Alster Lake.
Hamburg is an international city and like most major cities you can get pretty much any cuisine you fancy. If you want some good food that is not German for one of your meals then there is a great Spanish Tapas place called Spanische Treppe Hamburg, about half way up the east bank of Alster Lake. On a warm day you can sit out on the water front and enjoy some great Spanish food here.
If you want to get out on Alster Lake yourself you can actually hire stand-up paddle boards next to Spanische Treppe.
If you are looking for a more typical city experience head the opposite direction to the Lake from the cafes by Jungfernstieg U-Bahn. This will lead you into the city centre, Hamburg-Neustadt, where there are a ton of shops, bars etc. You will also find the impressive Rathaus (Townhall).
If you carry on walking through Hamburg-Neustadt you will find yourself back at Planten un Blomen on the edge of St Pauli. However if you want to rest your feet catch the U-Bahn from Jungfernstieg U-Bahn to St Pauli U-Bahn which is just a 10 minute journey.
For dinner we recommend Ashoka. It’s a very unassuming restaurant from the outside, so much so you would probably just walk past it. Ashoka is a fantastic Indian restaurant in St Pauli and the food we’ve had here has been great – we are big fans of Indian food. You can order your meal at a spice level you’re comfortable with so no worries about it being too hot.
If you want to try something local then give Restaurant September a try. If you are staying at the NH Collection Hotel then Restaurant September is just steps away from your hotel.
At Restaurant September you can find all of the traditional German foods that are on your list, schnitzel, currywurst and apple strudel. I can confirm the currywurst is pretty good, better than I had in Berlin!
Note: If you look up reviews for Restaurant September you will see a mixed bag. The menu is very varied and the bad reviews tend to be for things like nachos and lasagne – this is a German restaurant, go here for the German food.
This is likely to be your last day of your weekend in St Pauli, Hamburg. Depending on what time your flight leaves will determine what you can see on your last day. If you have pretty much a full day then you could consider checking out Tierpark Hagenbeck which is about 30 minutes outside of the city centre on the U-Bahn.
I wouldn’t advise heading to the Tierpark Hagenbeck unless you do have close to a full day as it is a huge zoo and has a pretty big aquarium to explore too. It’s not cheap either so if you pay to go in then make sure you have the time to make the most of it. It’s ideal to add to your itinerary for a second or third visit to Hamburg if you can’t fit it in during this trip.
Assuming you don’t have a full day at your disposal spend the morning having a last leisurely stroll through the DOM if it’s on. I’d spend most of our last day here even if we had already visited the first day. You can grab something for lunch here before you have to head to the airport and stretch your legs before your flight.
If the DOM isn’t on while you’re in St Pauli and you only have a couple of hours to spare then head to Sankt Pauli Museum to find out a bit more about the history of this area of Hamburg – and of course they have a bar!
We hope you find this guide for a weekend in St Pauli, Hamburg useful. Let us know what your favourite sights are in Hamburg, and where you like to stay in the comments!