9 unforgettable Hamburg bucket list tours
Did you know that the Beatles became famous in Hamburg?! Or that a lot of Hamburg’s World War II bunkers still exist and were ready to be operated in case of an emergency until 2007? Or that cruising the sewer system used to be “a thing” for the elite? Ever wanted to have a real pimp take you around Hamburg’s red light district? Say whaaat?
That’s exactly why you should join one of Hamburg’s many tours, which are also great if you’ve been there a few times, and even if you live there because I guarantee you, you’ll find out something you didn’t know before!
I have personally tried all the tours I’m about to mention, but I will receive nothing recommending them – I simply want to share them to make you explore and fall in love with this city and its many layers of history, diverse districts, and mouthwatering food even more!
1. Hamburg from above – a helicopter tour with Hanseatic Helicopter Services
Ever wanted to fly in a helicopter (optionally with doors open) and see Hamburg from above? Hanseatic Helicopter Services make it possible. They also fly to various other cities in Northern Germany and you can book them for business flights as well. Up to three people fit into their helicopters and can enjoy a 20- or 30-minute flight over Germany’s greenest city. The two pilots I met are awesome and super chill, so you’re definitely going to have a great time with them. Available for people speaking any language because you just have to enjoy the view! Book your 149+ tickets here.
2. Gone and forgotten – a historical tour with Sandra Latussek from Vergangen und Vergessen
Sandra offers a tour through Hamburg’s beautiful and unique old warehouse district, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a kids tour along the Elbe river, and a harbor tour, where you find out about that cruising Hamburg’s sewer system was really a thing in elite circles. Say whaaat? If you’re ready for plenty of awesome history and an extremely passionate tour guide, who currently offers her tours in German only, unfortunately, you should join one of Sandra’s tours. Her Vergangen und Vergessen tours are very reasonably priced and next to free walking tours definitely the cheapest, but most valuable! You can find more information and book your €10-15 tickets here.
3. On the footsteps of the Beatles with Stefanie Hempel
Whether you’re a Beatles fan or not, Stefanie Hempel’s Beatles Tour will make you become one because of the passion, live singing, and facts she puts into this 2-3 hour walking experience. She takes you all around Hamburg’s notorious St.Pauli district and shows you places where The Beatles used to stay, perform and buy their clothes or instruments from. Not only will she share funny anecdotes and facts, but she will also mention her many encounters she’s had with The Beatles themselves, their exes, and friends. Wanna imitate John Lennon on his Rock n Roll album cover and pose in front of the same exact building? Or just sing along their best songs that Stefanie plays on her ukulele at most of the stops? Then join this tour on Saturdays at 6 p.m. and book your tickets for €28 here. This tour is available both in English and German (at the same time – go Stefanie for this!).
4. The secret world of Hamburg’s underground with Hamburger Unterwelten e.V.
There’s a hidden world in Hamburg besides all the obvious tourist attractions and the historical details you hear on most tours – Hamburg’s underground consisting of ten bunkers underneath the bustling city, where no one would expect them. You can still access three of them. About 40 high bunkers still exist also; some of them now have rooftop bars or restaurants in them others were transformed into parking lots. Learning about the difficult conditions, how people had to hide in bunkers during the world wars and the fact that these bunkers were still kept intact until 2007 in case of an emergency were some of the most interesting facts I’ve learned on any tour I’ve ever taken. If you’re a history buff, this one’s for you. They offer tours at various locations in German, English, Spanish or French. Find more information and/or book their most successful tour of the bunker at Hamburg’s main train station here.
5. The ultimate tour for classic car fans – Waterkant Touren
Classic car fans will enjoy riding around Hamburg in an old VW van, where up to eight people can be seated, so it’s a great group tour option. Each guide of Hamburg’s Waterkant Tours will have their own route where they take you. Guide Marco took us around the old warehouse district, to the Wilhemsburg Bunker, from where we saw all of Hamburg, a special harbor lookout way less crowded than the old Elbtunnel, through the tunnel itself and to St.Pauli’s beaches. Water, sodas, and beers are included as well as a small snack. They also offer several off-the-beaten-path tours. Book yours here for €39-55.
6. A tour with a real pimp – Luciano, der Kiezpate
Have you ever wanted to experience and talk to a real pimp? I didn’t know I did, but Luciano is an absolute icon on Hamburg’s red light district – the Reeperbahn and a very interesting character. He knows everyone and everyone knows and highly respects him. He used to own a bunch of brothels and take care of many “princesses” and “ladies” (note that he does not call them prostitutes or worse names). His stories come from a time when the Reeperbahn was different from today, more focused on all sorts of entertainment rather than on tourists now. Luciano will tell you how he got shot and stabbed, take you down to Germany’s most famous boxing basement where Mohammad Ali and every other boxing legends hung out, and into a table dance bar. He was the only person to take women into the Herbertstrasse (where only men are allowed); however, currently, this isn’t happening. Spend an evening with this guy and I guarantee you to not be bored because you’ll have intriguing conversations and learn about interesting facts. If you don’t like sex and a bit of vulgarity, stay away. For €30, Luciano takes you around from Tuesdays to Saturdays, starting at 6:30 p.m. Book your tickets here.
7. Eat yourself through different parts and cuisines of Hamburg with Eat the World
Eat the World offers food tours through nine different parts of Hamburg, where you learn about history and eat snacks at about five to seven restaurants and cafes. My personal highlight was an “herb house” founded in 1907 on the St. Georg tour where hundreds of herbs were stored in antique, wooden containers, run by a kind, knowledgeable lady who could probably treat ANY of your pains with the help of natural remedies. Because Hamburg is also called the “gateway to the world,” you can expect not only German, but also international cuisine. If you like to eat and explore while learning about history, one (or more) of their food tours are definitely for you! Locals also love these walking tours. Eat the World tours are offered daily, take up to three hours and are usually in German. If you want to book an English tour, they’ll work with you as well, but you’ll have to ask. Book your €33 tour here.
8. A bus and boat ride at the same time? HafenCity Riverbus makes it possible
To experience being on a bus that turns into a boat but also, if you’re not very familiar with Hamburg’s newest attempt to provide housing – the HafenCity, and the Eastern part of the harbor, the HafenCity Riverbus tour is awesome. Special tip: If you like dry humor, choose Wolfgang as your guide and you will be guaranteed to laugh a lot. Currently, this tour is available only in German, but they’re working on English tours to be available soon. You can join daily, from 11.30 a.m. until 5:45 p.m. and buy your ticket for €21 here.
9. Olivia Jones (Germany’s most famous transvestite) harbor cruise
This cruise is only for a certain type of people: women who celebrate their bachelorette parties and/or those who want to get hammered while dancing and listening to German folk music in the afternoon. Men who enjoy watching that, the cruise is for you too.
The whole thing is run by colorful people with strong personalities, who, for me, were definitely the best and most interesting part. Germany’s most famous transvestite Olivia Jones and her crew are extremely likable.
I wasn’t really into any of the rest, so this cruise wasn’t for me at all unfortunately. I would have needed a bigger wallet, 5 of my best friends and plenty of alcohol beforehand because their drink prices won’t really get you drunk.
If you think one of these tours is for you, book them here. You don’t need to know German to drink and dance, so the harbor tours are for non-German speakers also.
Want to know more about Hamburg? Check out my ultimate guide to Hamburg here.
A big thanks to Eat the World Hamburg, HafenCity Riverbus, Hamburger Unterwelten e.V., Hanseatic Helicopter Services, Luciano, Olivia Jones, Stefanie Hempel’s Beatles Tour, Vergangen und Vergessen, and Waterkant Touren for supporting me on my trip to Hamburg. As usual, all opinions are my own!
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