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Berlin attracts much of the world’s attention as the hip, cool center of Germany’s modern culture, but Hamburg is proud to be the country’s sophisticated – even aloof – older, wealthier brother. With a subtle, gritty, maritime-inspired cool, the city may not be for everyone. Tourists looking for something a little different will find no shortage of unique things to do and hotel options to fit any travel style. Accommodations in Hamburg range from the grand luxury of the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten and Hotel Atlantic Kempinski, to the cool, mid-range 25hours Hotels, to the most affordable Airbnb options.
As with travel to most big cities, booking a Hamburg hotel in advance is essential any time of year and especially on weekends. Steer clear of large events, festivals, and concerts as hotel bookings can be difficult and prohibitively expensive. As Germany’s self-proclaimed “capital of sports," there are marathon events, football matches, ice hockey games, and more throughout the year. The city also hosts a number of large-scale music events which attract tens of thousands of visitors. Room rates tend to remain level throughout the year, but a visit in the fall can mean possibly lower prices and thinner crowds.
Hamburg is a large city that can feel overwhelming to first-time visitors, so it’s important to decide where you’ll want to stay first and base your trip from there. For a great mix of budget hotels and unique things to do, check out the St. Georg neighborhood. The Novum Hotels chain operates a handful of centrally located cheap hotels in Hamburg with nightly rates as low as $40. Other reliable, mid-range budget hotels in the area include the Eden by Centro Basic and Condor by Centro Basic. Off-season rates for both are often less than $50 per night.
No matter where you decide to stay, skip the rental car altogether as parking is prohibitively expensive. Travelers looking to save money and stress should instead opt to walk, call a taxi service, or ride the subway. Like many German cities, Hamburg’s public transportation system is extensive, top-notch, and affordable. A subway trip from the city’s airport (Flughafen Hamburg in German) to City Center takes less than 20 minutes and costs just a few dollars.
Foodies seeking an authentic German throwback should check out Oberhafenkantine. For almost 90 years, this brick restaurant has served the city’s most traditional fare. For something entirely unique, visit the Miniatur-Wunderland to experience the world’s largest model railway at more than 1,300 square meters! No trip to the city is complete without a visit to the historic Speicherstadt and harbor. Officially the world’s largest contiguous warehouse district, it’s also among Hamburg’s most popular tourist attractions. It’s best experienced either on foot or from the water via small barge if the tides are cooperating.
Hamburg is also home to dozens of free festivals, events, and street fairs almost any time of year. For a taste of real Oktoberfest, Hamburg’s annual Wandsbeker Wiesn features traditional keg tapping and live Bavarian music every September. Shopaholics will enjoy the city’s special Sunday shopping events scheduled throughout the year. Holiday travelers will appreciate the city’s stunning Christmas markets which are among the most beautifully decorated in the world. For hotel options centrally located to these and the city’s other most popular events, look to the City Center district.
It’s recommended that travelers book their airport hotel as far in advance as possible. Travelers looking to stay near Hamburg Airport will find a variety of mid-range options nearby. Budget travelers concerned with savings above all else should look to Hotel Cockpit which offers room rates for less than $70 nightly. For less than $100, the Leonardo Hotel Hamburg Airport, Leonardo Inn Hotel Hamburg Airport, and Kocks Hotel are three-star options just a short cab ride from the airport. For $150-200, four-star accommodations are available at the nearby Courtyard by Marriott Hamburg Airport and Radisson Blu Hotel, Hamburg Airport.
Most airport hotels are within one or two miles of Hamburg Airport – a moderate walk assuming you aren’t traveling with too much luggage. Peer-to-peer and similar ride services such as Uber have been banned in many German cities, including Hamburg. However, the most convenient option for travel from the airport to nearby discounted hotels is via traditional taxi which will cost around $10-15 depending on the distance. From the airport, downtown Hamburg and many of its suburbs are easily reachable by subway in 20-30 minutes for only a few dollars.
Like all things German, hostels in Hamburg are clean, modern, and efficient. However the city’s hostels, particularly those in City Center, can often be the same price or more expensive than a traditional, mid-range budget hotel. The Jugendherberge Hamburg Auf dem Stintfang youth hostel, for example, is often priced around $95 nightly. Other hostels such as the K357 are available for less than $40 nightly; however, the location is far from City Center and may deter some travelers. Room types are typical of most hostels and range from private rooms with en suite bathrooms to dorm-style accommodations that sleep six or more.
From basic, private rooms to full-featured, ultra-modern apartments, downtown Hamburg is awash in hundreds of Airbnb options. With prices starting at less than $40 nightly for a centrally located, private room in the city, it is in fact the best option for budget travelers. For between $50-60 travelers can upgrade to a private room with an included private bathroom and possibly a full kitchen as well. As with all German accommodations, Airbnb options are typically spotless, ultra-modern, and inviting.
Travelers looking to spread out a bit with a private space all to themselves can find full apartments through Airbnb starting at just $100. These often include full-featured accommodations, ideally located in City Center near Hamburg’s most well-known landmarks, or any of the city’s quieter suburbs. Many offer a full array of luxury amenities, including coffee makers, kitchens, balconies, Wi-Fi, washer/dryer, daily housekeeping, electric blinds, and more. The combination of price, location, and amenities make Airbnb the best possible option for almost any traveler to Hamburg.
Travelers planning a trip to Hamburg will want an up-to-date, destination-specific guide to the city. Lonely Planet’s downloadable “Germany - Hamburg & the North” PDF (http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/ebooks/germany/germany-travel-guide-7/germany-hamburg-the-north-chapter-7/) costs less than $5 and is an excellent general resource for planning your next trip to Hamburg and the surrounding area. For travelers relying on subway transportation while visiting Hamburg, MapsOfWorld.com offers a static map of the city’s extensive subway system (http://www.mapsofworld.com/metro-maps/europe/hamburg.html). iPhone users will also appreciate tripwolf’s Germany Travel Guide (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/germany-travel-guide-offline/id467893783) with available offline maps so an internet connection isn’t necessary.
For a city that dates back to 500 A.D., wonderful history, architecture, and culture abound in Hamburg. The Port of Hamburg is perhaps the city’s most well-known tourist attraction. It’s an ideal place to stroll the city’s waterfront and appreciate its fascinating maritime history. Travelers seeking Hamburg’s hippest shops and cafes will want to visit the Jungfernstieg – the city’s most exclusive downtown promenade. Just down the street is Hamburg’s famous Town Hall – perhaps the city’s best example of classic German architecture that’s especially lovely at Christmas time.
These, and many of the city’s other famous landmarks, are all within easy walking distance from City Center hotels and many Airbnb options. Public transportation is an even more convenient option with crosstown subway rides available for just a few euros. Particularly for travelers who plan to focus their trip on the downtown core, the added hassle and expense of renting a car to get around isn’t worth it. Travelers who prefer to splurge a bit more for direct transportation will still save big by hailing the occasional taxi rather than renting a car.
Travelers to Hamburg needn’t feel overwhelmed by the city’s size or general affluence. The city’s downtown core – including its port and most recognizable landmarks – is easily navigable via cheap, modern public transportation, so car rental isn’t recommended. All but the most luxury of travelers would do well to look to the city’s many Airbnb options for the most affordable, centrally located accommodations with many of the usual amenities of home.
© 2016 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.
© 2016 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.