Hamburg: Wind, water, and wide spaces
Wind, water, and wide spaces
One of Germany's greenest city & one of the greenest worldwide
No other city in Germany offers more green spaces and more water surfaces when measured against the number of residents. And even on a global level, Hamburg is ranked in the top ten greenest cities of the world: in 2018, TravelBird, a tour operator, compiled a global ranking based on square metres per person as well as cities’ efforts to preserve natural green spaces and create new ones. Featuring 114.07 square metres of green spaces per resident and with 1.82 million inhabitants at the time, Hamburg came in ninth.
With 88.10 square metres per resident, the German capital Berlin was ranked 18th, and with 72.49, Munich only took 24th place. Providing 410.84 square metres of green space to each of its 123,200 residents, Iceland's capital Reykjavik was at the top of this global ranking. Next in line were Auckland (New Zealand, with 357.20) as well as Bratislava (Slovakia, with 332.99).
In a 2019 survey by Spotahome , a housing company, Hamburg scored even better: in the “green spaces and parks” category of the Healthiest Cities Report, which included 89 cities worldwide, Hamburg came in first, followed by Vilnius (Lithuania) in second place and Geneva (Switzerland) in third place. Coming in next were Vancouver (4), Stockholm (5), Ljubljana (6), Canberra (7), Adelaide (8), Auckland (9), and Brisbane (10).
Facts & Figures
19 percent of Hamburg's municipality consists of designated protected landscape areas, and nearly 10 percent of Hamburg’s municipality is made up of water surfaces – including the port, the 164-hectare Alster Lake in the heart of the city as well as countless canals, fleets and river courses.
Hamburg features as many as 36 nature reserves, and as a result, nearly 10 percent of the city state’s area is protected under strict nature conservation. With a national average of 3.6 percent, Hamburg is once again taking the lead.
A unique destination awaits you at the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park in the North Sea. The area on the western Elbe estuary is home to more than 2,000 species of animals and has been identified as one of the most bird-rich areas in Central Europe. The Wadden Sea can best be explored from the island of Neuwerk, which is legally part of the City of Hamburg – despite being located more than 100 kilometres away from Hamburg
Right in the centre of Hamburg you can find the popular “Planten un Blomen” park, which includes e.g. a beautiful botanical garden with a tropical house as well as Europe’s largest Japanese garden.
With an area of more than 150 hectares, the Stadtpark in the district of Winterhude is one of the largest inner-city recreation areas and is widely used by young and old alike. Designed by the influential urban planner Fritz Schumacher and completed in 1914, the park was setting the bar in terms of landscape architecture at the time.
Comprising an area of almost 400 hectares, the Ohlsdorf Cemetery is the largest park cemetery in the world. The premises are characterised by a combination of historical buildings and monuments and are also visited by many guests to the city.
Providing ample opportunities for sports and recreation and surrounded by the Alsterpark, the Outer Alster Lake in the city centre is one of the most popular urban destinations for Hamburg's locals.
5 x amazing views & open airy spaces
The view from the Plaza is a must for all guests since 2017, with a steady west wind and best enjoyed at sunset.
With an altitude of 75 metres – which is quite respectable going by Northern German standards – the Süllberg hill in Blankenese offers the best view over the Elbe River and the North German lowlands, including a star-studded terraced restaurant and a beer garden.
A ten-minute walk through the Old Elbe Tunnel will take you to the south side of the Elbe, where you can enjoy a unique panoramic view of the port.
A hearty beach walk within the city boundaries, with some of the world’s largest container ships passing you by.
A visit to Wilhelmsburg, Europe’s largest river island, allows you to view Hamburg from yet another angle.
5 x parks & locals’ favourites
Serving as a deer hunting grounds in the old times, this 150-hectares park offers ample space for young and old. In the summer, the large Stadtpark lawn is a popular meeting place, and so is the Stadtpark lake with its public swimming pool and beer garden.
On the slopes above the Elbe, Hamburg shows its stately face: just off the elegant Elbchaussee, this English-style landscaped park invites you to enjoy a picnic with a view of the Elbe – and to explore the art exhibits of the Jenisch Haus and the Ernst Barlach Haus.
The Wallanlagen enclose Hamburg’s old town like a semicircle – with the landscaped park “Planten un Blomen” to the west, a green oasis with a Japanese garden, public greenhouses and water light concerts – the ideal place for a mild summer evening in the City.
Situated at the Mühlenteich pond and formerly privately owned, this lovely park with its masonry, balustrades, natural stone walls, and a pavilion invites you to take an inspiring stroll.
Alsterpark (Eppendorf): Within 15 minutes walking distance from the city centre, this large park on the north-western shore of the Outer Alster Lake offers a peaceful environment, with greens directly on the water. As you stroll, you can watch local joggers and sailboats passing by.
5 x wining & dining outside
At a prime location directly on the Elbe and with an unobstructed view of the Elbphilharmonie, this restaurant serves modern Asian-inspired cuisine, with a window front that can be opened and an eye-catching interior wall covered by greenery.
Somewhat hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, the Kontorhaus District is home to a real gastronomic gem that is dedicated entirely to modern cuisine with fresh, seasonal produce.
Situated on a pontoon directly on the historic Alsterarkaden and with a fabulous view of the water, the local swans and the town hall, you can enjoy fine Hamburg dishes in a modern atmosphere.
Located just opposite the Hayns Park and featuring a large outdoor area for guests, Schuback offers hearty German dishes with a modern Twist.
Ranked as one of Hamburg’s best gourmet restaurants for decades and featuring a lovely terrace, this star-studded restaurant is renowned for its Northern German creations from certified organic produce.
5 x cafés & beer gardens with a view
The terrace belongs to the luxury “Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten” and is located directly on the Alster Lake. Besides tea, coffee and cake, you can also enjoy a light lunch – and a fantastic panoramic view.
Offering an excellent view over Blankenese, this hidden gem in the west of Hamburg enables you enjoy your coffee or tea on a beautiful vine-clad terrace.
A little piece of heaven at a height of 75 metres, including a stunning view of the Elbe.
A popular meeting place for urban dwellers, this traditional outdoor café lets you enjoy the sunset over the Alster Lake with a cool drink in your hand and a choice of finger food.
A classic venue in the Stadtpark and Hamburg's largest beer garden. Here you can rest under old lime trees with a Bavarian-style beer and a bratwurst. In the summer, there are outdoor screenings of football matches.
5 x Hamburg hotels with a view
At a top location on the banks of the Outer Alster Lake, this modern luxury hotel combines fascinating architecture, a natural environment and urban flair, featuring 130 rooms and a wonderful view over the Alster.
In the hip St Georg neighbourhood and just off the Outer Alster Lake, this British-style design hotel provides a magnificent rooftop terrace for its guests.
Opened in 1909 as a luxury hotel for passengers of the route from Hamburg to New York, this elegant structure with the white façade and the Atlas sculpture on the roof is one of the most iconic buildings in Hamburg’s city centre.
Modern and elegant, this twenty-storey building is situated between the Reeperbahn and the Landungsbrücken, towering like a lighthouse above the banks of the Elbe.
A unique overnight experience in a historic water tower from 1910 in the heart of the Schanzenviertel. All of the 226 rooms on 20 levels actually provide a panoramic view of Hamburg.
5 x day trips to the coast & Hamburg’s surroundings
Europe's largest fruit-growing region awaits you in the southwest of Hamburg. Especially during blossoming and harvest time, it is the ideal destination for a relaxing day trip – either on foot or by bike through the beautiful orchards.
Violet heathlands and green forests, sandy yellow soils and romantic rivers, half-timbered houses and lovely little heath villages, imposing megalithic tombs and time-honoured monasteries, a healthy climate and leisure parks – all of this awaits you south of Hamburg in Lower Saxony’s largest holiday Region.
Located between Hamburg and Lübeck, the 40 lakes of this beautiful nature reserve bear witness to the last ice age. Bordering on the former GDR, the slightly hilled landscape with its forests and wetlands has allowed the flora and fauna to thrive almost undisturbed. Ideal for extended walks and hiking.
Less than an hour’s drive (or train ride) away from Hamburg, the seaside resorts of Lübeck Bay, such as Timmendorf, are popular day-trip destinations. For a somehwat more sophisticated experience, visit Travemünde with its maritime attractions and Thomas Mann-themed history.
The rhythm of the tides is shaping life on the North Sea coast – and depending on the tide, you can come here for mudflat hiking or water sports. At the mouth of the Elbe, the green dikes provide an excellent view of passing container ships from around the world.
5 x family trips to the countryside
In the Fischbek Heath, you can follow the trail of the traditional Heidschnucke sheep, and at the nearby Wildpark Schwarze Berge reserve you can enjoy the company of pot-bellied pigs and other animals.
Making children’s eyes shine: in the heart of the Sachsenwald forest, Germany’s oldest butterfly park lets you marvel at these beautiful creatures, with butterflies from every corner of the world.
Enjoy fresh countryside air while the little ones roam around – at Hof Eggers in the south-east of Hamburg, a farm that also includes a traditional outdoor café.
An urban green oasis that attracts young and old alike. You can ckeck out the Himmelsberg hill at a height of 14 metres or simply relax on one of the greens, enjoying the view of Baakenhafen, the iconic Elbe bridges and the HafenCity panorama.
A green haven just outside the city gates: a mere 18 kilometres east of Hamburg's city centre you can find the Klövensteen game enclosure, with wild animals, a forest information centre and a traditional forest tavern.
A walk around the Alster - with wide views and culinary stop-overs
Can you think of any other city in the world that treats itself to a 165-hectare artificial lake at a premium location in the city centre? Granted, back in1235, when the Inner and Outer Alster Lakes were dammed, property prices in Hamburg were more modest. But today, the areas around the Alster are among the priciest and most sought-after residential locations. Thanks to the thoroughly democratic mindset of Hamburg’s citizens, these lakeside locations have long since ceased to be privately owned, offering the opportunity to circumnavigate the Outer Alster as part of a picturesque 7.4-kilometre-long route. On a Saturday morning, this route is a popular place to see and be seen for runners and cyclists. For a more laid-back experience, however, we would recommend that you embark on an anti-clockwise walk with many (culinary) breaks – perfect views of the silhouette of Hamburg's city centre included.
Your outing starts at the central station right in the city centre. From here, it is only a five-minute walk to the elegant Hotel Atlantic on the Alster. Before you leave, you might want to pop over to Lange Reihe with its small shops to stock up on picnic food. Arguably the best cake can be found in the Café Gnosa under a rainbow flag. Those who start early in the morning will have a rich, inspiring breakfast a little further down in the Literaturhauscafé on Schwanenwik. If you have less time on your hands, you can grab a cappuccino and a croissant at the Alsterperle just opposite, both with a fantastic view of the city. Further north you will pass Hamburg’s time-honoured rowing clubs, the Hamburg Senate’s guest house, where e.g. Queen Elizabeth II and the Dalai Lama have stayed, and the Feenteich, a pond that is lined with some of Hamburg’s priciest villas. You will then walk past the Blue Mosque, a fine piece of oriental architecture featuring minarets, Arabic calligraphies on tile mosaics and a sky-blue dome.
After a short detour to Winterhude – you are welcome to walk all the way to Mühlenkamp and immerse yourself in the urban life of Hamburg's “Notting Hill” quarter – you will reach the northern end of the lake, offering a wonderful view of the city from the bridge.
If you are in the mood for some healthy exercise, you can rent a canoe at “Bobby Reich” and explore the Alster and its many branches from the water – which is also an ideal way of peeking into the back gardens of the elegant villas along the way. Passing the Egyptian Consulate, the tour continues south again. Perhaps have a coffee or Alsterwasser (that's what Hamburg’s locals call their shandy) on the jetty of the AlsterCliff or a little nap on one of the coveted white chairs. The final leg of your journey will take you to past the villa of Jil Sander, the Hamburg School of Music and Theater, the new luxury hotel The Fontenay with its terraced roof as well as the Lakeside restaurant with its spectacular view over the Alster. And once you are past Hamburg’s “White House”, the former Consulate General of the United States, you will find yourself back in the old town.
This tour can be done comfortably over the course of one morning or one afternoon. However, if this seems like too much work, we recommend that you take one of the nostalgic ATG Alster steamers. Boat trips depart from Jungfernstieg and allow you to hop on and hop off at many of the spots mentioned.
For even more distance and solitude, you may want to explore the Alster using a rented sailboat. Please note, though, that this option is for experienced sailors only: wind conditions can be very challenging especially in the city centre, and the wind tends to change constantly. The first port of call for sailboat rentals is “Käpt'n Prüsse” just outside the Hotel Atlantic.
5x tips for exploring the Alster
Anyone who ever enjoyed breakfast or attended at book reading event in this elegant listed villa is most sure to come back.
Decent coffee, finger food, and an unobstructed view of the Alster.
Rental place for rowing boats and canoes, at a romantic location with a rustic Flair.
See and be seen at this popular lakeside café with its large wooden jetty.
Gourmet restaurant with a terraced roof, providing a spectacular view over the Alster.
Exploring the Alster from the water: Canoeing, SUP & sailing in the heart of the city
With more than 2,400 bridges, and thus more than Venice (400) and Amsterdam (1,200) combined, Hamburg actually holds the European record for bridges. Little wonder, then, that the city features numerous waterways, offering ideal conditions for exploring Hamburg in an active way. Whether you are an ambitious athlete or more on the recreational side, there are suitable options for every level. When visiting Hamburg, at least one water sports experience should be on your list as it allows you to explore Hamburg from a unique angle.
On a more tranquil note, canoeing on the Alster and on the countless side canals is suitable for beginners too, since there are no currents or rapids here. And all those who can’t swim don’t have to worry either, because life jackets are always available on request. To turn this into a romantic journey with your better half, you can equip yourself with a bottle of wine and a picnic basket, paddle along the canals to the Stadtparksee and find a cosy spot there. Or stop over at the Café Canale – probably Europe's only drive-in café for canoes, where your takeaway coffee is handed to you through a window hatch.
To combine your boat tour with environmental protection, you should watch out for the logo of GreenKayak, an initiative that turns waste hunting into an enjoyable experience, providing boats for free paddling tours at six rental stations along the Alster. The robust green kayaks accommodate two people and can be used without any prior experience. On board you will find two life jackets, a bucket and two rubbish grabs, a local map of the waterways as well as a leaflet with tips for protecting birds and plants. After the tour, the waste collected is weighed – a fun way of helping the environment.
Stand-up paddlers have long ceased to be a rarity on Germany’s coasts and inland waterways. In Hamburg, the fairly shallow and calm Alster and the many canals offer numerous great routes for an inspiring SUP experience.
More recently, another water sport has developed from stand-up paddling: SUP yoga. To practice SUP yoga, no special athletic skills are required. With the SUP Club Hamburg, you can learn to explore your own limits in a fun way while enjoying the calming effect of the water, the sun and the lush greenery. With SUP yoga, water sports enthusiasts can experience the unique interplay of strength, balance and lightness.
All those who prefer a less contemplative water sports experience can practice their sailing skills on the Alster. However, these waters are for experienced sailors only: especially in the city centre, wind conditions are challenging and the wind tends to change constantly. Less experienced sailors can embark on a spacious keel dinghy under the guidance of a Hamburg City Sailing instructor. Or you can refresh your skills at the “Käpt'n Prüsse” sailing school, where you can also book taster lessons.
5 x canoeing, SUP & sailing on the Alster
Sailing school, sailing trips and sailing events just outside the Hotel Atlantic.
Kayak tours that combine environmental protection and water sport.
Your “coffee to paddle” served through a hatch.
Outdoor café and rental place for rowing boats, canoes and sailboats.