Whether boat trips on Alster and Elbe, city tours on double-deck busses or visits at the traditional Hagenbeck’s Tierpark and the Miniatur Wunderland: Hamburg is the ideal destination for families with children. The city has something to offer for everyone, so every family member will find its perfect spot in the maritime city.
A huge moving wall towers above the small barge that comfortably cruises on the River Elbe – a wall that seems to extend up to the sky. The wide-eyed little girl standing on the deck of the tourist barge looks up at the gigantic container ship passing by, while her brother deciphers the lettering on the stern of this giant ship: “China Shipping Line”. “Wow, Dad, does it really come from China ?!” His father nods, and he, too, is drawn into the bustle of Hamburg’s port, which seems like one big adventure – not only for children. Passing by cranes, tugboats and dry docks, the barge chugs along to the Speicherstadt – Hamburg’s historic warehouse district where precious spices, coffee and fabrics used to be stored.
Once the boat trip has come to an end, the family changes to the HVV harbour ferry, now heading for Neumühlen with its museum harbour and restaurants. Some of these can be found right on the beach of Oevelgönne and a comfortable walk away from the jetty, past picturesque fishermen’s houses. While the kids are building sand castles, splashing in the shallow water and admiring the huge ships that are passing by at a close distance, Mum and Dad are enjoying a glass of wine or a cup of coffee while looking down on the port scenery. A day at the beach – in the heart of the city.
The next day, our family goes on another boat trip: now on the Alster – the lake in Hamburg’s city centre lined by magnificent villas. And while the captain entertains his guests with tales about “coffee barons” and other Hamburg merchants, the childrens’ minds wander elsewhere: to the nimble dinghies and swift yachts sailing through the churning water. “Mum, can we also go sailing? Please!” Well of course: the sailing schools on the Alster are happy to rent out their boats – also available with sailing instructors. All those who have a skipper’s licence can take a boat unaccompanied, and those without can charter a pedalo or a rowing boat.
Hamburg can of course also be discovered on land: so why not take a sightseeing tour on one of Hamburg’s red double decker buses. From the top floor you can see so much more of the city, and in good weather the buses will even shed their tops. Whenever your little ones need a break along the way, you can jump off and continue your tour at a later stage. The roundtrip takes around 90 minutes, and there are a total of 28 hop-on/hop-off stops along the route.
Stretching your legs is always a good idea – after all, there is much to be discovered during a stroll in the HafenCity district, the city centre and along the banks of the Alster. Or how about a pleasant walk through one of Hamburg’s many parks? You might want to visit Planten un Blomen with its rare plants and themed gardens, its huge adventure playground, its water organ and its ice rink. Or maybe head for the Stadtpark Hamburg with its extensive lawns, its planetarium, an outdoor swimming pool and a huge playground.
Don’t forget to eat while you are out and about! Hamburg offers numerous child-friendly (organic) restaurants such as Café SternChance in the Schanzenpark and Café Osterdeich in the district of Eimsbüttel. The Rollercoaster restaurant is a special experience for little sweet tooths as the food is served on rails. The menu includes tasty choices for parents and children alike. Ketchup stains on the tablecloth? That doesn’t bother anyone here. And sitting still at the table is also no problem as the service is far too exciting.
Talking of rails: the Miniatur Wunderland in the Speicherstadt district is not only the world’s largest model railway, but also one of the biggest tourist attractions in Europe. On an area of more than 1300 square metres, you can take a miniature journey across Scandinavia, Germany, Austria and Switzerland – and even far-away America. Quite a different experience awaits you on rails at the nearby Hamburg Dungeon, a chamber of horrors, where actors perform spine-chilling scenes from Hamburg’s history as you are transported around the dungeon – goose bumps guaranteed. Certainly a museum with a twist.
During your family holiday in Hamburg, you should make sure to visit the Tierpark Hagenbeck. Granted, there are zoos all over the world, and tigers will have their stripes in each of them. And yet “Hagenbeck”, as the locals call their zoo, is a very special one: in 1907 it was the first zoo in the world where exotic animals could be admired uncaged. Tierpark Hagenbeck can be considered the mother of all modern zoos – with a carefully landscaped park and outdoor enclosures. Since 2007, Hagenbeck also includes a tropical aquarium, where an adventurous jungle-path leads you to the shark tank, crocodile pool and snake pits. You can be sure that your little ones’ eyes will widen with amazement.
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