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Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city, is the country’s only city-state and one of the richest cities in the European Union, rivalling London and Brussels in terms of wealth. It is home to Europe’s second-busiest port and Germany’s oldest airport, and is the country’s media hub. Hamburg is also a major tourist destination, not only for overseas visitors but for Germans, too. Each of Hamburg’s neighbourhoods can be explored on foot or by bicycle, with public transport often used to get from one neighbourhood to the next. There is much to see outside of the city and a car rental in Hamburg is the best way to visit the beaches along the Baltic and North Sea coasts, the Kiel Canal and the medieval cities of Bremen and Lüneburg.
Who to Book With
Plenty of well-known car rental supplies have depots scattered throughout Hamburg as well as at the airport, with most locations in the city close to the railway stations. Avis, Hertz, Europcar and Sixt are some of the leading suppliers that have a presence here.
Best Time to Go
Hamburg’s location close to the sea gives it a maritime climate, which means the city rarely sees any snow. Still, the winter months of December, January and February are the coldest months and the least popular times to visit. The summer months of July and August are the most popular times of the year in Hamburg and when rates are at their peak. Rates also rise during popular festivals and parades, as well as when Hamburger Sport-Verein plays at the Imtech-Arena.
Need to Know Essentials
Drivers must present the following documents at vehicle collection:
- A valid UK driver’s licence (both parts)
- A second piece of identification
- A valid credit card
- Confirmation of booking, printed if possible
There is no need to drive in Hamburg thanks to the city’s great public transportation network, though driving is certainly possible. There is plenty of reasonably priced paid parking available right in the city centre. There is also free parking outside of the city centre in a number of park and ride facilities from where you can take public transportation into the city. Hamburg is a major transportation hub and is connected to four autobahns, making it easy to get in and out of the city.
For more detailed information on driving here have a look at our guide to Germany.
Visitors will have no trouble finding ways to get around Hamburg, though walking is the best way to get around each neighbourhood. A portion of Hamburg runs along the E1 European long distance path. The city has 1,100 miles of cycle paths, while visitors can also enjoy a scenic ride along the River Elbe on one of the HADAG Seetouristik und Fährdienst AG ferries. Rapid transport provides for a fast way to zip around, while commuter trains connect Hamburg to its suburbs.
Hamburg has four U-bahn (underground) lines that travel through the city centre and are operated by Hamburger Hochbahn. There is also a railway system, Hamburg S-Bahn, which has four regular lines and two additional rush hour lines. Together, these two rapid transit networks make up the majority of the city’s public transport. Hamburger Verkehrsverbund sells tickets for these lines as well as for the city’s bus and ferry networks, with rates depending on how many zones you travel through. Hamburg Central Station is the city’s main railway station though Hamburg has five stations in total. Six of Hamburg’s S-Bahn lines make a stop here, while Deutsche Bahn AG trains travel from the station to all major cities within the country.
There are more than 100 bus routes that reach destinations which are not accessible by Hamburg’s train network. These routes run 24 hours, with the nachtbus (night bus) connecting most neighbourhoods with the city centre, whereas trains stop running at 01:00. Buses run frequently during common rush hours and every 30 minutes throughout the rest of the day. Bus tickets can be purchased at any rail station or directly from the driver. The central bus station (Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof Hamburg) runs long-distance buses to 27 countries across Europe as well as to many destinations within Germany.
Most of Hamburg’s taxis are ivory white in colour with a yellow-and-black sign on their roof. Taxis can be found at ranks, which are indicated by green boxes, or can be hailed on the street. A ride within the city should cost between £5 and £10, while a drive to the airport will set you back around £20.
Hamburg is a major transportation hub with autobahns heading in all directions, making it easy to take daytrips throughout Northern Germany. The popular beach resort of Sankt Peter-Ording, the picturesque medieval city of Lüneburg and the historical seaside city of Lübeck can all be reached by car in less than 1 hour, while a drive to Kiel or Bremen will take just over 1 hour.
Sankt Peter-Ording – The country’s most popular seaside resort is accessible from Hamburg via Autobahn 23. It is the only seaside resort in the country that has a sulphur spring, while its 7.5 mile stretch of beach is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, sailing and windsurfing. The picturesque beach is surrounded by dunes, salt meadows and forest.
Lüneburg – The 45-minute drive from Hamburg through the Lüneburg Heath is pretty and a great introduction to this lovely town. Lüneburg is an attractive town that sits along the River Ilmenau and dates back to the Bronze Age. Am Sande (square), Saint John's Church, Lüne Mill and the Baroque Town Hall all sit within its pedestrianised old town (Altstadt), which is Lüneburg’s main draw.
Lübeck – The medieval city of Lübeck is one of the region’s gems thanks to its extensive old city which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The old city is located on an island in the River Trave and is dominated by seven Gothic-style church steeples. Two of its original gates are still intact, as are parts of the Koberg area at the north end of the island.
Kiel – One of Germany’s major maritime cities, Kiel sits on the coast of the Baltic Sea, just over 1 hour’s drive north of Hamburg. It is host to one of the largest sailing events in the world as well as being home to a plethora of attractions. Walk along the famous Nord-Ostsee Kanal (Kiel Canal), visit one of its eight museums or shop along one of the country’s longest shopping streets (Holstenstrasse).