Built around the Elbe River, Hamburg is a sprawling city with canals, cafes, and massive warehouses. It also has one of the most famous red-light districts in the world. While these are great reasons to visit the city, you still need to decide where to stay in Hamburg.
Hamburg often gets overlooked by tourists in favour of Berlin, but the second biggest city remains one of the best destinations in Germany.
Due to the importance of the area as a transportation hub during the industrial revolution, it’s home to some of the country’s most significant landmarks. The city has also remained modern, offering upscale shopping and dining near the harbour.
While it’s easy to get around the city, finding the best place to stay can make it easier to cross destinations off your itinerary.
Not sure how to find the right place? Start searching for accommodations with this guide to the best areas to stay in Hamburg.
Where to stay in Hamburg, Germany: A complete guide to the best neighbourhoods & areas for travellers
Hamburg is a large city divided into numerous districts and quarters, each with its own personality and flair. The waterfront area is going through redevelopment, while the city centre still holds a sense of historic grandeur.
If you stay near the older parts of the city centre, you’ll surround yourself with cultural sites and loads of tourists. The cramped historic area includes extravagant churches and museums, along with well-preserved buildings of the 18th century.
Near the outskirts, you’ll find more residential neighbourhoods with shops and restaurants catering to the upper-class citizens of the city. There are also a few bohemian areas with trendy clubs and lounges for the younger crowd.
A few of the best places to stay in Hamburg for travellers include:
- St. Pauli
✔ Best area to stay for cultural landmarks and sightseeing
Any Hamburg itinerary will take you through Altstadt, German to explore Old Town. It’s the city centre and where you’ll come across the most important landmarks.
The area includes five of the main historic churches in the city, along with several museums and large public squares. Among the most important squares is Rathausmarkt, surrounded by shopping arcades and often home to festivals and events throughout the year.
Hamburg Town Hall is another local attraction. The giant sandstone structure dwarfs nearby buildings, thanks to the multi-storey spire. The towering spire acts as a beacon, helping you navigate the old city centre.
First-time travellers tend to stay in Altstadt due to the convenient location. You can easily walk to most of the famous sites.
If you want to stay near the top attractions in Hamburg, Altstadt is your best option. The Old Town district is also the starting point for many of the main streets that take you to the neighbouring districts.
Where to Stay: The best hotels in Altstadt
The touristy Altstadt area has the largest selection of hotels, but they’re also among the highest priced. You pay a premium to stay near the cultural centre of Hamburg. While it’s a great destination for families and first-time visitors, make sure that you book early.
Here are a few of the best hotels & places to stay in Altstadt:
- Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten: Located on the southern part of Alster Lake, this hotel is just metres from the largest shopping districts in the city and several blocks from the historic city centre. The convenient location also makes this one of the priciest five-star accommodations in Hamburg.
- Lindner Hotel Am Michel: During a stay at this four-star hotel with its own gym and spa, you can relax after a long day of sightseeing. It’s in the city centre, perfectly situated just 10 minutes from the harbour and the Reeperbahn.
- Sofitel Hamburg Alter Wall: The elegant, non-smoking rooms and massive windows that overlook the canals of the warehouse district make this classy hotel a top choice for business travellers. It’s also a highly-rated option for those interested in exploring Old Town.
- Steigenberger Hotel Hamburg: A five-minute walk from Lake Alster, this five-star hotel offers great views of the canals and city centre. It’s also a short stroll from St. Michael’s Church and the harbour area. Within minutes, you can be visiting historic sites and dining at harbourside restaurants.
✔ Best area to stay for shopping and history
While Altona is close to the city centre, it has its own atmosphere. In fact, the area was once its own city.
Altona has some of the best clubs and bars outside of St. Pauli. Like Altstadt, it also has many historic sites and older buildings, including residential Prussian buildings dating back to the early 20th century.
Besides culturally significant landmarks, Altona offers a lot of shopping. Take a stroll along the Elbe river, and you’ll pass dozens of shops, ranging from boutique operations to designer stores.
If you head further into the district and away from the shopping areas, you’ll come across smaller cobblestone streets lined with post-war brick buildings. Some of these narrow side streets contain hidden treasures, such as local bars, boutique shops, and little bakeries.
After spending time in crowded tourist areas, you’ll also appreciate the green spaces of Altona. The district contains many public parks and the streets are often full of plant life, adding a splash of colour against the backdrop of red brick houses.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Altona
Altona is a more low-key compared to Altstadt or St. Pauli. As it’s outside of the Old Town, prices are also a little more reasonable. Many of the hotels are within walking distance of Hamburg Altona Station, providing convenient transport throughout the city.
Here are a few of the best hotels & places to stay in Altona:
- InterCity Hamburg Altona: Located across from the train station, the hotel provides guests with free passes. Like other hotels in this district, it’s not within close walking distance of the attractions. It’s a quieter place to stay, but still just a few bus stops from the Reeperbahn and the Port of Hamburg.
- Hotel Stephan: The secluded hotel is on a quiet little side street that you’d easily overlook if you didn’t know it was there. The rooms are not very big, and it’s in the middle of a residential area, but you can easily walk to the train station.
- Hotel Rainvilles Elbterrassen: This hotel is a few kilometres from the city centre but offers sweeping views of the harbour and the River Elbe. Retreat to your hotel and get away from the crowds while enjoying drinks at the riverside terrace bar.
- Egon Hotel Hamburg City: This hotel is a convenient choice for exploring more of the city. It’s a three-star hotel with smaller rooms and reasonable prices. While it’s not on the same block as any of the historic sites, it’s only a few minutes walk to the centre of Altona and St. Pauli.
✔ Best area to stay for nightlife and music
The modern St. Pauli district is one of the best places to visit in Hamburg, despite its reputation as one of the most notorious red-light districts in Europe. In the past, the streets were quite raunchy and not very family-friendly. Like Times Square in New York, the area currently has a cleaned-up image, but still retains some of its old grit.
This district is also where the Beatles got their start, performing at packed little clubs as an unknown band from Liverpool, England. The musical tradition remains alive and well in St. Pauli. There is no shortage of trendy clubs with live music.
St. Pauli borders Schanzenviertel. The neighbouring district is also known for its seedy nightlife and is home to anarchists, punks, and poor students. The area is experiencing its own gentrification, attracting hipsters and bohemians and providing an interesting place to visit during your stay in St. Pauli.
If you want to see the hipper side of Hamburg, St. Pauli is the place to be, before it becomes overrun with modern development and high-class establishments.
Where to stay: The best hotels in St. Pauli
The St. Pauli area offers some of the most affordable lodgings. In fact, there are numerous hostels in the area. Luckily, there’s also a decent selection of mid-range hotels that are situated near the action.
Here are a few of the best hotels & places to stay in St. Pauli:
- Hotel Lucky Inn: If you want to stay right on the Reeperbahn, this hotel is one of the classier options on a street full of night clubs and bars. The rooms are small but colourfully decorated.
- Hotel Hafen Hamburg: This hotel is a short three-minute walk from the Elbe River and the Reeperbahn, but its main highlight is the Tower Bar. Enjoy drinks and food as you gaze out over the city and harbour.
- Cityhotel Monopol: A three-star hotel, this isn’t the finest establishment, but it’s close to the nightlife and has its own sports bar. Within a few dozen metres of the hotel, you’ll come across Schmidt’s Tivoli Theater, the Spielbudenplatz, and other notable St. Pauli attractions.
- ARCOTEL Onyx Hamburg: The centrally-located four-star hotel is near the subway station and around the corner from the Panoptikum Wax Museum. It’s also on the western end of St. Pauli, making it easier to reach the Old City centre.
✔ Best area to stay for shopping sprees and fine dining
HafenCity is an area that’s currently going through a transformation. It’s a quarter within the Hamburg-Mitte district and covers portions of the former Port of Hamburg. It’s also home to the Speicherstadt.
The city of warehouses is the largest warehouse district in the world, containing dozens of multi-storey buildings. Canals run through the area, separating the buildings, which are connected via various footbridges.
Visiting the warehouse district is one of the top things to do & see in Hamburg. You may also want to visit before the area is completely changed.
The Speicherstadt is currently in the process of major renovations, converting some of the old warehouses into upscale hotels and residential buildings.
The modernization of the port area is highlighted by the new Elbphilharmonie. The abstract architecture of the newly built concert hall stands in contrast to the 100-year old warehouse buildings.
Thanks to the revitalization of the harbour district, this is also where you’ll find the best restaurants and shops. HafenCity is quickly becoming the modern cultural hub of Hamburg and is a short stroll from Altstadt and the shopping areas that surround the lakes and waterways.
Where to stay: The best hotels in HafenCity
- AMERON Hamburg Hotel Speicherstadt: Located in the heart of Speicherstadt, you can stay in a hotel overlooking the massive brick buildings of the warehouse district. The hotel restaurant serves Italian, but the surrounding area is home to some of the newest and trendiest restaurants.
- Hotel The Westin Hamburg: With a terrace view of the river and the Elbphilharmonie, this four-star hotel has become one of the hottest destinations in Hamburg. The Elphi is just a few steps away from this hotel, which is located at the end of the harbour district.
- Holiday Inn Hamburg: You can find this hotel chain in almost every country, but don’t rule it out. You get decent prices and convenient access to the streets of HafenCity. While it’s a little to the east of the main tourist areas, the hotel is comfortable, affordable, and more likely to have vacancies.