Sometimes a short mini-cruise is all you need. It’s a great way to dip your toe into the world of cruising if you’re unsure whether it’s for you, it’s an ideal choice if you’re short on annual leave, and it’s the perfect cruise option if you don’t want to stray too far from home.
One of the most popular mini-cruise destinations when departing from the UK is Hamburg. Famous for launching the career of the Beatles, the German city is located slightly inland from the North Sea coast but is accessible via the wider sections of the Elbe River.
So, if you’re looking to combine a cruise with this city break destination, here are some great free activities to enjoy while you’re there.
Depending on which cruise terminal the ship arrives at, you will find yourself on one side of the harbour or the other. So, the perfect way to cross the river (either to see the city from a different perspective or to reach the city centre if you’ve arrived in the old harbour) is via the Alter Elbetunnel.
Built in 1911 as a way for traffic to pass under the Elbe, this tunnel is no longer in use for vehicles. However, it remains open and accessible to pedestrians, who still use it regularly. Deemed a marvellous feat of engineering at the time and celebrated as Europe’s first river tunnel, it is now part of Hamburg’s history. Take the elevator down 24 metres and walk this historic route.
Nose Around The Neighbourhoods
Some cities are endlessly interesting to explore, even if you don’t physically ‘do’ anything whilst you’re there. With a range of fascinating neighbourhoods, all of which offer something different to see, Hamburg definitely falls into this category.
The best place to start is the newest district to pop up – HafenCity. Having injected a new lease of life in the harbour area, this neighbourhood now features a glut of modern buildings with interesting designs. You can even join a free guided tour if you visit the Kesselhaus InfoCenter. Afterwards, take yourself to one of the older parts of town, as you admire the street art, open-air exhibits and free-spirit activities of Gängeviertel – an area recently saved from the brink of demolition. Finally, extend your walk to the Schanzenviertel for shopping in quirky boutiques and characterful flea markets.
Elbphilharmonie Observation Platform
Situated in the aforementioned HafenCity area of Hamburg, Elbphilharmonie is one of the many modern buildings that has brought a new energy to the harbour. The venue hosts orchestra and opera performances, but you can also enjoy its spectacular design for free.
Instead of heading in to watch a show, climb to a height of 37 metres above the ground and look out at the city from the observation deck. This is freely accessible to any member of the public – just make sure you get a plaza ticket from the concourse on the day. Numbers are restricted, so it’s a good idea to get there early and see what’s available.