Why go to Hamburg?
Hamburg is sophisticated and walkable, featuring a riverside promenade and scenic paths
Some intersections give non-pedestrian traffic the right of way; be careful
This charming, historical city has plenty of museums and stellar architecture
Hamburg Cruise Port Facilities?
Hamburg has three principal cruise ship terminals. The upriver berth is at HafenCity, a rapidly developing residential, corporate, cultural and entertainment district cleared of former industrial buildings and commercial docks. It is located to the south of the city center, behind the rebuilt Victorian brick warehouse buildings destroyed during World War II, which now house museums, restaurants and offices.
From here, you're about a 20-minute walk from restaurants, shopping and bars. You can also head downtown via city bus or the underground. From HafenCity, you'll be about 15 minutes by foot from attractions such as the Hamburg International Maritime Museum and the Miniatur Wunderland model railway.
The Hamburg Cruise Center's Altona terminal opened in 2011. It's located a half-mile downriver from the Landungsbrucken (a long, floating pontoon landing), where the historic ships are berthed and where cruise ships used to dock. From the Elbe River berth at Altona, there are plenty of cafes and shops within easy walking distance along the Elbmeile. Though the city ranges upward, just behind, it's easiest to take a taxi or the city bus that passes along Grosse Elbstrasse, parallel to the River Elbe, to the downtown area. The nearest S-Bahn station is Reeperbahn, a 15-minute walk through a lively entertainment and arts district.
Steinwerder, which opened in June 2015, has two berths and can handle up to 8,000 passengers a day. It's positioned between the other two cruise terminals, south of the city. It can accommodate large cruise ships. Steinwerder has little nearby; you'll probably need to get in a vehicle to leave the port area. Buses make regular loops here, as do taxis.
Good to Know?
Hamburg is a big city with a diverse population, so it is wise, as in similar urban circumstances, to watch your possessions. This is especially true when in crowded locations, such as major shopping streets, indoor gallery passages, ATM queues, the bus, transportation stations, and the subway and elevated lines. Just ignore touts, and simply walk away.
Be aware when pedestrians have the right of way at designated crosswalks and when cars and buses have priority. Hamburg has numerous bike lanes, which aren't always clearly marked. (Look for a color difference on sidewalks; bike lanes might be red or feature bricks of a different color than walking lanes.) Bikes don't always slow for pedestrians, so keep alert, especially at intersections. Jaywalking is dangerous, as is crossing against lights.
Public transit: The Hamburg Card is a good bet, even for a one-day visit, as it includes unlimited use of the city's transit system (HVV) of subways, elevated lines, buses and ferries. It also offers discounts from 10 percent to 50 percent on many of the city attractions, 10 percent for select shops and 20 percent for select restaurants. A list of attractions and discounts comes with the card, which can be purchased at the pier, Hamburg information centers, transit stations, on the buses, at the main railway station, the airport or online ahead of your journey. You can purchase a one-day card for yourself or get a better deal if you have up to five people traveling together. Often, no one asks to see the card as an honor system prevails, but don't try to slip aboard without paying the fare; if you're caught, the fines will set you back big time. It won't work to plead ignorance as an ill-informed tourist.
The transit system is comprehensive, well-run and safe. Some elevated lines afford good views of the city, the Elbe River and Alster. Make sure you get a system map, and check the direction you want to go with the strip charts on the station platform. Most rail and bus stops have illuminated signs that indicate how many minutes until the next train or bus arrives. Some ferry routes operate regular transit services along the Elbe.
Taxis: Taxis are plentiful at the ports and at the main railway station when ships are in town, and most drivers speak English. Taxis can be harder to come by when it rains, as they're in high demand then.
Rideshare: Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are not available in Hamburg.
Hop-on, hop-off: There are several companies offering city tours and hop-on, hop-off buses that offer commentary in English and German. Day passes are available. With the latter, the duration for the entire route is 90 minutes, and buses operate daily every 30 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The main departure point for Top-Tour Hamburg's hop-on, hop-off is Hauptbahnhof (main railway station).
By bike: And, finally, if you want to work off your cruise ship "diet," check out the city's bike scheme (www.stadtrad.hamburg.de); stations are located all over town, and bikes for hire are reasonably priced. A heads-up, though: Your best bet is to register before you get there and take a look at locales for pick-up and drop-off before you arrive. If you'd rather have a guided cycling tour, companies like Hamburg City Cycles offer excellent tour options of varying lengths. Look for the English option when booking.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
Germany, as part of the European Union, uses the euro. Bank-owned ATMs are located in the main shopping streets. You will need euros for small purchases like snacks and drinks, postcards, inexpensive souvenirs, W.C. (public bathroom) visits and entry fees; credit cards might not be accepted.
German is the city's most widely spoken language, and English is often understood well enough to have questions answered on the streets, in shops and in restaurants. A few useful words are danke (thank you); bitte (please); and morgan (good morning -- Germans generally drop the "guten" in front).