The maritime heritage of Hamburg is best explored by boat on a relaxing cruise through the maze of canals, or on the lake in the heart of the city. Many visitors opt for a harbor cruise to take in the major sights, but sunset trips and sailing excursions are fun too.
Here we have curated the top boat tours in Hamburg to help you decide which to include on your itinerary.
What are the most popular boat tours in Hamburg?
There are many different boat tours in Hamburg to enjoy, with everything from harbor jaunts to river and lake cruises.
For something extra special, take to the water at night and see the city in a new light.
The most popular Hamburg boat trips are the 1- and 2-hour harbor cruises. Discover insider secrets about the city’s historic past as you glide past the Speicherstadt, HafenCity, and shipping terminals.
Harbor trips can be combined with Elbphilharmonie tours, and some boats offer cheese and wine tasting too.
Evening illumination tours
See some of the main city sights from a different perspective on this 1-hour evening tour. Admire the twinkling lights of the Speicherstadt and float down the river towards Hamburg Port where cranes and ocean liners are spectacularly lit up.
Sunset sailing trips
Enjoy a small-group sunset sail on Lake Alster in the heart of Hamburg. Feel the breeze on your face and watch the sun sink below the skyline, flooding the city with an orange glow. Celebrate with some Champagne as dusk settles in.
Traditional sailing adventures
Get hands-on as you set sail from the dock in a traditional wooden yacht, surrounded by the Hamburg cityscape. Learn how to hoist the sails and take a turn at the tiller as you explore the Outer Alster. These 1.5-hour tours can be private on request.
Alster river excursions
Navigate the river that winds through the upmarket Hamburg suburbs. This green haven feels a million miles from the city bustle, with luxurious villas, leafy parks, and unspoiled gardens around every turn.
Hop-on hop-off cruises
Just like the scenic bus tours, this hop-on hop-off harbor cruise lets you disembark from the boat wherever you like. This is a flexible way to explore the sights at your own pace.
How much do boat tours in Hamburg cost?
The cost of boat tours in Hamburg varies depending on the type of trip.
- 1-hour harbor cruises cost €12 - €15 per person, or €20 - €25 for 2 hours. The 1.5-hour cheese and wine tasting trip is €34.
- The evening illumination tour is €20 per passenger.
- Tickets cost €29 - €39 for a harbor trip and Elbphilharmonie combo.
- The hop-on hop-off boat tour is €20 per person. Entrance to the Cap San Diego Museum Ship, and the Maritime and Emigration Museums can be included for an additional fee.
- 1-hour small group sunset sailing cruises with a maximum of 11 passengers on board costs €32 per guest and includes a sundowner.
- The 1.5-hour traditional sailing trips in Outer Alster are €30 per person, or €168 for a private charter with up to 4 guests.
- For a 2-hour cruise on the Alster River it costs €21 each.
Which places are seen on a boat tour in Hamburg?
The historic warehouse district of Speicherstadt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a favorite stop on most Hamburg boat tours. This is the largest complex of warehouses in the world and dates back to the 19th-century.
The traditional neo-Gothic brick buildings with their splendid towers and gables line the streets and canals in this cultural center. They make for great photos and intriguing tales of times gone by.
This contemporary inner-city development beside the Elbe River is famed for being the most ambitious in all of Europe. The striking architecture is unusual in appearance, with a futuristic air that contrasts delightfully with the historic Speicherstadt district.
The most prominent landmark is the colossal Elbphilharmonie, which defines the city skyline from miles away. Other marvels include the Spiegel Publishing House and Unilever House with its modernist façade.
Admire the architectural prowess of the philharmonic hall with its gleaming glass exterior and undulating rooftop that makes it look like a furled sail. A guided tour of this world-renowned concert and arts venue can be included with a harbor cruise, combining two beloved city highlights.
Head up to the Plaza to enjoy 360˚ views over the harbor and historic city center, or marvel at the grand concert hall which boasts some of the best acoustics in Europe.
Hamburg Fish Market
Located on the banks of the River Elbe in the center of the city, this famous Fischmarkt is a must-see on your boat tour in Hamburg. The impressive red brick building is 100 years old, although the market itself began back in 1703.
If you are on a hop-on hop-off boat tour, you can visit the market for souvenir shopping and to soak up the buzzing vibe of this Sunday morning institution.
How long does a boat trip last?
Hamburg boat tours around the harbor last between 1 – 2 hours, which is plenty of time to take in the main sights including Speicherstadt and HafenCity.
Sunset cruises last an hour, while hands-on sailing trips in traditional wooden boats at Outer Alster give you 1.5 hours on the water.
A relaxing boat excursion along the Alster River is usually around 2 hours long.
Where do boat tours leave from?
Hotel pick-ups are not included on boat tours in Hamburg, so you will need to make your own way to the embarkation point.
Most harbor cruises depart from St. Pauli Piers which is between the Cap San Diego and U-Boot Museums. Some tours leave from Bridge 1, 2, or 6, so be sure to check your departure information. For the hop-on, hop-off tour, you will need Bridge 1, which is just past the Die Fischbrötchenbude restaurant.
Sunset cruises and sailing trips depart from the second dock at An der Alster, directly on the lake opposite the Atlantic Hotel.
Meanwhile, the Alster River cruise leaves from Pier 2 at Alster-Touristik GmbH, near the Jungfernstieg subway station.
When is the best time for a boat trip in Hamburg?
Boat trips in Hamburg are available throughout the day, with several departures during both morning and afternoon. To avoid peak times, try and book an early morning or late afternoon slot if you can.
The sunset sailing tours start at 6 PM during Spring and Fall, and 7 or 8 PM over the summer to ensure you catch the sun at the right moment.
Hamburg can be visited at any time of year, but to make the most of the warm weather out on the water, the months between May and September are a good bet.
Which other outdoor activities can be done in Hamburg?
- Bike tours: hop on your mountain bike or e-bike and pedal through the historic streets of Hamburg on a guided tour, taking in the highlights and enjoying insights from a local expert.
- Tandem skydiving: leap from a plane with your professional instructor and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the city after your parachute unfurls, transporting you gently back down to earth.
- Bungee jumping: get your adrenaline working overtime with a thrilling bungee jump from a 50-meter-high crane at the harbor museum on the Veddel.
- Scenic flight: take to the skies in a private plane for a personalized sightseeing flight above the bustling port and ancient city center.
- A lot of the live tour commentary on board the boats is in German. Audio guides in different languages are available on many cruises.
- Take some photo ID to display along with your online ticket at the point of redemption.
- Most tours ask you to arrive around 15-20 minutes before departure.
- Pack a windproof jacket as it can get breezy out on the water, especially if you are in a sailing boat.