Hamburg is a pearl in Northern Germany. This city is amazing and there is so much to do and to see. There are also so many things to do around the city. If you are looking for some great places for a day trip from Hamburg, I have you covered! Small old towns, beautiful hiking routes, cycling paths, incredible coast sides and beautiful Northern cities with rich and fascinating history — all this is available just an hour or so away from Hamburg’s city center.
When I just moved to Hamburg I have been spending my weekends in the city only, just because it has so much to offer. Then, step by step I started to discover the farer corners of Hamburg, and finally I got to day trips to the surroundings. Some of the places I am writing about in this post are still within Hamburg, some — around it, but very close, and the other ones are quite far, but still reachable quite easily.
Cute old towns
Couple of years ago I used to think that the most beautiful towns are located in the Southern part of Germany. I believed that all this fairytale-like villages, like the famous Rothenburg ob der Tauber, or less famous Rottenburg am Neckar, exist only in the South. After I have moved to Hamburg and started to explore the surroundings, I realised how wrong I was. Northern Germany too has a lot of magnificent towns. These places are so close to Hamburg that visiting them while staying in the city is really easy and rewarding.
Lüneburg is a gem of Northern Germany! It is an old, very well preserved town with a beautiful city center. If you want to see how a hanseatic, wealthy city looked like 200-300 years ago, Lüneburg is there for you. It has everything a tourist is looking for: narrow streets, traditional red-brick houses, restaurants with traditional German cuisine and much more. Lüneburg is just perfect for taking beautiful pictures, sitting in one of the cafes along the channel, visiting the old river port, town festivals or a Christmas market in December.
Travel time: 35 minutes from the main train station by a regional train.
Stade is another beautiful town that is located really close to Hamburg. It also has a port and a long history of trading, just like its bigger neighbour. No wonder that for a very long time Stade and Hamburg were competing for the right to be the main port of the area. In a recent documentary I watched, they told the story of how Hamburg has managed to win this privilege. It turns out that that the representatives of the city presented a map showing that the location of Hamburg on the river was strategically much better that the location of Stade, so they won. The only problem is: this map was a fake!
Since then Hamburg has grown to be the second largest city in Germany and Stade stayed a smaller town next to it. It seems though that we are lucky that Stade stayed that way — it is so beautiful, quiet and picturesque. Who knows what would be if Hamburgers were honest back then? Stade today is great for long city walks, admiring the old port, the Northern architecture and windmills. It is also perfect for a Sunday brunch with family or friends, since it has a variety of pretty little cafes.
Travel time: 50 minutes to 1 hour from the main train station by a regional train or an S-Bahn.
Ratzeburg is famous for its beautiful cathedral located in the middle of the lake. Well, almost. The whole old town of Ratzeburg is located on an island in the middle of the lake. It’s worth visiting for some sightseeing there, and also in summer if you want to spend a day on the beach and swim. Ratzeburg is surrounded by four lakes with clean, fresh and inviting water.
And even though you can easily get there by train, I recommend taking a car to Ratzeburg and visiting another small and cute town on the way — Mölln.
Travel time: 1 hour 20 minutes from the main train station by a regional train and a bus.
Surrounded by several lakes as well, Mölln is a perfect spot for a great day on the water: swimming, renting a boat or just chilling. And it gets even better: Mölln has a beautiful, very-well preserved old town with traditional houses, cute decoration around them and remarkable doors. If you are a door and window lover like myself, Mölln is a perfect place for a photo safari.
It also has an awesome park and a water tower on the top on the hill. Make sure to pack some delicious foods for a picnic, because Mölln has so many beautiful spots for a lovely day.
Travel time: 1 hour 15 minutes from the main train station by a regional train and a bus.
Historical cities around Hamburg
You have probably heard of the famous Town Musicians of Bremen, haven’t you? Well, the city of Bremen claims they have really existed! There are a lot of figures of the musical quartet around the city and people love and respect these characters a lot. Not only is Bremen the city from your childhood’s fairy tale, it is a modern day fairy tale too. It’s old town, tales and traditions make it a perfect destination for a one day trip, or even a weekend stay.
Explore the city center, walk along the river Weser, listen to the the “glockenspiel” on one of the old narrow streets. Do you want more narrow streets? Explore Schnoor, the oldest and cutest quarter in Bremen. And if you get hungry, make sure to check out the caramel store and workshop that is located right in the heart of the old town.
Bremen is beautiful during any season, but to be honest I love it in December the most. In all my years in Germany, the most beautiful Christmas markets I have been to is in Bremen.
Travel time: 1 hour 9 minutes from the main train station by a regional train.
Lübeck is fantastic! It is a beautiful, old hanseatic city, located very close to Hamburg. It is the place where the term “hanseatic” comes from. It is also the origin place of marzipan, or they claim so, because I think that Tallinn might disagree on that one.
What's to see in Lübeck? There is a lot to explore, but if you make sure to arrive early, one day might be enough. Make sure to explore the old town, the churches and, of course the Holstentor that is the Landmark of the city. It’s impossible to miss when you are coming from the main train station.
The best way to get to Lübeck from Hamburg is by train, in my opinion. Lübeck train station is also where you need to switch for the trains to the Baltic Sea coast.
Travel time: 44 minutes from the main train station by a regional train.
Schwerin is famous for its beautiful castle that is located on an island in the middle of the lake. It will probably also remind you of a romantic fairytale. And it is great to visit at any time of the year: when it’s warm you can really enjoy the nature and the beautiful architecture, and in winter you can enjoy incredible christmas markets. Since Schwerin is the capital of the region Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the main festivals and seasonal activities of the area happen there.
Travel time: 1 hour 25 minutes from the main train station by a regional train.
Into the nature
When I moved to Hamburg, I was horrified: no mountains, no forests — this city is flat. Even though there are beautiful and big parks in the city, I was really missing forests. To my surprise, I found some real forest just 40 minutes away from Hamburg. In addition, a beautiful lake and camping places around it have positively surprised me. Schaalsee is for those who love nature, water sports and long walks in a forest.
I have discovered for myself a camping place there where it is also possible to rent canoes, boards for stand-up paddling and boats. Even though I was there just for a day trip, I consider trying out camping exactly at this place. In case it’s nothing for me, there is a youth hostel nearby!
Traveling there: best by car. It takes 40 minutes to 1 hour depending on traffic.
9. Lüneburger Heide
"Lüneburger Heide" (heath) is a real gem of Northern Germany and one of the most beautiful natural heritage parks of the region. It is famous for it’s unique landscape and extremely unusual blossoms. The time to see the beautiful blossoms is from the beginning of August till beginning of September. But the "Heide" is amazing at any other time of the year!
I would recommend doing a cycling trip to the "Lüneburger Heide" and seeing as much of it as possible. Walking in the "Heide" is great too, just make sure to wear some comfortable and closed shoes. The area is also a popular wellness destination, so in case you want to stay overnight or just drop by for a delicious meal, there are plenty of restaurant and nice hotels there.
Traveling there: by regional train or by car. It takes approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on where you want to hop off. Just search for "Lüneburger Heide" on the map and pick a destination to arrive there.
10. Fischbeker Heide
"Fischbeker Heide" is a beautiful natural area very close to Hamburg. You’ll find forest there, typical "Heide" (heath) landscape with no trees and bushes. Also, there is something really special there — an archeological site and a route where you can learn a lot of interesting facts about people who lived on these territories thousands years ago. There are burial places, sites of the former houses and a lot of explanation about the residents.
"Fischbeker Heide" is great for long walks, bike tours and picnics on the nature. Make sure to visit the information center (just follow the signs) to get some information about current events and learn more about nature in the region.
Traveling there: by the direct bus 250 from Hamburg Altona, or by S3 till Neugraben and then with the bus 250. It takes approximately an hour to get there.
11. Altes Land
Full of farms, fruit gardens and cozy countryside restaurants along the river Elbe — a perfect location for a bike trip with a tasty stop over. Altes Land is an area on the other side of Hamburg. It’s great to visit in the warm time of the year: in spring the fruit trees are exploding with blossoms, summer brings the warm sun and the fruits and in autumn it sinks with bright colors.
As an idea for a day trip: you can go pick up your own cherries (link in German) in one of the farms. The owners are friendly and very helpful, and the main advantage is — while picking the fruits you can eat them as much as you want.
Traveling there: The best way to travel in Altes Land is by bike. You can take a ferry from the Landungsbrücken will Finkenwerder and continue from there. Or you can take an S-Bahn S3 will Buxtehude and cycle into the nature. You can also take a ferry from from Blankenese to Cranz (Link in German).
Important: unlike other the other ferries in Hamburg, this route requires additional fee for taking a bicycle and is not included in the Hamburg city ticket on the weekend.
Wedel has a nice platform to watch ships leaving the port of Hamburg. A cafe with a view to river Elbe and a big green field just in front of it make it a perfect spot for a sunny day on the river side. Bring your own picnic food and drinks and enjoy the river and passing by ships. If you get bored from sitting around, play a round of mini golf behind the cafe.
Traveling there: 40 minutes by the S-Bahn S1 from the main train station.
Living in Hamburg is great, also because you are very closely located to two seas: North Sea and Baltic Sea. Maybe the weather is not great here at all, but when it is, you can easily hop on the train and be on a beach at a sea in one and a half hours or so.
13. Baltic Sea
Beautiful and usually calm Baltic Sea is a great spot to swim in salty water and stretch in the sun. Even better: the two most favourite beaches are located really close to Hamburg and easily reachable by regular trains. The bad news are that to access most of the beaches you have to pay. It’s important to say though that the beaches are clean and taken care of.
If you don’t want to pay accessing the water, you can either walk a bit longer along the coast line or cycle to the wild beaches. I personally would go for cycling, because you can go far with a bike and discover some really beautiful bays and natural areas. Attention: you need to have a separate ticket for your bicycle in the train.
Traveling there: by a regional train from the main train station. It takes around 1 hour 20 minutes to get to Travemünde-Strand or to Timmendorferstrand.
14. North Sea
North Sea is loved by Northern people of Hamburg. The strong winds and rough nature of the region is not for everyone, but I do recommend you to go there and make your own impression. The North Sea is really wild and very different from the Baltic Sea. Because of the tides that happen twice per day, you can go deep into the mud, where the water used to be just some hours ago. If you want to walk far into the mud, make sure to have proper shoes and an experienced guide. The North Sea is wild and dangerous when its waters come back to the coast.
Where to go? You can go to the area around Cuxhaven, Husum or one of the beautiful islands: Sylt, Amrum or Föhr. It is easy to do a day trip by car or by train, but I would recommend to stay overnight and watch the sunset on a beach. It is an amazing and very romantic sight.
Traveling there: by a regional train from the main train station or by a car. It takes from 2 to 3 hours 30 minutes depending on where you want to go.
These day trips are great, if you are staying in Hamburg longer, you leave here or it's not your first visit. Also, if it's your very first time in Hamburg, you might consider them. But first check out my ultimate guide to the first visit of Hamburg.
My other Hamburg-related blog-posts that you might like:
What to do in Hamburg in bad weather
The best sights to see in Hamburg
Credits: I would like to thank photographer Igor Trepeshchenok for allowing me to use some of his beautiful pictures in this post.
If you want to know more about Igor's work and projects, check them out, it's so inspiring:
About the author
Hi, I am Maria, blogger and founder of Globalmary.com.
I was born and grew up in Russia, studied in Sweden and now live in Hamburg, my most favorite city in Germany. I travel a lot and write about places I've been to. I share my best travel tips and experience about what it means to live a global life!
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