Known for its long, gray winters, Hamburg is frequently treated to a pleasant spring come late March or early April. Once the weather warms, the city’s mood visibly improves. One of the highlights of the season is Hafengeburtstag, in early May, when the Elbe comes alive with a long parade of ships and riverside festivities.
Summer may be the best time of the year to visit. Temperatures rarely exceed the mid-80s, and the days are long, with the sun rising at around 5 am and light still in the sky till after 10 pm. Tables outside cafés and bars fill up with alfresco diners and drinkers; plumes of smoke rise from grills in parks and beaches along the Elbe. From mid-June to August, the Schlemmersommer (Gourmet Summer) comes to tempt food lovers. During this time, more than 100 restaurants throughout the city, including a number of award-winners, offer four-course dinners for two for €59.
September and October are usually good months to visit, despite the fact that October can often be quite cold and wet. September's Reeperbahn Festival is great for music fans hoping to see the next big thing, and Hamburg’s small but popular film festival (held the same month) usually attracts one or two of the leading lights of European and world cinema.
The mercury drops quickly once the clocks go back an hour at the end of October. Happily, Christmas markets selling Glühwein begin to spring up on street corners and in public squares around the last week of November, and many continue on to Silvester (New Year’s Eve). December, despite temperatures frequently dropping below zero, is a fun time to visit the city. January and February, however, are quiet and fairly uneventful.
Historischer Weihnachtsmarkt. Hamburg's Historischer Weihnachtsmarkt enjoys a spectacular backdrop—the city's Gothic town hall. The market's stalls are filled with rows of candy apples, chocolates, and doughnuts. Woodcarvers from Tyrol, bakers from Aachen, and gingerbread makers from Nuremburg come to sell their wares. And in an appearance arranged by the circus company Roncalli, Santa Claus ho-ho-hos his way along a tightwire high above the market every evening at 4, 6, and 8. Rathausmarkt 1, Hamburg. www.hamburger-weihnachtsmarkt.com. Nov. 25–Dec. 23, Sun.–Thurs. 10–9, Fri. and Sat. 10–10.