There are few better ways to get to know the city than by taking a trip on its waters. Alster Touristik operates a variety of picturesque boat trips around the Alster lakes and through the canals. Alster and canal tours leave from a small dock at the Jungfernstieg. The round-trip Alster cruise lasts one hour, costs €14.50, and leaves every half hour, daily 10–6 from the end of March to the end of September. From the end of September until the end of October, it leaves at 10 and 5, and every half hour from 11 to 4. The Winter Warmer Trip offers trips with hot chocolate and glühwein (for an additional charge) several times a day from the end of October through to the end of March. Alster Touristik also offers twilight tours through the canals from Jungfernstieg to the bucolic Harvestehude neighborhood May through August and the waters around the historic warehouse district in September. Both tours start at 8 and run May through October, and cost €20. A one-hour Speicherstadt canal tour costs €20 and runs April through October daily at 10:45, 1:45, and 4:45, and November through December at 1:45 Friday through Sunday. All tours offer commentary in English.
Rainer Abicht offers one-hour tours of the harbor in English aboard one of its small fleet of boats, which include its famous Louisiana Star riverboat. The tours leave every day at midday from April until October from Landungsbrücken Pier 4. They cost €18.
Every day of the year, Kapitän Prüsse offers cruises around the Elbe harbor that last 60–90 minutes. These include a night cruise that costs €20 and leaves between 6 and 9 at night (depending on the time of the year) from Pier 3.
The Maritime Circle Line tours major attractions on the Elbe; passengers embark at St Pauli Landungsbrücken Pier 10 and can hop on and hop off at a number of stops including BallinStadt, Hamburg Harbor Museum, HafenCity, and the historic ship MV Cap San Diego. The tours run every two hours daily from 10 to 4, April through October, and every two hours from noon to 4 on weekends, November to March. Tickets, which can be bought at the pier or online, are €14.50 and include discounts at all the venues.
An HVV public transport day pass is valid for trips on the number 62 HADAG ferry between Landungsbrücken Pier 1 and Finkenwerder, a suburb on the south side of the Elbe river. There’s no commentary on the ferry, but on a fine day the top deck’s a great spot to watch ships sailing in and out of the harbor, and for superb views of the city from the river.
Alster Touristik (040/357–4240. www.alstertouristik.de.)
HADAG (040/311–7070. www.hadag.de.)
Kapitän Prüsse (040/357–4240. www.kapitaen-pruesse.de.)
Maritime Circle Line (Landungsbrücken 10, St. Pauli, Hamburg, 20359. 040/2849–3963. www.maritime-circle-line.de.)
Rainer Abicht (040/317–8220. www.abicht.de.)
Sightseeing bus tours of the city, all with guides, who rapidly narrate in both English and German, leave from Kirchenallee by the main train station. A 90-minute bus tour sets off at varying times daily and costs €17.50. For €30, one of the bus tours can be combined with a one-hour boat trip on the harbor. Departure times for tours vary according to season.
Hamburger Stadtrundfahrt (040/792–8979. www.die-roten-doppeldecker.de.)
A great way to learn more about the city while also getting some exercise is on a walking tour. There are plenty of tours to choose from, although many only run from April through November. In addition to guided walks of the Altstadt and Neustadt, the harbor district, HafenCity, and St. Pauli, there are also themed excursions, such as Beatles tours and a red-light walking tour of the Reeperbahn. To find a guided walk in English, contact Hamburg Tourismus, the tourist office.