The port town of Hamburg is a city where modern meets historic. You may be tempted to stay within city limits and spend your days enjoying daily walks along the canals, seeing all the sites, or cozying up in the riverside cafes – but Hamburg is just the gateway into some of the country’s most charming medieval towns, fairytale-like castles, and idyllic countryside. There are even some breathtaking coastlines within driving distance of the city!
Keep scrolling to see our guide to the top 20 day trips from Hamburg.
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One of the closest (and therefore most popular) day trips from Hamburg is the ancient city of Lüneburg. It’s extremely easy to get here on public transportation if you are traveling without a vehicle.
The town miraculously survived the second world war without a whole lot of damage, and much of the medieval architecture has been impeccably preserved. You’ll feel like you stepped back in time as you marvel at the half-timbered houses and gabled facades that line the streets.
Back in the day, this wealthy little town traded in white gold, these days known as salt. Today that fact is visible in the beautiful houses that lean slightly, due to the hollow salt mine they were built on.
Be sure to check out the Lüneburg Town Hall with its impressive wood-carved paneling, and the ancient Church of Saint St. Michaelis.
Once you’ve had enough sightseeing, you can soak in the saltwater thermal baths or pop into one of the many pubs that dot the town. Krone is the town’s oldest pub, dating all the way back to 1485!
The nearby city of Lübeck is another popular day trip from Hamburg and is just as easily reachable by public transportation. The moment you step out of the train station you’ll come face to face with the brick Gothic architecture that has made Lübeck a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first building you’ll see is the Holstenor, the ancient city gate-turned-museum. From there on you’ll be treated to sights of more impressive architecture, which is a result of the Hanseatic League Trading Federation that made this city their capital.
The Old Town is where you’ll see the most noteworthy buildings, including the 14th-century Church of St. Mary, the town hall, and the gable facades that line the riverfront.
Lübeck is fabled to be the birthplace of marzipan, so don’t miss out on sampling some of this sweet almondy treat while you’re in town.
If you loved the Hanseatic architecture of Lüneburg and Lübeck, then you should definitely consider taking a day trip to Bremen while in Hamburg. This town is quite literally the stuff of fairy tales; if you’re familiar with the Brothers Grimm, you’ll remember the Bremen Town Musicians – which locals insist actually existed.
But it’s not just adored stories that make this town enchanting. The old architecture was mostly left alone during World War II, and the old quarter of Schnoor is as charming as it is historic. Some of the most noteworthy edifices can be found in the Marktplatz, specifically the town hall that has been dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Other popular activities in Bremen include relaxing along the Schalchte promenade, visiting the illustrious Kunsthalle for some art history, and taking a tour of the Becks Brewery. If you’re visiting in the winter, don’t miss one of Germany’s best Christmas markets held in the Marktplatz.
Don’t leave the city without stopping by the Bremen Town Musicians sculpture to rub the donkey’s leg for good luck!
If a castle in the middle of a lake doesn’t warrant a day trip from Hamburg we don’t know what will. The Schwerin Palace is actually situated on an island between two lakes, and is surrounded by lush, verdant gardens.
Often considered to be the “Neuschwanstein of the North”, this majestic castle was once the seat of the Dukes of Mecklenburg, and today is home to the state parliament. The palace maintains some of the historic rooms, and spending the day exploring this historic building and the lavish gardens that surround it is an experience that should not be missed.
Just outside of the palace you’ll find Market Square, filled with even more historic buildings, shops, and cafes. There are also quite a few museums in Schwerin and various festivals that are held throughout the year.
5. Altes Land
For those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hamburg, a day trip to the Altes Land is a must. The “old country” is made up of lush meadows, fields, and orchards that constitute the largest fruit-growing area in all of Northern Europe.
You’ll see groves of apples, pears, and cherries, and if you’re in the area during the fall you’ll get to experience (and taste!) the harvest. Spring is also a lovely time to visit, as this is when the trees are in full bloom.
The Altes Land is also full of idyllic villages that are bursting with picturesque medieval architecture, farm stores selling stores of meat, cheese, and honey, and cafes serving up delicious local delicacies.
One of the best ways to explore this area is via bicycle, and there are plenty of well-constructed paths to make your trip as easy as it is scenic.
Taking a full day to explore this lovely city is a no-brainer. This small town was once in competition with Hamburg to become the main port city in northern Germany, however Stade has remained a sleepy river city bedecked with beautiful and historic buildings.
This ancient town is one of the most picturesque in the country, and because it’s not as well known as some of the other city’s in the area it’s never overly crowded with flocks of tourists.
You could spend the whole day here ambling along the harbor and ducking into quiet side streets. Stop by the historic Stader Ratskeller for a traditional homebrew or have some brunch at any one of the numerous cafes.
Those who are keen on enjoying a beach day while visiting Hamburg should take a day trip to the coastal city of Travemüde. Located on Germany’s northern coast, this small resort town looks over the Baltic Sea and offers visitors a sandy stretch of beach.
Other attractions that bring visitors to Travemünde include a historic brick lighthouse – Germany’s oldest one along the Baltic – and a ferry that will take you all the way up to the Swedish city of Malmö if you want to turn your day trip into a weekend getaway.
Cycling along the coast is also a popular pastime, and once you work up an appetite, head to the Fisherman’s Harbor and grab a fresh fish sandwich.
Continue east along the Baltic coast and spend some time in the city of Wismar. This historic town is also a Hanseatic city.
The most noteworthy areas include the old town and the equally as old harbor. Old Town is full of ancient relics from bygone areas, many of which can be spotted from the market square. There are also a number of beautiful churches in Wismar, most notably the Georgenkirche.
The harbor is extremely picturesque, and you’ll be able to see even more historic buildings in addition to the old city gate that dates back to medieval times.
Northern Germany is full of charming old towns, and the village of Mölln is no exception. The city is surrounded by several small lakes, making it a great spot to cool off during the warm summer months.
You can swim, rent a boat, or enjoy a picnic along one of the verdant shorelines. The town itself is bedecked with well-preserved medieval architecture, and the old doors and windows are equally as charming as the half-timbered buildings that they sit on.
There aren’t a ton of other things to do Mölln, which is likely why it often flies under the radar, but the quietness of the town makes it a great spot to escape the crowds of some of the more touristy areas around Hamburg.
10. The Wadden Sea
One of the more unique day trips from Hamburg is a visit to the Wadden Sea, or Wattenmeer in German. It is the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mudflats in the world, earning it a UNESCO World Heritage title.
This scenic area is comprised of sandbars, dunes, seagrass meadows, and salt marshes, allowing it to support a wide variety of marine animals including seals, porpoises, and many of unique bird species.
When the tide is low, you can actually walk out to some of the nearby islands. When the tide is in, you can sail, swim, or try your hand at kitesurfing.
The cities of Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven are common entry points into the Wadden Sea, both of which are around two hours from Hamburg.
11. Ludwigslust Castle
Located about an hour north of Hamburg, the stately Ludwigslust Castle makes for a great day trip. This castle has been used as a hunting lodge, a ducal capital, and a center of government, but today is simply a magnificent monument that is open to the public.
The castle has remained virtually unchanged since the 18th century, and you’ll find plenty of impressive artwork and antiques as you roam the halls.
The outside of the castle is surrounded by a lovely park complete with canals, fountains, and even a church. The Saint Helena and Andreas Church is a beautiful old building that is definitely worth popping into while you’re exploring the castle grounds.
Heligoland, or Helgoland in German, is an archipelago located in the North Sea – and is one of the most thrilling day trips from Hamburg. Those looking for adventure would be hard-pressed to find a better spot.
Start with a speedy catamaran ride from the mainland. Once on the island, you’ll be treated to incredible nature views of the surrounding sea and the monumental red cliffs that the archipelago is famous for. There’s lots of wildlife to be seen as well; you’ll likely see a variety of rare sea birds and maybe even a few seals.
If you’d like to breathe in the fresh, clean air for more than just a few hours, Heligoland is a popular resort destination. Foodies may also be tempted to extend their trip and indulge in some of the fresh seafood that is available at the restaurants here.
Schaalsee is located just 40 minutes from Hamburg, and this massive forest is a great place for a day trip, especially if you’re looking to get away from the big city hubbub nd get a dose of nature.
Hike around the forest, or head straight for the lake and relax on the sandy beach. You can also rent canoes and stand up paddle boards from the nearby campground. If you want to stay the night, you can pitch a tent or book a room in the nearby youth hostel.
14. Fehmarn Island
Another great spot to soak up some sun on a day trip from Hamburg is Fehmarn Island, known locally as the “sunshine island”. This small town is known for its sunshine and water sports, and is a great place to simply lay out your towel on the sandy beach and spend the day working on your tan.
Other points of interest on this lovely island include the Maritime Center, the U-11 U-Boat Museum, and the Fehmarn Butterfly Garden.
Although technically an island, you can drive out to this area or even take the train if you plan on visiting during a weekend.
15. Lüneburger Heide
Those looking for a unique day trip should head to the Lüneburger Heide, or heath. This protected nature area is most beautiful when it blooms (From August through September), but it is lovely no matter what time of year you visit.
One of the most common ways to explore the heath is via bicycle, and once you work up an appetite, there are plenty of restaurants along the trail where you can grab a bite to eat. There are also plenty of hotels if you want to turn your day trip into a multi-day expedition.
If you enjoyed the northern coastline near the Wadden Sea, you can stay in the area and explore the beautiful city of Cuxhaven on a day trip from Hamburg.
The main attractions can be found along the coastline near the resort, and those looking for a good spot to soak up some sun can park themselves on Grimmershörn Beach. Head down to Cuxhaven Beach, which is a great spot for beachcombing once the tide goes out – just be sure to make it back to the shore before the tide comes back in because it is possible to get stranded at sea.
Don’t miss the Kugelbake, a historic navigation tower made completely out of wood located on the city’s northernmost point.
17. Glücksburg Castle
The third and final castle on our list of the best day trips from Hamburg can be found along the Danish border on the banks of Schlossteich Lake.
Dating back to the 16th century, this stark white castle was once home to Danish kings and the Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein. Today it is a museum, and you can take a guided tour to learn all about the history of this stately structure.
After your tour, you can wander around the grounds or walk a bit further down the lakeshore to get the best views of the castle.
The city of Ratzeburg boasts an entire town out on its island. The most notable structure is the massive cathedral, but the most fun can be had out on the four lakes that surround the city. You can spend the day at one of the beaches, or rent a boat and laze around on the top of the water.
Ratzeburg is not on the radar of most tourists, so those looking for a quiet reprieve from the busy city of Hamburg will find that this city makes for the perfect day trip.
Another little-known town not far from Hamburg is the city of Wedel. Although it doesn’t offer much in terms of activities or jaw-dropping architecture, it is a peaceful place to enjoy a sunny afternoon.
You can watch the ships go by from one of the cafes along the river, or bring a picnic and relax on the verdant grassy area in front of the water.
20. Fischbeker Heide
More nature awaits in the Fischenbeker Heide, just outside of Hamburg. Walk or bike through both forests and heaths. One route will lead you through archeological sites and teach you about the former residents that lived in this area thousands of years ago.
Be sure to check out the information center before your hike to get some more information about the region.