10 Museums and Art Galleries in Hamburg You Must Visit
Not only Germany's second-largest city and biggest port, Hamburg is also home to some of the best museums in Germany. These galleries document everything from modern art to maritime history and social change to chocolate. Note, most museums are closed on Mondays.
Die Lange Nacht der Museen (Long Night of Museums) is held annually in the spring. Hamburg's art galleries, museums and cultural institutions stay open past midnight and offer many special exhibitions, readings, concerts and film screenings.
1. CHOCOVERSUM BY HACHEZ
Moving from salty to sweet, Chocoversum by Hachez is Hamburg's Chocolate Museum. Visitors go on a 90-minute Informative and entertaining journey to follow cocoa beans to chocolate bar with plenty of tasting along the way. It's a lot of fun as in the chocolate workshop you get to create your own bar of chocolate to take away before buying even more sweet treats in the gift shop.
2. HAMBURG'S ART MILE
Hamburg’s art mile takes in five major galleries with very contrasting art institutions at each end. At the northern end, Kunsthalle houses one of Europe's largest art collections. And at the southern end is the Deichtorhallen – two 19th-century market halls transformed into exhibition venues for contemporary art and photography. In between, you can find Bucerius Kunst Forum, Kunstverein in Hamburg and Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKH).
Kunstmeile Hamburg is a pass for all five museums for 3 days or a full year and under 18s go free.
The largest art museum in Germany, Kunsthalle consists of three connected landmark buildings on the Glockengießerwall. This trio of architectural gems house eight centuries of European art from medieval altars to modern paintings by German artists Gerhard Richter and Neo Rauch. Do look outwards too, as the views from the gallery's huge picture windows are also worth seeing.
The original Kunsthalle is a 19th-century red-brick building showcasing Old Masters including Goya, Rembrandt, Rubens, Lucas Cranach the Younger and Canaletto. There is substantial contemporary art as well including works by Paul Klee, Picasso, Francis Bacon, Edvard Munch and Andy Warhol. Adjoining is a concrete and glass modern gallery exhibiting the likes of Warhol and Tracey Emin. As well as the permanent collection, there are also many themed exhibitions each year.
Deichtorhallen is one of Europe's largest art centres for contemporary art and photography. This steel-and-glass museum is formed of two former market halls built between 1911 and 1914. The northern hall now houses artworks by contemporary painters, sculptors and designers. And the southern Haus der Photographie is a permanent collection by a famous fashion photographer, F.C Gundlach, and the photo archive of Der Spiegel magazine.
5. BUCERIUS KUNST FORUM
Next to City Hall, the Bucerius Kunst Forum is a private art gallery that hosts four exhibitions each year. Presenting world-class works of art from antiquity to the present day, all exhibitions are accompanied by a varied events programme including concerts, lectures, readings and discussions.
What Bucerius Kunst Forum does really well is to present outstanding art in a new context. Their Henri Matisse exhibition brought together his portraits for the first time, and an exhibition on Pablo Picasso was the first to highlight the window as a central motif in all periods of the artist's work. The gallery regularly draws connections between today's art and that of the past making it a really enjoyable place to visit.
6. INTERNATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM
Hamburg's oldest standing historic warehouse is home to the International Maritime Museum. With nine exhibition decks, it is recommended to start at the top and work your way back down to see the world's largest private collection of maritime treasures covering 3,000 years of maritime history.
There are 26,000 model ships plus 50,000 construction plans, 5,000 illustrations, 2,000 films, 1.5 million photographs and much more. There are whole sailboats and engrossing curios such as Admiral Nelson's letters and a reproduction of Ernest Shackleton's lifeboat. A highlight is the ship simulator on Level One that lets you navigate a 300-metre-long container ship through the world's largest ports including Rotterdam and Singapore.
7. MUSEUM FÜR KUNST UND GEWERBE HAMBURG (MKH)
Like London's Victoria & Albert Museum, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKH) is dedicated to fine, applied and decorative arts from antiquity to today.
Founded in 1874, MKH features masterpieces from design, photography, fashion, musical instruments and more. The impressive 'walk-in' fully-furnished period rooms, from Renaissance to Rococo salons and a contemporary kitchen, illustrate the different ways of life in Europe over the last 500 years.
The museum's varied and extensive collection of art and objects includes ancient Greek armour, medieval chests, Egyptian burial objects, Japanese swords, 18th-century women's shoes and a huge chandelier of recycled plastic objects in the foyer. The photography gallery alone has with more than 75,000 works.
8. EMIGRATION MUSEUM BALLINSTADT
Between 1850 and 1939, more than 5 million people from all over Europe emigrated from Hamburg to the New World. The Emigration Museum Ballinstadt recreates this life-changing journey in the original emigration halls.
Where these brave Europeans sheltered before departing for the New World, now has extensive exhibits (in English and German) offering a wealth of information about emigration in the 19th and 20th century. Learn about daily life here from the living and sleeping arrangements and the experiences of the immigrants through interactive and traditional displays. With records of the over five million Europeans who left from this port stored here and access to the original passenger lists, this is a fascinating opportunity to trace family connections.
9. MS CAP SAN DIEGO
MS Cap San Diego is a floating museum as it is a former cargo ship. At 159-metre long, the vessel is said to be the largest seaworthy museum ship in the world. As she can be moved, several times a year there are day cruises along the Elbe.
Also known as the 'White Swan of the South Atlantic', from 1961 to 1988 the ship transported goods such as coffee, cotton, cocoa, beef and clothing to Germany. You can explore independently with the audio guide or join a regular guided tour to learn about the ship's history including how the officers dined, the ship's past routes, visit the machine room and see the ship's storage capabilities.
10. MINIATUR WUNDERLAND
Eccentric but magical, Miniatur Wunderland has the world's largest model railway. It's open all year round and there are ten miles of track with 900 trains. Don't think this is only for children as the models of Rome's Colosseum and St Peter's Basilica are spectacular. And you will want to see the replica of Hamburg airport where every few minutes a model Lufthansa plane glides along the runway and actually takes off. Look for the 200 switches as you can control the scenes by starting windmills, a helicopter or even a space shuttle.
Situated in Speicherstadt, the world's largest warehouse district, the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so you can easily spend a full day here. Miniatur Wunderland is one of the most visited attractions in Germany, so it is recommended to book tickets online in advance to avoid the long queues.
And here is an extra museum for good measure:
11. SPICY'S SPICE MUSEUM
Hamburg is one of the most important harbour cities in Europe, and among the many goods that arrive here daily are spices from all around the globe. In the old Speicherstadt warehouse complex, Spicy's Gewürzmuseum (Spicy's Spice Museum) looks at 500 years of exotic spices while learning about their cultivation, processing and packaging.
In the only spice museum in the world, there are 800 exhibits telling the stories of exotic spices with 50 different spices to smell and touch. Do note, most of the exhibition notices are written in German.
WHERE TO STAY
Fraser Suites Hamburg is a 5 star hotel in a stunning heritage building. From deluxe rooms to one bedroom hotel apartments, there is a choice for everyone whether you are travelling alone, with your partner or with family and friends. Fraser Suites can offer that desirable combination of city living and unparalleled luxury hotel service for both short and extended stays.
One of the most recognisable buildings in the Rödingsmarkt area, this heritage-protected building, the historic Oberfinanzdirektion, dates back to 1907. Many of the 154 rooms and apartments overlook the Alsterfleet tributary, and it is in the perfect location to walk to many of the famous attractions.
Written by Laura Porter - Travel writer for Frasers Hospitality
Photo credit: Christian_Perl - Chocoversum by Hachez