While Berlin and Hamburg are only two hours apart by train, they are very different cities. They are so different, in fact, that some have said that you can’t love them both, it’s one or the other. But, we think they both have a loveable individual charm which we’ll hopefully showcase below in our Berlin vs Hamburg comparison.
Berlin has a ton of history stretching from when the city was divided into East and West Berlin, to the world wars and back to the Persian empire. Berlin is also the largest city in Germany, with countless districts that all have something unique to offer, and the city sprawls on and on.
Today, Berlin is the hub of art and creativity in Germany. It’s full of young artists, musicians, it has a very edgy scene and is world-renowned for its nightlife too.
Hamburg is sometimes called the Venice of the north as it’s built on water. There are three rivers flowing through Hamburg, the Elbe, Alster, and Bille, as well as countless canals. Hamburg is home to more bridges than Venice and any other city on the planet and therefore every walk around town has you near the water at some point.
The river Elbe connects Hamburg to the North Sea and this has played a large role in the city’s history. Hamburg was Germany’s gateway to the rest of the world for a long time and a major point of trade that has contributed to the diversity you can see there today.
It’s home to a wide range of cultures, is packed full of great things to do, it’s super beautiful and green too.
Berlin is a rather unique city with twice the entertainment infrastructure of most cities in the world, and this is thanks to its history. When Berlin was split into East and West Berlin, each side of the city created its own “fun things to do” from restaurants to museums, art galleries, and more.
When the two sides came back together, Berlin ended up with two of everything meaning you have a huge choice of fun things to explore and chances are nowhere is ever too full either.
While you’re in Berlin you’ll have countless museums and art galleries to visit as well as some great architectural sites. Head to Museum Island if you want to load up on history and you have to see the Berliner Dom, the Friedrichstadt-Palast, and Charlottenburg Palace too.
The Spy Museum, Berlin Museum Of Technology, and the Classic Car Museum are great places to go with kids or for something less historical and more fun.
Something that has to be mentioned is Berlin’s memorials and historical sites connected to World War II. Seeing things like the Berlin Wall, Holocaust Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, and the Topography of Terror are a must as they are unique to Berlin and a good reminder of the German culture of the past.
Berlin is also a very green city and the many parks are great places to hang out during the day. Spending some time at the beautiful Tiergarten is highly recommended and if you want to catch some live karaoke head to Mauer Park.
Hamburg, like Berlin, is one of the main cultural centers of Germany and is home to 50 museums, 45 theatres, countless art galleries, and lots more too. You’ll never be bored strolling around the waterside streets of Hamburg and one of the places you have to visit to get a sense of the city’s history is Speicherstadt.
Speicherstadt is the old warehouse district where all the imports were once stored back when the city was a Free Port. Today this City of Warehouses is a World Heritage Site and as you stroll around the many canals and bridges staring at the old gothic architecture, you’ll probably think you’re not in Hamburg anymore.
If it’s art and history you’re after, a trip to the International Maritime Museum in Speicherstadt will amaze you. The museum is huge and home to whole sailing boats and great little bits of history. You’ll find a copy of Ernest Shackleton’s lifeboat, Admiral Nelson’s letters, and a canoe from 3000 years ago that was found in the harbor.
The Kunsthalle Hamburg is one of the top museums in Germany and you can spend days there looking at all the wonderful things it holds. Every era of art is covered with pieces stretching from Rembrandt to Degas and to Warhol.
The city centre is also beautiful and found around Lake Alster. It’s a real hub where everything meets including sailing boats on the lake, city hall, canal boats, shopping, and great restaurants too.
You’ll also find a lot of green spaces in Hamburg and one of the best ones to visit is Planten un Blomen home to 47 hectares of gardens, lakes, ponds, and botanical gardens.
When it comes to deciding whether you want to visit Hamburg or Berlin the amount of things to do are pretty equal. Both big cities are full of great experiences, art, history, culture, and architecture. The main differences are Berlin’s connection to World War II and that Hamburgs “things to do” are concentrated and not sprawled across hundreds of districts like in Berlin.
Berlin is renowned as one of the best places to party in the world and most certainly in Europe. It has a huge electronic music scene that is dominated by genres such as techno and house. But the music scene isn’t all about electronic music, you can find everything from live bands to hip hop and some fantastic classic concerts in Berlin too.
If you love to party then you’ll love Berlin and you can pretty much start dancing on Friday eve and not have to stop until Monday morning, as there is always somewhere open.
The most famous club in Berlin is Berghain, and it’s known for its great music, multiple rooms, and weird and wonderful goings-on. It’s a tricky climb to get into as the bouncers simply pick and choose who they want to let it so be prepared to try a few times.
Other great nightclubs to checkout include Anomalie Art Club, SchwuZ, and Kitkat plus there are loads more venues too.
One thing about going out in Berlin is that the clubs are all quite spread out so hopping from one to another isn’t always that easy.
Hamburg’s nightlife is pretty epic too and unlike Berlin, it’s pretty much concentrated into one street, Reeperbahn. Reeperbahn is the longest street in Europe dedicated to a good night out and it’s home to Hamburg’s famous red-light district.
Along the Reeperbahn, you’ll find everything you need to enjoy a night out on the town from restaurants and bars to live music venues and dance clubs. The streets are alive with people and neon lights pretty much every night and you can hop from bar to club all the way down the Reeperbahn until lunchtime on a Saturday if you want to.
Some of the best nightclubs to check out include Herzblut St. Pauli, Molotow, and Docks. If you want to party until the early hours, Docks is the spot while Molotow is more about punk rock and Herzbult is a bar/restaurant/club all in one.
As you can see, when looking at Berlin vs Hamburg and nightlife, they are pretty equal in the sense that you’re going to find a great night out without any worries.
The main difference is that Berlin will attract some much bigger acts and it’s more diverse, but you’re going to have to trek around town to see it all. Whereas in Hamburg, you’ll find all the parties and clubs on one street making hopping around and meeting people a lot easier.
Being the capital of Germany, there aren’t many world cuisines you can find in Berlin. If you can think of it, there will be a restaurant serving it whether it’s a Thai curry or some French fine dining.
Berlin’s traditional or local food might be a little surprising to hear. Berliners love Turkish dinner kebabs and Berlin is actually famous for having some of the best ones in the world.
Everywhere you go in Berlin, you’re going to run into Currywurst vendors on the street. It’s pretty much a spicy German sausage served with a curry sauce and chips. It’s the thing to eat after leaving a bar or anytime you’re hungry wandering around town.
Bratwurst is another traditional German food that Berliners love and something you must try when in Berlin. It’s a delicious German sausage that is usually served with potatoes and a sauce of some kind.
Hamburgs proximity to the sea and the fact it’s port has a major influence on its cuisine. The traditional food in Hamburg is based on fresh seafood as well as fresh spices, coffee, and tea that has just arrived in port.
Also, just south of Hamburg are the Altes Land orchards, one of the biggest fruit-growing regions in Europe – so whatever you’re eating in Hamburg, you know it’s about as close to the source as can be in Germany.
Some of the traditional foods to try include Finkenwerder Scholle which is fired plaice with onions, bacon, and shrimp all caught fresh from the north sea. Fischbrötchen is a great on-the-go snack and is pretty much a pickled herring sandwich.
Grünkohl (kale) is a winter specialty in Germany and is served up alongside 3 types of pork and delicious potatoes and if you want to eat something that dates back to the 1700s, then Aalsuppe, an eel soup is a must-try.
As well as all the traditional food on offer in Hamburg, it’s still a cosmopolitan city and home to a wide range of world cuisines and some great fine dining options too.
When it comes to world cuisines, it’s pretty much a tie between Berlin vs Hamburg but it has to be said that Hamburg’s traditional food is far more appealing to Berlin’s, if you like fresh seafood. No matter which city you end up visiting, your taste buds will be happy and your stomachs full.
Berlin is a wet city and pretty much all year round. It rains, on average, 7-10 days a month in Berlin so chances are you’re going to experience a rainy day while you’re there. Annoyingly, the peak time for rain in Berlin is during the summer months of July and August too, so even summer isn’t dry.
But, summers in Berlin are pretty hot with temperatures of around 22-24 Celcius on average, so even if it does rain, you’ll be warm. Winters are quite cold but manageable with average temperatures of -2 Celsius.
The best time to be in Berlin is in May, September, and October, so before and after the summer months as this is when it’s nice and warm and it rains the least.
Since Hamburg is only a two-hour train ride from Berlin, its weather patterns are quite similar except in Hamburg it rains even more and it’s warmer in winter and this is because it’s close to the sea.
You can expect it to rain between 9-12 days a month, every month, in Hamburg, so make sure you can have a rain jacket for your visit. Temperatures in summer hit around 24 Celcius and in winter drop to close to 3 Celcius.
Hamburg is a great place to visit year-round but its warmest times are May to September. Since it’s such a pretty city on the water, it would be nice to see it when it’s warm out.
Berlin vs Hamburg, which would you choose? It’s not such an easy choice to make and since they are just 2 hours apart by train, seeing them both over a long weekend is a very realistic option.
If I had to choose, I’d choose Hamburg. It’s a much easier city to get around as it’s not huge like Berlin but it has all the same great things on offer plus I love rivers, the sea, and seafood, so Hamburg is naturally more appealing for someone like me.
And don’t be concerned about any language difficulties since most people speak English these days, you won’t need to speak German! Public transportation is also top notch in all German cities. So getting around is a cinch, no matter which city you choose.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!