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Sightseeing Boats and Harbor Tours

From: Hamburg, Germany

Tollerort container terminal

ABOVE: This close-up view of a containership was taken during a Marine Circle Line harbor cruise. INSET PHOTOS BELOW: A "bad hair day" on the Elbe, shipping containers in the port, a Maritime Circle Line boat, a nighttime tour photo, and seating in a summer boat's open bow.

Woman on Hamburg boat tourHamburg is, first and foremost, a maritime city--as it has been since the days of the Hanseatic League. The Port of Hamburg is Europe's third largest, and the biggest in Northern Europe.

It's also the main transshipment port for Scandinavia and the Baltic, with goods from China and other distant countries being unloaded from huge containerships and reloaded onto smaller vessels for delivery to Sweden, Poland, the Baltic States, Russia, and other northern countries without deepwater ports on the Atlantic or North Sea.

Shipping containers in HamburgWith so much port activity--and with the city being bisected by the River Elbe--it should come as no surprise that Hamburg offers a rich menu of sightseeing boats, harbor tours, and ferries. Here are a few:

HADAG has operated passenger boats in Hamburg's harbor since 1888. You can ride the public harbor ferries with a standard HVV transit ticket or the Hamburg CARD.

(HADAG also runs sightseeing-boat tours of the harbor and Lower Elbe.)

Maritime Circle Line boatMaritime Circle Line is the aquatic version of a "hop on, hop off" sightseeing bus: Your ticket entitles you to a day of travel between seven museums and other tourist locations in the harbor--among them, the BallinStadt Emigration Museum, which is a "must see" attraction for visitors from the New World.

The Kapitän Prüsse is a vintage sightseeing boat that departs from the St. Pauli Landungsbrücken. Seating is mostly on wooden benches, but the trip is fun, especially at night. (This tour is best if you're familiar with the harbor, because the narration is in German only.)

Sightseeing boatFor a different type of boat trip, enjoy a cruise of Hamburg's city lakes with the White Alster Fleet. From April to September, the boats stop at nine piers around the Alster, and your ticket entitles you to get on and off during your circuit of the lakes.

(The same company offers tours that go beyond the Alster to the Elbe Waterways or the canals that extend from the Ausseralster.)

If you feel the urge to get out of town, the high-speed catamarans Halunder Jet and San Gwann will take you to Helgoland, a German island in the North Sea. The vessels are operated by FRS Helgoline, which has daily departures from piers 3/4 at the St-Pauli Landungsbrücken.

More harbor photos:

Maritime Circle Line boat

A Maritime Circle Line "hop on, hop off" shuttle boat visits the BallinStadt Emigration Museum landing.

Container terminal in Hamburg

A huge containership is loaded at the Tollerort freight terminal.

Floating crane in Port of Hamburg

A floating crane cruises down the Elbe.

Hamburg shipyard

Shipyard workers are dwarfed by a massive ship's hull.

Ship in dry dock 

A smaller vessel appears to levitate inside a dry dock.

Nighttime boat tour

Hamburg shipping containers at night

These two photos were taken during a nighttime harbor tour aboard the vintage boat Kapitän Prüsse.

Hamburg waterfront 

Downtown Hamburg, as seen from a harbor ferry during the day. (The city has few skyscrapers, so the Fernsehturm or TV tower and one of Hamburg's signature church towers rise high above the surrounding buildings.) 

HADAG harbor ferry

Water bus in Hamburg

HADAG's harbor ferries are the best sightseeing value on the water.

HVV ticket machine

You can ride the HADAG harbor ferries with a standard HVV ticket. (This easy-to-use ticket machine is at the Altona-Fischmarkt landing, shown below:

Altona-Fischmarkt ferry landing

HALUNDER JET catamaran of Helgoline

Are you in a mood to go farther afield? Book passage on FRS Helgoline's Halunder Jet to the island of Helgoland. The high-speed catamaran departs from the St-Pauli Landungsbrücken in central Hamburg.

Alster sightseeing boats

When you've had your fill of salt water, head for the Inner and Outer Alster, where "hop on, hop off" boats offer tours of the lakes and connecting waterways.

Related articles:
Hamburg City Guide
BallinStadt Emigration Museum
Hempel's Beatles Tour
Franzbrötchen (Hamburg sweet rolls)
Steigenberger Hotel Hamburg
Dr. Tomas H. Kaiser (private tourist guide)

1st inset photo Bosse
2nd inset photo Burkhard
4th inset photo Fischer