Hamburg is a city defined by its relationship with water. And no other element in the city’s geography drives this point home than the existence of the Alster lakes as its center. The outer and the inner Alster have been ground zero for Hamburg’s urban life since the 1850s. A stroll around the inner Alster even today shows us the base of the city’s socio-economic life, with the Rathaus, the seat of political power, being a stone’s throw away. The outer Alster, on the other hand, showcases Hamburg in its 19th Century glory, with the mansions of its old elite, its very well kept parks and the numerous watersport options in town. Especially, during the summer months, the Alster becomes one of the most happening places in the city. And to help you navigate it, we have drawn a list of our top activities around the Alster.

Alster Boat Rides

Admittedly, the Harbor boat cruises draw much more attention and a lot of that has to do with the availability of public transport ferries, however, the Alster boat rides are not for everyone. They sail off the beaten course, to paraphrase the idiom. Away from the hustle of the commercial harbor, they show you Hamburg the city from its waterside. Classical architecture, lush green lawns, clear blue skies (only in summer), plenty of water and fascinating views is what they offer. The vessels themselves are a decent blend of traditional steamships like the “St. Georg” and the modern solar-powered “Alstersonne”. The routes also vary, but almost all cover both the Alster lakes. Some are hop-on and hop-off, whereas others just take you around on the same boat. The Kanalfahrt is especially popular for taking you around Hamburg’s many canals. There are also reasonably priced refreshments and snacks available on board.

Alster boat tours

 Go Boating

rental boats on the alster lake

If there’s one thing that makes the Alster lakes that is the presence of all kinds of boats. If a boat cruise isn’t exciting for you, then you can rent a paddle boat, a sailing boat or even a stand-up paddle board from the numerous establishments that dot the banks of the outer Alster. To rent a sailing boat, one requires a license (Segelschein), but most other vessels are available without such requirements. “Barca An der Alster” is not only conveniently located and has competitive prices, but also boasts of a cozy café/bar attached to it. Please note, drinking and driving are frowned upon, but not drinking and boating ????

Bella Vistas – the Fernsichtbrücke and/or the Lombardsbrücke

The Fernsichtbrücke marks the end of the outer Alster and the Lombardsbrücke is one of the bridges separating the outer and the inner Alsters. Standing on the former, one is bedazzled by the sheer size of the outer Alster and the boats that, no matter what season, are going around it. It is actually a view into the city’s liquid soul. Views from the latter offer a brilliant panorama of the city’s clean skyline and its architectural face. Both are amazing spots to take photographs! ????

Bella Vista of the Alster lake

Enjoy a Sundowner at the Spanish Steps

Spanish steps in Hamburg, Germany

Yes, it’s not just Rome. Hamburg also has its very own Spanish steps. It’s not gelato that is consumed here, but rather gin and tonics ???? The stairways and the pontons around them are a Tapas-Bar of the same name that uses the space as its service area. Amazing views of a canal flowing into the outer Alster as well as the last rays of the setting sun are what brings many guests to this spot. The place does get busy, but the service and prices are reasonable enough to wait for a spot.

Pay Your Respects to the Alster Swans

Not to be forgotten are another highlight around the Alster – the Swans. These are not just any swans, they are the goodluck charm of the city of Hamburg. A popular belief holds that as long as there are swans around the Alster, Hamburg will be a free and prosperous city. That is why since 1664, swans are creatures protected under law – protected from being hunted, beaten and insulted(!). So be respectful to them while you’re enjoying your time around the Alster ????