Hafenrundfahrt Hamburg

Hamburg Harbor | The Port of Hamburg

Cruises in HamburgHamburg Harbor

Known as the 'Gateway to the World' in Germany, Hamburg Harbor is the largest seaport in the country. The Port of Hamburg is an important link for trade between Central and Eastern Europe and a Hamburg Harbor tour will show how this port and the culture have evolved over the years.

What is Hamburg Harbor?

Hamburg Harbor

Hamburg Harbor is one of the biggest attractions in the city as not only the living, logistic center but also as a hub for modern culture. 

There are many museum ships, theatres, bars, hotels, etc., and a floating boat church that the visitors can explore around here. The annual birthday celebration of the Port of Hamburg is an integral part of Hamburg’s culture. At this event, tugboats perform ballets, fireworks explode at night, and cruise ships and old galleons are available for tours.

Who Built the Hamburg Harbor?

Hamburg Harbor

In the 9th century, the original small port of Hamburg was destroyed by the Vikings. But after Archbishop Adaldag allowed the citizens of Hamburg to hold markets, it was rebuilt.

On 7 May 1189, the Hamburg Harbor was officially founded by emperor Frederich Barbarossa at the mouth of River Elbe. The emperor granted the right to the Hamburg citizens to sail along Lower Elbe, without paying any customs duties.

Currently, Hafenrundfarht is under the management of the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) that is responsible for all the present and future constructions.

History of Hamburg Harbor

  • The Port of Hamburg’s official birthdate was recognized as 7th May 1189 when emperor Frederich Barbarossa gave the citizens the privilege of sailing without paying customs duties. 
  • In 1321, the Port of Hamburg's accession to Hanse allowed the city to build trading branches in London, Amsterdam, Bruges and more places.
  • On 20th October 1400, the notorious pirate, Klaus Störtebeker was beheaded after being captured by Hamburgians. The citizens were led by Admiral Karpfanfer who used the ships in convoy to repel the pirates. 
  • At the end of the 15th century, the discovery of America gave a boost to Hamburg's foreign trading practices and helped the Port of Hamburg to form close economic ties with many foreign ports. Trading with America began in 1782 and by 1799, there were 290 ships under the Hamburg flag. 
  • Expansion of the port was in progress when, in 1806, it was interrupted due to a continental blockade. However, the work on expansion resumed in 1814 after the city's liberation. In 1816, the first steamship - the British Lady of the Lake, was introduced in Hamburg.
  • In 1862, it was decided to turn the Hafenrundfarht into an open tidal port. Johannes Dalmann started planning for restructuring the port and the work on the quays and the sheds for the port began in 1866.
  • In 1881, Hamburg Harbor joined the German Customs Union and was allowed one area to store goods duty-free. In 2013, this status was given up to ensure the development of Hamburg and the port.
  • In 1913, Hamburg Harbor became the leading port in Europe and the third-largest in the world. But with WW2, 80% of the port facilities were destroyed. After the war, the city invested €115 million in the reconstruction of the port.
  • In 1967, the industrialization of sea traffic began and introduced the age of containers. On 31st May 1968, the first entirely containership, the American Lancer, berthed at Hamburg. 
  • The planning of Container Terminal Altenwerder commenced in 1990 to manage the containers. Currently, it is the first facility to be climate neutral.
  • In 2003, a new urban development project, the HafenCity Project, began on 160 hectares of portland between Elbe bridges and Kehrwiederspitze. This urban settlement combines living quarters, workspace, culture, tourism, and more and will be completely ready by 2025.

Hamburg Harbor Today

Hamburg Harbor

Presently, the Hamburg Harbor is the largest seaport in Germany and the third-busiest in Europe. Today, the port is the main hub for passenger and freight travel along with being the backdrop for modern culture at Hamburg. It has various museum ships, restaurants, bars, musical theatres and even a floating church. 

Hafengeburtstag is the annual celebration of the birthday of the Port of Hamburg. It is usually held on one of the first weekends of May and is a major public event in Hamburg. The celebration attracts thousands of tourists from in and outside the country every year.

Things to do at Hamburg Harbor

Hamburg Harbor


The Elbphilharmonie, nicknamed Elphi, is a concert hall in Hamburg, Germany. It is one of the largest concert halls in the world. The new glass construction on top of the old brick warehouse resembles an iceberg or a water wave and makes it a popular landmark to admire. 

Hamburg Harbor

Kontorhaus District

Built on over 5 hectares of land, the Kontorhaus District features six large office buildings that were constructed between 1920 and 1950 to host port-related businesses. Stroll through this district to marvel at the architecture and understand how the warehouse-office district worked with a port city.

Hamburg Harbor


Located in Hamburg, Germany, the Speicherstadt is the largest warehouse district in the world. This district is home to buildings that have the foundation on timber-pile, mainly oak logs. It was built between 1883 and 1927 as a free zone for the transfer of goods without any need for customs. 

Hamburg Harbor

River Elbe

River Elbe is one of the five major rivers in Central Europe and covers a majority of Germany, including Hamburg Harbor. Enjoy a cruise on this river to witness untouched wetlands and woodlands along with a wide range of wildlife.