Hamburg Hbf (Hamburg)

Hamburg Hbf, the main train station in Hamburg, is a fabulous location for train and people watching, but for first time users it can be a somewhat confusing station to navigate.
Hence this guide to using the station, which should be a help when arriving in, or departing from Hamburg by train.

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The Wandel-Halle at Hamburg Hbf festooned with advertising The Wandel-Halle at Hamburg Hbf festooned with advertising
An IC train departs from Hamburg Hbf An IC train departs from Hamburg Hbf
A view from one of the newly renovated escalators at Hamburg Hbf A view from one of the newly renovated escalators at Hamburg Hbf
Looking towards the Wandle-Halle from the Sudsteg Looking towards the Wandle-Halle from the Sudsteg

It's easy to reach Hamburg by train, five routes taken by express trains lead to the city - and its also a gateway when travelling between Germany and Scandinavia by train.
However, despite most of these trains terminating in the city, Hamburg HBf isn't a terminus station.

Good to know:

Note that the 15:00 train to Schwerin is shown as departing from the A-C zones on track (gleis) 6 Note that the 15:00 train to Schwerin is shown as departing from the A-C zones on track (gleis) 6
Looking over Hamburg Hbf from its observation deck Looking over Hamburg Hbf from its observation deck

Five Things Worth Knowing About Hamburg Hbf:

(1) The express and Regio trains arrive at and depart from platforms/tracks (gleis) which are below ground level.
But a unique feature of Hamburg Hbf, is that despite the platforms/tracks (gleis) being below street level, an arching glass roof spans the station - so it doesn't resemble an underground station.

(2) Two different concourses, the Wandel-Halle (also known as 'Kirchenallee') and the Sudsteg (also known as the ‘Steindamm'), span the tracks, providing a multitude of entrances/exits and access to/from the trains below.
The Wandel-Halle and Sudsteg names are used on the map of the station, while Kirchenalle and Steindam are used on the signage within the station.

(3) Because Hamburg Hbf is not a terminus station, most of the trains don't spend a lot of time in the station, so each gleis (platform/track) has multiple departures per hour.

(4) Unusually for a hauptbahnhof (a central station in Germany) the gleis (platforms/tracks) in the main station, are also divided in half along their length.
Two separate trains can be using each half of the gleis (platforms/tracks) at the same time.

But instead of an A and B 'numbering system', platform 7A or 9B etc, the gleis (platforms/tracks) are divided into zones - as they are at other stations in Germany.

Therefore what is unusual about Hamburg Hbf is that the zone information isn't solely a guide as to where to wait on the gleis (platform/ track) for easy boarding.
Instead the zone info can indicate which end of the gleis that a train will be departing from.
Therefore at Hamburg Hbf, when a train is only departing from one end of a gleis (platform/track), the specific zones are included along with the numbers, on the departure screens throughout the station.
So if you do see zone info also listed, you'll need to head to these specific zones in order to catch your train.

(5) Another unique feature at Hamburg Hbf is its observation deck from where you can look down on the platforms and trains.

Train services affected by construction work:

Between June 11th and Sept 23rd, the railway route used by the express trains between Hamburg and Hannover is closed due to maintenance work.
As a result the IC and ICE trains which use it won't be calling in Celle or Luneberg during this time, as they will be diverted on to different slower route.
In consequence southbound trains will be departing Hamburg around 20 mins earlier than usual and northbound trains will be arriving in there 20 mins later.

The affected ICE routes are:

  • Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Karlsruhe - Baden Baden - Freiburg - Basel - Zurich
  • Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim - Stuttgart
  • Hannover - Kassel - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Linz - Wien (the daily ICE train)
  • (Kiel) - Hamburg or Bremen - Hannover - Kassel - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - (Augsburg) - Munchen

Those trains on the routes via Wurzburg will also be impacted by the closure of the high speed line between there and Fulda due to renewal work; so between June 11th and Sept 23rd, the Hamburg ↔ Nurnberg and Munchen services which take the longer route via Berlin, will be quicker than the trains will travel via Hannover and Wurzburg.

Arriving by express and Regio Train:

Escalators leading up the Sudsteg Escalators leading up the Sudsteg
The  sign pointing out what's available on the Kirchenallee concourse The sign pointing out what's available on the Kirchenallee concourse
The signs pointing out what's available on the Steindam concourse The signs pointing out what's available on the Steindam concourse
Escalators leading up the 'Wandel-Halle' Escalators leading up the 'Wandel-Halle'

Hamburg Hbf isn't a terminus station, so when you step off a train, the optimum exits from each platform/track (gleis) aren't particularly obvious.

There will multiple exits available, so  following the crowd and using the nearest stairs or escalators may not be your best option, so take your time and seek out the signs, which will help point you in the right direction.

Eight Things Worth Knowing About Arriving in Hamburg Hbf by ICE, IC, EC and Regio trains;

(1) It won't initially be obvious, because the station isn't underground, but the platforms/tracks (gleis) which the ICE, IC, EC and Regio trains use at Hamburg Hbf, are actually below street level
So you need to ascend by escalator, lifts, or stairs to exit the station, or to access the parts of the station used by other trains.

(2) The part of the station used by the long distance and Regio trains is spanned by two separate concourses, which are up at street level.
They are named

  • the Wandel-Halle (also known as 'Kirchenallee'), and
  • the Sudsteg (also known as the ‘Steindamm').

The two concourses mean that there are two sets of stairs, escalators and lifts leading up from each gleis/platform/track.

(3) Both concourses have exits/entrances at street level, and give access to the S-Bahn local trains - so if you're connecting to the S-Bahn, it doesn't matter which set of escalators etc that you use.

(4) Both concourses also have taxi ranks, so if you’re continuing your journey by taxi, you may as well use which ever exit is nearest to you, when you step off of the train.

(5) However, the  Wandel-Halle, also known as the 'Kirchenhalle' is the main concourse at Hamburg Hbf.
When arriving from the south by ICE train it is the concourse located closest to the front of the trains.
It houses:

  • the main ticket office,
  • the Reisenzentrum reservation desk,
  • most of the shops
  • the observation deck that gives great views down on to the trains.

It also:

  • happens to becloser to the city centre/main shopping area
  • has the easiest access to U-Bahn lines U2 and U4

(6) The Sudsteg, also known as the Steindam, is the concourse located closest to the rear of the trains, which have arrived from the south.
If you’re connecting to U-Bahn (metro) lines U1 and U3, then make your way to the Sudsteg concourse.

(7) The signs on each gleis (platform/track) can be a big help in pointing you in the right direction, but these signs DON'T use the Wandel-Halle and Sudsteg names.
So for the Wandel-Halle follow the signs pointing the way to the 'Kirchenallee' - and for the Sudsteg follow the signs pointing the way to the ''Steindamm.

(8) If you have heavy luggage etc it’s worth seeking out the elevators on each platform/gleis - which lead up to both concourses.
They can be somewhat hidden behind the escalators.

Connecting to S-Bahn (local) trains:

The local (S-Bahn) trains are the best option for accessing many parts of Hamburg city centre from Hamburg Hbf, they tend to travel to different parts of the city than the U-Bahn (metro) trains.
They also link Hamburg Hbf station to Hamburg's airport.

If you'll be taking an S-Bahn train on from Hamburg Hbf, it doesn't matter which exit you take from the gleis (platform/track) which your train has arrived at.

Heading east:

The S-Bahn trains heading east, including the trains to the Flughafen (airport), depart from gleis (platforms/tracks) 3 and 4.
These are located in the main station hall beside the gleis (platforms/tracks) used by the express and Regio trains

Heading west:

S-Bahn trains heading west depart from gleis 1 and 2 which are located in a separate part of the station.
You have to step out of the main station building to access them.
The trains via Reeperbahn usually depart from gleis 1 and those via Dammtor usually depart from gleis 2.

Connecting to the U-Bahn (metro)

If you want to connect to the U-Bahn (metro) - check which line you need to take before you arrive at Hamburg Hbf.

That's because there are two separate U-Bahn stations within the Hamburg Hbf complex.

(1) The 'Nord' U-Bahn station is used by lines U2 and U4.
This 'Nord station' is best accessed from the Wandel-Halle - so follow the signs pointing in the direction of Kirchenallee.

(2) The 'Sud' U-Bahn station is used by lines U1 and U3.
This 'Sud' station is best accessed from the other concourse, the Sudsteg - follow the signs leading to Steindamm.

Not the zone signs on each gleis (platform), zone D is in the middle of the station Not the zone signs on each gleis (platform), zone D is in the middle of the station

Departing by express and Regio train;

The majority of the long distance trains that depart from Hamburg Hbf are passing through the station, so each platform/track (gleis) has multiple departures per hour.
Therefore try not to rush; it can be comparatively easy to board the wrong train at Hamburg Hbf.

Finding your train:

This train is specifically departing from zones C - B This train is specifically departing from zones C - B

If your train isn’t yet listed on the main electronic displays located on either concourse - you can use the yellow paper timetable 'Abfahrt' sheets to discover, which platform your train will be (should be) departing from.

What isn't particularly obvious when taking a train from Hamburg Hbf is that SOME trains only use one particular end of each gleis (platform/track) - so will only use some of the specific zones on each gleis.
For example, it's possible that a train will be departing from zones A-C - while at the same time, an entirely separate train will be using the same gleis/platform but will be departing from zones D-F.

At Hamburg Hbf, these specific zones are used on the main departure boards and the other departure info.
It's something to be aware of, because for example, if you were to wait in zone D for a train that's departing from zones A-C - then the departure monitor in zone D may not show the details of your train.

Also worth knowing is that when you reach the zone* on the platform/track (gleis) which your train is leaving from, it may not be the next train to depart.
The next two subsequent departures will also be shown on the electronic departure indicator that will be on the platform.
*Some trains use all the zones on the on the platform/track (gleis).

Changing trains:

When changing trains at Hamburg Hbf, look for the yellow departure 'Abfahrt' sheet on the platform/track (gleis) that your train will have arrived at.
If you're in luck you may simply to have to wait on the same platform for your connecting train.

Boarding:

The train to Praha will be occupying zones A-E with 1st coaches in zones A and B The train to Praha will be occupying zones A-E with 1st coaches in zones A and B

Double check that you’re waiting on the correct platform by looking at the poster on the platform - which will have all the departures listed on it (the Wagenreihungsplan).
If you have a reserved seat, you can use this poster to check which zone of the platform you need to be waiting on, in order to be close to the coach carriage that you will be travelling in.

If you haven’t reserved, then the zone information will also show you where to wait on the platform for easy boarding into 1st and 2nd class.
Before your train arrives it’s worth confirming this zone information on the electronic indicator – the paper information indicates what is SUPPOSED to happen, but trains can arrive back to front.

At Hamburg Hbf travellers taking the IC and ICE express trains, tend to congregate on the central section of the platform in zone D - between the banks of escalators.
So if you haven't got a reservation it can be a good idea to work out which other zones on the platform your train will be using.
Do this and you can then get away from the crowds and maximise your chances of finding a spare seat (s).

To The Airport By S-Bahn Train from.Hamburg Hbf

Hamburg Flughafen/Airport has a train station directly linked to both terminals.
Local trains operate every 10 mins between the airport and central Hamburg on line S1, the journey time between the airport station and Hamburg Hbf is around 25 mins.
Other stations in Hamburg that the trains on line S1 also call at include, Reeperbahn, Jungfernsteig and Landungsbrucken.

From Hamburg Hbf to the airport by train:

S-Bahn trains heading to Hamburg Flughafen/Airport on line S1 - depart from Gleis (platform/track) 3 in Hamburg Hbf.

Something to look out for when travelling TO the airport is that the trains heading to Hamburg Flughafen/Airport station, are joined to trains heading to Poppenbutel or Kornweg stations.
When the train subsequently arrives at Ohlsdorf station,  the train is split into two halves, three cars head off for the Flufghafen and the other three head off to Poppenbutel or Kornweg.

So when going to the airport, check that you are in the right part of the train -  there are signs on the platform, including on the floor, showing where to board if you're heading to the airport.

Not every train from gleis 3 will be heading to the airport so keep an eye on the departure screens and check the destination info on the trains

Accessing the main tourist sites from Hamburg Hbf

Hamburg Hbf is located in the eastern half of the city centre, between the main shopping area and the Binnenalster - the lake in the heart of the city.

ONWARD CONNECTIONS SUMMARY:

For the Speicherstadt, the easiest connection from Hamburg hbf is to take the M6 bus, as the Speicherstadt has no U-Bahn station.
The nearest U-Bahn station to the western end of Speicherstadt, where Minatur Wonderland is located, is Baumwall.

Baumwall is also the nearest U-Bahn station to the new Elbphilharmonie Hamburg concert hall complex.
To access Baumwall station from Hamburg hbf take line U3 (direction Barmbek) - when arriving by express train follow the signs pointing the way to Steindamm

For the Reerperbahn take any S-Bahn train from platform/gleis 1 to the station of the same name (the entrance to gleis 1 is just outside the main station building)

Hamburg hbf is adjacent to the city’s main shopping area, follow the signs for Monckebegstrabe.

The other stations in Hamburg:

Hamburg Hauptbahnhof/Hamburg Hbf is one of three major train stations in central Hamburg - it is the main station and is closest to the city centre, hence it being named as the hauptbahnhof.
It actually has particularly convenient location in the heart of the city, minutes away from the main shopping area.

However, before leaving the train at HamburgHbf, check whether your final destination is closer to the other two city centre stations.

(1) The majority of long distance trains TO Hamburg call at Hamburg Hbf before going on to Hamburg-Dammtor.
This is the closest station to the university and The Congress Centre.

(2) Hamburg-Altona station is located on the far western edge of the city centre.
When boarding many long-distance trains to Hamburg Hbf - the final destination shown on departure indicators will be Hamburg-Altona.
That's because many IC and ICE trains to the city finish their journeys at this station.
Trains heading to Hamburg-Altona call at Hamburg Hbf and Hamburg-Dammtor.

Many trains to the city also call first at Hamburg Harburg station before they arrive at Hamburg hbf.
However, this station is in the suburbs, some distance from the city centre.
So take care NOT to leave the train here if you're heading to central Hamburg.

Convenient Hotels/Hostels

Stay within a 10 min walk of Hamburg Hbf station:

Luxury:
Park Hyatt Hamburg

Mid-Range:
Alt Nurnberg Hotel

InterCity Hotel

Budget:
Ibis-Budget Hamburg City

Generator Hostel

Money saving options with direct public transport links to/from Hamburg Hauptbahnhof:

Hotel Hafentor (near Landungsbrucken S-Bahn/U-Bahn stations)

Mac City Hostel (near Berliner Tor S-Bahn station)

Novotel Suites Hotel (near Lohmühlenstraße station)

Hotel Wagner (near Dammtor station)

Hotel Preuss (near Dammtor station)

City Guides

If you're on a rail pass itinerary which includes Germany and Scandinavia you'll have to change trains in Hamburg, but it's a fascinating city, worth dedicating some time to on a trip around Europe.

10 Of The Best Things To Do in Hamburg (The Guardian)

25 Of The Best Things To Do (The Crazy Tourist)

The Best Things To Do (Time Out)

7 Unusual Things To Do (Off The Path)

20 Fun Things To Do (Drifter Planet)

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