The Alster Lakes—the Inner Alster (Binnenalster) and Outer Alster (Aussenalster)—are the scenic heart of Hamburg. Created when the Alster river was dammed in the 12th century, the lakes are linked to the Elbe River via a maze of canals and lined with green parks and waterfront promenades.
Boat cruises and ferries run around the lakes in summer, affording magnificent views. Set sail on a sunset cruise and sip champagne as you watch the sunset across the lakes, or opt for a sightseeing cruise around Hamburg’s lakes and canals and admire landmarks including the Alster fountain, the Elbphilharmonie, and the HafenCity quarter.
Things to Know Before You Go
- There are over 4.5 miles (7 kilometers) of public pathways around the Alster Lakes.
- Hamburg’s main Tourist Information Center is located along the Jungfernstieg on the south bank of the Inner Alster.
- The waterfront promenades are easily accessible to wheelchair users. Many boat tours are also accessible, but it’s worth checking in advance.
How to Get There
The Alster Lakes are located in Hamburg’s city center. The Kennedy and Lombard bridges divide the two lakes, while the Alsterfleet canal runs from the Binnenalster down to the Elbe. Boat cruises typically set out from the Jungfernstieg on the south bank of the Binnenalster. The closest S-Bahn station is Hamburg Jungfernstieg (S1, S2, and S3).
When to Get There
Visit in summer (June–August) to enjoy water sports around the lake and the Alstervergnügen City Festival (August), a 4-day street festival with live music, markets, and performances. In the evening hours, the banks of the Binnenalster are a popular spot for dinner or drinks.
Outdoor Activities Around the Alster Lakes
The parks along the eastern banks of the Outer Alster offer ample space for walking, jogging, and cycling, and it’s also possible to rent paddleboats and rowboats. Swimming in the lakes is not recommended, but water sports, including canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, and wakeboarding, are popular.