A secret tunnel in Hamburg

"Who would've thought an island that tiny would be big enough to hold all our old boyfriends?"

Sex and the city "Where There's Smoke"


Overlooking the city I live in always fascinates me. I can't help but to start thinking about my life once I see it all laid out in front of me:

Is it really possible that it's all happening in this tiny place?

That it can hold all my problems and many of my friends?


Hamburg has perfected the passage to overlooking the city:

You can walk through a 450m long tunnel under the river Elbe to then end up all by yourself in an industrial area where you can sit at the pier waiting for the sun to set.


Alright, alright, it's not that secret. Most people from Hamburg know about it and you'll probably find it in your lonely planet but it's not only about walking to the other side, it's the beauty of the tunnel itself I'm talking about, so let's just go with it, ok?

The “alter Elbtunnel” was built between 1907 and 1911 by Raabe and Wöhlecke, the same architects who designed the whole Landungsbrücken area to enable the harbor workers to cross the river without using a boat.


The two tubes crossing below the river Elbe are tall enough to not only let pedestrians but also cars pass.

The entrance is not – as usual – through ramps but through stairs and elevators, including several huge ones for cars.

elevators for cars!

The impressive entrance building was designed with the Pantheon as a role model:

A monumental rotunda with a dome arranged behind a temple facade.

The interior is less decorated but still impressive simply by it's size.

let's ignore the construction site right in front of it, shall we?

Entering the building, keep your eyes open for the beautiful tiles.

This mosaic arch was definitely not what I expected to find in Hamburg!

Once you make it to the tunnel (take the stairs at least once!), take a second to again look at the tiles:

The shiny white ones were exchanged for the tunnel's 100st birthday, to bring back the glow of light inside the tunnel (and also because too many were broken).

I also love the industrial lights lined up on both sides of the tunnel. This could be a scary and cold place but with this exceptional light design it has a rather mystic feel.

And then you make it and see... this!

Alright, it's not exactly like looking at Paris from the Eiffel tower but I think it's really charming to have this simple and quiet place almost for yourself.

You want to do the Titanic-move, don't you?

On the other side of the river, you will see the pier and the entrance building you just walked into. Behind that the “tanzende Türme”, a new building by Hadi Teherani at Reeperbahn. Further right, you see the “Michel” and then the “Elbphilharmonie”.

There will be small boats swarming around and probably a massive cargo boat coming through at some point.


Bring a picnic blanket, a bottle of wine and just enjoy!


You can take the small boats (like the blue one in the picture above) to cruise through the harbour. They count as public transport, so you can use them with your bus ticket.

Only in Hamburg: a boat standing in the way if you want to take a picture of a church

PS: If you're hungry after coming back through the tunnel, get a "Fischbrötchen" at one of the many snack bars there. It's basically a fish finger sandwich if you take the "Bremer" one (I think that's the one for children) or you could get something more exciting like pickled herring if you're brave enough.


Alter Elbtunnel

How to get there:

Take the U3 to Landungsbrücken and then turn right towards the entrance building

How much:



Write a comment

Comments: 9
  • #1

    Say Cheesy Cake (Tuesday, 03 February 2015 21:39)

    Hi Sarah, Who would have thought that that Pantheon-like building is an entrance to a tunnel. This is amazing. I haven't been in a big tunnel where people can walk through especially this big.

    Jo of saycheesycake.blogspot.nl

  • #2

    The Guy (Wednesday, 04 February 2015 17:44)

    Hi Sarah,

    It is great to see you write about this. I remember exploring this tunnel a few years ago with my sister. It is a great little secret which is fun to discover.

    Well I say secret, you've gone and told everybody now! ;-)

  • #3

    Sarah (Thursday, 05 February 2015 08:40)

    damn it, the Guy, now I told everyone it's gonna be like "the beach" on the other side of that tunnel ;)

  • #4

    Mat (Monday, 06 April 2015 15:54)

    I love the tunnel. Great on a Sunday when no cars are allowed through, especially on a hot summer day as it's nice and cool down there. The first time I went through it was very early on a Sunday and I was the only person down there: very spooky.

  • #5

    Sarah (Thursday, 09 April 2015 08:32)

    Hey Mat, true, it must quite scary being there by yourself! That never happened to me so far and I think that's ok :)

  • #6

    Maaike (Travellous World) (Saturday, 06 June 2015 20:25)

    Great post! This reminds me of the foot tunnel in Antwerp :)

  • #7

    Sarah (Monday, 08 June 2015 08:11)

    Thanks, Maaike!
    I've never been to Antwerp but it sounds like I should go!

  • #8

    Stefanie (Sunday, 21 May 2017 21:40)

    Woow, this looks really amazing,
    This is really on my have to do list before i get into my 40's

    Keep posting,
    Kind regards

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