Alster at Lattenkamp
Alster at Lattenkamp© Christina Höhnen

Water sports in Hamburg

They don’t call Hamburg the Venice of the north for nothing. And in addition to numerous canals in the city, there is also plenty of nature in the surrounding areas. That makes Hamburg an extraordinary place to be explored from the water.

Short & Sweet

University sport in Hamburg is very well organised and offers many inexpensive opportunities to be active on the water.

Whether kayaks, canoes, rowing or sailboats you can rent equipment and take courses for different skill levels.

From pedal boats to rowing

Did you know that Hamburg has even more bridges than Venice? This is because of the many canals that run through the city. The whole city lives from water. The Port of Hamburg supplies 170 countries with goods via the Elbe River. Hamburg is one of the most important trade and business hubs in Germany.

Those who live in Hamburg also benefit from the water. They like to relax on the banks of the Elbe or take a boat across the Alster River and its canals. If you don’t have your own boat, you can rent pedal boats, kayaks and canoes at many places in the city.

The University of Hamburg offers for students who want to make it their hobby. It also rents canoes and offers rowing courses.

Those who are looking for company while canoeing or kayaking can also take part in a weekend tour offered by the university. Many in Hamburg use their sailing license to sail on the Outer Alster lake after work or at the weekend. There are free courses on the university’s sport programme from April to September.

Standup paddling is more than a trend

If you want to invest less time and money to have fun on the water, try standup paddling. You stand balanced on the paddleboard, and set it in motion with a paddle. Standup paddling originally came from Tahiti, where people used to move around the sea in canoes in a similar way while fishing for food. First, the sport grew in popularity in Hawaii and other countries.

A boat tour with Conor Stinson from Canada

Conor Stinson is already a boat owner. The native Canadian and his girlfriend regularly sail through the canals of Hamburg in their inflatable boat. It starts at the Lattenkamp dock.

During the trip, Conor tells how he has settled in Hamburg. The 28-year-old came to Germany from the United States. At first, his love for his German girlfriend brought him to Hamburg. With a bachelor’s degree in business information technology, he quickly found a job in the sector. Then he began his master’s degree in international business at the University of Hamburg.

„I think it's unbelievable how many quiet corners there are in Hamburg. It's hard to realize that it's a city of over a million people.“

Conor Stinson

After a few metres, the first standup paddlers come towards us. Conor and Vanessa want to try it out too. As you pass magnificent city villas, you have to maneuver the boat quickly towards the edge of the Alster. A group of professional rowers are approaching them at high speed. But they are able to get out of the way in time. Otherwise, things are quiet on the Alster and the canals. Only now and then do you have to watch out for sail boats or smaller ships. However, there is also something good about being pushed to the edge of a canal. With a little luck you might collect a few fresh berries on the slopes… but watch out for thorns!

Quiet in the metropolis

Conor especially appreciates the many opportunities that Hamburg offers to spend your leisure time in nature. “I think it’s unbelievable how many quiet corners there are in Hamburg”, he says. “It’s hard to realize that it’s a city of over a million people.” Even though Conor often feels like Hamburg is a place to relax, the city has all the advantages of a big city. There are many bars and cafes right on the water, for example. If you are exhausted from paddling in the sun or looking for shelter from the rain, you will find a nice place to strengthen yourself. “It feels like a vacation”, says Conor. Meanwhile, a waitress from a café north of the Outer Alster brings cake and drinks straight to the boat.

Then Conor talks about arriving in Hamburg. Before moving here, he spent a few weeks with his girlfriend Vanessa in Berlin. From there, he applied to the University of Hamburg and arranged formalities including his work visa. He then applied for a job in the IT sector in Hamburg and was quickly hired. He hoped the job might give him some important insights for his master’s degree.

Relaxing together in the park

Conor chose Germany not only to be with his girlfriend, but also because he sees an ideal opportunity for his further education. “I have heard from many ex-students here that they have already got to know their future places of employment during their studies”, says Conor. “This is often because there is a close cooperation between potential employers and the university or college. I think that’s great.”

The boat tour ends today in Hamburg’s city park. It is one of Conor’s favorite places. “I like it here a lot. In general, relaxing in the park is something very nice in Germany”, he says. “The culture of sitting down outside in a small group and enjoying nature inspires me. I lived in North Carolina in the US for eleven years, where everyone just retreated home to their air conditioning.”

It was a wonderful day at Hamburg’s waterfront. Hopefully many more will follow for Conor and his girlfriend Vanessa. Maybe on one of them, they will try out the standup paddleboard!


There are many water sports to choose from in Hamburg, and it is easy to integrate them as hobbies into your new lifestyle. In this city, with its Alster and Elbe Rivers, and giant port, water is never very far away.