How cold can it get in Hamburg? What is the winter like in this northern German city, and how much snow does Hamburg get a year?
These are some common questions of winter lovers, Christmas market crawlers and potential future Hamburg expats who are afraid of the tales and legends about Hamburg’s awful weather being true. And of course, they are indeed true!
Hamburg is dark, cold, moist, humid and rainy. However, the winter can still get pretty magical over there, especially when it snows in Hamburg. And that can really happen from time to time!
Does it Snow in Hamburg? Yes, it does!
Hamburg is definitely not a crowned Winter Wonderland destination like the mountainous Bavaria in the southern Germany, nevertheless it snows in Hamburg and not only once a year!
Alright, the snow doesn’t have to repeat on a yearly basis, but generally speaking, Hamburg gets around two heavy snowfalls a year and smaller once several times throughout the winter. It pretty much depends on the intensity of the winter itself.
For example, white winter surprised all Hamburgers in February 2018, as well as in January and February 2021. Last year (2021) was a great snow success for Hamburg! I know it because I was there, taking pictures of the white roofs of the houses and enjoying every little breezy breath of fresh snowflakes in the beautiful parks of Hamburg.
When Does it Snow in Hamburg?
If you’ve already imagined yourself drinking Glühwein at one of many Christmas markets in Hamburg while shaking away the hordes of snow from your shoes, I’ll have to disappoint you.
January and February are the months when it gets snowy in Hamburg, and the snow has also a real potential to stay on the ground for several days. However, Hamburg’s Christmas markets are definitely worth visiting despite the lack of snow.
Even though December can be the month when you may notice some snowy showers in Hamburg, it is not real snow. It melts quicker than it falls down, and it turns into rain before it eventually ends up on the ground. No Xmas Winter Wonderland, my dears! In case you’re asking if it snows in Hamburg on Christmas. Nope, it does not!
What is the Winter Like in Hamburg?
Winter in Hamburg is cold, very grey, foggy, moist, rainy, freezing. Not freezing in the way that the temperature drops crazily low. Rather, the combination of high humidity, low-temperature and strong wind can really get inside your bones. Yeah, you need a proper winter jacket to visit Hamburg in winter, and don’t forget for a cap, scarf and gloves.
At some point, during the coldest days of the year in January, lakes including the famous Alster turn into ice. It is common to see kids ice-skating in parks. While little lakes are safe, Alster is usually not, and you’ll be hearing and reading many alerting news about avoiding on stepping, walking or even ice-skating on the Alster’s frozen surface.
Yet, there have been several deep freeze winters in Hamburg during which Alster turned into a thick piece of ice safe enough to walk on. The last time it happened was in 2010 during the deep freeze in Germany. Crossing from eastern part of the city to the western one became as simple as never.
There was no need to go around getting to the other side of the city. People crossed over the icy Alster on foot, ice skates or even on bicycle like it was the most natural thing to do. The same happened also back in 1996 (watch this cool video) and probably was happening more often before that when the winters in Europe used to be colder. (I even heard some legends about Christmas markets being placed on Alster!)
What is the Average Temperature in Winter in Hamburg, and Which Month is the Coldest One?
Official sources like Worldtravelguide report an average temperature in winter in Hamburg to 2 degrees. As a person living in Hamburg and experiencing Hamburg’s winter for the fourth time (two years as a visitor, two years as a citizen), I can confirm that this number is pretty accurate.
However, we all know what an average temperature means. The weather can change in Hamburg from a week to week, even from a day to day. The constantly changing wind and proximity to the Northern sea really influences Hamburg’s climate.
December in Hamburg
December can be pouring and dark. And I don’t mean dark only because the sun sets around 4pm, but also because the whole city of Hamburg is covered in a constant grey cloud which nearly never goes away. The average temperature in December is 2 degrees. You can experience cold days when temperature drops below 0, just to get 8 degrees the next day.
(Fun fact: I woke up today on December 11th somewhere between 8 and 9am when I noticed something unusual. There was such a beautiful light outside and, unused to this phenomenon during winter mornings in Hamburg, I started wondering what had happened. My boyfriend asked me to come to the office which is located at the eastern side of our flat and showed me something surreal. There was blue sky in Hamburg on a Saturday December morning, and gorgeously golden rays of the sunlight were piercing the clouds and reflecting on the windows of buildings. What a pleasure! This miracle lasted for another hour, and then the Miss Greyness came again. Yes, there is so dark and gloomy in Hamburg during winter that you even forgot how a regular morning with a sunrise looks like).
January in Hamburg
January is according to many weather websites the coldest month of the year in Hamburg. The average temperature is 1 degree, and it usually drops below 0. It’s the month when you can expect some snowy falls and the snow can actually stay on the surface for several weeks! There is more sun in January in Hamburg than in December. We had a few nice days back in 2021, and it was really a pleasure to have a snowy walk throughout the city.
The Christmas markets are already gone, but many restaurants and cafeterias keep selling mulled wine (if not closed due to corona) so you still get the magic after Xmas atmosphere. The air is fresh, there is snow if you’re lucky to catch up on the good winter, and all the beautiful streets of Hamburg look so cosy!
February in Hamburg
February is a real chameleon in terms of weather (nearly as much as all people born in February including me lol). The beginning of February is still pretty much influenced by the cold month of January.
There is a chance of snow – look at my pictures from 3rd and 10th February 2021, which eventually melts down just to be swapped away by sunshine! Yes, you’re reading correctly. The temperature can change so quickly in February in Hamburg and jump several degrees up only in a few days.
There was quite a long-lasting snow and cold temperature at the beginning of February 2021 and only after 2 weeks we experienced a little Spring over here with something over 16 degrees for a few days. February is the second-driest month in Hamburg, right after April.
Be aware of very unpredictable weather also in March. We had a super random snow shower on the 31. March. Around 20 centimetres of sun fell down over the night and melted later during the day.
Is Hamburg Worth Visiting in Winter?
Of course it is! Winter is definitely not the time of the year I’d recommend for a longer visit but if you appear to come to this city during the cold and gloomy days, you’ll definitely find something to do.
You can walk around the beautiful districts and streets of Hamburg, enjoy ice-skating, Glühwein and hundreds of cosy restaurants, bars and cafeterias. There are many indoor activities in Hamburg held inside of concert halls, theatres, musicals, galleries. You can visit the Planetarium, beautiful ElbPhilharmonie and plenty of other places!
Whenever you decide to visit Hamburg in winter, Just get properly dressed and come with a high dosage of vitamin D. Hamburg is charming throughout the whole year, but the most beautiful on a sunny day.