Why go?

Much of Hamburg's charm comes from the fact that it's surrounded by water. Three rivers, the Elb, the Alster and the Bille, traverse it, as does a grid of picturesque canals. The pretty Alster lake is edged by green banks and independent cafes, and exploring the lake by steamer, ferry or your own rented boat, is an opportunity not to miss.

Back on dry land, the lively city has plenty to offer visitors of all ages. Kids will love feeding elephants in the zoo and taking in the sights and sounds of the city's vibrant, colourful neighbourhoods. For mums and dads, Hamburg is full of surprises. As the birthplace of Karl Lagerfield, it's Germany's second fashion capital and boasts a number of ritzy shopping streets and trendy areas, such as the famous Reeperbahn.

With quirky discoveries waiting around every corner, Hamburg is the perfect place for families seeking something a little different.

City zoos/ Hagenbecks Tierpark

Welcome to one of the most beautifully landscaped zoos in the world, run for generations by the Hagenbeck family. Don't miss the amazing zyglowing blue scorpions in the tropical acquarium, the sensational orang-utan house or the chance to feed elephants by hand.

Opening times: March–June and Sept/Oct, daily 9am–6pm; July/Aug, 9am–7pm; Nov–Feb 9am–4.30pm
Price: A combined ticket for the animal park and aquarium (also available individually) costs 30 euros for an adult and 21 euros for a child.
Contact: Grenzstr. 2. Tel. 040 5 30 03 30
Find out morewww.hagenbeck.de

Children's hotels/ Kinderhotel Bengel und Engel

This children’s hotel has everything you'd expect to find in a grown-up hotel, only in minature. There's a reception desk, welcome cocktails, towels and attentive carers. There are eight places for children aged between one and 12.

Price: Childcare from 6pm to 9am the following day costs 59 euros including meals.
Contact: Stellinger Weg 49. Tel. 040 43 17 94
Find out morewww.bengelengel.de

Museums

All state museums are free for children under 18, and they all offer special children’s programmes.

Don't miss the Zollmuseum, which is affordable and great fun.
Opening times: 10am–5pm
Price: 2 euros
Find out morewww.museum.zoll.de

Zoologische Sammlung, the University’s zoological collection, has an array of stuffed animals that kids will love. Don't miss the famous TV-star, walrus Antje.
Opening times: Tue–Sun 10am–5pm
Contact: Martin-Luther-King-Platz 3
Find out morewww.biologie.uni-hamburg.de 

For more information on Hamburg's museums, call the Museum Information Service on 040 4 28 13 10, or visit www.museumsdienst.hamburg.de

Family shopping

At Stilwerk, you don’t just get chic designer shops, but also a free child-minding service on Saturdays, for kids from four years. If you visit at Christmas time, you'll find steam boats moored at the Jungfernstieg jetty, where children are invited to listen to fairy tales or bake biscuits while their parents shop for Christmas presents.

Contact: Große Elbstr. 68. Tel. 040 30 62 11 00
Find out morewww.stilwerk.de 

Children's theatre/ Alleetheater

At this theatre, children are taken seriously – just like they have been since 1968. There's even opera to enjoy in the evenings.

Price: Tickets start at 14 euros, and performances usually take place on Fri, Sat and Sun.
Contact: Max-Brauer-Allee 76. Tel. 040 38 25 38
Pricewww.theater-fuer-kinder.de

Welcome point/ Willkommhoft

At the Wedel welcome point ships sailing into or out of Hamburg are greeted with a rousing chorus of their national anthem.

Retired captains conduct a flag ceremony and record the ship’s tonnage, length and land of origin. On the huge terrace, you can sample local produce from the stalls, and afterwards take a scenic stroll along the Elbe.

Opening hours: Daily from 9am
Price: Admission is 3 euros.
Contact: Wedel, Schulauer Fähr haus
Find out morewww.schulauer-faehrhaus.de

The lowdown

Travel time: Flights from London to Hamburg take approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes.

How to get there: Fly direct with EasyJet from London Gatwick to Hamburg, from £143 return.

Top tips: Read a Marco Polo travel guide before you go on your family holiday.