Your Guide to Visiting the Hamburg Opera House

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If you are going to Hamburg, you don’t want to miss visiting the new Hamburg Opera House, the ELBPhilharmonie.  It is free to visit the 360 ° viewing platform, and trust me, the panoramic views of Hamburg and the River Elbe are the best in town!

Visiting the new Hamurg Opera House - the ELBPhilharmonie

Building the ELBPhilharmonie

As part of Hamburg’s redevelopment project of the waterfront, an entirely new part of Hamburg, Hafen City, adds residential, office and entertainment districts to the city.  And the most prominent building is the ELBPhilharmonie, Hamburg’s stunning new opera house.

At the Western tip of Hafen City the new opera house overlooks the River Elbe.  Utilizing one of the historic warehouses as the foundation or base, a glass building, made to look like a wave, rises over the top.

Officially opening in January 2017, the new building houses a hotel, three concert halls, a restaurant, and a viewing platform (the Plaza).  The historic warehouse,  once a storeroom for cocoa, tea and tobacco shipments arriving into the Port of Hamburg until the 1990’s, is now the luxurious 244 room Westin Hamburg hotel.  The opera house, the ELBPhilharmonie, is the new wave shaped glass structure built on top and the two are joined by a viewing platform which wraps all the way around the building providing 360° views of Hamburg City and its bustling port.

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Like many grand projects, there were delays and cost overruns.  With a final construction cost of close to 720 million euros, and 10 years of construction, the original estimate for construction, 75 million euros, wasn’t even close. But now that it is complete, the ELBPhilharmonie joins a prestigious list of the world’s great opera houses.

The Acoustics at the ELBPhilharmonie

Many for the world’s great opera houses are on the list for the quality of their acoustics.  Having visited and seen performances at some of the world’s best opera houses including the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires (renowned for its almost perfect acoustics) and the Sydney Opera House, the acoustics in the ELBPhilharmonie are world class.

Much of the time and construction costs are in fabricating the individual acoustic panels custom built and engineered to provide excellent sound.  No matter where you sit in Hamburg’s main recital hall, you can hear every instrument and note of the performance.

Visiting the ELBPhilharmonie for Free

The viewing platform at the Hamburg opera house, or The Plaza, as it is known, provides a way to visit the ELBPhilharmonie and enjoy the stunning views for free.

A large 80- meter long curved escalator, ,known as “The Tube”, takes you on a winding journey through a white tunnel ending at  The Plaza, 37 meters above Hamburg.  The open viewing platform runs all the way around the building providing spectacular views of Hamburg city and the port.

There are several options for your visit:

  • Receive a pass on arrival for a same day visit at the Visitor Center or one of the ticketing kiosks.
  • Organize a day pass online ahead of time- for a 2 euro booking fee- you can book for 1 day to 16 weeks in advance. (Highly recommended during peak season or during special events.)
  • Attend a performance at the ELBPhilharmonie and receive access to the plaza 2 hours before the start of the event. OR
  • Make a reservation to dine at one of the restaurants in the ELBPhilharmonie.(See below for further details.)

To organize a visitor pass to The Plaza in advance click here.

Food and Drink at the ELBPhilharmonie

Enjoy a meal or a drink at one of the many food and drink options at the ELBPhilharmonie.

Attending a Performance at Hamburg’s Opera House

If you attend a performance, six bars in the Grand and Recital Hall foyers serve drinks before concerts and during intervals. Serving a selection of wines, beer and non-alcoholic drinks, including coffee and tea, enjoy the views of the River Elbe, the harbor and of the skyline of Hamburg while enjoying a refreshment.

Bars open 90 minutes before the start of each event.  At the time of writing all bars are cash only.

If you are not attending a performance, there are still plenty of options.

Störtebeker ELBPhilharmonie Hamburg

If visiting The Plaza, the curving escalator known as The Tunnel ends at the 6th floor providing access to both Taste & Shop and Beer & Dine (both are located next to the floor to ceiling panoramic windows (they are hard to miss).

Or continue onto the second escalator for entry to the takeaway café Deck & Deli on The Plaza.

Between the three establishments, dining options range from quick and casual to fine dining.

Access to The Plaza requires a ticket and making an advance reservation for dining, provides a code for Plaza access. Use the code online or at one of the ticket kiosks in the lobby for a free pass for access to The Plaza.

The Westin Hamburg Hotel

Or dine in one of the bars and restaurants in the Westin Hotel.  For more information about dining options in the Westin, refer to The Westin Hamburg’s website.

Tickets for a Performance at the ELBPhilharmonie

If you want to see a performance at Hamburg’s new opera houses, tickets for performances in any of the three concert halls sell out months in advance.

We saw the NDR ELBPhilharmonie Orchestra perform “Planets” by Gustav Holst and then music from Star Wars.  Most enjoyable, and the acoustics are brilliant.

For those of us that are not audiophiles, you may wonder what near perfect acoustics mean to the audience.  When you see the musician play any instrument or note, imagine the percussionist hitting the triangle, you hear it, crystal clear and can distinguish the sounds of distinct instruments.  It is quite amazing (if only movies had this good of sound we would not constantly be adjusting the volume to hear the vocals and lower the music!)

The ELBPhilharmonie’ s Grand Hall holds 2100, the smaller Recital Hall holds 550.  The stage in Grand Hall is in the center with the audience surrounding the stage.

For booking tickets for a concert or event, visit the ELBPhilharmonie online ticket shop.

Thanks to Hamburg Tourism for hosting our visit to Hamburg and tickets for the performance at the ELBPhilharmonie!

  1. Ryan Biddulph
    | Reply

    Look at those fabulous waterside views Elizabeth. Love ’em.

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