I don’t think I realized how massive the Hamburg Port is until I took a boat ride back in February. The size of the ships and the number of containers was unlike anything I had seen before and I was fascinated.
Now there is a new way to learn more about the Hamburg Port called the Discovery Dock. It uses virtual-reality and other high-tech effects to make it feel like you are in the harbor.
I want to share my experience visiting the Discovery Dock in Hamburg so that you can decide if it is something that you would like to do. Keep reading for my Discovery Dock review.
What is Discovery Dock?
The Discovery Dock, opened in March 2019, is an interactive experience where you can learn about the Hamburg Port. Your tour guide takes you to stations that use different technologies (including virtual reality) to give visitors insight into the life and working world of the sea port.
Our Visit to Discovery Dock
We arrived a few minutes before our scheduled tour to check-in. That gave us time to put our belongings into a locker and take a few photos in the selfie area. Then, we met our tour guide Aline, who was friendly and energetic. Her English was excellent, she almost sounded like a native speaker.
When it was time for the tour to start, she took us into a very dark room. I could not see anything and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Then the introductory film started. It was a short but powerful film. If you haven’t seen the Hamburg harbor it’s the perfect introduction. If you have seen the harbor, it helps put things in perspective.
The film only lasted a few minutes and when it ended, I was curious as to what would happen next. The door opened and we could see the main room. It was still dark but certain parts were lit up. There was a huge table in the middle of the room and Aline told us to stand around it. A closer look and I realized it was a high-tech digital model of the Hamburg port.
At first, it was kind of like a light show then we got our instructions. We would have a chance to visit different stations to experience and learn more about the port. It was up to us which ones we went to and when. We would have our tour guide to help us out when needed.
The first station we went to was where you get to virtually drive one of those cranes at the port that lifts the containers. I volunteered to go first and put on my virtual reality headset. For me, it was a bit difficult to figure out exactly how to work the crane but with some coaching from our tour guide, I was able to complete the task. Then, it was Russell’s turn and he made it look easy.
Next, we went to the station that explained about the wildlife living in the harbor. This is something I hadn’t ever thought about. It made sense that there were fish living there but I was a bit surprised to learn there were porpoises too. They had a virtual dolphin there that reacted to your movements.
In the following station, we became inspectors. I got a special flashlight to hold and I had to use that to search the virtual containers to find smuggled goods. Drugs weren’t the only illegal things we found. We were pretty surprised at some of what we found (not just drugs) and the volume, especially when our tour guide explained these were all based on real-life examples.
Then, we had another virtual reality station where we got to see the dry docks. You wear a virtual reality headset and get to explore the area. I had never seen one in real life so it was quite interesting.
The last station was designed to be a fun way to learn more interesting facts about the harbor. We could take out different containers and place them on the table and it would reveal some fascinating information about some of the important goods that are imported through the port. For example, we learned that a single container could provide a years supply of life-saving insulin for almost 6,000 people.
Then it was time to return to the main table. The high-tech table was the perfect way to wrap up our tour. In addition to summing up key themes, it also showed us the ships that had been in the virtual Hamburg harbor tour over the last 24 hours. You could see where the ships had been and when, plus general information about each one.
Is Discovery Dock for Kids?
Kids should be at least 10 years old to go to Discovery Dock. Young children might have difficulty using the technical equipment.
Discovery Dock is well-suited for older kids (age 10 and up) and adults. I think kids will love the interactive aspect of the exhibits. Adults will not be bored because what you learn is fascinating and the interactive virtual-reality stations are fun.
Combine Your Experience with a Boat Tour
Discovery Dock offers the option to combine their tour with a boat ride. Since I love being out on the water, especially in Hamburg, I knew that would be ideal for us.
After we finished our tour at Discovery Dock we were given our tickets for the boat and told to head to Landungsbrücken, which is about a 20-minute walk away. We finished at Discovery Dock at 3:00 pm and were told that the last boat was 4:00 pm.
Since we had a bit of extra time, we made a quick stop at the Elbphilaharmonie Plaza then walked over to the piers to find our boat. Our ticket said we could pick up the tour at either pier 2 or 6. Naturally, since pier 2 was closer we decided to go there.
We arrived about 20 minutes before 4:00 pm and found the office for the boat tour company Barkassen-Meyer. They told us the next tour would be at 5:00 pm. Not a problem, there was a bar right there and a drink sounded refreshing.
Before we knew it, it was time to head to the boat. People were boarding the boat, so we decided we should too to make sure we would get a seat outside. As we boarded the man collecting the tickets told us that the commentary would be in German would that be ok? Well I don’t speak any German and Russell knows a handful of words but we decided to go ahead because we weren’t sure when the next English Hamburg boat tour would be. After further research, I learned there is only one English tour at 11:30 am each day.
We may have missed out on the commentary but we still enjoyed Hamburg harbor cruise. It starts out going through the Speicherstadt area, which is actually a UNESCO Heritage site. The atmosphere is unique. In a way, it feels deserted but it is in the middle of Hamburg.
Next, the boat headed to the port. It is fascinating to see the huge ships and all those containers in real life. I thought about the crane operators and inspectors that we had learned about at the Discovery Dock. Even if we couldn’t understand the commentary, the boat ride was a pleasant way to end our afternoon learning about the Hamburg harbor.
How Long Does it Take to See Discovery Dock?
The tour lasted a little less than an hour and the time flew by. I felt like we learned and experienced a lot in the short time we were there.
Remember to arrive about 10-15 minutes before the scheduled start of the tour to check-in. If you are late you may not be able to join the tour.
If you choose to do a boat ride after, keep in mind, it starts about a 20-minute walk away from the Discovery Dock. Factoring in the frequency the boat tours run, I would allow an additional two hours.
Tickets for Discovery Dock
To make sure you get to visit Discovery Dock at your preferred time, it’s best to book tickets online. There is even the option to book online with the Hamburg Card discount.
If you want to book the package that includes the boat tour that is also available online, but you cannot get the Hamburg Card discount.
Click here to see the different ticket options for the Discovery Dock.
How to Get to Discovery Dock
The Discovery Dock is located right by the Elbphilharmonie. The exact address is Am Kaiserkai 60. Take the U3 subway to the Baumwall station or the 111 Bus to the Elbphilharmonie stop.
Discovery Dock Opening Hours
You can only visit the Discovery Dock as part of a tour. They offer nine tours a day, seven days a week, between 10:00 am. and 6:00 pm.
All the videos at the Discovery Dock are available in German and English, so you don’t need to worry about scheduling an English specific tour time.
Discovery Dock Admission Prices
Tickets to tour the Discovery Dock are €17.50 for adults and €14.50 for children. If you have the Hamburg Card, you can save 15%. (Click here to read more about the Hamburg Card).
The combined ticket for the Discovery Dock tour and the boat tour is €30.00.
You can buy tickets online here.
Overall Discovery Dock Review
We left with a new respect for the port of Hamburg. Our guide was friendly and we definitely had a few laughs. I wish we would have had a little more time inside the experience.
Discovery Dock was a fun way to learn more about the port, how it operates, and why it is important to the city. The virtual reality parts and other high-tech effects brought everything to life.
I think Discovery Dock should be on your list when you visit Hamburg!
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Expert Tips for Visiting the Discovery Dock
- You can get a discount on tours with the Hamburg Card.
- Book your timed-tour in advance online here.
- There are lockers to store your belongings while you take the tour.
- If you do the combined experience with the boat tour, keep in mind that the boat leaves and returns to Landungsbrücken, which is about a 20-minute walk from the Discovery Dock.
We were guests of the Discovery Docks so that we could share the experience with our readers. All opinions are our own.
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