Blümner studied with Otto Jahn in Bonn and wrote his doctoral thesis 1866 in Berlin on Lucian. He taught in the universities of Breslau and Königsberg, and after 1877 was professor in the University of Zürich. He is author and editor of many philological and archaeological works, of which the most important are: Die gewerbliche Thätigkeit der Völker des klassischen Altertums (The commercial activities of the peoples of classical history; 1869), Technologie und Terminologie der Gewerbe und Künste bei Griechen und Römern (Technology and terminology of trade and the arts in Greece and Rome; 4 vols., 1874–88), Leben und Sitten der Griechen (Life and customs of the Greeks; 1887), Maximaltarif des Diokletian, with Theodor Mommsen (1893) and Pausaniæ Græciæ Descriptio (1896). He revised Hermann's Griechische Privataltertümer (1881) as well.
Among Blümner's doctoral students was the literary scholar and Germanist Emil Ermatinger.