Often overlooked in favour of Berlin, Munich and regional tourist destinations, Hamburg offers spectacular and charming rewards for those willing to make the detour – especially if you’ve worked up the courage to brave the Arctic winds that can chill even the most rugged-up traveller to the very core.
Grab a Hamburg Card City Explorer Ticket to make getting around the city a breeze. From as little as €7.30 for a single day pass you get unlimited use of the city’s far reaching and easy-to-navigate public transport network. The Hamburg Card also offers discounts on group tours and sightseeing, free or reduced admission to museums and attractions and highly discounted last-minute tickets to same-day shows at 18 theatres across the city. The pass is available from hotels and tourist information centres. Once you’ve got your card, grab a train to Rathaus to get your bearings and visit the 1897 neo-Renaissance town hall. Guided tours of the building, including many of its 647 rooms, are available. During the festive season, the Rathausmarkt – the plaza in front of the town hall – hosts one of the city’s largest Christmas markets. From here, the Binnenalster and Aussenalster (inner and outer lakes) spread out before you, while some of the best shopping the city has to offer sprawls out in every direction.
Pub quiz trivia No.143: The Beatles played their first gig outside England at the now-defunct Star Club (Grosse Freiheit 39) in the middle of St Pauli, the area dissected by the Reeperbahn which forms the city’s red light district. In the 1960s, this was the place to party in Hamburg before the area descended into the lawlessness which turned it into a nest for drug trafficking and prostitution. The 1986 staging of Cats, a massive police presence and redevelopment have turned this back into the trendy end of town. Cafés, bars and funky clubs have joined the seedy strip joints and sex shows to make the Reeperbahn Hamburg’s most popular nighttime attraction.
Fischmarkt and harbour
If you managed to haul yourself out of the Reeperbahn before dawn and can manage the aroma of fish on a hangover, head down to the shores near St Pauli for the traditional Sunday Fischmarkt. Set on the docks of the Harbour which feeds into the River Elbe, the Fischmarkt is a favourite with locals not only out for the freshest seafood, but for those who have pulled an all-nighter and want to continue the party in the massive warehouse at one end of the market. Don’t be offended if you’re insulted by the blokes spruiking anything from fish to kitsch knick-knacks – it’s all part of the performance and is crucial to the art of the sale. Just laugh and lap it up.
Worth a look
A little further out of town is the stunning arena which will host the World Cup group which includes the Czech Republic and Argentina as well as a quarter-final, and is home to Bundesliga club Hamburger Sport-Verein. Take a tour of the stadium and inspect the latest in state-of-the-art football facilities. Also stroll through the interactive museum, which comes complete with the locker door used (and doodled on) by former England player and manager Kevin Keegan during his time at the club and the European Cup which the club won in 1983.
– SAM BISHOP