‘Hamburg? You’ll be going to the Reeperbahn then?”
No. Really don’t bother.
The Reeperbahn is Hamburg’s notorious ‘sex street’ lined with bars and brothels. There is even a sex shop above McDonald’s (cue Happy Meal gags!).
In reality it’s a dual carriageway that’s crass, noisy and intimidating.
Best to have a look and get out – Hamburg has so much more to offer.
Hamburg’s focal point is its waterfront and port – Germany’s biggest – and is always alive with ferries, tourist boats and giant cruise liners.
It’s a working seaport but the city-side waterfront has been turned into a promenade of pop-up bars and food stalls that is a very pleasant walk on a sunny evening.
The great transport network makes it a pretty simple place to get to and get round.
The U3 will become your friend over the course of a weekend – it’s a circular loop that runs from Hamburg’s main station (Hauptbahnhof) and the town hall (Rathaus), down the waterfront and back.
The 62 ferry is the best free ride in the city
The cheap travel tickets – 11.80 euros for a group of five for the whole day (and they are never checked!) – also include the ferries that run from the lower prom.
The 62 is the best free ride in the city – its hour-long run takes you right along the front, past the old fish market and over to Finkenwerder, where you can get off for great views of the city from Gorch-Fock Park.
For longer tours, there are dozens of tourist trips from the port starting at about 18 euros but I don’t see why you would bother when the 62 is running.
Hamburger SV and St Pauli
Hamburg play at the huge Volksparkstadion about a 20-minute train ride followed by a mile walk from the city. The Volksparkstadion holds 57,000 fans but feels a lot, lot bigger.
The walk to the ground is eased by pop-up bars and people selling cans of beer from supermarket trolleys. Warning – German football fans like a drink.
We are lucky enough to catch the Friday night game with Leipzig when Naby Keita gives Liverpool fans a glimpse of what 48m euros buys you as the away team wins 2-0.
But it’s St Paul that has the real edge – they are just over the road from the Reeperbahn and have a skull and crossbones on their crest.
They may be the city’s second club but they are the ones tourists want to visit and adopt.
Hamburg’s best bars
Luckily we have an ‘insider’ to help us find the best food and drink.
First tip – the lower platforms and nearby streets of the main stations have the cheapest food – 2 euros for a coffee and a pastry.
Taking advice, we soon find our favourite bar and go back on three occasions.
Oma’s Apotheke is on the cobbled Schulterblatt in the Sternschanze district that is also on the U3 line.
The bar has two rooms that are full pretty much all day – there is a queue for tables for food that includes simple German food (eggs and fried potatoes, steak, burgers).
A half-litre of lager is 3.5 euros, a pitcher 9.5 euros and the metre of beer served in a dozen glasses 15 euros.
An added bonus is Oma’s is non-smoking.
For a more food-centred night out, head for the Portuguese Quarter near the Landungsbrücken station (again on the U3!).
The criss-cross of streets is home to many seafood restaurants and Brazilian rodizios.
But no trip would be complete without a late-night trip to Heidi’s – a small smoke-filled bar off the main drag that serves cheap beer to an Eighties soundtrack.
The weekend saw the Cruise Festival – a traditional weekend that sees the city welcome back its sailors.
The modern-day version sees thousands of people line the dock to receive cruise liners, including the massive Preziosa playing Nena’s 99 Red Balloons!
Here you go, enjoy….
Facts and figures