Catch a St. Pauli match
FC St. Pauli may not be great at football, but that's not really what Hamburg's second largest club is about. An alternative fan scene has grown around St. Pauli since the 1980s, based around left-leaning politics, social activism and the party atmosphere of the club's matches. Under the club's (unofficial but universally recognised) skull and crossbones flag – a nod to legendary local pirate Klaus Störtebeker – matches at the Millerntor-Stadion are miles away from the corporate experience that many football teams now sell. After the match, the party continues around...
The (in)famous Reeperbahn
John Lennon said of his time in Hamburg, "I might have been born in Liverpool – but I grew up in Hamburg". George Harrison called it “the naughtiest city in the world”. When the Beatles arrived in Hamburg in 1960, they were just out of school. When they left after two years of playing nightly in the strip clubs of the Reeperbahn, they were ready to face the world.
The modern Reeperbahn is not as sketchy as its 1960s incarnation, but there is still plenty of edge to the street and its surrounding area. You are now significantly less likely to get robbed, beaten up and left in the gutter, but the area has not been sanitised: you will still see prostitutes working here in broad daylight. Some locals grumble about gentrification, but there's a long way to go before this place loses its authenticity.
After 364 construction days and 13,000 work hours, the Elbe Philharmonic Hall and HafenCity were opened on 13 November 2013. No, not the big ones, but their models in Miniatur Wunderland. May it never be said that the Germans are not thorough.
As the name suggests, this is a wonderland in miniature. Featuring miniature models of local sights and some global icons, this is a superb place to spend an afternoon. With everything from a six-metre high Matterhorn to a Las Vegas with 33,000 lights; an open-air concert with 21,000 tiny visitors to a tiny chocolate factory producing real chocolate, Miniatur Wunderland is a remarkable feat of construction and quite unlike anything you have seen before.
The beach bars of Övelgönne
In the former fishing village of Övelgönne, the Strandperle is a famous bar where you can sit on the beach and enjoy the view of the Elbe River and the cranes of Hamburg’s docks. There are many other beach clubs in the same area and close to Landungsbrücken.
If a combination of excellent beer (brewed according to Germany's legendary Beer Purity Laws), horn-heavy music and fairground thrills sounds like a good day out, the Hamburger Dom is hard to beat. It's like the Oktoberfest of the north but without the tourist hoards.
The largest fair in Germany pops up three times a year (spring, summer and winter) and is the biggest show in town. The fair runs for 91 days in total and puts on a spectacular firework display every Friday at 10:30pm that can be seen across most of the city.
The Alster is one of the world's great city lakes. Created in the 13th century by damming the Alster and its feeder rivers, this is now prime location to sail, swim or simply enjoy the sunshine. Jog around the 7.8km radius of the lake if you are feeling active, set up a blanket and chill out on the shore if you are not. There are also sailing boats and canoes to rent. During colder winters, the lake has been known to freeze, in which case you can walk or skate across it.
Hamburg's largest museum hosts an impressive permanent collection of works from some of the greatest names in art, not to mention superb exhibitions throughout the year. The permanent collection spans 700 years and is one of the most important public collections in Germany.
For more contemporary art and photography, visit the Deichtorhallen. The exhibitions are often weird and usually wonderful.