If there was an on-trend sensor for urban getaways, city breaks to Hamburg would be registering off the scale.

Cool customer

Hamburg is a bit of a wild child compared to its big-name country counterparts, Berlin and Munich, with its nightlife ranked amongst the best in Europe. And when you’re not clinking glasses or calling in at music venues, there’s a culture-crammed city to explore by day. Architecture with the UNESCO stamp of approval, docks that have stood the test of time, and greenery-ruffled lakes are just a flavour of what Germany’s second-biggest city has in its locker.

Downtown docks

The city basically dangles its legs in the Elbe River, so plenty of Hamburg’s top activities revolve around the waterfront. The docks are home to a fish market that’s kicked into action every Sunday for generations, with old-school sellers auctioning their catch at top volume. An area called Landungsbrucken rolls out from here – it translates as ‘landing bridges’, because of the waterborne trade that came into the piers. These days it’s a bit more modern – historic riverside buildings are occupied by breweries and museums, and the Old Elbe Tunnel that connects Landungsbrucken to the south bank has been converted from a workman’s route to a subterranean art gallery.

Need-to-see nightlife

Few cities in Europe have the reputation that the Reeperbahn has when it comes to nightlife. Heads started to turn in the 1960s when The Beatles played a series of gigs along the strip, and the crop of bars and clubs just hasn’t stopped growing. Pockets of red light district crop up among the bars, so think of the area as having a parental advisory tag if you’re visiting. On the outskirts of the neon-lit lanes you’ve got some of St Pauli’s more quirky nightspots – one of them’s even housed in a huge Second World War bunker that survived the conflict and was given a new lease of life.

Parks and protected buildings

Outdoor space isn’t at a premium if you’re looking to take five from the hustle and bustle. Snippets of sand and Ibiza-style beach haunts bring a chilled-out vibe along the Elbe River. And in the north of the city there’s a little-and-large double act in the shape of the Alster Lakes – these big bodies of water are ideal for tree-shaded waterside walks and picnics. Back in the city, you can get a decent dose of culture by roaming around the centre – buildings like the Rathaus and St Michael’s Church catch the eye, and the UNESCO-accredited Speicherstadt area is filled with warehouses that look more like grand red-brick hotels.

At a Glance

  • Sample the Reeperbahn’s famous club scene
  • Visit historic music venues once graced by The Beatles
  • Wander along the banks of the Alster Lakes