Head straight for the massive Port, Hamburg's heart and soul since the 12th century, on your first trip to Hamburg. Escape the modern-day bustle and wander towards the 19th-century brick warehouses tucked away in the Speicherstadt district. Schanzenviertel's bustling cafes and St Pauli's vibrant bars mean there's plenty left to enjoy on a return visit.
Hamburg sits north of the River Elbe. To the east of the Port, explore Speicherstadt, a labyrinth of brick storehouses resting on oak pillars. They were used to store spices and coffee from all around the world. Wander around the medieval Altstadt (Old Town), past Hamburg's Baroque landmark St Michaelis Church, a landmark for sailors arriving at the city. The nearby Town Hall is an elaborate 19th-century structure with a copper roof that stands out amid Hamburg's sober northern architecture. You'll find the scenic River Alster in the east and the theatres and bars of St Pauli in the west.
Cruise Hamburg's busy Port on a small boat, or view it from the top of towering St Michaelis Church. The International Maritime Museum, at home in a 19th-century brick storehouse, takes you through 3000 years of Hamburg's nautical history. Take a break at Planten un Blomen, a beautifully landscaped park in the city centre. Once you're rested, sample freshly caught lobster or eel soup at a traditional port-side fish restaurant. Then check out Hamburg's renowned nightlife on St Pauli's all-night Reeperbahn party strip.
From Bertram to Beuys, see German art through the ages, from Old Masters to contemporary, at Kunsthalle art museum. Feel the morning bustle of the world-famous Fish Market or browse St Pauli's Night Markets for curios, art and design. Seek out small cafes and quirky shops tucked behind the Neo-Renaissance facades of the alternative Schanzenviertel area. Hunt for one-off fashion pieces in Karoviertel, where local designers sell directly from their studios. Once you've worked up an appetite, dine on international cuisine at a gourmet restaurant on villa-lined Elbchaussee. Then sip fancy cocktails in Altona's contemporary bars.
Hamburg Airport flies over 12 million passengers to more than 125 destinations each year. Just 8.5 km (5 miles) north-west of Hamburg, the S-Bahn trains take you to the city centre in 25 minutes.