Walking Tour: The Heart of Hamburg

Start Hauptbahnhof

End Stephansplatz

Length 4km; two hours

So many journeys begin at Hamburg's Hauptbahnhof, and yours here is no exception. Facing southwest with your back to the station, walk along Spitalerstrasse and into the heart of Altstadt's shopping area. Big brand names line the roadside until you reach Mönckebergstrasse; take a note of the position of Mö-Grill, one of the city's most famous fast food stands, for later. Things become quieter as you cross Jaskobikirchhof, and continue south to Chilehaus, one of Hamburg's most distinctive architectural forms; wander into the courtyard and circumnavigate the building for the full effect.

From here, take quiet Burchardstrasse running northwest to Steinstrasse, which you cross and return to Mönckebergstrasse: always filled with life, this is one of the city's premier shopping streets. Take the street until it ends at Rathausplatz, and spend a few minutes sitting back and admiring the extravagant facade of the Rathaus. Take Alter Wall running southwest canal-side, admiring the colonnaded arcades that line the opposite bank, then cross the bridge heading north on Graskeller. Continue north and then turn left onto Wextrasse which gently climbs all the way to Grossneumarkt, one of Neustadt's quieter residential squares; on your way up Wexstrasse, admire the restaurants and small boutiques.

Return back down Wexstrasse the way you came, and continue northeast into the heart of Neustadt's elite shopping district, making your back to the canal and the Alsterarkaden shopping arcades. From here it's an easy stroll out onto Jungerfernstieg and the banks of Hamburg's inner harbour, Binnenalster. This is where all of Hamburg comes out to play on a sunny day, and if the sun is indeed shining, we recommend taking a rest here to watch everyone pass by. Take a short detour up Ballindamm, the promenade running along the Binnenalster's southeastern shore for views back to the grand facades backing Junfernstieg, then return to the latter and follow the shoreline northwest and then north along Nueuer Jungfernstieg. Under the trees here looking back towards the city centre are some of downtown Hamburg's prettier views.

Walking Tour: St Pauli & Port Loop

Start Landungsbrücken

End Fischmarkt

Length 3km; two hours

Begin at the busiest point of Hamburg's port, the Landungsbrücken, where you can watch the endless comings and goings of the harbour ferries and container ships. Start your loop through St Pauli, climbing up and over the busy roads and first northeast and then northwest through tranquil Elbpark; the path to follow is called Helgoländer Allee.

Just beyond the park's summit, you can't miss the Tanzende Türme, a pair of contemporary Hamburg skyscrapers watching over the eastern end of Reeperbahn and that look like they are dancing together – the perfect introduction to St Pauli's main hedonistic strip. Keeping on the south side of the road, follow Spielbudenplatz; check in to see what's on the program there and plan to return. On the way, you'll pass Schmidt Tivoli and St Pauli Theater, two of Hamburg's most lively theatres. Pause in front of Davidwache, the classic, brooding red-brick police station that has starred in many a German crime series. Cross Davidstrasse and then turn to look back for a quirky St Pauli streetscape – Davidwache in the foreground, Tanzende Türme in the back, and all manner of strange structures in between.

Continue along Reeperbahn, past the sex shops and table-dancing clubs and shops selling the pirate-like St Pauli-branded clothing. You could detour into any of the side streets, but unless its after dark, they're likely to be dead and depressing. Cross the road and continue west until you hit the rather muted celebration of the Beatles time in Hamburg at Beatles-Platz; the sculptures are rather underwhelming. Detour north along Grosse Freiheit – again, dead during the day, filled with sin and energy by night to take in the glitz and sleaze. Around two-thirds of the way along, take a small alley to the left and, next opposite a Thai Karaoke Bar, note the Star Club Memorial, all that remains of Beatles' first gig. Return to Reeperbahn, turn right, then descend Pepermölenbek all the way down to the waterfront, and St Pauli's Fischmarkt; plan to return on Sunday morning.