I am a singersongwriter and founder of the musical Beatles tour (hempelsmusictour.de). In my opinion, Hamburg is the most beautiful city in Germany.
It has been my home for 20 years. One reason I came here was to study classical piano; the other was to live somewhere intimately connected with the Beatles.
I’ve been a Beatlemaniac since my early teens and there is no place in the world where the Fab Four – or Five, as they were originally – played more than in the city’s clubs.
And it all happened in the old red light district, where you’ll find the old “sin mile”, the infamous
surrounded by a bohemian, village-like neighbourhood full of creatives, cafés, shops restaurants and bars. The atmosphere is relaxed and convivial, yet remains the beating heart of Hamburg’s antiestablishment identity.
St Pauli is still where the music happens. The most iconic examples remain the old rock ’n’ roll clubs where the Beatles played, such as the and the
but “dancing towers”, at the very beginning of the Reeperbahn, you’ll find the stunning
At night, the ground-level doors open up, leading you underground into a modern concert hall.
The area is also full of quaint restaurants and street food joints. One of my favourite places Kunsthalle is all woodpanelled walls and checkered black-and-white floors, exhibiting old masters such as Lucas Cranach the Younger as well as 20th-century artists. Next door is a glass contemporary gallery, showcasing work by Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Tracey Emin. At the opposite end is the Deichtorhallen, two historic former fruit, vegetable and flower market halls converted into exhibition spaces for contemporary art and photography. The stark art hall features cutting-edge artists such as Gilbert & George, Antony Gormley to go before a night out on the Reeperbahn is the – definitely the best pizza in town.
It’s a bohemian place run by a real St Pauli character and musician. If you prefer fine dining, book a table at the on Neuer Pferdemarkt. Then make your way to venue is the
located by the River in the middle of the harbour. The concert hall appears like a huge, illuminated ship about to take off.
Tickets are sold out until the end of next summer and the excitement shows no sign of ending. The location is just amazing and the sound is overwhelming.
The most wonderful thing for me is that the stage is in the middle of the audience, creating an almost campfirelike feeling. and Georg Baselitz, while exhibitions at the Haus der Photographie range from Richard Avedon, Martin Parr and Viviane Sassen. If time is limited, I’d recommend the Kunstverein Hamburg, where famed German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans has a solo show until Nov 12 displaying his art beyond the camera. At the Kunsthalle, an exhibition called Art and Alphabet until the end of this month explores languages and writing systems through various art forms, from painting to installations.
A requisite Beatles tour was next on the agenda. The Fab Four played around 300 concerts and spent more than 12,000 hours on stage here and John Lennon said: “I grew up in Hamburg.” Musician Stefanie Hempel, armed with a ukulele, led our group through the old red light district as she sang the songs the Beatles performed in the clubs and strip joints of the Reeperbahn and Grosse Freiheit. “The Beatles will be the Schuberts and Schummans of the 20th-century,” Hempel quoted Leonard Bernstein.
Back at the Elbphilharmonie, I stepped on to the spaceship-like escalator and waited patiently for two and a half minutes to be beamed up through a white tunnel studded with thousands of glimmering discs. As I emerged on to an observation platform, a compelling vision of the River Elbe and the sweeping waterfront, fringed by cranes, came into view. The sun made its way down to the edge of the harbour, casting a white glow over the dark grey river. I couldn’t really decide what kind of person I was, whether I was an Alster or an Elbe. Maybe, like the city, I was both.
Book tickets to the Elbphilharmonie (00 49 40 357 666 66; elbphilharmonie.com). Tickets for the International Music Festival from April 27 – May 25 2018 are on sale from December; website as above
Hamburg is Germany’s busiest seaport and is pictured from the popular ‘Beach Club’ Strandpauli