Hamburg is a city with two sides. By that, I mean football. Staying in St Pauli means that we are closer to The Millerntor Stadion, home to FC St Pauli. Across the city in the Stellingen district sits The Volksparkstadion where Hamburger SV play their home matches.
We caught the S-bahn line 3 train from Landungsbrücken to Stellingen, a journey of around 20 minutes. From Stellingen station, signs will direct you to the arena. Our walk took us through a park featuring graffiti dedicated to Hamburger SV with clear signposts to the stadium at every turn.
The stadium site is enormous. The academy, training complex and stadium are all on the same site. With the park being a public one, it’s a world away from the fenced off, access denied stadiums back in England.
We were here for a tour. This begins at the museum located by gate 28 in the south-west corner of the stadium. The tour costs just €12 and includes access to the museum. Our guide, Bridget, was going to show us around.
Stepping out onto The North Terrace is quite the experience. This is home to the hardcore supporters of Hamburger SV, the ultras. The very section where the vast majority of the noise will be coming from on matchday. This part of the stadium is unique as the terracing can be interchanged with seating for any international matches or major finals.
Bridget went into detail about how the stadium had been re-built in stages from the old stadium on the same site. It’s truly incredible to think that football was still being played in the regular season as this giant structure was coming together at the same time.
We moved on upstairs to the concourse. Incredibly, there is a small stage set up for live music where fans of both home and away teams can mingle before matches over a cold beer. There are also superb works of art on the walls in graffiti depicting the history of Hamburger SV, including fan clubs from around the world.
The lessons just kept on coming as we learned about the design of the roof and the unique rig of lights that can be used for both football and other events such as boxing or music concerts. The roof is also incredibly thin and made from a special material that has to be regularly inspected by experts.
Wherever you sit in this stadium you are assured of a flawless view of the action on the pitch. The pitch incidentally was being prepared for the second half of the season following the winter break hence the lighting set up across the surface.
Bridget also gave us in-depth information about the process of young players staying at the club’s academy. There is a rule that there must be a boarding facility for any players outside of Hamburg plus schooling within the facility itself. The kids get treated like professionals from the beginning along with having the best facilities. It really was incredible to hear.
Inside the stadium, a warm place on a cold day such as this, there were further interesting sights. If your child is lucky enough to have a birthday and a few football-mad friends, they can play in a specially constructed pitch situated in one of the stands – if only I could have had this at Leicester City.
Tours of the VIP area were just mind blowing. A business seat here includes a parking space, an unlimited buffet and drinks plus one of the best seats in the house. The price? On average around €350, tremendous value.
If you’re feeling a bit flash and want to go a step further than the business seats, you could always grab an executive box for the season – yours for around €62,000. They do come with personal host, buffet and drinks plus luxurious chairs and tableware.
It was a real wrench to leave the VIP area but the final stage of the tour was to go deep into the depths of the stadium. There’s even a special area for the team buses to park in with a sign on the away team parking spot translating to ‘90 minute stay’ and the home team spot stating ‘unlimited’.
The home team dressing room is off limits unfortunately but you do get to see the away team dressing room. The size of the room is impressive but even more so are the huge jacuzzi tubs – these have to be reserved by the team a day in advance as it takes hours to fill these tubs with water.
Outside the dressing rooms, before the entrance to the pitch, is an area for the media. Upstairs leads to the press room where post-match press conferences take place. Back downstairs there are restricted zones even for the press before the match gets underway as to not unsettle the teams focus.
Walking down the tunnel was a special moment. The moment was made even more special by the Hamburger SV anthem playing as we strolled out into the arena. For a moment, you can imagine being a professional in a full stadium.
At pitch level you can really appreciate the scale of the arena. The stands almost hang over the pitch so the players must really feel close to the crowd, great if you’re winning but intimidating when you’re losing.
Hamburger SV sell out on a regular basis, even in the second division. Tickets can be purchased and collected from the portakabin just outside the entrance to the museum. At a capacity of 57,000 a matchday is certainly a memorable experience in a sold-out fixture.
If you are travelling to the game by train on the day of the game from within Hamburg, the fare is included on your match ticket. This is a regular feature of German football where the fans are treated as fans and not as customers.
We have done many stadium tours in our time but none as detailed as this. Hamburger SV have a rich history and a sublime arena to enjoy their football in every other week. The stadium is also a UEFA category 1 which allows international matches and other high profile games to be staged here.
The tour of the stadium for just €12 is the perfect way to spend a good couple of hours in Hamburg. Thought provoking and informative, even if you are not a football supporter, you will thoroughly enjoy this tour.
Nearest S-Bahn Station: Stellingen (Line 3)
*Stadium tour provided complimentary by Hamburger SV