Hamburg is one of the safest cities one can encounter in Europe. People can generally walk freely at night without fear of being attacked, ask for directions to a stranger without consequence, and it is a fairly conservative, clean, organized, and orderly metropolis. However, there's just something about the nation's devotion to football and the historic rivalries between various teams that causes fans to become unusually loud, occasionally drunken, and potentially unruly on stadium game days. Being a city that prides itself on safety and orderliness, on these days a familiar sight to Hamburg residents that may be shocking to travelers is the fleet of armored police trucks and tanks you might see concentrated en masse as if they are expecting something big, and VERY dangerous to take place.
The tanks are definitely intimidating at first glance, but no worries, they are only there to protect the general community and contain any potential violent interaction between rival fan clubs. Our two main soccer teams are Hamburg (HSV) (a national team) and St. Pauli ( local city team). St.Pauli crowds are a bit raucous as a rule, and their games are generally Sundays around noon, located near the Hamburger DOM. So if you are sightseeing or visiting churches on a Sunday morning and see a fleet of tanks and sea of police in combat gear standing around on BUDEPESTER STRASSE (as you pass through the "St. Pauli" neighborhood), do not be alarmed, you are absolutely safe.
Hamburg HSV plays at the Imtec Arena in by Hamburg's Volkspark. The area in general is a residential, middle class enclave and the team's supporters are a bit more relaxed. However, when this team plays in town, there are busloads of fans from the rival teams/cities/countries that descend upon this quiet, provincial west side neighborhood. A common practice is for fans of vistiting to gather at the Altona or Othmarshen train stations to be shuttled to the game, but not before taking control of the train station stairwells to begin a 5 or 10 minute (city permit sanctioned) "demonstration"- in which they sing rousing battle cries and calls of defeat to their opposing team with menacing looks on their faces, and with all the fervor of mercenaries on a war path...it has to be seen to be believed.
Othmarshen is an upscale neighborhood that is very orderly, so again, you won't have to worry about your safety if you should happen to run into one of these groups while in transit. At most, it might be an inconvenience to you ascending or descending stairs to the train platform for about 10 minutes (and they make such a racket, it really feels better to just wait it out), but the very solid police presence with muzzled dogs makes it clear that while the visiting fans are allowed to do an "organized" form of rabble rousing, they will not in any way be allowed to turn that intimidating energy out towards others while in route to these games.
If someone in Hamburg tells you about 'Michel' (German nickname for Michael), don't get confused. The person could possibly talk about St.Michaelis, a protestant church of the early 20th century and being one of the most famous land-marks of the city. Michel is the name of the 132m high tower! You can also climb the church tower... excellent views.
U3: Rödingsmarkt, Landungsbrücken (U3)