No visit to Hamburg, Germany, is complete without hitting up the Reeperbahn, Hamburg's legendary nightlife mile. Located within the district of rebellious St. Pauli, it is home to one of Europe's biggest red-light districts and is a theme park of neon. It harbors the city's seedy (but largely safe) underbelly and is a must-visit in Hamburg. Nicknamed die sündigste Meile in German—which translates to "the most sinful mile"—this area is worth checking out if you're looking for nightlife in Hamburg. Everything centers around one street named Reeperbahn, but the district also includes many side streets.
While this particular area is especially known for its strip clubs and cabarets, it's also a popular area for locals and tourists alike to go out drinking. The neighborhood offers everything from dive bars to elegant cocktail lounges and is also known for its underground music scene where budding artists find recognition, the most famous being The Beatles who played 48 shows at the Indra Club in 1960. A night out in the Reeperbahn is all about exploring, but there are few choice bars you might want to prioritize.
- Clouds: The highest restaurant and bar in Hamburg, Clouds provides patrons with stunning views of the entire city. Move on up to the rooftop when the weather is warm enough to truly enjoy the scenery.
- Glanz & Gloria: A glamorous cocktail bar with a 1920s themed interior, here you'll find that the live music and an outdoor terrace only add to the special ambiance of this bar.
- Hans-Albers-Eck: This is a favorite of the neighborhood for its laidback and German hipster atmosphere. The bar is even made from the bow of a Hamburg tugboat.
Clubs and Live Music
Reeperbahn is the core of the St. Pauli party district, so anyone looking to continue the night after dinner and drinks will find no shortage of options.
- Docks: This is a staple of the neighborhood, hosting crowds of up to 1,500 people since 1988. This club is inside of an old movie theater with concerts throughout the week and every weekend DJs spin house, electronic, and techno music for party-goers.
- Molotow Music Club: One of Hamburg's most famous underground clubs, Molotow has hosted several world-famous bands back before anyone knew who they were, such as The White Stripes, The Killers, and The Hives.
- Prinzenbar: This is another popular dance club with weekly events and an art nouveau vibe, attracting lesser-known but still very talented DJs.
- Große Freiheit 36: Since 1986, this classic venue has been a rock and roll hotspot hosting the likes of R.E.M, Daft Punk, The White Stripes, and more.
The biggest annual event is the Reeperbahn Festival, where international music artists and fans descend on the city for this four-day event at the end of September. Artists perform in all types of venues, from nightclubs to churches. In addition to music, there are also movie screenings, poetry readings, art exhibits, and more. The focus of the event is on the Reeperbahn, but the entire St. Pauli district—even the city of Hamburg—comes alive for this event. In 2021, the festival will take place from September 22 to 25.
In early August, heavy metal fans can visit Wacken Open Air, the largest metal festival in the world. This festival isn't located in the St. Pauli neighborhood, but the heavy metal and underground vibe appeal to a lot of the same crowds who love the Reeperbahn music scene. In 2021, the festival will run from July 29 to 31.
Red Light District
The most notorious and exclusive street of Hamburg's red-light district is Herbertstraße. Just like Amsterdam's Red Light District, sex workers can be seen standing in dimly lit windows. However, unlike Amsterdam, it is not a tourist attraction.
The street is closed off by a gate that is monitored by police to keep minors and women from entering. Generally, only men over the age of 18 will be allowed to enter. Technically, there is no law against women entering, but sex workers are rumored to be hostile towards women. Feminist organizations in Germany, such as FEMEN, have protested the gates that keep women out, citing concerns that the secrecy hides an underworld of abuse and violence on the other side.
- To arrive via public transit, take the metro to Reeperbahn or St. Pauli.
- The Reeperbahn comes to life in the evening hours. A good time to visit is on the weekends, beginning at 8 p.m. and continuing until the morning hours.
- This area gets very crowded on the weekends and even though it is safe thanks to the high police presence, but you should still be cautious and beware of pickpockets. Violent crime is rare, but petty crime is fairly common.
- Most strip clubs charge hefty covers, so be clear about what you expect to spend and know your limits.
- If you are lured into a strip club with free entry, expect to shell out at least 20 euros for your first drink. Drinks usually come with a heavy surcharge.