No visit to Hamburg, Germany, is complete without hitting 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—the most sinful mile—this area is not to be missed if you're looking to have a good time in Hamburg.
While this particular area is especially known for its strip clubs, cabarets, and red-light district, it's also a popular area for locals and tourists alike to go out for drinks. This hip neighborhood offers everything from dive bars to elegant cocktail lounges, and is also known for its underground music scene where budding artists find recognition (most famously a little group called the Beatles).
Some of the hottest spots on the Reeperbahn include:
- Clouds is the highest restaurant and bar in Hamburg, providing 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 is a glamorous cocktail bar with a 1920s themed interior. Live music and an outdoor terrace only add to the special ambiance of this bar.
- Hans-Albers-Eck is a favorite of the neighborhood for it's laidback and German hipster atmosphere (the bar is made from the bow of a Hamburg tugboat).
Reeperbahn is the core of the St. Pauli party district, so anyone looking to continue the night after dinner and drinks has no shortage of options.
- Docks 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 is one of Hamburg's most famous underground clubs, and has hosted several world-famous bands back before anyone knew who they were, such as The White Stripes, The Killers, and The Hives.
- Prinzenbar is another popular dance club with weekly events and an art nouveau vibe, attracting lesser-known but very talented DJs.
The biggest annual event is without a doubt 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 early August, heavy metal fans can visit Wacken Open Air, the largest metal festival in the world. This festival isn't located in St. Pauli neighborhood, but the heavy metal and underground vibe appeal to a lot of the same crowds who love the Reeperbahn music scene.
Red Light District
The most notorious and exclusive street of Hamburg's red-light district is Herbertstraße. Just like Amsterdam's Red Light District, prostitutes sit in dimly lit windows and display their charms for customers.
If you are worried about your tender eyes (or those of your family), know that Herbertstraße is closed off by a wall and minors and females are generally verboten (forbidden) from entering. While they may officially enter this street, it is strongly discouraged by the police. Prostitutes here can be hostile to visitors who just want to look.
Tips for Your Reeperbahn Visit
- The Reeperbahn really 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.
- The Reeperbahn gets very crowded on the weekends. The area is fairly 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 a cover of 30 euros ($33). 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.
- To arrive via public transit, take the metro to Reeperbahn or St. Pauli.