Explore Reeperbahn with Hamburg Greeters

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The Reeperbahn is certainly the most famous street in Hamburg, but St. Pauli is much more. Our Greeter Hartmut tells about it.
St. Pauli belongs to the district of Hamburg Mitte, has about 22,000 inhabitants and is today, at least around the Reeperbahn, the entertainment and entertainment district of Hamburg with up to 120. 000 visitors on weekends.
If the Reeperbahn and its side streets were once considered dangerous, that has changed. The times of the Nutella gang or the GmbH are over. Crime hurts the business with the guests. Today, the real movers and shakers of the neighborhood wear ties and suits. But there are thank God also still the many colorful birds and St. Paulians who live their lives as they like it, perhaps gawked at or smiled at by Kiezbesucher, but open and tolerant. Better than the guests who come already drunk, and behave as they would not dare “at home”.
A St. Pauli Greet – a guided tour of a special kind – is a way to explore the Reeperbahn and St. Pauli with the Hamburg Greeters, to experience a cross-section of our society. Loud and colorful – but also right next to the Reeperbahn contemplative, familiar, quiet and creative. This area should necessarily also experience.


To “Ritze” bar in the red light district

We spent a few pleasant and very informative hours with our Greeter Hartmut in St. Pauli. I myself have been to Hamburg many times before, but...

In the heart of St. Pauli

Reeperbahn Grenzpfahl - Foto: Hartmut Roderfeld

Where everything comes from

If one goes the Reeperbahn in the direction of the west, one sees shortly before the Beatles place a black iron column, although it actually hardly someone notices. Ask even times a St.Paulianer. It is one of the last visible signs of the separation between Hamburg and Altona, which was Danish at the time.
On the one hand Hamburg and the “pepper sacks”. They sent all trades that were “disreputable” or required too much space outside their city gates. So, for example, in addition to the plague yard also the Reepschläger, which turned the ropes for the ships and needed quite long lanes for it. Hence the name Reeperbahn. At that time, the area in front of the gates was still called Hamburger Berg. A side street is called today still so.
In the fine city did not fit naturally also the amusement enterprises, jugglers and the prostitution. The settled then on the surface to Altona, play booths, showmen etc., it originated the play booth place. Hagenbeck was also represented with its seals. Late at night, the horn was blown on the Michel, which meant that the Hamburg city gates would close in 15 minutes. This gave rise to the “gate closing panic”, i.e. drinking beer and then quickly going back and through the city gate. Only in 1860, the gate closure was lifted.
On the other side Altona, which was open, there was no city gate, only a chain across the street, just from the iron column to a second on the other side of the street. And Altona was also more open in other ways, namely more tolerant in religious and commercial matters. And so the street names Great – and Small Freedom do not come, as one might assume today, from the sexual freedom or openness, but they refer to the religious and commercial freedom at that time in Altona.
So the city coat of arms of Hamburg still shows a closed, that of Altona an open city gate.


Reeperbahn Spielbudenplatz - Foto: Hartmut Roderfeld

Theatre, art and culture

The Spielbudenplatz quickly developed into an entertainment magnet even for the “better” Hamburgers after the end of the gate blockade. The time of wooden booths and tents was over. This hustle and bustle received a solid framework when it had to give way to solid commercial buildings from 1840.
Of these, only the St.Pauli Theater, which used to be the Urania Theater with 1300 seats, is still preserved today, as well as a red facade next to it. Exactly, only a facade, behind it the area is empty. Originally concert hall “Die Neue Welt, then Amerika Bar and finally a wave pool. Like so much in St.Pauli, it has become an object of speculation.
Where the “funnel” was before the war, a bowling alley was built and today there are the “Dancing Towers”. On the forecourt it can happen that you stand on the entrance of the “Mojo Club”. Only when it is open, two large entrances pop out of the ground. Right next to it there is still the Panoptikum, opened in 1879, destroyed in World War II, rebuilt, it is still owned by the Faerber family and worth a visit. Also on Spielbudenplatz are the Operettenhaus and Corny Littmann’s theaters. Theaters and musicals have made St.Pauli today also a center of attraction for their lovers.
Not to forget the many music clubs such as the “Grünspan”, which was already built in 1899 as a dance hall. In general, not only since the ReeperbahnFestivall Hamburg has become an international hotspot for bands and musicians. Alone in 2019, about 50,000 guests visited the four-day event with 600 concerts.
But it certainly began with the Beatles, who had about 800 performances between 1960 and -62, clearly incl. the beginnings in the Indra. Clubs like among many others Star Club, Top Ten or Golden Pudel Club are history, but St.Pauli is still the center of music in Hamburg.

Reeperbahn Waffenregelung - Foto: Hartmut Roderfeld

In the middle - pubs and red light

Where is the border between art and red light? With the Salambo of Rene Durand, finally closed in 1997 or the Safari of Hans-Henning Schneidereit, that was closed after his death in 2014 after 50 years, the last live sex stages disappeared from St.Pauli. These sights have probably taken over the Internet. With the strip shows in the Dollhaus or various bars had little to do.
In 2001, the powder keg moved from St.Georg to St.Pauli and is now the largest travesty theater in Europe. All this is a question of personal taste.
Less about sex but contacts, for that there are countless pubs and bars. Some like the Ritze are known Germany. Their boxing cellar, which appears in many films, is legendary, even if official competitions never took place there, because the ring does not meet the regulations, it is a bit too small. Until 2011, however, owner-managed by Hanne Kleine until his death. These pubs still exist or continue to operate “the same”, like Gretel and Alfons or the Silbersack. But mostly they disappear after the death of the owner or become “filling stations” for Kiez visitors with changing owners. You have to know your way around a bit to still find the personal meeting places.
Easy to find are the prostitutes, because they are only allowed to stand on the west side of Davidstraße, Herbertstr. and around Hans-Albers-Platz from 8 p.m.
And order is ensured by the police department 15, the Davidwache. With an area of barely one square kilometer, it is the smallest police station in Europe. 130 officers work there in shifts, although on weekends the number is sometimes increased by a hundred from other parts of the city. In 2005, it received an annex for the criminal investigation department and the department for road traffic matters.
So you don’t have to feel unsafe, just observe certain rules, like everywhere else.

St. Pauli Hinterhof - Foto: Hartmut Roderfeld

Right next door - "quiet and "familiar

But it is also worthwhile to stroll away from the Reeperbahn. Let’s start in the direction of the Elbe at the Landungsbrücken, pure harbor and always beautiful even for Hamburgers. Up the Bartels stairs and along the footpath “Bei der Erholung”, with a fantastic view of the harbor, very quiet, sit on a bench and let everything take effect.
Then the Bernhard-Nocht-Str., even at the HafenstraßenHäusern (occupations in the 1980s) it has become bourgeois. Unfortunately, almost nothing is left of the Erotic Art Museum. Then the St.Pauli church and the Antoni Platz, also called Park Fiction. Here, too, residents’ initiatives managed to prevent the final development and closure of the last open spaces. Since 2006, a meeting place under metal palms for local residents, with a view of the Elbe and the Blohm and Voss shipyard.
Next door is Hein-Köllisch-Platz. You forget about the Reeperbahn, even though it’s only a seven-minute walk away. Here, residents or insiders sit comfortably in the street coffee, for example in the “Doppelschicht,” an old customs house. —-
And now a jump to the north of the Reeperbahn, at the end of the Große Freiheit. Paul-Roosen- / Clemens-Schulz Str., that’s Montmartre in Hamburg. Small restaurants and bars, artists and boutiques, even if a lot of Turkish is spoken.
Also here is a lot going on in the evening and on weekends, but a different crowd, no bachelor parties or flat boozing, hardly any tourists. People know each other and help each other. That’s how the St.Paulians prefer to see themselves, “village-like”.
It still exists, even though gentrification is showing its claws here too and leaving its mark. Money usually wins.
If you go further north along Wohlwillstr, you come to the Schanzenviertel – but that’s another, often similar story.

All about "Greets"

  • Duration: two to three hours and absolutely free
  • Max. 6 people, no combination of different requests
  • Meeting point and exact route: by agreement between guest and Greeter
  • Request: please at least two weeks before desired date
  • More about Greets