Reeperbahn – Hamburg’s Famous "Mile of Sin"

Reeperbahn – Entertainment Boulevard or Still a Wicked Mile?

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Reeperbahn – Courtesy Hamburg.de/C. Spahrbier..

Our visit to the Reeperbahn in Hamburg’s St. Pauli district was a disappointment!

No, we weren’t looking to check out the Reeperbahn’s erotic theatres or to go into any of the strip clubs, but a promised stroll through Hamburg’s most famous street did not materialize. Our tour guide had promised that she would take us on a stroll through the Reeperbahn after our paid harbour cruise, but when the moment came, she changed her mind. According to her, no self-respecting female would be seen walking there?

Origin of Reeperbahn

Hamburg’s most famous street got its name from the old German word ‘reep’ which means an old heavy rope for a ship. During the 1600s and 1880s the area north of today’s Reeperbahn was used as a ‘rope walk’ for the production of ropes for the nearby harbour.

The Reeperbahn has seen many changes throughout the decades:

  • Back in the 1950′s and 1960′s when cargo ships took a few days to unload, the Reeperbahn was filled with sailors.
  • In the 1960’s the Reeperbahn became the mecca of rock music.  Everyone from the Beatles to the Searchers was performing in clubs like “Top Ten” or the “Star Club”. Yes, the Hamburgers are very proud to claim that the Beatles started their career in Hamburg.
  • In the 1970’s and 1980’s brothels and strip clubs were seen almost everywhere at the Reeperbahn.

Mile of Sin No More

But Hamburg’s “mile of sin”, is no longer what it used to be in its heydays.  Although it still rates as one of the world’s most famous red light districts, many of the Reeperbahn’s famous institutions like the Hotel Luxor and Star Club have long since closed due to poor business and the fear of aids.  The St. Pauli red light district now co-exists with plenty of nightclubs, theatres, restaurants, music-clubs and discos.

According to the tourist bureau, the gentrification of the Reeperbahn has brought back many of Hamburg’s citizens to the area.   While once the wicked mile, the Reeperbahn has turned into an ‘entertainment boulevard’.

Reeperbahn Festival

The Reeperbahn Festival is one of Germany’s largest club festivals and each year it presents more than 400 events over a range of venues.  The festival was on and the street was packed with people, music was blasting from the  stage and flashing neon signs everywhere called attention to the musical entertainment that was happening in the Reeperbahn. Thanks to the censorship of our tour guide we never got to walk through Hamburg’s “mile of sin”.
The Reeperbahn Festival 2013 runs from September 25 – 28, 2013.

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Getting there by Public Transport:

From “Hamburg Hauptbahnhof“, main station:

  • Take the tramway S1 in direction “Wedel”, or
  • Take the tramway S3 in direction “Pinneberg” and get off at “Reeperbahn”, or
  • Take the tramway U3 (in direction “Sternschanze” / “Schlump”) and get off at “St. Pauli”

Hamburg Map:

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