The Reeperbahn in Hamburg is an area that for decades has been known for the sex trade, drugs, and nightclubs. Let’s figure out what’s really true and what the visitor to Reeperbahn can expect.
Get to Reeperbahn
Reeperbahn is a fairly long street in the St. Pauli district (known for the soccer team). The Reeperbahn is centrally located in relation to Hamburg city center.
Depending on where in Hamburg you are, there are two ways to travel to Reeperbahn if you don’t walk.
If you are in Hamburg city center, the subway is the easiest way to travel. Take line U3 and get off at station St. Pauli. Then it is about 100 meters walk to the Reeperbahn.
The S-Bahn line S1 and S3 stop in the middle of the Reeperbahn. It can be relatively crowded in the trains and subways during weekend evenings.
It is also possible to arrive by car. The street is 930 meters long and on the side streets, there are parking spaces.
The history of Reeperbahn
The name Reeperbahn originates from the rope producers who lived here in the 1600-1700s. At this time, the Reeperbahn was outside of Hamburg and therefore there was a lot of space for tensioning ropes.
Without putting sailors in bad days, they often are attributed to Reeperbahn’s reputation as a place best known for the sex industry. Throughout history, cities with big ports have often had extensive sex trade. Amsterdam is also an example of this.
In the wake of the sex trade, bars grow up, which in turn generate drug trafficking. So even in Hamburg’s case.
Without Reeperbahn, Beatle’s career had taken longer. John Lennon summarizes it as follows:
I might have been born in Liverpool – but I grew up in Hamburg
Today, Reeperbahn is not as chaotic as in the 70’s. The basic ingredients with drugs and sex remain, but the big police station (Davidwache) in the middle of the street ensures that it stays under law and order.
Everything is not peace and joy. Even in the early years of the 21st century, Reeperbahn was an unsafe place. Despite the fact that procuring are prohibited in Germany (prostitutes count as self-employed), they still find women who were forced into prostitution.
The execution of punishment was one step in the right direction.
The next step came in 2007 when a ban of weapons was introduced on Reeperbahn. It can be difficult to understand what is legal in Germany. Prostitution, as mentioned earlier, is legal and it also applies to lighter weapons in public places.
Lighter weapons mean knives, batons, pepper spray and electric guns. These were thus forbidden on the Reeperbahn and are still prohibited.
On the Reeperbahn, there are lots of people moving. In the day, the street does not differ much from any street. There are Lidl and other low-cost stores.
The prostitutes are not annoying but adhere to “their area”. Just remember not to photograph them, it can cause difficult problems if you get caught up. Photography at the Reeperbahn should be avoided overall.
Most of the prostitution takes place on Herbertstrasse and the entrance to the street is covered by a shelf. Do not go into that street if you have other issues than sex on the Reeperbahn. At the entrance, there are also signs that women and minors may not enter the area, but there is no legal support for such a ban.
Stripp clubs and the like are touristy. Expensive indeed, but not dangerous in any way. You will not get a salty note and some well-built gentlemen who require to accompany you to the ATM. The businesses are watched carefully by the police.
Drunken teenagers can cause problems, but they are usually harmless. Alcohol consumption at Reeperbahn has increased since many low price bars have opened. These bars try to get customers with prices of 99 euro cents throughout the bar. This attracts youngsters who are getting the chance to get really drunk for less than 5 euros.
You should also not forget that on the Reeperbahn there are also more common pleasures. There are plenty of theaters, restaurants, and regular bars, so all kinds of people are moving in the neighborhood.
So with common sense, Reeperbahn cannot be classified as an extra dangerous place.
The brothels closing
During the 1980s, Reeperbahn had over 1000 registered prostitutes. Reeperbahn’s oldest brothel, Hotel Luxor, had been active for over 60 years and was open 24 hours a day. On April 1, 2008, it closed forever.
The brothel Eros was Europe’s largest with its 6 floors. It closed in 1988 as a result of the fear of AIDS.
Today, almost 300 prostitutes are active in the area.
The focus changed. The sex trade that previously dominated is today more excluded. Instead, sex and strip clubs and cheap bars thrive. Even Europe’s largest fetish department store is located here.
Worth visiting Reeperbahn?
The Reeperbahn can be an experience. A walk along the Reeperbahn night time can provide an insight into an incredible decadence. At the same time, there are several famous and established entertainments along the street. You decide …