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Street of Rope and Sex, an All Night Party

Hamburg touist district for adults St. Pauli Girl photoThe smiling girl on that St. Pauli Girl beer you’re throwing back may not be a girl at all. The St. Pauli district of Hamburg was in earlier times outside the limits of old protestant Hamburg and a haven for visiting sailors from the ships docking in the crowded harbor. The “St. Pauli Girl” was not named for the image of the spritely beer hall party girl of the popular beer brand label, but a nickname for the distinct sort of prostitute who easily plied their surprise wares of a more male variety under transvestite disguise, common to the St. Pauli. Not that the more common lady of the evening was not readily at hand and remains so, in abundance.

Nightclub Street on ReeperbahnThe Reeperbahn’s “mile of sin” in Hamburg’s St. Pauli district, actually more a half-mile, is arguably one of the most famous streets in Germany for its legalized prostitution and on-display sex stores and girlie clubs. The name Reeperbahn - meaning actually Rope Street - was a center for rope-making in the portside area’s sailing days, but now an officially sanctioned and cherished adult entertainment zone that is one of the northern port city’s primary tourist attractions. A far distance from prudish, puritan America, the freedom of sex in Hamburg is codified into city ordinance and the center of the street’s legal sex zone, Herbertstrasse, is located just behind the district police station at the corner of Reeperbahn and Davidstrass.

Hamburg entertainments zone Reeperbahn nightlife photoMore an alleyway blocked at both end by a steel gateway, through which only men are allowed to travel by city ordinance (so last century), the legal prostitutes of Hamburg are some of the most beautiful in Europe. Amsterdam with its Red Light District is perhaps more well known but actually more staid than raucus St. Pauli and doesn’t match the girls of Hamburg. The officially registered girls sit behind glass windows of the row, on display like a department store of delight. But the rents are expensive and any single male nearing Herbertstrasse or approaching the gate is mobbed by the girls who don’t pay the fees to be in the official street, operating instead from nearby small apartments. They will offer better deals than inside the official gates, but buyer beware, the price can go up for what you thought was included. Inside the gate, the “menu price” while higher is strictly regulated and the city requires health checks on its registered sex workers every two weeks.

Reeperbahn 24 hour kino clubBut the Reeperbahn and St. Pauli is far from sex only. It's a Hamburg party. The "Beatles" first found fame on Hamburg's Reeperbahn. There are many music and dance clubs mixed among the sex shops, from Jazz to Rock at popular live performance venues with international bands and performers to boogie till you drop discos of young and maybe not-so-young Hamburgers dancing the night away until the wee hours. In the area of St. Pauli District, a short distance from the Reeperbahn, you can find many local bars (Kneipen) and restaurants. And sex performance theaters where almost anything goes can be found a few blocks away on the street of "big freedom" Grosse Freiheit Strasse. The Reeperbahn sort of officially closes at 5am - mostly for street cleaning purposes and nothing says Reeperbahn like stepping over drunken young Germans passed out on the sidewalk at 4 am from a night of clubbing.

On a weekend in late September the Reeperbahn Festival offers a chance to enjoy 200 international music bands playing at the clubs, discoteques and stages in and around the Reeperbahn.

The Reeperbahn can be accessed from subway stops S-Bahn and U-Bahn at either end and whether you have an interest in the local trade or party all night dance clubs it’s probably worth a curious look. But watch out for that tall girl in the slinky dress with cable thick forearms and walnut Adam’s apple asking “Where you from, Sailor”. © Bargain Travel Europe

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