With Berlin as an alluring, ever-active capital city, other destinations in Germany are often an after-thought. But that shouldn’t be the case, as each region offers different insight, different experiences and an opportunity to further explore the German culture. Hamburg, the northern port city (only two hours away from Berlin), offers unprecedented culture, food, drink and fun. And most of it happens to last 24 hours a day, especially in the neighborhood of St. Pauli. Formerly a red light district (though, certain elements of that identity still linger), the area is the city’s center for creativity, housing start-ups, artists and musicians, and everything those individuals need to maximize their lifestyle. And while the center drag (known as the Reeperbahn) offers bar life much like New Orlean’s Bourbon Street, a step in any direction off the Reeperbahn delivers eccentric, eclectic environments, secret spots and underground music. While over in Hamburg for the Reeperbahn Music Festival, we scoped out the following places in or beside St. Pauli, and found each is a worthy visit.
Cited as a “bohemian shelter” as well as “a place for serious drinking and serious conversation,” Golem plays host to a strong array of cultural programming—films, readings, discussion groups, concerts of all genres and parties. It also happens to be the best place for cocktails—and even locals agree. There, you can sip on a classic drink, try one of their originals or just explore spirits. There’s an air of sophistication on the top floor, but don’t be fooled; there’s always a party or live music downstairs.
A subterranean music venue, at the feet of the Reeperbahn’s iconic “dancing towers,” Mojo plays host to music talent of global acclaim. From jazz ensembles to hot ticket indie acts and beyond, the spectacular venue draws the best of international talent—which is remarkable given the small size of the space. It’s also only accessible through stairs that rise up from underground when the concert hall opens. The diverse programming makes any given night worthwhile, especially with the mystical intimacy of this venue.
While record stores may be on the decline, nothing can touch the collection within Hanseplatte. There’s definitely a focus on German music, especially the flourishing labels within Hamburg; however, the walls are lined with both music-related and miscellaneous products from all over Germany. A great place to shop for something quintessentially from Hamburg, it’s always abuzz with knowledgable staff members and locals.
Golden Pudel Club
If you’ve ever wanted to party all night long in something resembling a gingerbread house, packed with every type of international person—all in walking distance from the water—look no further than the Golden Pudel Club. The venue stays open until sunrise, and it’s filled with nights of electronic music or rock. There’s beer, mixed drinks and a lot of dancing. As hip as it can be, there’s no one at the door to reject visitors—only to keep the club at the legal limit of attendees. It’s a no-pretense place, offering the latest of late night celebrations in the city.
Only open on Sundays, Fischmarkt is exactly what you think: an open-air fish market on the docks. Booths start up at 5AM (though later in the winter) and close down by noon, and between those hours, everyone—from people still out partying to the elderly residents of the city looking for fresh fish—enter the auction house environment for food. The market has been going on for 300 years, and for just cause. The hustle and bustle is exciting. It’s the freshest seafood imaginable. And while the majority is sold to be brought home, there are lots of treats you can eat then and there. And people do—especially those making the five-minute wander from the Golden Pudel Club.
With one of the best views in all of Hamburg, Cafe Vju rests atop a now-modernized, former WWII bunker. The exquisite space, which stays open late, offers a nice spot for coffee, small dishes and dessert. And while it’s not in St. Pauli, it’s not far and truly, there’s no better way to see the arts district than from on high—with a well-made coffee in hand. While you’re there, you can also explore the bunker below.
Golem image by Miguel Martinez, Fischmarkt image by Lee Chanel, Mojo image by Dejan Davitkov, all other images by David Graver