Hamburg – Nightlife and clubbing
By Stuart Forster
Hamburg has long been regarded as a city that offers much for lovers of nightlife and music. In recent years the city’s St Pauli district, once one of Europe’s most infamous red light districts, has re-invented itself as an entertainment area with something for everyone. These days many people visit to view musicals and to dine out. The sex shops and prostitutes are still present, but a tolerant attitude prevails. Clubbers and drinkers can party into the night without fear of feeling tainted by seediness or being forced to do anything unwanted. The rough at the edges feel that once dominated this dockside area is subsiding but not entirely gone. The police, based in the Davidwache police station, a precinct made famous in Germany through countless television dramas and films, maintain a significant presence on the main streets, some out of uniform but ready to spring into action when required.
For lovers of nightlife the Hamburg weekend gets going from Thursday when the scene cranks up a gear and the bars and clubs of St Pauli and the Schanzenviertel start to become crowded. That said, there’s always something happening on weekdays and the local papers provide a comprehensive list of forthcoming events, including gigs and DJ-led sessions.
The city has long been associated with a vibrant live music scene and the clubs of St Pauli continue to attract major names. Famously, between 1960 and 1962, the Beatles played residencies in clubs on St Pauli’s busiest streets, Grosse Freiheit and Reeperbahn. They performed at the Kaiserkeller (36 Grosse Freiheit) which still hosts regular gigs and DJ led nights. Grosse Freiheit 36, upstairs from the Kaiserkeller, is the place for Latin-American dancing on Friday and Saturday nights (women can enter for free). The city’s openness to musical crosscurrents is seen as one of the reasons why German language rock and pop, a movement known as the Hamburger Schule (meaning ‘Hamburg School’), began to flourish.
Trends are prone to change but Uebel und Gefaehrlich (66 Feldstrasse) – based in a reinforced concrete air raid shelter which was built so solidly that it proved too tricky to demolish following World War II – has constantly developed. It remains popular, having made a cutting edge reputation a few years ago. It’s a great place for catching gigs by indie bands and up-and-coming musicians. It’s also a leading venue for DJ led nights. Stepping out onto the club’s terrace is also worthwhile as it offers a great view over the city.
Nearby, the Schanzenviertel and Karolinenviertel quarters have a laidback, alternative feel reminiscent of a blend between elements of Berlin’s Kreuzberg district and London’s Camden Market. The Marktstrasse and Schanzenstrasse streets made their name as places where local artisans could sell their wares and limited edition designer products. Over the past couple of years some locals have been complaining about the increasing gentrification of the area. This, they say, is manifested by the arrival of bigger brand names and shop chains. They express concerns that the districts are losing their connection with locals and the vibe that played such an important role in sparking a post-industrial revival. The area has bars and cafes that remain busy until late. Yoko Mono (41 Markstrasse) and Dual Bar (53 Schanzenstrasse) are just two of those worth checking out. Also, Le Fonque (20 Susannenstrasse) is a small venue noted for its quality DJs and just a couple of minutes walk from the district’s main thoroughfares.
If you’re looking for a down to earth place for a night out then Astra Stube (200 Max-Brauer-Allee) is a great place to enjoy avant-garde music in an atmosphere that many locals would say is typical of Hamburg. Live concerts tend to start from 10 pm or 11. It’s common to find DJ’s providing the sounds later and on nights without live music.
Astra Stube is located near to Waagenbau (204 Max-Brauer-Allee), a popular hip hop and reggae club that parties on through the night. Anyone who has entered their mid-twenties may well feel they are raising the average age here. Much of the popularity of Waagenbau is down to its casual feel and relaxed chill out room. The Mojo Club (1 Reeperbahn) is also a venue for house and hip hop lovers though contemporary jazz is also played.
If that’s not your scene the Golden Pudel Club (27 St Pauli Fischmarkt) may well be. Rock, punk and a range of alternative tunes are more common here, in this club founded by members of Die Goldenen Zitronen (meaning ‘the Golden Lemons’), the German punk band.
The Prinzenbar (20 Kastanienallee, parallel to the Reeperbahn) is long established but still a good tip for weekends when a mix of locals and visitors from out of town turn up. The programme here includes live music and DJ sets, covering a spectrum that includes club sounds to funk.
For rock music and indie bands Knust (30 Neue Kamp), a mid-sized venue, is worth seeking out. Depending upon when you turn up the crowd here can vary markedly. It can prove a fun night and if you want a change from the usual club scene.
Docks, Hafenklang and Molotow are just some of the names that you’ll here when you ask locals which clubs are worth visiting. Ultimately it comes down to your own taste and the options available when you are in the city.
As you’ll experience when you hit the town, Hamburg’s residents swear that they live in Germany’s leading city for music. They say the A to Z of venues – ranging fom Angie’s Nightclub to the Zucker Club – provides marked variety and covers all but the most eclectic of tastes.