Smack bang in the centre of Hamburg’s infamous red light district lies St Pauli, the Christmas Market with a difference.
Situated on the Reeperbahn, also known as Hamburg’s ‘mile of sin,’ the Santa Pauli ‘XXXmas’ Market is a Christmas Market dedicated to all things sensual, and in 2023, after talking about it for years, I was finally able to fly to Hamburg to check it out for myself.
I spent a long weekend in Hamburg in December, determined to experience everything that this naughty market had to offer, and while I’m sure my time in Hamburg wasn’t quite as raunchy as it could have been, it’s safe to say that my eyes have certainly been opened!
In this blog post, I’ll be detailing exactly what to expect from the Santa Pauli Hamburg Christmas Market, as well as providing you with all the information you need to plan your visit.
So, if you’re ready to see Santa through an entirely different lens, just keep reading, because the Hamburg Red Light District Christmas Market is something else.
Santa Pauli – The Hamburg Red Light District Christmas Market
St. Pauli and The Reeperbahn – A Brief History
The area of St. Pauli is home to one of the oldest red light districts in Europe.
Back in the early 17th century, the area of St. Pauli and its most famous street, the Reeperbahn, was where all of the ‘undesirable’ people and businesses were pushed, and as a result, this area of the port city became the place where sailors would come to blow off steam and enjoy the seedier side of life.
It is true then, that Hamburg and sex work have been inextricably linked since the early 1600s.
Today, prostitution is legal in Germany, and all over St. Pauli you will find brothels, sex clubs, strip clubs, sex shops, erotic cinemas, burlesque clubs, and more.
However, it isn’t only X-rated entertainment you’ll find in St. Pauli.
St. Pauli is also home to hundreds of live music venues, and is famously where The Beatles made a name for themselves (Hamburg is a great place to visit if you’re a music fan).
Every year, the Reeperbahn Festival takes place in St. Pauli, which is the biggest club festival in Europe, and St. Pauli is considered the epicentre of nightlife in Hamburg.
Santa Pauli Christmas Market
Santa Pauli, also known as the St Pauli Christmas Market, is a place where festive Christmas traditions clash with sleazy St. Pauli entertainment, and they come together in a way that really shouldn’t work, yet unbelievably does.
Taking the most family-friendly holiday and turning it into a crude, X-rated affair is a bold move, but one that the city of Hamburg embraces with open arms as Spielbudenplatz is transformed into an erotic winter wonderland.
But what is the Hamburg Red Light District Christmas Market, and how is it so different to the regular Christmas Markets you see across Europe?
Well, for starters, you can buy drinks with names that translate to ‘curb swallow,’ (Hamburg slang for a working girl) and ‘nutcracker.’
The limited edition mugs feature Santa and his elves in rather compromising positions, and if you don’t mind forfeiting your 3 EUR deposit, one can be yours to take home.
As with all Christmas Markets, you can certainly do your souvenir shopping here, but everything is of a much more risqué nature. Think bondage outfits, naughty baubles, sex toys, and penis-shaped cookies.
On one of the stalls at the St Pauli Xmas Market, you’ll be served by naughty nuns, while another stall sells ‘Domina Espresso’ (complete with a handcuff keychain) and chocolate Santas with six-packs.
If you know someone with a lot of stress in their life, be sure to pick up a stress ball in the shape of a boob, or if the mood strikes you, duck into the piercing booth to get that ‘intimate’ piercing you’ve always wanted.
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a mulled wine connoisseur, head to Santa’s Glühwein Apotheke, where you can create your own!
Simply choose from white (Riesling) or red (Dornfelder), and fill in the prescription form to specify how much cinnamon, plum, orange and clove you’d like the ‘pharmacist’ to inject into your drink with a little pipette!
If you fancy something a little stronger, you can take a shot from a test tube, but be warned – with names like ‘Santa’s urine sample,’ you might not want to!
Later, head to the main stage area for live strip shows hosted by a Drag Queen named Ella Mortadella wearing a Santa hat and fake boobs.
When I visited Santa Pauli, I saw an oiled-up ‘police man’ stripping for a mortified bride-to-be, as well as a Dominatrix dressed in latex and breathing fire – pretty impressive, although I would have much preferred a stripping Santa!
Planning Your Trip
When is the Santa Pauli Christmas Market?
The Santa Pauli Hamburg Christmas Market runs from 13/11/2023 to 23/12/2023.
Mon – Wed: 4:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Thu: 4:00 pm – 12:00 am
Fri & Sat: 1:00 pm – 1:00 am
Sun: 1:00 pm 11:00 pm
Where is the Santa Pauli Christmas Market?
Santa Pauli is located along the Reeperbahn, and you can find it by entering ‘Spielbudenpl. 5, 20359‘ into Google Maps or clicking here.
The closest train station is the S-Bahn Reeperbahn station. You can take the S1/2/3/21. You can also take the U3 to St. Pauli.
Santa Pauli Online Shop
Can’t make it to the market? No problem!
The Santa Pauli Online Shop is where you can buy the 2023 limited edition mugs, in-house mulled wine, raunchy souvenirs, and more.
Unfortunately, the website is barely functioning, and when I checked, most of the pages didn’t work, but hey, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Is St. Pauli safe?
During The Beatles’ era, drugs and violence were rampant in St. Pauli, with waiters carrying blackjacks and tear-gas pistols for their own protection (source).
These days, things are a lot better and there is a large police presence here to keep you safe, but as St. Pauli is still a nightlife hub and red light district, you should exercise a degree of caution.
My two biggest pieces of advice are to beware of pickpockets (never keep your valuables in your back pocket!), and always keep an eye on your drink.
Good to know: On weekends, there is a ban on glass bottles in St. Pauli, and you can be fined up to 5000 EUR if you are caught drinking from one. This is to prevent glass bottles being used as weapons. You should also be aware that personal weapons have been banned in this district, so leave your pocket knife at home.
Where to stay for Santa Pauli
Public transport in Hamburg is fantastic, and so you don’t need to stay in St. Pauli in order to easily visit the Santa Pauli Market.
I stayed at a brand new hotel called Villa Viva, which was a quick 10 minute walk away from the Central Station, and allowed me to be in St. Pauli in 20 minutes. It had stylish rooms, a great gourmet restaurant, and is also part of the Viva Con Agua charity, which promotes access to clean drinking water around the world.
You can book your stay at Villa Viva here.
However, if you want really be part of the action, you’ll want to stay in St. Pauli itself.
How to get to Hamburg from Hamburg Airport
Hamburg Airport is about 8km north of the city centre, and is easily reached by train.
Hamburg’s Hauptbahnhof is Hamburg’s Central Station and the busiest rail station in Germany (I was so overwhelmed when I arrived here!).
The train from Hamburg Airport to Hauptbahnhof takes 25 minutes and costs about 3.50 EUR.
From here, you can take the S-Bahn (train) to Reeperbahn, or the U-Bahn (underground) to St. Pauli.
Santa Pauli Hamburg | Final Thoughts
It might sound weird to say this, but I found Santa Pauli Hamburg to be good, clean, fun.
Contrary to being a sordid place full of sex tourists and strip club scams, it was funny.
From the male stripper who incorporated comedy into his performance, to the garish Christmas decorations and crudely-named cocktails, Santa Pauli creates an environment where human sexuality is nothing more than a bit of fun, where no topic is off-limits, and where judgement is left at the door.
If you like offbeat activities, don’t consider yourself a prude, and are tired of regular Christmas Markets, Santa Pauli might just be for you.
That’s all I’ve got for you today, but as always, if you have any questions then please leave them in the comments section below and I will get back to you.
Until next time,
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