Herbertstraße – Hamburg, Germany - Atlas Obscura


Hamburg's first legal sex work is relegated to a gated street that still does not allow pedestrian women. 


Formerly the only street in Hamburg where sex work was officially tolerated, Herbertstraße is now an institution in the city’s red light district.

Located not far from the famous Reeperbahn, Herbertstraße is renowned for having Hamburg’s most expensive sex workers, and notorious for its exclusive entrance policy. Large metal barricades at either end of the short street inform visitors that all women and anyone under 18 years of age are forbidden from entering. According to local lore, women who ignore these postings are subject to being doused with “penis water,” the water used by male clients to wash up before being serviced.

The street was originally cordoned off by the Nazis in 1933 as they could not seem to stop the practice of prostitution in the area, thus they decided to simply hide it behind walls where it could not bee seen by the casual passerby. 

Once on the street, the dim red lighting and large plate glass windows that divide the 250-some sex workers from their customers give the street a seedy sort of sci-fi ambiance. The relative quiet of the area in the midst of the city’s busy red light district make Herbertstraße one of Hamburg’s most iconic and notorious destinations. Despite its history and popularity, the street has also come under fire for its troubling gender discrimination, however the ban on outside women in the street continues to this day. 

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