Tel: 49 40 309 930
A designer-duds crowd fills the multi-leveled space at the East hotel, in an unassuming street right off the main drag of the Reeperbahn. Designed to within an inch of its life, East has huge, suggestively shaped design elements protruding everywhere and a Clockwork Orange –style "milk bar" with what appears to be a ceiling full of teats hanging overhead, and an open dining area located one dramatic staircase below. Cocktails are the main trade here; try the East Beauty (saki, plum liqueur, aloe vera, "special East syrup," and pineapple).
Hamburg's history of tolerance makes it, unsurprisingly, something of a gay mecca. Nightlife is split largely between raucous St. Pauli and slightly quieter (though not much less sleazy) St. Georg, east of the central train station. Café Gnosa is a historic spot to pass the early evening hours (93 Lange Reihe, St. Georg; 49-40-243-034; www.gnosa.de); once things pick up, WunderBar is a sweatier affair, with frequent theme nights (14–18, Talstrasse, St. Pauli; 49-40-317-444-4; www.wunderbar-hamburg.de). The Frauenkneipe, to the west of the port, is ladies-only, with a regular succession of DJs and dance nights (60 Stresemannstrasse, Altona; 49-40-436-377; www.frauenkneipe-hamburg.de).
Tel: 49 40 319 799 30
A mainstay of edgy Hamburg nightlife since the 1990s, when it was a pioneer in spreading electronic music across Europe, the Golden Pudel is a grotty free-standing building on the Elbe riverbank, flanked on one side by a gentrified restaurant strip and on the other by DayGlo-painted squatter housing. Inside is a pair of tiny, graffiti-covered rooms where you'll hear a mix of hip-hop, electronica, and rock, depending on the night. Summer means heading out into the garden, with its long, much-abused wooden benches. The doorman may or may not decide to impose a nominal cover charge, the crowd is utterly heterogeneous, and it's definitely the place to go if you want to feel like an insider.
13 Neuer Pferdemarkt
Tel: 49 40 432 149 22
Gorgeously done up in crimson fabric wallpaper, the Schanze district's Mandalay is part lounge and part dance club (you'll hear an eclectic mix here, with live acts playing everything from classical-inspired pop to electronica). A long bar leads past wooden booths to a small wooden dance floor. Ceilings are high, giving the whole place an airy feeling (a good thing, considering how much cigarette smoke is produced on a typical night); prices for cocktails are as relaxed as the clientele, a good-looking and designer-clad slackerish bunch who stick around late into the night.
Closed Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays.