Kaisergalerie, Hamburg, Germany


Hamburg’s Kaiser Galerie was completely refurbished in 2011-14 and has now reopened as a high-end shopping arcade, though still retaining many original features from the 1907 building.

The arcade is in the heart of Hamburg’s Passagen Viertel (Arcade District) running from the Grosse Bleiche street to the canal along which other arcades flow.

The entrances at either end are grand, with art nouveau lighting inside and classic pillars engraved with splendid mouldings lining the arcade’s interior.

It’s worth a sneak peek past the wall of live moss (part of an ongoing green project across Hamburg) to the corridor and stairs leading up to the offices on upper floors. The tiling here looks original, and gives a flavour of the arcade as it was pre-development; less grand, perhaps, but actually with more grit and character.

There are top end retail outlets in this arcade, from Stella McCartney at one end to Braun men’s designer fashion at the other. There’s skin care, furniture, a dim sum restaurant, and soon to be a kids’ clothes store added, along with a shop called ‘Jimi Palais,’ which defines itself as ‘Hamburg’s High End Streetwear Brand.’

My favourite shop today

Well, I didn’t go inside this time, but Stella McCartney has some fantastic designs so her shop gets my vote here.

My pick of the arcade’s past

The name Kaiser Galerie comes from a dinner attended by Kaiser Wilhelm in 1881 in a former palace on the site. When the palace was pulled down, to be replaced by the current building in 1907, it was decided to name the new construction in memory of the Kaiser. Wilhelm I was grandfather of the later ‘Kaiser Bill,’ who led Germany into war in 1914.

From 1936 to 2011 the building played host to the Ohnborg Theatre, which pioneered work in the local dialect ‘niederdeutsch’ or Low German. There were also many early TV broadcasts of the Theatre from this building. Star of stage and screen, Heidi Kabel, was a regular here. She died aged 96, just a year before the Theatre moved out of the building.

London-based architect Sir David Chipperfield was brought in to redesign the interior and bring it back to its retail shopping arcade function. Many of the features visible today – columns and mouldings – had been covered for decades as the theatre had redesigned the place for its own usage.

This arcade in films or books

I have yet to see any, but since German films often don’t make it to English-speaking audiences, I might need some help from Germany here…

What memories do you have of visits in years gone by?

Have you got any good stories to add on the past of this arcade?

Have you seen Kaisergalerie in any film or book?

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?

Is there a website for this arcade?

Yes, Kaisergalerie has a beautiful website, which can be reached via the link here. The website has a section on the history of the arcade, too. There are also active pages on Facebook and Instagram.

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