A Panoptikum is a place for everything you can see, if you translate it roughly. The Hamburg Panoptikum in St. Pauli is Germany’s oldest wax museum. It has been founded in 1879 in the German city. It is also Germany’s largest wax museum (no, not Madame T. is the leader in the country, surprisingly…) – even though the original place has been destroyed during WWII. Out of 300 figures at that time, some thirty survived the bombing and are still one part of the exhibition. Thus, it has always been a place I wanted to visit. I finally managed to do so in June 2021.
Panoptikum Hamburg – Location & Admission
The Panoptikum is located right at the world-famous Reeperbahn in Hamburg. The party, entertainment, dining and red light area is popular in non-Covid-19 times during the day – and especially during the night. The physical services in this area were still banned during my visit – you could even just walk through the famous Herbertstrasse as I did in a previous visit. The closest public transport connections are the Underground and bus connections to St. Pauli, buses also stop at Davidstraße. Many people will also travel into this district by the S-Bahn commuter rail, Reeperbahn station.
At the time of visiting, the Panoptikum had very limited opening times. At the time of writing, they again open daily, 10:00 to 20:00 hrs, with prolonged times (22:00 hrs) on Saturdays. Queues may be longer, as the place has a lot of fans and attracts many visitors. My adult ticket was 6.90 EUR. You can also buy ticket deals with Udo Lindenberg’s Panik City tour or harbor cruises.
Panoptikum Hamburg – The Visit
The first wax figures you run into are actually Greta Thunberg and former Pope Benedict – what a combo! As you see, the light on most of the figures is actually not too bad (something I hated about some other way museums). If you are not into German entertainment, you might struggle to identify all the celebrities – but overall, there are a lot of famous people like ESC winner Lena or fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld.
What I liked about the Panoptikum is that it also comes with a strong local touch. The musical Cats has been played in Hamburg for such a long time – and Jan Fedder, whom you see on the fourth picture, has been one of Hamburg’s most popular local actors. There is also a desk with faces the wax museum formerly used. The original founder of the place, Friedrich Hermann Faerber, is honored as well. You also run into racing legend Michael Schumacher or Hamburg’s best soccer player ever, Uwe Seeler. The quality of the figures may not be as good as Madame T.’s ones, but I actually lliked them. The museum also gives the year in which the statue has in fact been created. Especially the quality of the older ones is quite impressive, though.
Meet Adolf Hitler – but don’t dare to take a picutre!
The visit was organized in some sort of one-way walk around the museum (you sometimes met the same place again, though). Your next stage was heading up to the very upper floor, which has in fact the favorite part of my visit. This part hosts the majority of the pre-WWII preserved figures and features a lot of political leaders and great minds. You start with Martin Luther, but also have figures of Einstein or Beethoven. I liked the way the Panoptikum dealt with their history: of course, they did have an Adolf Hitler figure as well – he is standing next to Joseph Goebbels. However, these figures are standing in a room with a polarized filter window – you can look through it, but taking a picture is practically impossible. On top of that, the Scholl siblings are standing in front of the window (see my White Rose Memorial review from Munich).
There are also other familiar – friendly and unfriendly – faces on that floor. You may spot Stalin, Frederick the Great or Napoleon on the pictures below. While you head to the basement, you pass by Hamburg-born and former chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Helmut Schmidt.
Diseases and other Frightening Things
The very lowest floors of the Panoptikum Hamburg feature some very classic displays. You are not only visiting Dracula, but also see some frightening displays and a display of symptoms of different diseases. That has of course been part of a classic panopticon in the past. Apart from the (likely a myth) tallest women of the world and (not a myth) biggest guy alive at his time, you also run into some entertainers on that floor. For example, you meet Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles and some other big ones in the music and entertainment industry.
Space in the Panoptikum is limited – thus, right before you leave the place, they just give you the chance for a last selfie with Adele, Chancellor Merkel, Trump and Obama or Ladi Di.
Panoptikum Hamburg – Services
The staff was super-friendly. There is a small souvenir shop if you want to take some material memories with you.
Panoptikum Hamburg – My View
Yeah, it is a bit of narrow, the figures are better in the Merlin wax museums – but I still love that place. One reason is the history. The Panoptikum is just super-charming to me. If the queues are not too long (or the weather is sufficiently nice to stand standing in the line), I would definitely recommend to have a visit.
Here are all other postings about wax museums: