The Hackesche Höfe are situated in the centre of Berlin, between Friedrichstrasse and Alexanderplatz. Named after the Prussian General and city commander of Berlin Hans Christoph Friedrich von Hacke, the eight courtyards are the largest enclosed courtyard area in all of Germany. Along with numerous stores, restaurants and workshops, the Chamäleon Berlin is also housed in the historic courtyards. After its inauguration in 1906, today’s theatre was initially a place where the residents of the courtyards and surrounding areas could celebrate private events; after the Second World War, it was used among other things as storehouses, workshops and as the rehearsal room for the GDR Television Ballet. In 1991, the banqueting hall was transformed into a theatre for the first time. The Hackesche Höfe have been under monument protection since 1977.
The History of the Hackesche Höfe
The history of the Hackesche Market goes right back to the year 1750. The Market was created by the Berlin city commander Count Hans Christoph Friedrich von Hacke on the order of Friedrich II. At the beginning of the 18th century, the area around the Hackesche Market was still outside the city walls and formed the „Spandauer Vorstadt“ (Spandau suburb). The following years saw the establishment of a residential area here which had strong Jewish cultural influences. The centre of the Jewish quarter was the New Synagogue consecrated in 1866 and the Jewish cemetery which had existed since 1672. Due to the growing population and the connection to public transportation at the start of the 20th century, the Hackesche Market finally evolved into a hub within the city.
Also during this time, the Hackesche Höfe were designed by Kurt Berndt and opened after a long period of construction. The famous Art Nouveau façade of the courtyards as well as the Neumann banqueting halls (the Chamäleon Theater is housed in the largest hall) were designed by August Endell. Already when it opened, the special feature of the courtyard area was the communal coexistence of residential areas, office spaces, storage facilities, stores and cultural centres. This is still the same today.
The courtyards survived the Second World War with hardly any damage. After being renovated, the Hackesche Höfe were placed under monument protection in 1977; however, they were sorely neglected during the post-war years. Between 1994 and 1997, the courtyards were extensively and completely renovated thanks to the many investors and the monument protection authority and have again been one of Berlin’s great attractions ever since.
Our Theatre through the Ages
In 1906, the ballroom, part of the Neumann banqueting halls, is inaugurated. Here, the tenants of the Hackesche Höfe can celebrate private events.
The Hackesche Höfe survive the Second World War with hardly any damage.
After the Second World War, the courtyards are used as storerooms, workshops and the rehearsal hall for the GDR Television Ballet among other things.
The fall of the Wall brings new energy to the banqueting hall: The Chamäleon Variety Theatre is opened in 1991. The community of fans grows rapidly and streams to the Hackesche Höfe.
In 2004, the hall is partially renovated in accordance with historical monument guidelines. The technology and bar area are modernised, a ventilation system is installed – all while fully operational.
The new Chamäleon opens its doors in 2004.Contemporary Circus moves into the Hackesche Höfe.
The renovation of the previously unused balconies and the renewal of the historic oak-panelled floor in 2015 allow the hall to shine in new splendour.
In 2016, Neumann Berlin and Sennheiser equip the theatre with a 3D sound system, which allows patrons to experience even the slightest nuances live wherever they sit.
With funds from the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRE) and in private partnership with GASAG AG, the Chamäleon is refitted with LED lighting in 2018. This helps the theatre reduce its CO2 emissions by 23 tonnes per year.
In 2022, the Chamäleon becomes a non-profit organisation and dedicates itself even more to the promotion of contemporary circus as a production partner, residency space, network partner and stage.
Experience the Hackesche Höfe today
Restaurants, Bars & Stores
In total, there are almost 40 different restaurants, delicatessen, toy stores, factories, cultural centres as well as fashion stores in the Hackesche Höfe. Aside from our partner restaurant, Hackesche Hof Restaurant, Oxymoron, for example, is another top restaurant in the Hackesche Höfe. Sweet treats and aromatic coffee can be found at Canal Berlin, Sawade or the Röststätte. Those who would rather update their wardrobe will be well looked after at Auerbach or Blutgeschwister Berlin as well as at Codressing or Friday Fashion for example. Visitors will find chic accessories at Askania, Hoffnung Berlin or Jost among others. Those who want to go out in the evening can enjoy delicious tapas at Yosoy and a selection of cold drinks at Eschschloraque.
Events & Attractions around the Hackeschen Market
The area surrounding to the Hackesche Market offers a lot of options to discover or learn new things and enjoy a pleasant day. Right next to the Hackesche Höfe, for example, stand the Haus Schwarzenberg and the Museum of Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind. The Anne Frank Centre is right next door. By the way, the famous Museum Island is also accessible just down the river. Things get a little more unusual in places like Monster Cabinet or Magicum Berlin. Those who just want to take a stroll or switch off and relax will enjoy spending time in the Monbijou Park and the James-Simon-Park. Both parks are on the banks of the river Spree overlooking the Museum Island.
Hackesche Höfe: Theatre and Cinema
Of course, no visitor to the Hackesche Höfe should miss seeing the Chamäleon Theater. In the very first courtyard, the theatre’s illuminated letters shining from the windows in the Art Nouveau façade cannot be missed. Here in the historic ballroom innovative contemporary circus pieces can be seen up to seven times a week. And even directly above the theatre’s auditorium you can enjoy culture: This is where the Hackesche Höfe cinema is located. Presenting a programme of films that are outside of the mainstream, the cinema brings a lot of neighboorhood flair into the courtyards. All films are shown in their original language, with German or English subtitles if necessary. One courtyard further on is the Cinema Central. Here too, in the iconic cinema opposite the Anne Frank Centre, the films are screened in their original language with subtitles.
So, a visit to the Hackesche Market including the Hackesche Höfe is always worthwhile. And who knows, maybe there are still tickets available for a show in the Chamäleon.