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Stephankiez in Berlin-Moabit
At the famous Kiez of Hamburg in St. Pauli

Kiez (German pronunciation: [ˈkiːts]) (also: Kietz) is a German word that refers to a city neighbourhood, a relatively small community within a larger town. The word is mainly used in Berlin and northern Germany.

Original Meaning and Etymology[edit]

The word originated in the time of the eastward expansion of German settlers in the Middle Ages into Slavonic territories, when in many places both communities existed side by side. The word is of Slavonic origin (chyza meaning hut or house) and referred to a Slavonic settlement (typically of fishermen) near a German town. Some placenames are reminiscent of this meaning, for example Küstrin-Kietz or the Kietz of Berlin-Köpenick.

Modern Meaning[edit]

A Kiez is never originally defined by the municipality or government, but rather by the inhabitants, and therefore doesn't necessarily coincide with administrative divisions. In some cases, however, such definitions have been picked up in official documents, this including State legislation.[1]

In Berlin the term usually has a positive connotation, as inhabitants often identify with the "Kiez" they live in. There are approximately 20 unofficial "Kiez"-areas in Berlin, most often in and around the city center. A Berliner "Kiez" usually consists mainly of pre-war buildings and upholds its own commercial and cultural infrastructure.

In Hamburg, der Kiez refers to the area around the Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli quarter, which is the city's nightlife and red-light district. It is the most well known "Kiez" in Germany and is sometimes mistakenly considered to be the first or original "Kiez". In other towns, such as Hannover, red-light districts are sometimes referred to as the "Kiez" following Hamburg's example.

Also in smaller cities, some districts may be referred to as a "Kiez", especially when there are vital scenes of culture, pubs and clubs - an example being the KTV, a quarter of Rostock.

Outside Berlin, "Kiez" may be considered by some as somewhat slangy. The more standard term for neighborhood in the sense of "where one lives" is "Viertel" (quarter).


  1. ^ For example "Verordnung über die Erhaltung baulicher Anlagen und der städtebaulichen Eigenart sowie der Zusammensetzung der Wohnbevölkerung des Gebietes "Stephankiez" im Bezirk Tiergarten von Berlin (Ordinance on the Preservation of Constructions and of the Urbanistic Character as well as the Composition of the Resident Population of the "Stephankiez" area in the Borough Tiergarten of Berlin)" (PDF). Berliner Rechtsvorschriften (Legal Provisions of Berlin). Kulturbuch-Verlag Berlin. 1991-10-10. Retrieved 2010-04-07. .