Berlin’s legendary liberalism has spawned one of the world’s biggest, most divine and diverse LGBT+ playgrounds. Anything goes in ‘Homopolis’ (and we do mean anything!), from the highbrow to the hands-on, the bourgeois to the bizarre, the mainstream to the flamboyant. Except for the most hard-core places, gay spots get their share of opposite-sex and straight patrons.
Gay in Berlin
Generally speaking, Berlin’s gayscape runs the entire spectrum from mellow cafes, campy bars and cinemas to saunas, cruising areas, clubs with darkrooms and all-out sex venues. In fact, sex and sexuality are entirely everyday matters to the unshockable city folks and there are very few, if any, itches that can’t be quite openly and legally scratched. As elsewhere, gay men have more options for having fun, but grrrrls of all stripes won’t feel left out either.
Berlin's emergence as a gay capital has roots in 1897 when sexual scientist Magnus Hirschfeld founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the world's first homosexual advocacy group. Gay life thrived in the wild and wacky 1920s, driven by a demi-monde that drew and inspired writers like Christopher Isherwood, until the Nazis put an end to the fun in 1933. Postwar recovery came slowly, but by the 1970s the scene was firmly re-established, at least in the western city. From 2001 to 2014, Berlin was governed by an openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit. To learn more about Berlin's LGBTIQ history, visit the Schwules Museum.
Parties & Clubbing
Berlin's scene is especially fickle and venues and dates may change at any time, so make sure you always check the websites or the listings magazines for the latest scoop. One important alternative queer party space is Südblock (www.suedblock.org) at Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg, which is famous for its inclusive programming and diverse clientele.
Long-running gay party places include SchwuZ, Berghain, Lab.oratory and Connection, but there are also lots of regular parties held in various other locations. A selection follows. Unless noted, all are geared towards men.
B:East Party (http://beastparty.com) Monthly party for gays and friends with techno, house and disco, now at Polygon. Last Saturday of the month.
Cafe Fatal All comers descend on SO36 for the ultimate rainbow tea dance, which goes from 'strictly ballroom' to 'dirty dancing' in a flash. If you can't tell a waltz from a foxtrot, come at 7pm for free lessons. Sundays.
Chantals House of Shame (www.facebook.com/ChantalsHouseofShame) Trash diva Chantal's louche lair at Suicide Circus is a beloved institution, not so much for the glam factor as for the over-the-top drag shows and the hotties who love 'em. Thursdays.
CockTail d'Amore (www.facebook.com/cocktaildamoreberlin) Alt-flavoured electro party with indoor and outdoor dancing and partying at Griessmühle. First Saturday of the month.
Gayhane Geared towards gay and lesbian Muslims, but everyone's welcome to rock the kasbah when this 'homoriental' party takes over SO36 with Middle Eastern beats and belly dancing. Last Saturday of the month.
G day (www.facebook.com/GdayBerlin) Long-running gay party with a residency at Suicide Circus with uninhibited indoor and outdoor partying.
Gegen (www.gegenberlin.com) Countercultural party at KitKatClub brings in anti-trendy types for crazy electro and wacky art performances. First Friday, alternate months.
Girls Town (www.girlstown-berlin.de) Suse and Zoe's buzzy girl-fest takes over Gretchen in Kreuzberg with down-and-dirty pop, electro, indie and rock. Second Saturday, alternate months, September to May.
GMF (www.gmf-berlin.de) Berlin's premier techno-house Sunday club, currently at House of Weekend, is known for excessive SM (standing and modelling) with lots of smooth surfaces. Predominantly boyz, but girls are welcome.
Horse Meat Disco (www.horsemeatdiscoberlin) This classic import from the UK does a bi-monthly shout-out to a dance-crazy queer crowd of all stripes. Check website for current location.
Irrenhouse The name means 'insane asylum', and that's no joke. Party hostess with the mostest, trash queen Nina Queer puts on nutty, naughty shows at Kreuzberg's Musik & Frieden, which are not for the faint-of-heart. Expect the best. Fear the worst. Third Saturday of the month.
Members (www.members-berlin.de) Monthly tech-house party has been running strong since 2013 on Hoppetosse moored in the Spree.
Revolver (www.facebook.com/RevolverPartyGlobal) This London export hosted by Oliver and Gary is a sizzling and sexy party at the KitKatClub with no special dress code required. Second Friday of the month.
Festivals & Events
Easter Berlin One of Europe's biggest fetish fests whips the leather, rubber, skin and military sets out of the dungeons and into the clubs over the long Easter weekend. It culminates with the crowning of the 'German Mr Leather'.
Lesbisch-Schwules Stadtfest The Lesbigay City Festival takes over the Schöneberg rainbow village in June, with bands, food, info booths and partying.
Christopher Street Day Later in June, hundreds of thousands of people of various sexual persuasions paint the town pink with a huge semi-political parade and more queens than a royal wedding.
Lesbischwules Parkfest The gay community takes over the Volkspark Friedrichshain for this delightfully noncommercial festival in August.
Folsom Europe The leather crowd returns in early September for another weekend of kinky partying.
Hustlaball The party year wraps up in October with a weekend of debauched fun in the company of porn stars, go-gos, trash queens, stripping hunks and about 3000 other men who love 'em.
Gay & Lesbian
- GMF Glamtastic Sunday party with pretty people in stylish and central location.
- Roses Plush, pink, campy madhouse – an essential late-night stop on a dedicated bar hop.
- Möbel Olfe Old furniture shop recast as busy drinking den; standing room only on (unofficial) gay Thursdays.
- Chantals House of Shame Eponymous trash-drag diva's weekly parties run wild and wicked.
- SchwuZ LGBTIQ club with different parties – great for scene newbies.
Venues by Day of the Week
- Monster Ronson's Ichiban Karaoke Loosen those lungs and get louche.
- Tom's Bar Two-for-one drinks.
- Kino International Queer movies during 'Mongay'.
- Himmelreich Two-for-one drinks.
- Möbel Olfe Relaxed Kreuzberg joint goes into gay turbodrive on Thursdays; women dominate on Tuesdays.
- Heile Welt Stylish lounge good for chatting and mingling over cocktails.
- Himmelreich This '50s retro lounge is a lesbigay-scene stalwart in Friedrichshain.
- Roses Over-the-top late-night dive with camp factor and strong drinks.
- Coven Stylish Mitte bar with industrial decor and strong drinks.
Lesbian Bars & Partys
- Museumsinsel & Alexanderplatz GMF, the best gay Sunday party, currently has a residency at House of Weekend.
- Scheunenviertel Gets a mixed crowd, but its trendy bars and cafes (especially near Hackescher Markt and on Torstrasse) also draw a sizeable contingent of gay customers.
- Kreuzberg & Neukölln Hipster central. Things are comparatively subdued in the bars and cafes along main-strip Mehringdamm. Around Kottbusser Tor and along Oranienstrasse the crowd skews younger, wilder and more alternative, and key venues stay open till sunrise and beyond. For a DIY subcultural vibe, head across the canal to Neukölln.
- Friedrichshain This area is thin on gay bars but is still a de rigueur stop on the gay nightlife circuit thanks to clubs like Berghain, the hands-on Lab.oratory, Suicide Circus and ://about blank.
- Prenzlauer Berg East Berlin's pink hub before the fall of the Wall has a few surviving bar relics as well as a couple of popular cruising dens and fun stations for the fetish set, mostly around the Schönhauser Allee S-/U-Bahn station.
- Schöneberg The area around Nollendorfplatz (Motzstrasse and Fuggerstrasse especially) has been a gay beacon since the 1920s. Institutions like Heile Welt, Tom's, Connection and Hafen pull in the punters night after night, and there's also plenty of nocturnal action for the leather and fetish set.
Need to Know
- Queer Berlin Long-running tour company Original Berlin Walks taps into the city's LGBTIQ legacy on tours through Kreuzberg and Schöneberg.
- Berlinagenten Customised gay-lifestyle tours (nightlife, shopping, luxury, history, culinary).
- Lügentour (www.luegentour.de) An interactive and humorous walking tour takes you back to the lesbigay scene in 1920s Schöneberg; alas, in German only.
- Schröder Reisen Comedy Bus (www.comedy-im-bus.de) Outrageous comedy bus tours led by trash drag royalty Edith Schröder (aka Ades Zabel) and friends.
- Blu (www.blu.fm) Online and freebie print magazine with searchable, up-to-the-minute location and event listings.
- L-Mag (www.l-mag.de) Bimonthly magazine for lesbians.
- Siegessäule (www.siegessaeule.de) Free weekly lesbigay 'bible'.
- Gay Berlin4u (www.gayberlin4u.com) Covers all aspects of Berlin's gay scene, in English.
- GayCities Berlin (https://berlin.gaycities.com) Berlin edition of the worldwide guide offers a basic overview of the scene, in English.
- Patroc Gay Guide (www.patroc.de/berlin) Focuses on events but also has some info on venues; in German.