Berlin is one of those European cities filled with history, culture and parties. It has also had a thriving gay scene for nearly a century, with the notorious Eldorado club attracting gay icons like Marlene Dietrich and Christopher Isherwood back in the 1920s.
The nightlife in Berlin is notoriously famous for its 24-hour action, with clubs to suit every fashion, fantasy and fetish. From regular happenings in the trendiest of clubs, to private warehouse type parties and speak-easy haunts, this is the city to head to if your passion is clubbing. There are quite a few sections that have a more predominately gay presence, most notably Schoneberg around Nollendorfplatz, where much of the club nightlife is clustered along Motzstrasse. Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte are more where the edgier one-off parties tend to take place, while Kreuzberg attracts the more bohemian hipster crowds, and Friedrichshain is where students and the younger set migrate.
Many night crawlers begin or end the night by grabbing a bite in one of the city’s 12,000 pubs, restaurants, and cafes. In Mitte there are plenty of cafes worth visiting, such as Orange, Zapata, Ici or Hackbarths. The edgier Kreuzberg area is quickly gaining a selection of chic eat spots as well, such as Riehmers Hofgarten, Altes Zollhaus and Medici. Also Berliners and tourists alike congregate in the cafes alongside the banks of Paul-Linke-Ufer canal. Friedrichshain is where true night owls head to party the night away before grabbing breakfast at Leander or Apotheke on their way home. Prenzlauer Berg is more touristy and has a variety of international cuisine offerings from fine dining to quick snacks. Finally, the Schoneberg district get your German food fix, at places like Bamberger Reiter or Fischers Restaurant.
While it’s impossible to list every one of the bars and clubs in the city, here’s an overview of some of the more popular well-known venues located in various parts of the city, along with a brief description of each one. Motzstrasse is the city’s main gay hub, with legendary bars such as Omnes and Hafen drawing locals and visitors to the dance floor. Cruise in the footsteps of the legendary Marlene Dietrich over to the majestic Viktoria-Luise-Platz, popping your head into an array of bars to suit all types. The nearby Fuggerstrasse is also worth checking out for a more subdued sampling of bars. The area around Schonhauser Alle metro station has its own scene with Pick Ab and Greif Bar being two hotspots. As well, on and around Schonhauser Allee, the main drag through Prenzlauer Berg, you’ll find plenty of shops, cafes and pubs all catering to gays and lesbians.
It’s also worth walking along Karl-Marx-Allee, lined with imposing Stalinist architecture, and making a stop at Klub International, a retro-fabulous cinema that occasionally morphs into a gay disco. Another great spot to check out is Connection, featuring a shop, a disco, and a huge multi-level cruising area. Oranienstrasse in Kreuzberg is another of the city’s main gay ways, and is home to Roses, a distinctively kitsch pub with faux fur-lined walls that attracts a mixed gender bending crowd most nights of the week. Just a few doors down is SO36, a dance bar famous for its gay Turkish dance nights and belly dancers. Lesbians tend to gravitate to Pour Elle or Begine.
Berlin is also known for its freedom of expression and carefree attitude. Nude sunbathing is permitted in all public parks and green spaces, and sex clubs are as popular as the mainstream dance bars. Some of these places operate as a regular bar during the day then do a naughty turnaround as the night gets later. The biggest sex parties are held at Snax Club and Lab.oratory, while Jaxx is a membership sex party club associated with Tom’s Bar. Stage Club is another men’s sex-party club in nearby Wilmersdorf, and in Kreuzberg, Club Culture Houze and Triebwerk are erotic playgrounds for just about any taste or gender. In Prenzlauer Berg there’s the popular Stahlrohr 2.0, and only a few streets away is the appropriately named Darkroom. Over in Schoneberg the Ajpnia will satisfy your urges.
Fetish bars and parties are also quite common, and are classified separately from the sex clubs and parties, as quite often sexual acts are not part of this scene. Clubs such as New Action and Bose Buben in Neukolln offer regular S&M action, while nearby Bull is a men-only late-night fetish space. The fetish crowd also meets at regular reoccurring events such as Perverts and Pig, two semi-annual anything-goes fetish fun playhouses that happen at different locations with dates listed on each of their respective websites. HustlaBall celebrates its 10th anniversary in October, and spotlights everything to do with porn, prostitution, and public displays of nudity. Leather guys and fetish lovers also gather at the annual Folsom Europe Berlin, with the next one happening in September.
Other more mainstream LGBT events include Gay Stadtfest, Europe’s largest annual queer outdoor event celebrating its 20th anniversary this month. The following weekend the Christopher Street Day parade also attracts upwards of half a million people to watch the procession from the Kurfurstendamm to the Siegessaeule. Wigstockel is a unique event that unites all sorts of trans- and non-gender conforming individuals every September. Over around Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, gays gather for Parkfest Friedrichshain, which takes place in Volkspark in August.
5 More Hot Spots
While the red-light district attracts the tourists, gays flock to the popular Reguliersdwarsstraat and Amstel sections. Kerkstraat is an area on the rise, and Warmoesstraat is where the kink and fetish crowd migrate.
Gays are everywhere from the Stonewall perimeters of Greenwich Village, to the upscale Chelsea dance clubs, and the more recent Hell’s Kitchen mix of pubs and bars. Fringe events also happen in the Meatpacking District.
Soho is where clubbers head, with Old Compton Street being the hub with the likes of G-A-Y Bar, Rupert Street and Village Soho. Bigger venues with extended hours can be found in the Vauxhall area, such as Fire, Union and The Hoist. Keep your eyes and ears open for one-off parties as well.
Le Marais is the most happening section for nightlife, with bars such as Open Café, RAIDD, Amnesia, Mixer, Bar Central, Cox and Carré Bar. A second area near Les Halles has the popular Le Depot and Banana Café. Queen Dance Club on Champs Elysees also shouldn’t be missed.
Head to South Beach where the gay and famous hang out at the legendary Palace on Ocean Drive and multi-level Twist on Washington Ave. There are also newer haunts such as Mova, Vault, and Vlada that attract the more sophisticated cocktail crowds.