Berlin…Or Gay Berlin?
Berlin is probably one of the gayest cities in the world which is why I was so very excited to visit. If you’ve read the blog for any amount of time, you know that I love to get up to some fun, gay shenanigans and gay Berlin is the perfect city for experiencing all kinds of new things. From its insane clubs where the party may never stop to the many arts institutions celebrating diversity to its plethora of monuments expressing remorse for darker times to its wonderful food scene, there is so much to do and explore in Berlin. I’m definitely returning to this city someday because I love its live and let live attitude and there are fun times for all!
That’s why I’ve put together a nice, succinct gay Berlin guide for you. In it, I’ve highlighted some of my favorite aspects of Berlin. Trust me, there is far too much to cover and I can’t include it all in this guide. But I’ve tried my best to lay out the best things to do and experience in my opinion! So take this guide and use it as a base then create your own adventure!
Gay Berlin’s History
For better or for worst, we can attribute most of our modern history to the city of Berlin. It was once the capital of Nazi Germany during World War II and as the seat of power, played a major role in most the events which shaped our world for the last 50+ years. Additionally, Berlin has a history of Communism which directly effected Eastern Europe while having indirect effects on the rest of the world. There are a number of museums to explore this history such as the DDR Museum and Check Point Charlie. You can also see the proof of these darker times at the remains of the Berlin Wall. The actual remains can be seen as well as markers marking where the wall would have run during those times.
Before World War I and II, Berlin was a very liberal city. It was considered a refuge for LGBT people and the city even designated, Schöneberg, the world’s first gay village in the 1920’s. Even earlier, in 1896, the world’s first gay magazine, Der Eignene, was founded in Berlin and in 1897 the Institute for the Science of Sexuality founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee which was the first gay-rights organization in the world to lobby for the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender people. Queer artistic expression flourished in the 1920s-30s through film, music, and print publication and included such stars as cabaret singer Claire Waldoff and the famous actress Marlene Dietrich. Even the Reichstag (Germany’s governing body) nearly decriminalized homosexuality in 1929 but the economic downfall of the same year made a final vote impossible. While the modern gay rights movement began in New York City, the first ever gay demonstration actually took place in Berlin in 1922. As you can see, Berlin was far ahead of its time and unfortunately the two major wars to follow, the economic crash, and the continued criminalization of homosexuality would all but destroy any notion of liberal ideas, diversity, and an accepting, open-minded society because gay men were forced underground or placed in labor camps. However, in 1969 homosexuality was officially decriminalized. This, of course, allowed for open expression of LGBT culture and made it possible for Berlin to, once again, become gay Berlin.
Gay Berlin: The Alternative
Berlin is one of the most liberal cities I’ve ever visited. The funny thing is it isn’t necessarily in-your-face liberal but everyone seems to have the attitude that we should all just be ourselves. And that’s what you get in ole gay Berlin…everyone is just being themselves. It’s refreshing to experience a place with such a come-as-you-are attitude. No matter who you are or what your identity, you’ll find a place in Berlin where you fit in perfectly.
Most likely due to Berlin’s history as an open and accepting place, you’ll find plenty of alternative cultures and lifestyles. Not only that, gay Berlin is also known as the “hipster city of Europe” and with good reason. In neighborhoods across the city you’ll find a plethora of interesting places where Berliners do what they do and are able to be themselves. That’s the essence of being a hipster, I think. And underground bars and clubs are plentiful so you’re sure to find something that fits the bill. Las Vegas is known as the Sin City because anything goes but gay Berlin is the true queen here.
Gay Berlin: Sightseeing
Berlin has a lot to honor and remember. As the seat of a Nazi Germany at one point, many atrocious things were carried out from this city and many groups of people were persecuted and nearly wiped away. A lot of the monuments honor various groups of people persecuted and oppressed during World War II. Other monuments and landmarks serve historical purposes. These are a few of the my favorite monuments to visit in the city.
Brandenburg Gate: Built on the orders of the Prussian King Fredrick William II in the 18th-Century, this neoclassical monument is a symbol of Berlin and a must-see! Go early to get a photo with few people in it.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: One of Berlin’s most famous monuments for sad reason, this monument is dedicated to the Jewish people murdered during World War II by Germany. It is striking as you walk through and are engulfed by the sheer height of the monument. Intended to force the visitor to feel overwhelmed, this solemn monument will stir your emotions. Please do not take selfies and maintain a solemn attitude while visiting. Remember, you’re practically walking through a grave yard and each piece of the monument represents hundreds of thousands of dead human beings.
Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism: As the name states, this monument is dedicated to those homosexuals who were forced into hiding or were murdered during World War II. The monument stands purposefully slightly hidden to symbolize all the LGBT people who could not and still cannot comfortably be themselves. When you look inside it, a video is displayed on a loop showing various couples kissing. It’s touching and such a beautiful memorial.
Reichstag Building: This isn’t so much a monument as an incredibly beautiful, large building that was once the center of power for Germany. The architecture is stunning and there is an incredible viewing point from inside the dome of the building. It was fascinating to stand there and imagine the events which took place in the past.
Berlin Wall: If it is your first time visiting Berlin, then you must visit the Berlin Wall. This wall separated the world of Communism from the rest of the world until 1989. In Berlin, this wall separated a city in half by ideology and served as a physical barrier separating friends and family. The wall fell in 1989 but you can still visit some of its remains as well as the memorial for the wall.
Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism: This memorial is often overlooked and not as popular as some of the other monuments on this list. However, I believe it is important to remember the Roma who were also persecuted under Nazism. As a people often overlooked and oppressed by the world to this day, I think it’s beautiful the city of Berlin chose to honor them.
Statues of Tiergarten Park: Tiergarten is a 210 hectare (510 acre park) located in the middle Berlin. There is lots to explore in this park including a zoo, picnic areas, sports fields, playgrounds, ponds, and gardens. But my favorite aspect of the park is its many monuments and statues of famous people and such. Walk through the park and explore its art…it’s free!
Gay Berlin: Museums
As a modern metropolitan city, Berlin has plenty of museums to wander through. From art to science to history, and culture, you’re sure to find plenty to peak your interest. For some quick ideas, check out these museums.
Schwules Museum: Opened in 1984, this is gay Berlin’s museum dedicated to LGBT Life and history in the city.
Address: Lützowstraße 73, 10785 Berlin, Germany
DDR Museum: Located in the former governmental district of East Berlin, this interactive museum provides visitors with a hands-on experience depicting life in East Germany.
Address: Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1, 10178 Berlin, Germany
Check Point Charlie: Learn all about the history of espionage in Berlin at Check Point Charlie. It is the remainder of the former border crossing, the Cold War, and the Berlin Wall.
Address: Friedrichstraße 43-45, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Topography of Terror: An indoor and outdoor history museum located on the former site of buildings which during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 was the SS Reich Main Security Office, the headquarters of the Sicherheitspolizei, Einsatzgruppen and Gestapo. In other words, many orders were given for many of the events which unfurled during World War II from this place.
Address: Niederkirchnerstraße 8, 10963 Berlin, Germany
Museum Island: This isn’t really one museum but a grouping of a few that includes the Altes Museum, Neaue Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Bode Museum, Pergamon Museum, and Humboldt Museum. All museums are internationally significant and the museum complex is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Address: Northern half of an island in the Spree river in the central Mitte district of Berlin, Germany
Want to explore the rest of Germany? Then check out IGLTA’s guide to Germany!
Gay Berlin: Neighborhoods to Explore
Schöneberg: As stated above, Schöneberg was designated the world’s first gay village in the 1920’s. As such, it is gay central in Berlin. You will find a number of bars and clubs in the neighborhood as well as gay accommodations, shopping, and gay-friendly restaurants.
Kreuzberg: The Kreuzberg neighborhood is one of my favorites in Berlin. There’s a beautiful church, a historic cemetery, and wonderful streets to explore. There’s also an awesome food scene in the area which is totally worth exploring. Don’t forget to check out the Markthalleneun for an especially eclectic mix of tasty treats.
Neukölln: The ultra hip neighborhood of Neukölln is the perfect place to get in touch with your hipster side. There are plenty of makeshift bars and galleries to enjoy along with interesting storefronts and cafes. It’s definitely one of the best places in the city to find nightlife as the crowds will be of the younger variety. Don’t forget to take this self-guided food tour from Bitemojo while you’re there!
Prenzlauerberg: Another neighborhood where the crowd tends to run young. You’ll find many of the same great things as in Neukölln. Have fun exploring it!
Gay Berlin: Bars and Clubs
It would not be a very gay Berlin without plenty of clubs and bars. As with any major city, you’ll find plenty of places to grab a drink and get your party on at night. But Berlin seems to take that concept and make it just a little more special. With such an open-minded atmosphere, you can imagine there are some pretty interesting places and experiences waiting for you. Check out these bars and clubs in particular which I found to be especially riveting.
Schwuz: This bar with a lively atmosphere tends to attract a crowd leaning towards the younger side. Featuring themed nights on Friday and some drag events, the music is always fun. Don’t forget to make the Madonna themed night which happens once a month!
[Open Friday and Saturday 11pm-9am]
Address: Rollbergstraße 26, 12053 Berlin, Germany
Roses: On the weekends this bar tends to be packed as patrons feel its red velvet interior. As one Kreuzberg’s legendary nightlife spots, it’s to be expected. Enjoy the fake leather chairs and all the glitter as it’s known as one of the kitschest bars in Berlin. It’s perfect for a raucous night out as the drinks are cheap and the atmosphere is lively.
[Open everyday 10pm-6am]
Adress: Oranienstraße 187, 10999 Berlin, Germany
Barbie Deinhoff: This small bar features art on the walls, usually of a political nature and mismatched chairs and couches. The walls are colorful and the space is technically a queer performance space. Get a great happy hour deal every Tuesday and enjoy this gay Berlin institution for what it is worth.
[Open Wednesday-Thursday 6pm-4am & Friday-Saturday 6pm-5pm]
Address: Schlesische Str. 16, 10997 Berlin, Germany
Möbel Olfe: Möbel Olfeis a gay bar even though most people don’t realize it because it’s such a cool bar. This bar tends to be pretty full everyday of the week except for Mondays (because it is closed). The bar offers an excellent range of beer and attracts people from walks of life including lesbians, students, artists, and hipsters. Located just a couple blocks from Roses, it’s a perfect place to bar hop.[Various hours…check the website]
Address: Reichenberger Str. 177, 10999 Berlin, Germany
Beghain: Located in a gigantic former railway warehouse, Berghain is one of the most popular and mysterious clubs in the world. It’s the perfect place to go if you’re an EDM lover. However, it is notoriously difficult to get in and the bouncer’s word is final. The wait can be hours long so be prepared for that and, even after waiting for so long, you still might not get in. Not necessarily a gay club, anything goes here which is why it’s included in this list. For the ultimate clubbing experience, you have to go to Berghain.
Address: Am Wriezener Bahnhof, 10243 Berlin, Germany
** For a guide to all the hipster hotspots of gay Berlin check out this awesome guide!
Gay Berlin: Naughty Fun & Cruising
With an anything goes attitude, Berlin is also known for the same in relation to sexual behavior. Berlin is known for having an fairly extreme, uninhibited gay cruise club scene. So if you’re looking for it, you can find it. Here are a few cruise clubs that might interest you but there are plenty more to fit any taste.
Tom’s Bar: Featuring live DJs, a full bar, and televisions usually playing soccer, you can actually visit this bar and never even be around the naughty fun. That’s because most of those activities take place in the bar’s darkroom area. The bar is very cruisy so be prepared.
[Open everyday from 10 pm- 6 am]
Address: Motzstraße 19, Berlin
Lab-oratory: Located in the basement of the same building that houses Berghain, anything goes at this famous cruise club. Anything your heart desires or your mind can fathom will be happening at this purely sex club.
[Open Thursday-Friday; Hours Vary]
Address: Am Wriezener Bahnhof, 10243 Berlin
Mutschmann’s: One of Berlin’s most popular fetish cruise clubs, Mutschmann’s is geared towards men who enjoy leather, uniforms, and rubber. You can expect to see plenty of action and might even find some yourself. Don’t wear pink or silk clothing as these are forbidden in this club.
[Open Wednesday-Saturday 10pm-late]
Address: Martin-Luther-Straße 19, Berlin
Gay Berlin: Lodging
Just like any major city, there are plenty of places to choose from for lodging. So I’m listening a few options here. Be sure to check for yourself but rest assured most places in Berlin are very LGBT-friendly.
Axel Hotel Berlin: Known as hetero-friendly hotel, Axel hotels provide comfortable accommodations with a touch of luxury and a cosmopolitan feel. Axel Hotel Berlin is located in the Schöneberg which is the heart of Berlin’s gay community. You’ll be right next to everything you want to experience and stay in true comfort!
Gay Hostel: I’ve stayed at this hostel before and had a lot of fun. Located in the Schöneberg neighborhood, it’s a great way to be near everything if you’re on a budget. The rooms are very large with bunk beds and there’s also a common area and small kitchen. It’s super easy to make friends with the other patrons during your stay too. Just be prepared for the communal showers where you might get to know some of the other guests very well. There’s also a separate hostel just down the road for older guests who prefer something more quiet. Lastly, staying in the gay hostel includes the hostel pass which gives exclusive benefits such as discounted drinks, free drinks, and free entrance to many of the exciting venues within the gay scene of Berlin.
AirBnb: Of course, everyone knows about AirBnb. It allows travelers to stay like a local in real homes. Now, with Airbnb’s anti-discrimination policy, LGBT travelers can rest assured that they will not be booted from their lodgings as a result of their sexual orientation or identity. If it happens, AirBnb has your back!
MisterBnb: This is the gay version of AirBnb. It operates under the same premise but all homes and rooms for rent must be owned or operated by gay or gay-friendly individuals.
** Remember, Berlin Pride takes place in July and many hotels are filled quickly. Check out these suggestions on Expedia’s Hotel Edit for other Pride events & gay-friendly hotels around the world including one for Berlin and two from yours truly!
**Want a second opinion? Check out my friend’s excellent gay Berlin hipster guide over on Travels of Adam!
**Looking for a quick day trip while in Berlin? Here’s all the information you’ll need!
So, does Berlin seem like the kind of place you’d like to have a gay adventure in?
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