There’s no same-sex marriage, but Germany is still a playground for LGBTIs, says Travels of Adam blogger Adam Groffman
It’s long been known that Germany is a fantastic destination for gay and lesbian travelers.
According to a study from Berlin’s Dalia Research GmbH, Germany has the largest LGBTI population in Europe – estimated at 7.4%.
This, despite the lack of federal recognition for full same-sex marriage. Still, Germany is relatively progressive with its LGBTI equality laws. It offers same-sex adoption, civil unions (lebenspartnerschaft), and the legal right to change gender.
Plus, it offers countless cultural experiences you can enjoy regardless of sexuality. Everything from extreme nightlife to wine-tastings in the countryside.
I should know – I’ve explored every corner of this amazing country. I’m from Texas, but have been living in Berlin for years, writing my travel blog Travels of Adam.
Three of Germany’s largest cities – Cologne, Berlin and Hamburg – are also home to large gay and lesbian populations. There are plenty of activities to keep any discerning tourist happy. Here’s my mini guide to all three…
Berlin may have the international reputation as one of the coolest cities in the world, and its nightlife is legendary. But in my opinion Cologne is Germany’s gayest city. And as the country’s fourth largest, Cologne is big but not overwhelming. It’s spread out but completely manageable, with easy public transportation.
Downtown, near the Deutz Bridge, is the Heumarkt. This is the center of Cologne’s summer Christopher Street Day gay pride. But the best area to spot Cologne’s many hip cafes and trendy bars is around Rudolfplatz, and the Belgian Quarter. The three neighborhoods make up what is called Cologne’s ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of gay life.
Café Rico at Rudolfplatz is a popular hangout for more than just gays. It has a reputation as one of Cologne’s best brunches. Nearby you’ll find the equally popular gay bar Bastard, with an outdoor garden popular on summer evenings.
The Kettengasse street is home to Germany’s most popular gay shop, Bruno’s. Here, you’ll find books, magazines, DVDs and fashion, plus brochures and information on local LGBTI initiatives and hotspots. In Cologne, you’ll also find a memorial to the gay and lesbian victims of the Holocaust – one of just three in Germany.
Also in the area is Cologne’s main shopping street, Schildergasse, where most international brands have their shops. But in the fashion-friendly Cologne, the best fashion is often found in the boutiques and independent stores throughout the Belgian Quarter.
Spend some time wandering around Brüssler Platz for fine international food, trendy pubs and great shopping. The Magasin 2 shop features men’s and women’s fashion, and their sister shop around the corner sells music records. For nightlife, stay close to Brüssler Platz and check out the young and hip all-night club Sixpack.
Berlin – the city of history and hipsters, fashion and freedom. Thanks to its friendly environment, all-night lifestyle and plentiful restaurants and shops, Berlin is one of Europe’s greatest cities. Thanks to its unique history and growing diversity, Berlin is also incredibly queer-friendly.
Berlin’s gay history goes back to the 1920s when the capital city was a hotspot for artists and intellectuals. Not that much different than the city’s current reputation as Europe’s creative and cultural capital, then!
International artists and an open-minded attitude have turned Berlin into a city full of life. Gay-friendly cafes and bars can be found throughout the city, though historically the streets around Nollendorfplatz in Schöneberg were the gay-friendly hotspots. Today you’ll find an entire museum dedicated to Berlin’s gay history: the Schwules Museum.
And yet today, much of Berlin’s life is further east in the neighborhoods of Kreuzberg, Neukölln, and Friedrichshain. From legendary hetero-friendly clubs like Berghain to small dance clubs like Zum Schmutzigen Hobby (run by Berlin’s drag queen star Nina Queer), Berlin is far from boring.
Popular gay club nights include themed nights at SchwuZ, the Sunday night GMF party or monthly parties such as Gegen at KitKat Club or Cocktail d’Amor at Greissmühle.
Besides nightlife, Berlin has plenty to offer. For a trendy cafe, try Silo Coffee in Friedrichshain. Then perhaps some boutique shopping, or more history than can consumed in a weekend. The city is home to hundreds of museums. They span everything from German TV and cinema, such as the Deutsche Kinematek, to WWII and soviet history museums.
The northern port-city of Hamburg is home to every type of character imaginable. As one of Germany’s more iconic cities for tech start-ups and other creative and media professions, it’s had a long history as one of the country’s more vibrant, creative cities. The alternative neighborhood of St. Pauli and the more yuppified, trendy area of Saint Georg are popular for tourists and locals alike.
It’s a great weekend city with nightlife that lasts until dawn. And then, a Sunday fish market that opens as the clubs close! The legendary Reeperbahn area has a mix of sex clubs, seedy bars and greasy food. It’s the famous red-light district of Hamburg, but there’s so much more to the city.
Along the Reeperbahn are hip and trendy bars in the Schanzenviertel, bringing out a whole other side of Hamburg. The Schanzenviertel is home to former art squats turned clubs (try Haus 73 for as a cool nightspot). Much of the gay nightlife is just off the Reeperbahn on Talstrasse. But the nearby Hamburgerstrasse has plenty of queer-friendly bars mostly full of twenty-something hipsters. Also, 3 Zimmer Wohnung is a popular gay bar and club. It has kitschy interior and a basement made for underground dance parties.
Hamburg has as many art and boutique shops and bars. The Karolinenviertel neighborhood is home to many local designers. Herr von Eden is a famous menswear shop for those with bigger budgets.
To really embrace the Hamburger lifestyle, though, it’s best to shop local. Try the shop Hanseplatte for local music selections. For art lovers, Hamburg has everything from the big-city museums (Hamburger Kunsthalle) to small galleries and boutiques selling local designer products and fashion (Kaufhaus Hamburg).
Whether it’s fashion in Cologne, nightlife in Berlin or Hamburg’s trendsetters that you’re after, most German cities are great for city breaks. Popular gay events happen year-round throughout the country. From the summertime Christopher Street Day parades to LGBTI film festivals and even an LGBTI Christmas market in Munich,. Germany is definitely the queerest country in Europe!
Words: Adam Groffman. Click here for more information about Travels of Adam.
Photos by Pixabay