LGBT Berlin – the best gay bars, clubs and saunas in the capital

Discover Berlin's thriving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender scene

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© Elan Fleisher

I am gay, and that's good the way it is!' ('Ich bin schwul, und das ist auch gut so!') declared Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit in 2001. Over a decade later and both Wowi's term of office and Berlin's reputation as one of the world's most dynamic gay capitals thrive cheerfully.


For Berlin's gay scene, it's pretty much a non-stop party, from the saunas, darkrooms, bars, clubs, cafés, festivals, balls, carnivals and celebrations a hedonist's paradise, a sensualist's haven, an aesthete's delight and a raver's Mecca, all in one package.


This phlegmatic approach to life means that the city's gay community and healthy influx of visitors can get on with the business of enjoying life to the full without much impediment. The scene includes much more than the venues listed here, especially in terms of cultural events: there are plays, drag performances and the Gay Teddy award for the best gay film at the Berlin International Film Festival. Queer films can be seen on Mondays at Kino International (Karl-Marx-Allee 33, Mitte, 2475 6011). Gay art and history are documented at the Schwules Museum which also has an archive. And, of course, the Berlin scene offers sex parties for every taste and perversion.


Cruising is (almost entirely) safe and completely legal, with designated areas around the city's main Tiergarten and Grunewald parks, whilst you'll find gay-friendly establishments of every stripe across the city. However, traditionally, it's the Schöneberg district - especially the streets between Motzstrasse and Fuggerstrasse as well as Nollendorfenplatz (formerly home to Christopher Isherwood) - that's been the epicentre of the gay scene since the 1920s. This is also the geographical nexus for the annual gay calendar of events including Gay Pride - here called CSD (Christopher Street Day) - and Pride Week. Meanwhile, across town, (especially in Kreuzberg and Prenzlauerberg) saunas, bars and clubs offer all manner of diversion and recreational fun, ranging from the relatively innocent to pretty much as wild as you want to get. So, where to head to first?


Gay bars

Möbel Olfe

It’s an odd location for a gay bar, wedged among Turkish snack bars in a down-at-heel 1960s housing development, but this unpretentious place has been packed since the day it opened, mainly with gay and lesbian beer lovers, thanks to the good range on offer. The

  1. Reichenberger Strasse 177, 10999
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Saint Jean

  • Critics choice

Tiny, tasteful and terribly nice, this mini bar caters to an upscale Mitte crowd mainly pouring in for a post-work cocktail or two. Proprietor Johann Courgibet has lovingly created a homage to his hometown (hence the name) using details such as the boat planks piled

  1. Steinstraße 21, 10119
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Zum Schmutzigen Hobby

  • Critics choice

Local legend Nina Queer runs ‘Zum Schmutzigen Hobby’ as part of her sprawling Berlin empire and a trashy, schlocky-fabulous place it is too, where an up-for-it crowd congregate nightly for hi jinks and low-down boogie. You’ll find the cream of the Berli queer

  1. Revaler Straße 99, 10245
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Neues Ufer

  • Critics choice

Established in the early 1970s, this is one of the city’s oldest gay cafés and is located off the beaten Schoneberg track. The former name Anderes Ufer (‘The Other Side’) was changed to Neues Ufer (‘The New Side’), symbolising a new beginning. A favourite

  1. Hauptstrasse 157, 10827
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Monster Ronson's Ichiban Karaoke

  • Critics choice

Monster Ronson's Ichiban Karaoke has ten karaoke booths, but why would you want to keep your yowling to yourself or just your friends – when there’s a stage right there in the middle of this huge, kitsch karaoke palace…? This is undoubtedly Berlin’s best

  1. Warschauer Strasse 34, 10243
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Barbie Deinhoff's

  • Critics choice

A Berlin institution, in the midst of the grungy Schlesischesstrasse, just by the Spree. Sure, this is a queer performance space, but most people come to its casual, colourful rooms for the young, pan-sexual crowd, the top-notch local DJs and the hilarious art on the

  1. Schlesische Strasse 16, 10997
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Café Melitta Sundström

  • Critics choice

Daytimes, this place serves as a cosy café for students; in the evenings, it’s full of gays too lazy to go to Schöneberg and lesbians who wouldn’t go to Schöneberg anyway. At weekends, it’s the entrance to SchwuZ and is hectic and fun.

  1. Mehringdamm 61, 10961
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Betty F***

  • Critics choice

It was over a century ago that the queers of the Wilhelmine period would congregate around bars and cafés of Mitte’s Mulackstrasse. Today, as one of the few gay bars in Mitte, Betty F*** remains a favourite for trannies, gays, hipsters and fashionistas looking for a

  1. Mulackstrasse 13, 10119
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Gay clubs

Berghain/Panorama Bar

  • Critics choice

The hippest and hardest electronic music club in Berlin, if not Europe. The building is a Communist- era power station transformed into a concrete cathedral of techno on two floors, with the mixed Panorama Bar upstairs and Berghain below. Saturday nights see Berghain

  1. Am Wriezener Bahnhof, 10243
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Südblock

  • Critics choice

A former beer-slinger from Möbel-Olfe opened this bar for Kreuzberg’s increasingly large gay population in 2010. Located under the round- about housing development at Kottbusser Tor, the mixed (but girl-heavy) crowd enjoy nightly drinks and dancing, as well as many

  1. Admiralstraße 1-2, 10999
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Schwuz

  • Critics choice

Thirty years old, this bar/cafe/club recently moved from its Kreuzberg home to a new location at Rollbergstrasse 26 in Neukolln, with a 25-hour opening night party that saw 56 DJs across three dancefloors, pumping out the signature Schwuz mix of indie, pop,

  1. Rollbergstrasse 26, 12053
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Saunas

Der Boiler

  • Critics choice

A relatively new addition to Berlin’s sauna scene, Kreuzberg’s Der Boiler is a local favourite, renowned for its lively steam room and maze-like cruising area. Cabins, saunas and chillout areas all combine to provide a pretty opulent experience and the guests are

  1. Mehringdamm 34, 10961
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Treibhaus Sauna

  • Critics choice

Tucked in the first courtyard (buzz for entry), this has become a big favourite, especially with students and youngsters, and, on Sunday afternoon, those P’bergers who failed to pick up on Saturday night. Facilities include dry sauna, steam room, whirlpool,cycle jet,

  1. Schönhauser Allee 132, 10437
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Apollo Splash Club

  • Critics choice

This huge labyrinth of sin with 250 lockers and 80 cabins has been given a major revamp in recent years – at least on the first floor. Upstairs has a spa feel, while downstairs retains elements of the place’s former Brazillian theme. There is a bar, cinema, dry and

  1. Kurfürstenstraße 101, 10787
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