Best gay bars and cafés in Berlin
With its warm open-door policy, SilverFuture is as friendly and welcoming as its clientele. Stop by for a beer and stick around for the crowd that streams in as the night descends. This relatively cosy spot can get quite packed, but that’s all part of the fun. Make yourself at home while taking in the maximalist décor.
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 space has been packed since the day it opened, mainly with gay and lesbian beer lovers, thanks to the excellent range of brews on offer. The crowd has swelled in recent years, with students, artists and hipsters now in the know, but the infamous Thursday nights are still a blast.
Hotfoot it to one of Berlin’s most notorious cruising bars for a heady taste of the city’s queer scene. With raging parties and a labyrinthine dark room, there’s a reason Ficken 3000 has become a legend among locals looking for a drink, dance and a flamboyant good time. The bar’s entrance on Urbanstrasse is relatively discreet – look for the rainbow flag painted above its door and ring the buzzer if you dare.
As well as being one of Berlin’s most prized museums, the Schwules has a quiet café for those looking for something more downtempo. Pop into one of the rotating exhibitions on gay, lesbian and trans history, peruse the abundant books and magazines stored upstairs, then chill out over a quiet coffee or beer.
Tiny, tasteful and terribly nice, this small bar caters to an upscale Mitte crowd mainly pouring in for a post-work cocktail or two. Owner Johann Courgibet has lovingly created a homage to his hometown (whence the name), adding details including boat planks piled atop one another to create the distinctive central bar. It’s often crowded in the early evening, so either get there in good time or head down late.
Tucked away in a busy post-industrial complex in Friedrichshain, Zum Schmutzigen Hobby is both bar and club in one. You’ll find the cream of the Berlin queer scene here, as well as the occasional international celeb slumming it in style (Rupert Everett and, erm, Tara Reid have both been spotted here). The regular drag shows are a favourite.
Established in the early 1970s, this is one of the city’s oldest gay cafés and is located off the beaten Schöneberg track. Formerly Anderes Ufer (‘The Other Side’), Neues Ufer (‘The New Side’) was a go-to hangout for David Bowie during his late-1970s Berlin exile; he lived a few doors down on Hauptstrasse. Come here for a chilled-out daytime latte.
A local legend, Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke has undergone a facelift in recent years, but the on-stage stripper pole is very much still intact. There are plenty of private booths for shyer songbirds, but the real magic happens in the main room. The drag shows on Tuesdays are also worth your while. Arrive early for the new talent showcase (always a treat) and stay for the seasoned performers later on.
It was over a century ago that the queers of the Wilhelmine period would congregate around the bars and cafés of Mitte’s Mulackstrasse. Today, as one of the few gay bars left in Mitte, Betty F*** remains a favourite for gays, hipsters and fashionistas looking for a kickstart to the evening.
Best gay clubs in Berlin
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 over two floors, with the Panorama Bar upstairs and Berghain below. Saturday nights see Berghain awash with pumped-up, shirtless dancers of all genders sweating it out on the dance floor (or in the dark room at the back) well into Sunday afternoon. In summer, the party pours out into the garden chill-out area, bar and dance floor. Arrive after 6am to avoid the massive queues, and be sure to keep your cool in the line. Once on Am Wriezener Bahnhof, just follow the stream of taxis to reach the door. Cameras are prohibited, taken at the door and returned late. Some things, we guess, are best seen with your own eyes.
A former beer-slinger from Möbel Olfe opened this bar for Kreuzberg’s fast-expanding gay population in 2010. Located under the housing development on the roundabout at Kottbusser Tor, the mixed crowd enjoy drinks and dancing night after night, as well as many one-off rock parties. Check what’s on the schedule beforehand, but expect talks, pub quizzes, club nights and more. Südblock also dishes up hot plates, ranging from breakfast to midnight snacks.
This popular club and hangout moved from its Kreuzberg home to a new location at Rollbergstrasse 26 in Neukölln a few years back, with a 25-hour opening-night party that saw 56 DJs play across three dancefloors, pumping out that signature SchwuZ mix of indie, pop, retro-kitsch and electro. But SchwuZ isn’t just hands-in-the-air bangers, this is where you come for art installations, LGBT-friendly talks, live music and drag shows with international queens.
According to local legend, Monster Ronson – aka Ron Rineck – moved to Berlin from Salt Lake City with $7,000 in his pocket in 1999. As his savings dwindled, he began sleeping in his car, bought a second-hand karaoke machine, and was soon driving to squats all over Europe, throwing karaoke parties and getting paid to do it. Eventually, he saved up enough to open his very own bar and today Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke is packed out most nights of the week. Aspiring divas can belt out songs in one of several private booths, some small and intimate, others complete with their own stage area where drag queens put on a show for the ages every Tuesday night.
The best gay sauna in Berlin
A mainstay on the Berlin sauna scene, Kreuzberg’s Der Boiler is renowned for its lively steam room and maze-like cruising area for men. Cabins, saunas and chill-out areas combine to provide a rather opulent experience and the clientele’s always a good mix. Clean, cool, contemporary interiors make this the ideal spot to hunt down some steamy action.
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