Gay Vacations in Berlin, Germany

Berliner Dom and surrounding landmarks at night in Berlin, Germany
Berliner Dom, Germany (Allan Baxter/Digital Vision/Getty)

Berlin Highlights

  • Go out in the wee hours. Closing times for bars and clubs? Berlin has never heard of them. Most places don't really get going until well into the early morning.
  • Use public transport instead of taxis. Berlin is sprawling, so using the U-bahn (underground) and S-bahn (elevated) trains and bus system will be a lot cheaper than taking taxis. Just be aware that only certain U-bahn and bus lines operate late at night.
  • Pay attention to street names in the former East Berlin. Guidebooks and locals may still refer to street names and squares by their old pre-unification names, but nearly all have been changed in recent years.

Imagine the urban grittiness of New York on the expansive scale of L.A. with the sexual fever of San Francisco. Add in a heavy dose of German practicality and ingenuity, and you've got Berlin. The city has been torn down and rebuilt many times, so don't expect the historic grandeur of Paris or even Hamburg. Instead, Berlin is all about what's new and modern. It's cutting edge in every area—artistically, creatively, socially, and politically. And with its massive gay and lesbian scene, it's a natural for gay travel.

Berlin traditionally has been an incredibly queer city. The world's first gay organization, the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, was formed here more than a century ago, and Berlin was the gay center of Europe as far back as the 1920s, when Marlene Dietrich and Christopher Isherwood frequented the many queer haunts of the day. Today, the gay scene is sexually free to say the least, with fetishes celebrated with gusto. There are three separate gay areas: Schoneberg is the traditional and historic gay section of town, with leather clubs and sex shops; Kreuzberg is a more alternative area with funky bars and a Muslim, multicultural flair; and Prenzlauerberg, in the former East Berlin, has young and hip neighborhood bars and cafes where customers sit and chat. Plan on spending at least a few days to get to know these different neighborhoods.

What Berlin may lack in aesthetics, it makes up for in attractions and history. The huge Tiergarten Park is the site of the annual summer rave party Love Parade (which was resurrected in 2006 after being canceled for a couple of years), and its "Queens' Meadow" is a popular spot for gay nude sunbathing. Historic Prussian buildings (albeit reconstructed) line Unten den Linden Avenue, and Berlin is home to embassies, world-class museums, and Humboldt University. The once-deserted Potsdamer Platz is now an ultra-modern entertainment complex. And the former Checkpoint Charlie is now a touching museum in memory of those killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall.

Published: 23 Oct 2008 | Last Updated: 29 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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