AS Berlin braces for the week-long LGBTI festivities, the German city’s flourishing artistic, expressive, and sexually-charged atmosphere is ripe for the exploring.
Berlin’s 37th annual Christopher Street Day celebrations — named after the Stonewall Riots LGBTI uprising in 1960s New York — will feature over 200 events spread over a week, including the main pride parade that starts on Kufürstendamm, as well as performances, lectures, exhibitions, shows, films, gigs, along with wild parties in the hordes of gay bars that pepper the city.
Berlin Pride is one of the largest LGBTI-organised events in Germany and one of the biggest in Europe — so much so that during the festival celebrations, resident gay magazine Siegessäule says “queer is everywhere” in the city.
And it is.
Berlin’s non-stop nightlife pumps vigour and vitality into the city’s veins, and this is much more so during pride celebrations.
The city’s dawn-to-dusk clubs and venues, where you can legitimately lock yourself into a industrial warehouse with like-minded pleasure-seekers and party until next week, are a melting pot for the city’s numerous personalities.
The venues range from atmospheres of light-hearted candour to serious partygoers, and cater to groups as diverse as indulgers of the kitsch and camp, leather fetishists, techno fans, cruisers, and your mother’s knitting group.
Adorned in rainbow flags is Berlin’s gay-centric neighbourhood Schöneberg, the history of which dates back to the 1920s. It is the home of notable gay-owned restaurants and businesses and a go-to destination for such venues as Hafen, and Heile Welt.
For the more alternative crowd, head to Kreuzberg, home to Berlin’s counterculture fuelled by young creatives. The once run-down area, still fuzzy around the edges, is a medley of avant-garde galleries, bars, and eateries. Here you’ll find the fluffy-walled cult bar Roses, and pink Barbie-doll themed Barbie Deinhoff’s, and the city’s Gay Museum.
The comparatively-newer area of Friedrichshain has recently developed its own gay identity with sex shops, saunas, restaurants, and bars. The world-renowned Club Berghain, as well as drag queen Nina Queer’s Schmutzige Hobby can also be found here.
For those keen to venture into the daylight and explore the city’s architectural and historical offerings, there are free walking tours that take you on a two-and-a-half hour amble from East to West Berlin, or vice versa.
The tours stop at the Brandenburg Gate, a stone’s throw away from the Reichstag, the Holocaust Memorial, the remains of the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz, Pariser Platz, Luftwaffe HQ, the Former SS Headquarters, Gendarmenmarkt, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Holocaust Memorial.
Along the walk, foodies will be spoilt for choice when it comes to the humble — and world-famous — Berliner wurst. From the popular currywurst, to bratwurst, and the spectrum of sausages in-between, the local indulgences are available around the clock at your whim. Have them served with a side of fritten and ketchup, or bread and beer if you so fancy. Konnopke’s Imbiss and Curry 36 is highly recommended for a Berliner wurst fix.
For those intending to sleep on their stay, the pink pillow Berlin Collection is a network of gay-friendly hotels and accommodation.
The network includes the Adina Apartment hotels Checkpoint Charlie, Hackescher Markt, and Hauptbahnof located near major landmarks that triangulate the city centre.
The self-proclaimed “gay capital” city also hosts other LGBTI-centric events, such as the Kreuzberg Pride Parade, Easter in Berlin and Gay Night at the Zoo in June and Folsom Europe in September — cementing the city as a progressive and open-minded destination for gay travellers.
Berlin Pride takes place June 21-27. For details, visit: csd-berlin.de/en
For details on Berlin accommodation, click here. (Select from the following locations in Berlin: Checkpoint Charlie, Hackescher Markt and Hauptbahnof)