While Berlin might seem like the undisputed king of gay Germany, Cologne is a very serious contender for the title. This western city is home to a huge gay population – over 10% of residents describe themselves as LGBTQI, well above the national average – and, as a result, has a vibrant, sexy, diverse gay scene that easily rivals the capital.
To be precise, Cologne is home to two gay scenes. The first, around Heumarkt-Mathiasstrasse in the Old Town (Altstadt), is the city’s original gayborhood. It is frequented by older gays and has more of a leather vibe, with a good handful of low-key, friendly bars filled with long-running patrons thrown in. The city’s cruise clubs – Deck 5, Pullerman’s, and Station 2B – are in this area.
The second part of gay Cologne can be found in the west of town, and it is where the city’s trendier, younger gay crowd congregates. There’s a whole bunch of gay bars around Rudolfpltaz-Schaafenstrasse, which makes for some top-notch bar hopping: this is affectionately known as the “Bermuda Triangle” among locals. Babylon and Phoenix, two of the best saunas in town, are a short walk away.
Gay Cologne is enough to keep you busy for a while, but don’t worry: the city at large also has its charms. From its iconic Cathedral to the fairytale-like old town, Cologne is romantic and intoxicating, and you can spend your days here just walking around and taking in the atmosphere. Culture vultures will fall in love with the city’s selection of Museums, ranging from art to Roman history to chocolate and fragrances (this is, after all, the birthplace of cologne).
Combine all this with friendly, open-minded people, a youthful student buzz, and an unparalleled calendar of cultural events (including an impressive range of LGBT celebrations), and you have yourself one of the best cities in Europe for a gay getaway.
Cologne has the distinct advantage of being home to not one, but two gayborhoods. One is located in the heart of the Old Town (Altstadt), around Heumarkt-Mathiasstrasse. This area is most popular with older gays and bears, although you will spot some young crowds here as well. All of the city’s cruise bars are in this part of town. As well as being particularly picturesque, Altstaft is near the Rhine, the cathedral, and several museums, meaning it is a great area to stay for sightseeing.
The other gay Cologne neighborhood is a bit further west, concentrating around Rudolfplatz. The grouping of gay bars in this area is sometimes referred to as the “Bermuda Triangle”, and is mostly made up of spots popular with a young, trendy crowd. Two of the city’s gay saunas are in this area.
If you’re in town to party, we suggest looking at the hotels located in the middle of the action – several of the options below are under 5-minutes from the nearest gay bar or sauna.
Germany has generally progressive LGBT laws in place. Gay marriage and adoption have been legal since 2017, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender is illegal (as is hate speech). Attitudes throughout the country are mostly liberal: in a 2013 poll, 87% of Germans believed that homosexuality should be accepted by society, the second-largest score of the countries polled.
Cologne is one of Germany’s most liberal and open-minded cities, essentially equal to Berlin in this respect. It is also home to a significant LGBT population, a thriving and vast gay scene, and a large chunk of the country’s pink tourism. In short, gay couples have nothing in particular to worry about here and can hold hands and kiss without attracting attention.
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