What's it really like?
For a long time, Frankfurt wasn’t on the top of many must-see lists in Germany. As the country’s business and financial hub, it doesn’t appear to have the fairytale charm of Munich or the cultural impact of Berlin. However, if you scratch the surface just a little bit, you’ll find Frankfurt is the best of both worlds, while still being utterly unique.
No other city in Germany looks like Frankfurt, with its glass skyscrapers and imposing skyline, looking like something out of an American or Asian metropolis. This is what has earned the city the nickname “Mainhattan” (from its full name, Frankfurt-am-Main), and just like New York, this influx of money and international influence has led to a thriving cultural and nightlife scene. It’s an especially ideal destination for museum lovers, with a collection of museums and galleries rivaled only by Berlin. Nature enthusiasts will fall in love with the city’s parks and gardens, while foodies have more than enough to explore during their stay.
Hidden amongst the towering buildings of Frankfurt, you will still find a picturesque German Altstadt (Old Town), with its old-fashioned cider taverns and welcoming shops. Here is a bit of everything you could want from a German city – history mixed with modernity, tradition with innovation. Combine that with fantastic transport links – the airport is just 15 minutes from the city and is one of Europe’s busiest – and you have yourself a first-rate German destination in its own right.
Gay travelers will find a welcoming, open-minded city, especially thanks to its large student population. While the gay area is concentrated in the Innenstadt area of the city center, the entire city is as gay-friendly as they come. This is especially the case during Pride (or, as it is known in Germany, Christopher Street Day), held every year in the summer. This is one of the biggest Pride celebrations in the country, with a perfect balance of protest and party.
Frankfurt’s gayborhood is affectionately known as the Bermuda Triangle and is mostly made up of venues surrounding Zeil shopping street. There are sleazy cruise bars, cozy pubs, stylish lounge bars, and everything in between. A few of the bars have been around since the ’80s and are queer institutions in the city, which makes for a very welcoming atmosphere. Frankfurt’s laws do not stipulate a closing time for bars, meaning it’s possible – in fact, very easy – to spend your whole night drinking and chatting until the early hours of the morning without ever moving to a club.
Of course, the clubbing scene is also there for you to dance the night away. Like most German cities, Frankfurt’s gay clubbing happens mostly through gay parties. Most of these happen weekly or monthly, but a few of the bigger ones, like Delicious @ Panther and Club78 @ Velvet Club, only happen a few times a year – it’s worth trying to match your visit to one of these if big gay parties are your thing. Alternatively, you can see what is happening at one of Frankfurt’s queer venues while you’re in town – Orange Peel, with its diverse and busy calendar of gay events and parties, is a good place to start.
The Frankfurt gay scene is very concentrated, with practically every gay bar (and many of the clubs hosting regular gay parties) located within a small area in the Innenstadt (“Inner City”). This is locally known as the Bermuda Triangle, and it is very much the heart of gay Frankfurt. Conveniently, this area is just next to Zeil, the main shopping street in town with a wide selection of restaurants, cafes, bars, and high-end stores. All of the recommended hotels are within a 10-minute walk of the Bermuda Triangle, with many of them being on or next to Zeil.
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.
The gay Frankfurt scene is admittedly smaller than that in Cologne or Berlin, so it’s not like it’s an especially gay city (the exception being, of course, the Bermuda Triangle gayborhood). However, it’s still a large metropolis with a liberal and tolerant vibe, so LGBT visitors are very welcome.
Aidshilfe Frankfurt runs an HIV testing clinic called Maincheck. You can book a test on Mondays at Switchboard, a bar/cafe on Alte Gasse in the gayborhood, or Wednesdays 4 – 6 PM at KISS, an Aidshilfe Crisis Center a little further north.
Rapid HIV tests are 18€, and they offer combined prices if there are several tests you would like to take – for example, HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis for 50€. People in Germany tend to speak pretty good English, so you don’t have to worry about the language barrier.
NOTE: During the Coronavirus pandemic and until further notice, all Maincheck testing will take place at KISS on Wednesdays.
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