Berlin: Gay nightlife on the cheap

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Taking in the sights on Sunday night at GMF. Photo: Bennel
Taking in the sights on Sunday night at GMF. Photo: Bennel

By C H Kwak in Berlin—

In 2001, a relatively obscure local politician named Klaus Wowereit proudly declared: “I’m gay, and it’s a good thing.” Berliners wasted no time electing him mayor, and he has been in office ever since. San Francisco may have boys with flowers in their hair, but Berlin is arguably the most gay-friendly city.

Mayor Wowereit, affectionately called “Wowi,” also popularized the phrase “poor but sexy” to describe this bankrupt city. So no wonder Berlin is a Cheapo heaven—even the high glam of gay clubs won’t set you back too much.

Here are a few resources you need for a gay ol’ time in the world’s queer capital on the cheap.

1. Siegessäule

The free monthly queer mag is your one-stop resource for all things gay. You won’t need much German to read the calendar section at the back: S&M, after all, is “S&M” in German, too. You’ll see dozens of events and parties listed every day.

2. Queer Beer Thursday
Perle
Sredzkistr. 64, 10405 Berlin
(030)442-8425

Miniscule Perle in Prenzlauer Berg hosts a popular English speakers’ gathering every Thursday, where expats and tourists mingle. If you want to pick up information (and more) without affecting umlauts, this is the place to be.

3. SchwuZ
Mehringdamm 61
(030) 6290880

Berlin’s gay scene is largely dominated by small bars. Very few clubs match SchwuZ’s longevity and diversity. Check the calendar before you go–or you might be surprised to find a gay goth night, a ladies-only gathering, or even a foam party (Yes, we’re still reliving the ’90s here. Stop judging us).

Extra cheapo tip: No one wants to be seen there too early, but the cover’s cheaper before midnight. Here’s how locals do it: Pay first, get your hand stamped, then take a seat in the popular ground floor bar for a drink before heading into the club. I repeat: stop judging us.

4. Die Busche
Warschauer Platz 18
(030) 296 08 00

No one ever admits to going here, but mysteriously the place gets packed as the night wears on. It may be the lowest rung in the hierarchy of queer establishments, but the unabashedly tacky atmosphere makes for a fun, down-to-earth evening out. (Brace yourself for top 40 hits… from a few years ago.) Also, it may be the only queer place in town where girls outnumber boys.

5. GMF
Alexander Straße 7

If Die Busche is low, GMF is as high as it gets–literally. The decadent Sunday party radiates thumping music from the dizzying heights of a high-rise at Alexanderplatz. By Berlin standards, the €10 cover is hefty, but if you’re planning on staying out all night, the rooftop seats are probably more plush than your hostel bed.

Also in our guide: We don’t just stop at clubs and bars; we also have great recommendations for the most affordable hotels in Berlin, all of them visited and inspected by our editors. Read our reviews (and see our photos) in our Berlin guide.

About the author

C.H. Kwak is a translator in Berlin.

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2 thoughts on “Berlin: Gay nightlife on the cheap”

  1. Vor ca. 1.Jahr bin ich mit meiner Freundin nach Berlin gezogen, wir haben ganz schnell Kontakte geknüpft und ich muss sagen die Leute hier sind super cool.
    Meiner Freundin und mir wurde die Diskothek „Die Busche“ (http://www.diebusche.de) empfohlen. Ich muss ehrlich sagen die Leute, die Musik und die Atmosphäre haben mich positiv überrascht. Lange war ich nicht mehr in einer so coolen Diskothek.
    Ständig irgendwelche Angebote und immer Super Musik, am besten Ihr geht selbst mal in den Club – ich kann es Euch nur empfehlen.

    Reply
  2. .
    Super article, but to suggest that Klaus Wowereit was a “relatively obscure local politician” when he made his famous statement is really not true. He was at that time already clear front-runner to take the job of Mayor and he was the SPD faction leader in the Berlin Abgeordnetenhaus (House of Representatives). And remember that, Berlin apart, the SPD was that stage the overwhelmingly dominant party in German national politics, having ousted the CDU in 1998 after 15 years of Conservative rule. Wowereit was already very much part of the SPD élite, a name very well known in Berlin but also outside the capital (at least to anyone with political antennae). He has now been Mayor of Berlin for 10 years and now presides over a coalition administration of the Bundesland composed of the SPD in alliance with Die Linke – a party that does a great job in pushing a strong social agenda that is in keeping with the socialist heritage of Berlin. Elections are due next month, and all may change.

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