Jonathan Beaumont is a TV Producer, travel journalist and cruise expert. He spends much of his time cruising, reviewing hotels and writing LGBT travel related stories. He’s a regular guest panellist at The Telegraph Cruising Show and broadcasts on cruising stories for both television and radio.
Thanks to the new LGBT micro-site from the German National Tourist Office, it’s never been easier to find out about the country, and plan a trip to Germany.
Berlin has been the centre of all things diverse and hedonistic since as far back as the 1920’s so it’s no surprise that today it holds the title of Queer Capital of Europe. Its appeal is its ability to be all things to all people all in one big melting pot.
Even though I’ve been a regular visitor to the city for well over the last 12 years it always takes me a couple of days to adjust to just how relaxed and liberal things are here. Berliners are known for their ‘anything goes’ attitude and it’s incredibly liberating to see people walking through the streets of Schoneberg, the epicentre of gay life in the city, wearing pretty much anything (or as little as) they want and no one bats an eye lid.
Berliners also have a refreshingly directness which if you’re not prepared for can take you aback. I remember the first time I visited one of the cities cruise bars and a guy came up to me, looked me up and down and then asked if I wanted to have sexual relations with him. Well, he actually was a bit more direct than that but for the sake of politeness I won’t print what he actually said here. Back then I was a typically reserved English guy unused to such directness and was totally shocked.
“What?!! And you don’t even want to know my name?!
“Oh you English are all the same”, he answered, you want us to buy you drinks, make polite conversation with you, take you on a date and then maybe you will think about having sex with us! He had a point. We were after all in a cruise bar and let’s face it we were both there for ultimately one thing. So I learnt to understand the Berliners and what it is that makes this city so much fun especially to the gay visitor looking for a few days of pure hedonism.
Where to stay
Basing yourself in or close to the gay village of Schoneberg has its advantages. Firstly it’s very centrally located close to Nollendorfplatz and the main shopping street of Kurfurstendamm and you’ll find excellent transport links by both bus and the underground subway system called the U bahn. Secondly it’s the perfect place to be if you’re coming for one of the party weekends and don’t want far to walk home at the end of a fun night out. Or you might be intending to get geared up and throw yourself into the fetish scene and want to walk around in the village feeling comfortable with what you’re wearing. Or you could be a single traveller and want to be in a gay friendly environment close to other single gay guys in one of the many gay run establishments.
Some of the most convenient and welcoming hotels can be found on the German National Tourist Office’s LGBT micro-site.
Either way you’ll find Schoneberg to be a charming mix of elaborate 19th century apartment buildings and town houses with plenty of supermarkets, shops, restaurants and bars catering to both the gay and straight clientele who all live happily side by side.
Schoneberg is also home to the more traditional and fetish side of Berlin’s gay scene. The streets of Motzstrasse, Martin Luther Strasse and Fuggerstrasse play host to dozens of leather and bear bars, and you’ll find an extensive array of shops selling all manner of fetish and sports gear.
When it comes to finding somewhere to stay there’s something to suit all tastes and budgets in and around the village from the trendy four star Axel Hotel, Toms Hotel with its simply furnished but comfortable rooms (see below) through to small self catering apartments. Don’t feel however that you need to base yourself in the gay village, being Berlin you’ll be welcomed wherever you choose to stay.
There are of course literally hundreds of things you should see and do in a weekend in the city and much depends upon whether you want to base yourself around Schoneberg for a full-on gay weekend or whether you want to experience more mainstream attractions. Whatever you decide I recommend the following research resources:
Official tourist office site with link to their own gay information page ‘Berlin for Gay Tourists’.
German National Tourist Board LGBT microsite
Time Out guides have everything you could possibly want to know about the city along with a comprehensive gay and lesbian listings section.
Lots of info about what’s going on in the city for the gay visitor.
Find hotels that really are invested in delivering the best possible service to LGBT visitors.
The easiest way of getting around the city is to get a Berlin Welcome Card. Not only does it give you unlimited access on the public transport system it also gives you reductions of up to half price on many of the cities top tourist attractions. The card can be bought for two, three or five day visits and is available to purchase online at the link below. Great value and highly recommended.
I’ve based my list of Top Ten places worth visiting around the gay village of Schoneberg. It would of course be a tragic to not get out and visit some of the more mainstream tourist attractions and even if you are only in the city for a couple of nights try and take a sightseeing bus around the city (open top in Summer, enclosed and warm in Winter) and walk the length of the Kurfurstendamm, the cities main shopping street.
Top Ten Recommendations
Café Berio (Marbenstrasse 7) is a Schoneberg favourite all year round, warm and cosy in the Winter and with a great pavement people watching terrace in the Summer it’s the place to head to for breakfast, lunch or a just a coffee and cake and cruise the boys.
More Restaurant (Motzstrasse 21) which is one of the most popular restaurants on the gay scene. It’s great for breakfast and lunch but really comes into its own at dinner when the atmosphere is buzzing with lots of lovely boys. Oh and the food is excellent too! Reservations are recommended.
Front Play has one of the best selections of casual clothing I’ve found under one roof. Lovers of classic brands such as Lonsdale, Fred Perry, Everlast and Alpha Industries will be in their element. Plus trainers from New Balance and Nike, lots of great fitting t-shirts, jeans and sports wear too. A gay boys shopping dream!
Gear Berlin is upmarket fetish shopping at its very best and has to be one of the most original hi-tec fetish stores you’re likely to come across. All exposed brickwork and industrial style metal staircases with atmospheric lighting and some of the sexiest staff around who’ll serve you Nespresso coffee while you shop! The ground floor sells labels such as Adidas, In-Seam Men, Nasty Pig and Alpha Industries as well as one of the largest selections of New Balance trainers you’ll find. Downstairs you’ll find Langlitz Leathers, Wesco and Dehner boots and gear by fetters as well as great leather, rubber and neoprene wear. Highly recommended!
Mr B has two shops, one in Amsterdam and the other in Berlin and is famous for the quality of its leather gear. This bright and welcoming store sells lots of fetish gear and things you don’t need as well as a few you could spend hours brightening up your sex life with!
Bruno’s is the store of the gay media company Bruno Gmunder and possibly the largest gay emporium around. Their main store (Nollendorfplatz, corner of Bulowstrasse 106) has a wide and varied selection of books, magazines and DVD’s as well as clothing, condoms, lube and just about everything else you could want and things you’ll probably buy but won’t really need.
When it comes to nightlife the bars of Schoneberg are definitely geared towards the harder cruiser side of things. Recommended is Mutschmanns (Martin Luther Strasse 19). Although a dress code bar I noticed several people wearing just jeans and trainers. On busy party weekends the dress code is likely to be enforced. Large and cavernous with a central bar and dark room downstairs.
The atmospheric New Action (Kleiststrasse 35) is the bar everyone heads to after they’ve done all the other bars! This is the place for those who just don’t want to go to bed and has a small dance area and darkroom. Leather, rubber, uniform, jeans in fact whatever you want to wear is ok here and is typical of the anything goes attitude in Berlin.
Tom’s Bar (Motzstrasse 19) is something of an institution in the area and is popular with men of all ages and styles looking for an unpretentious place to hang out and meet other like minded guys. Good two for one drinks offers on Mondays.
Say Berghain to any hard core clubber and watch as their eyes light up. This clubbing institution is known for having one of the worlds best mixed after hours parties. Plus it’s home to the monthly Snax parties and Lab.oratory sex parties. Check web site for listing and dress codes.
Best time to visit
Well the beauty of Berlin is it’s a year round city. Some of the most popular times to visit are when there’s a big party weekend such as Easter for the Leather and Fetish Meeting www.blf.de, June for Christopher Street Day (Gay Pride) www.csd-berlin.de , Folsom Berlin in September www.folsom-europe.info and The Hustlaball in October www.hustlaball.de If you do visit for a party weekend make sure you go back on a normal weekend when it’s not as busy as it’s easier to meet the hot German boys without having to battle with the crowds in the bars.
On this particular visit I stayed at Toms Hotel (Motzstrasse 19). Not a full service hotel in the normal sense but instead a selection of single and double rooms in a typically 19th century apartment building with a reception office located next door. Don’t expect cutting edge chic. Instead you’ll find basic but comfortable rooms with lots of light, windows that open and radiators that can be temperature controlled. My single room, while not large, had a double bed, TV and telephone, a decent sized wardrobe and a stylish modern bathroom decorated in grey slate with a large walk-in shower. There’s complimentary fresh fruit and water and excellent FREE wi-fi access which was some of the speediest I’ve had in a hotel. Although my room overlooked the main street there was double glazing so I slept soundly on what was a very comfortable bed.
Tom’s Hotel is ideal for those wanting an amazing location in the heart of all the action.
For information and reservations go to: