A Guide to Berlin's Taboo-Pushing Burlesque Scene

Ferkel Johnson by Verena Gremmer, http://burlesquefotografie.de
Ferkel Johnson by Verena Gremmer, http://burlesquefotografie.de
Honey Lulu

In a metropolis like Berlin, there is a scene for everything, and that includes everything your wildest imagination could ever think up. Burlesque falls into this category, and the Berlin burlesque community is one of the most thriving in Europe. It is also one of the most loved communities of the so-called ‘glitter tribe’ worldwide.

Simply put, burlesque is a performative art form that uses parody and exaggeration to mock something; its origins date back to the 17th century, but today it is mainly seen as a variety show that involves striptease and comedy, among other things. Its revival has been brought to the mainstream by artists such as Dita von Teese, but its forms are extremely varied. If you think burlesque has anything to do with the film with Cher and Christina Aguilera, please think again – burlesque is much more than that.
From the point of view of the performers, the Berlin burlesque community is well known for its warmth and openness towards artists from all over the world, both as guests and residents. The past few years have seen the arrival of performers from the likes of Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Italy, the United States, New Zealand, Russia, Britain and so on, besides its home-grown artists.
In the old days, Berlin was the destination of a mass exodus of artists, as an El Dorado of debauchery, promises of cheap rent, and an easygoing lifestyle. Burlesque and boylesque performers have been no exception.
And by the way, yes boylesque is a thing! It is, simply put, male and/or queer burlesque.

However, the burlesque scene and industry remains mainly dominated by women; a large portion of audience members as well as event promoters in Berlin (and everywhere else for that matter) are female.
‘Is it bitchy?’ many of you ask; ‘Are there any cat fights?’ No (*raising eyes to the sky*), there are no cat fights, and shows are very peaceful affairs. It is all more or less respectful, and the bitching is kept only for the most clamorous cases of plagiarism.
In general, things are much more relaxed than one would expect. The Berlin burlesque scene is after all like one big family, and like all families there must be some level of dysfunction!
So what can audience members, both seasoned and new, expect? As they say, ‘expect the unexpected!’Burlesque is full of weird and wonderful characters: dangerous femme fatales, sexy men, crazy glamour queens, gender-bending creatures, cross dressers, sword swallowers, clever strippers, musicians, and everything in between!

A typical Berlin show takes place in a bar/club or music venue, and it’s filled with a friendly crowd, usually of mixed age. The majority of shows catering to die-hard burlesque fans, have a DIY quality to them, while a few others are more polished. Professional performers are used to bigger theaters outside of the capital, and thus enjoy the fun aspect of performing on the more intimate stages of Berlin. In some cases, there is a live band before or after the show. The show is led by an extravagant and fun master – or mistress – of ceremonies, and variety and burlesque acts take to the stage to an adoring and cheering audience.
The acts vary from glamorous vintage to über weird through to the hilarious. Sometimes there will be an act that will make one go ‘What the hell…?’ But that’s the essence of Berlin, quality is mixed with the kitsch! What a boring world it would be if everything was pristine…
So, now pick an event from the following list, or better yet, pick all, and get yourself down to a live show and support the arts. Check the Facebook group Berlin Burlesque Events for the most up-to-date happenings in the burlesque scene.

Pinky’s Peepshow

Founded in 2010, Pinky’s Peepshow has become Berlin’s most loved burlesque show, with its home at Bassy Club. Happening monthly on a Wednesday night, it hosts an array of retro bands, singers, burlesque and variety performers from all over the world.
For more info join the Pinky’s Peepshow Facebook group
Bassy Cowboy Club, Schönhauser Allee 176 A, Berlin, Germany

We Love To Burlesque You at Prinzipal Kreuzberg

Taking place every Saturday at the very chic Prinzipal cocktail bar in Kreuzberg, the event features one world-class performer each week. Expect glamorous performances, fine cocktails, a mix of modern music and a very glamorous bar staff.
Prinzipal Kreuzberg, Oranienstrasse 178, Berlin, Germany

La Fête Fatale

Another legendary Berlin burlesque party, La Fête Fatale happens three times a year at various locations. These events feature a different theme and line-up every time, and dressing up is highly recommended. Known as a wild and sexy party, it’s defined as ‘Where beauty meets bizarre.’ For more information, check their website.

Burlesque at Zum Starken August

Every Friday and Saturday night, this newly opened and already popular bar features live burlesque shows. Friendly staff and good music make Zum Starken August a much loved destination.
Zum Starken August, Schönhauser Allee 56, Berlin, Germany

Sunday Soirée at Primitiv Bar

Happening the 2nd and 4th Sunday of every month, Sunday Soirée is an intimate yet popular regular event in Berlin. It features top artists from all over the world, Berlin, and Germany, as well as newcomers waiting to be discovered, in a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Primitiv Bar, Simon-Dach-Str. 28, Berlin, Germany

The Big Tickle at Ballhaus Berlin

A new event happening four times a year, The Big Tickle focuses on comedy burlesque and variety. It takes place at the legendary (and recently saved) Ballhaus Berlin – a 1920s venue. For more info on dates please check The Big Tickle’s Facebook page.
Ballhaus Berlin Chausseestr. 102, Berlin, Germany

The Rock‘n’Roll Burlesque Circus at Wild at Heart

Hosted by Berlin’s own burlesque troupe The Teaserettes, The Rock’n’Roll Burlesque Circus takes place monthly at Wild at Heart. A long running show with a devout following, it features the burlesque troupe known for their crazy antics plus special guests. Check here for upcoming dates.
Wild at Heart Wienerstr. 20, Berlin, Germany

Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School

Burlesque and life drawing meet in this unique event, which was founded by artist Molly Crabapple in NYC, and has now spread to over 100 cities all over the world. In Berlin, Dr Sketchy happens a few times a year, and each session features a different theme, with performers posing as tableaux vivants amid a variety of scenery.
For dates and themes, please see here.

Vaudeville Variety at Tipi

Vaudeville Variety is a large-scale single event happening twice a year. It features international burlesque stars as well as variety and cabaret performers from around the globe in one big extravaganza. Here you will be able to find upcoming dates.
Tipi am Kanzleramt, Große Querallee, Berlin, Germany

The Berlin Burlesque Festival

Like many major European cities, Berlin also has had its own yearly Burlesque Festival since 2013, which attracts performers from all over Germany and the rest of the world. It happens once a year over four days at various locations. Check the site for more infomation.

The Berlin Burlesque Week

This festival, happening over a week in Spring 2017, sets out to be Germany’s biggest burlesque extravaganza. In a variety of venues around town, it will feature multiple shows from Berlin’s regular happenings, plus a gala evening that will bring together talent from Berlin, Germany, and the rest of the world. For more info see here.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article