Berlin is often touted as the gay capital of Europe, and the city’s got the LGBTQ bars and clubs to prove it. Whether you’re looking for a night of debauchery and hedonism, to sing your lungs out at karaoke or to mingle with queer folk from all over the world, Berlin’s nightlife has it all.
Berlin-based writer Lisa N’Paisan talks to Jasmine Fullerton, aka DJ AUCO, who runs club night Infinite Quest alongside DJ Neana. DJ AUCO is part of the female and non-binary DJ collective No Shade and also goes by their drag name Mercedes Blendz in the drag collective House of Living Colours. They proudly comment on the diverse community that exists within the city: “It’s undeniably a fun time for queers in Berlin. You have the classic Berghain club vibe, but you also have new LGBTQ nights and collectives that are adding diversity to the scene.” Here’s DJ AUCO’s list of the best bars and clubs who’ve cemented themselves on Berlin’s queer scene.
Jasmine Fullerton, aka DJ AUCO, runs Berlin club night Infinite Quest alongside DJ Neana Courtesy of Jasmine Fullerton
Lesbian bars are rare in Berlin, which only goes to solidify the importance of those that do exist in Berlin’s queer culture. Möbel-Olfe is the most legendary of such venues and is located near Kreuzberg’s Kottbusser Tor, where the flourishing Turkish community and bohemian art community in Berlin coincide. Formerly a furniture shop, the bar’s ceiling is cheekily adorned with old chairs and kitschy decor. On Tuesday nights, it’s for women only, and on Thursday nights, expect a rowdy, alternative queer crowd. If you’re lucky, you’ll experience some of Panorama Bar’s (Berghain) resident DJs up on the decks, pumping out old house, techno and disco tunes.
Consider venturing to one of Berlin’s oldest LGBTQ clubs, in the large spaces of the former Kindl-Brauerei brewery building. Founded in 1977 by queer political platform HAW (Homosexual Action West Berlin), SchwuZ hosts some of Berlin’s raunchiest LGBTQ parties, porn screenings, art exhibitions and talks. Parties are held every Friday and Saturday and aim to celebrate women, lesbian, trans and genderqueer people and PoC artists. Plastic, which is held every last Friday of the month, describes itself as “a queer celebration of pop culture: a multi-orgasmic, ecstatic, creative extravaganza on three floors”. Depending on the party, expect a night of pop, R&B, hip-hop, techno or rock.
Barbie Deinhoff’s oozes Barbie realness with its jazzy pink walls and kitschy furnishings. And people love it! Although the clientele has shifted more towards the mixed-orientation in recent years, one look at the expressive customers attired in studded jockstraps, tattooed androgynous girls and red-lipped drag queens will remind everyone the bar is far from straight. Founded by performance artist Lena Braun, Barbie Deinhoff’s also acts as a queer art space, a stage for political performances and the venue for dazzling drag shows. To help you get into the spirit of debauchery, the bar offers a two-for-one happy hour every weeknight from 6pm-9pm and from 4pm on weekends.
Although a relatively new addition to Berlin’s LGBTQ scene, Trauma Bar und Kino has already garnered quite a reputation in the community. Fullerton is a big fan of its bimonthly rave, Room 4 Resistance, which they describe as “a great night that draws a more alternative crowd”. Trauma Bar und Kino is wheelchair accessible and it’s also collaborated with Trans Feminism International to help ensure everyone gets home safely by supporting their cab rides to and from the party.
Cafe, Restaurant, Bar, Turkish, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free
Location counts, and it doesn’t get more local than Südblock, just a stone’s throw from Möbel-Olfe. Südblock prides itself on welcoming an all-inclusive crowd (mainly girls) to a monthly programme of queer parties, cultural events and Sunday brunch. Fancy a haircut, your eyebrows plucked or a tarot card reading? Come for Salom Salam, which takes place every second Monday. Otherwise, shake your booty to Latin and pop music every Friday night at Kottywood, or turn the volume up at quarterly karaoke dance party CherrYO!-kie. This popular bar, with drinks available every night of the week, attracts an arty, international crowd of queers and their allies.
A favourite among Mitte’s LGBTQ community, this male-dominated, minimal cocktail bar offers an intimate and classy vibe. The French owner, Johann, describes Bar Saint Jean as “a simple place with a French touch. Clear lines, not too much detail, where people simply go to have a drink on weekends and during the week.” This charming, small downstairs joint has fast become one of the most popular gay meeting places for dates and after-work drinks in Mitte. Bar Saint Jean’s elegant ambience pairs well with its classic cocktail list of negronis, whiskey sours and more. If you’re feeling indecisive, ask for the cocktail of the day to start your night of mingling.
Spanning four dance floors of techno, industrial pop and house music, KitKatClub is a maze of dungeons, dark rooms, fruit buffets and the iconic swimming pool. With a name inspired by the musical Cabaret, KitKatClub hosts its bimonthly queer (and straight-friendly), sex-positive party, GEGEN. Just make sure to come in leather, latex, lingerie or the bare minimum as you wait in a line that often stretches around the block, rain, hail or shine.
Located in Friedrichshain, Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke caters to an open-minded LGBTQ crowd. Canadian owner Ron Rineck moved to Berlin from Salt Lake City with just $7,000 in his bank account. He bought a used karaoke machine and threw parties at squat houses until he could afford to open up Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke. Every Tuesday night, the queens at House of Presents host a drag show with the latest queer talent and DJ PANSY on the mic, as well as RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties. Knock back a couple of beers before belting out your best Mariah Carey or Lady Gaga on stage. Shy types can book a private karaoke booth for up to 16 people.
Open seven nights a week, SilverFuture is a highlight of Berlin’s queer scene, inviting all kinds into its cosy and discofied space. Grab an extremely low-priced cocktail and giggle at the sign hanging above the bar, which asks guests to leave their “heteronormativity” at the door or they can leave. Jasmine Fullerton recommends checking out the monthly Venus Boys drag night – “a playground for masculine drag. As well as House of Living Colours nights.”