Under the constant shadow of the Kölner Dom, Cologne (Köln in German) is a city shrouded in mystique and wonder.
Simply walking through the Old Town is enough to convince you of the wonders Cologne has to offer. With its unique architecture, quaint shops and ancient buildings, it feels like a place from a bygone era. Yet, it is pulsing with so much life and so much modernity that it doesn’t for a second feel like you are stuck in the past.
An artistic city, Cologne is in many ways a cultural hub. With art, literature and music bursting from every street corner, anyone with any creative inclinations would find it hard not to be inspired. It's also a university town, so expect to see lots of young crowds in their early 20s, wandering around with big eyes filled with dreams and aspirations. This could mainly be due to the amount of caffeine millennials are drinking these days though…
Cologne is vying with the gay scene of Berlin to become the undisputed gay capital of Germany, and for good reason! With gay clubs and bars dotted across the city, LGBTQ folk have such a vivacious and vibrant selection to choose from when going on a night out. Cologne is well known for having the most pubs per person in all of Germany, so one thing is for sure, the locals love a drink! We sure did, as you can see in our Vlog of Cologne:
On top of this, there are so many gay friendly spaces, from restaurants to hotels, plus many queer-centric events held throughout the year. Cologne is also one of the few cities in the world to have a memorial sculpture for LGBTQ victims of the Holocaust. This is our comprehensive travel guide to Cologne, including the best gay bars, clubs, events, hotels to stay in and so much more.
Discover Cologne's gay nightlife!
If you want a local's inside scoop on the best gay nightlife in Cologne, then look no further. Join this gaily night tour and discover the best gay bars and clubs with a local gay guide. We found it to be the best way experience the gay scene of Cologne, and fantastic way to make new friends.
How gay friendly is Cologne?
The people of Cologne are well known for their liberal attitudes, open minds and something called joie de vivre, which basically means ‘joy of life’. To put it simply, the locals are welcoming to all people, as long as they themselves are friendly and laidback.
There are plenty of LGBTQ events throughout the year, so like it or not, locals are all too aware of the big gay presence that Cologne holds. There is Cologne Pride in June, Carnival in February and to top it all off, the Heavenue Gay Christmas market in December. Plus, with two gay scenes, on either side of the Rhine river, and a young population, there is nothing but acceptance for our homosexual family here!
We found it perfectly safe to venture out in public whilst holding hands. Of course, exercise caution wherever you go, but don’t feel the need to be overly discreet in Cologne. The city is bursting with queer-centric spaces, so everyone here is pretty much used to the LGBTQ presence. We never ran into any issues when booking hotel rooms or dining out in restaurants.
Getting around Cologne
Cologne has an easy-to-use public transport system for getting around. What's more, the KölnCard provides unlimited travel for a certain time frame as well as lots of discounts for attractions in the city. If arriving by plane, be sure to check out our guide for getting from Cologne airport to the city centre for more useful practical information.
Cologne gay area
Cologne is so fabulous that it couldn’t just have one gay scene, it has to have two! With an older scene in the east side of the city, known as Heumarkt-Mathiasstrasse, which generally also sees an older crowd; and a newer, more urban scene in the west, you’ll need to visit both to get a true sense of how gay Cologne really is. Nicknamed ‘The Bermuda Triangle’, gay folk have been known to become lost for hours when they spend time around the clubs and bars in this district.
With a variety of bars and clubs on either side of the city, we loved sampling pieces of each scene. We found the east to have more traditional bars and clubs, with more mature crowds. For big, dancing clubs, we had to (to quote the Pet Shop Boys) ‘Go West!’ Travelling around the city couldn’t be easier though. With an underground train station known as the S-Bahn, navigating between places was quick, efficient and super cheap.
Explore Cologne with a gay tour guide
One of the best ways to get acquainted with the main sights of Cologne is to join a gay tour. You'll see the best of the city's beautiful Old Town area while learning about its history from the perspective of a fabulous gay tour guide.
Gay hotels in Cologne
A long day of strutting around the city can really take it out of you. Luckily, Cologne has a range of fabulous hotels to rest your pretty head. So, whether you're looking for a fabulous, expensive city gay getaway, or just passing through whilst backpacking across Europe, Cologne has plenty of options for you.
25hours Hotel The Circle
Why we love it
- Price range: $$
- Restaurant with unique Jerusalem-inspired dishes
- Close to main attractions and gay bars
- Relaxing sauna with outdoor terrace
Perfect for the savvy, Insta-obsessed gay traveller, the 25hours caters towards quirky millennials who have their eyes glued to the horizon. Close to all the famous landmarks of the city, this hotel is sophisticated, whilst still feeling super modern.
There are over 200 rooms in the hotel, so expect it to feel busy at all times. There is a constant hive of activity buzzing throughout the halls, from families to cute couples.
When you're in need of a timeout from the craziness, there is a fabulous sauna. Ideal for when you just need some quiet time, the sauna is a sanctuary for all those who work hard, play hard, but now just want to put their feet up and have a snooze. From the artsy design of the rooms, complete with stencils of spacemen on the walls, to the rooftop bar that overlooks the city, this hotel ticks all the boxes. They even provide you with a gift box with socks and condoms – all the true necessities for the gay nomadic boy…!
The restaurant has an Israeli theme, with dishes inspired by Jerusalem. Try falafel or hummus, all whilst looking out at the magnificent city through the glass walls. Perfect for a candlelit dinner on your first or last evening, or when you are looking for a quick bite but still hoping for a touch of romance. 25hours Hotel The Circle is also ideally placed for visiting the gay bars and clubs in the west of the city (more on that below), very handy for those looking to party!
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, voiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off our first booking.
Excelsior Hotel Ernst
Why we love it
- Price range: $$$
- State-of-the-art gym and luxury spa
- Fabulous piano bar
- Gourmet restaurant
The Excelsior oozes luxury and sophistication. With a grand, ultra-lavish design and service that optimises supreme comfort, it's clear to see the Excelsior doesn’t do things by halves!
Facing off against the famous Cologne Cathedral, Excelsior sure is in excellent company and has many cafes, clubs, bars, and other famous landmarks close by so you always feel as if you are in the centre of activity – which you are!
Having remained a fixture in the city since 1863, it will be surprising to you, as it was to us, that this gay friendly hotel is family-owned. This elevated the ambience onto a whole new level, as it showed how something so magnificent can be created from a family banding together. We also couldn’t help but notice the bond between staff, who seemed to genuinely enjoy their time looking after guests, happily joking with tourists, as well as each other. Each time you walked through the lobby or public space, it felt like a mini home gathering.
There are room options that range from the basic amenities, all the way up to suites. Though each one is decorated with elegant design, cosy furniture and bright colours, so you feel totally relaxed whilst lounging around. When you’re not busy roaming around the city, you’ll find yourself drawn to the spa and fitness centre. With a state-of-the-art gym and exquisite spa treatments, you’ll feel completely revitalised.
In the evening, dine in the Hanse Stube restaurant, with a wide selection of gourmet foods to fill you up after a day of sightseeing. Afterwards, swing by the piano bar. Sip cocktails, indulge in chatter with your fellow hotel guests and soak up the bluesy or jazzy tunes that are played live on the grand piano.
Mercure Hotel Köln City Friesenstraße
Why we love it
- Price range: $$
- Delicious breakfast
- Vintage 60s design
- Excellent location for visiting gay bars, saunas etc.
From the gay rainbow flag flying proudly at the entrance, to the wide selection of cocktails in the bar, the Friensennstrasse hotel is like a gay man’s dream. You’ll instantly recognise it from the street as it is painted in baby pink.
Rooms are simply decorated, with soft colours and furnishings that create a calm ambience. The use of compact furniture matched with vintage design oozes 60s vibes…so groovy baby!
The elferRat restaurant boasts fabulous regional and international dishes, bursting with authentic flavours. The ambience of the restaurant is elevated by the stylish decor, with wooden furniture, use of natural light and soft background music. Perfect for when you've just landed in Cologne: the service is quick and the staff have good banter, so you’ll feel truly welcome to the city. They’ll chat to you about the city, providing tips on the best places to visit, eat and go clubbing. We found we were partying with close friends when we were leaving as they came across so friendly and personable.
We particularly loved the selection of breakfast foods, with croissants, pancakes and platters of tropical fruits, we felt as if we had a great boost each day. I mean, you can’t beat a fat pancake drizzled in maple syrup… This hotel, since it is the gay Mercure hotel, is close to a string of LGBTQ clubs and bars. Take advantage and explore the best that gay Cologne has to offer…you could even try out some naughty saunas or cruising clubs that the area is known for (wink wink!).
Hostel die Wohngemeinschaft
Why we love it
- Price range: $
- Creative rooms to make art and be inspired
- Great for a group of friends
- Unique and luxurious rooms
Found in the centre of Cologne’s Belgian Quarter, the Hostel die Wohngemeinschaft is a great gay friendly accomodation for artists, poets and writers looking to get some inspiration for their work.
Plus, if you're tight on funds, then you’ll be pleased to know that the hostel definitely caters to those on a budget – without sacrificing style. This might just be one of the coolest looking hostels we've ever stayed in…
The rooms in this hostel are thoroughly luxurious. With styles ranging from minimalism to 60s vintage, glittery Bollywood to spacey wonder, you can choose your own unique experience. There are also dormitories, which can hold up to 8 people, so you can go with a group of friends, or make new companions if you are a solo gay traveller. And if you get hungry, there's an on-site cafe which becomes a bar at night.
What we truly love about this hostel is the Creative Rooms: a space where you are welcome to come to simply, think, reflect and, well, create! Each room has its own unique setting. One is even filled with swings dangling from the roof, so you can get those creative juices flowing. There is also a theatre, where you can see a dramatic piece put on by actors and playwrights from all around the city.
Gay bars in Cologne
It’s time to break out those dancing shoes and paint the town in glitter. Cologne has a wide and diverse LGBTQ nightlife scene, brimming with bars both big and small, campy and traditional, gothic-style or modern; all depending on you and your taste. We’ve picked out bars from both sides of the city, so you can get a real flavour for what the city has to offer. We also recommend joining a night-time tour of Cologne's gay bars as a great way to make new friends, especially if you're travelling solo.
Rudolfpltaz-Schaafenstrasse (West Cologne gay neighbourhood)
Go West! Life is peaceful there…
Well, not so much peaceful as it is lots of fun. With various LGBTQ bars and clubs to drop into, you’ll need to devote a whole evening to exploring the alluring Rudofplatz-Schaafenstraase:
Bar by evening, club by night! As the sun sets and the gays across the city come out to play, ExCorner transforms from a quiet, relaxed bar into a loud, atmospheric club. Heavy dance beats pulse from the building so intensely that you can hear it just from walking down the streets. The crowd here is fairly eclectic, though tends to lean more towards the younger side. The drinks are tasty, offering a mix of cocktails, wines and beers. The cute guys behind the counter certainly help add a dash of charm to the place as well. If you like having a cheeky flirt at the bar, then this spot will definitely be right up your street.
Located at Schaafenstraße 57-59, Ex-Corner is open daily from 7pm – 4am, until 6am on Friday and Saturday.
Die Mumu has a very mixed crowd of gays and lesbians, meaning there are lots of new people to meet. Its interior looks like a Barbie dreamhouse, with pink walls, and glittery stars hanging from the ceiling alongside swirling disco balls. Though we don’t think Barbie had urinals shaped like lips in her bathroom…seriously it's a thing…get a picture of one for your Instagram! It can be a bit quiet in the early evening, picking up the pace as the night goes on. We personally use the downtime to chat with locals and fellow tourists. After having a few drinks, everyone becomes pretty laidback and delighted to indulge in conversation with new people. Later in the evening, the gay fun really begins. The music is ultra-camp, playing a mix of German folk-pop and Eurovision favourites. Regardless of how high you hold your musical tastes, you will be up on that dancefloor boogying the night away.
Located at Schaafenstraße 51, Die Mumu is open from 7pm – 2am (Monday, Thursday and Sunday), 7pm – 5am (Tuesday and Wednesday) and 7pm – 6am (Friday and Saturday).
Lovers of all things drag and art will fall in love with Exile. With queens from across the city and beyond, this club showcases just how diverse German drag really is. Whilst the gay bar does a fantastic job in highlighting the talent that Cologne itself has harboured, there have been a few famous queens who have performed here, including queens from RuPaul's Drag Race. Queens Chrystal Math and Ripley Myers often throw ‘Bitchy Bingo’ nights and run various drag competitions as well. So, if you're feeling your luck, then this place might be worth checking out.
Located on Schaafenstraße 61A, Exile is open 8pm – 5am on Wednesday then 10pm – 6am on Friday and Saturday.
There is always time for a cocktail in our books. For exquisite service, tasty drinks and cosy decor, look no further than IRON. Its upscale decor will take your breath away. If you are feeling a bit like Posh Spice one evening, a trip here will give you all the regal fantasies that you need. The staff are super sweet and welcoming. The music is much more mixed than you would find in other clubs across the city. With tunes to dance to and tunes to cry your heart out to, you’ll go through every emotion in the book!
Located on Schaafenstraße 45, IRON is open from 7pm to 2am (Tuesday and Thursday), 7am – 3am (Wednesday), and 8pm – 5am (Friday and Saturday).
For those who are a little bit tamer in spirit, or just feel like taking a night off from the partying, Ruhrpott has a more traditional and laidback kind of atmosphere. It reminds us of the pubs we would find in good ole’ London town and caters to a more mature crowd. With cushy seating and use of chestnut browns in the decor, Ruhrpott oozes chill vibes. Not to mention that the bar staff are super cute and friendly, and the back wall lit up in rainbow colours adds that much needed queer touch that we so love!
Located at Balduinstraße 20, Ruhrpott is open from 6pm – 1am Sunday to Thursday, then staying open until 5am on Friday and Saturday.
Gay bars in Heumarkt-Mathiasstrasse (East Cologne gay neighbourhood)
We’ve shown you the magic that is the west Cologne gay neighbourhood, now it's time to delve into the wonders of the east side. So, get on out and discover how they party on the other side of the fence…
Close to a bunch of gay clubs and other LGBTQ bars, Amadeus is a fabulous place to kickstart your evening adventures. Of course, you could even spend a whole night here. With exquisite drag shows, fantastic booze and a great atmosphere on the dancefloor, Amadeus is fun, fun, fun! There are regular events throughout the week, with Friday nights devoted to cocktails. There are also erotic baking competitions, where sexy guys whip up a tasty cheesecake, so you really owe it to yourself to check that out! The bar itself is quite small, but the grandeur and spectacle that the staff work to create makes the bar feel truly epic.
Located at Vor St. Martin 8, Amadeus is open from 6pm to 1am (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday), 6pm – 3am (Friday and Saturday) and 2-10pm (Sunday). It's closed on Tuesdays.
With fiery red walls and furniture settings, Barcelon Colonia feels like sitting inside an inferno. Some might say… a disco inferno! The bar’s Mediterranean charm and Gaudi-inspired design make you feel like you are really in Barcelona. There is a wide selection of cocktails, wines, spirits and beers to keep you going for the entire evening! Plus, the music is a mix of Latin and pop, so it's great for tearing up the dancefloor. There's also a piano in the corner, which at first seems a bit odd, but this just means the staff can throw a spontaneous piano-bar style sing-a-long!
Located at Pipinstraße 3, Barcelon Colonia is open from 6pm – 11pm (Tuesday to Saturday), 2pm – 11pm (Friday and Saturday) and closed on Sunday.
Lions and tigers and… bears! Lots and lots of bears! Fear not, all these bears are super friendly and welcoming. Not only is it a lovely space for the bears in our community to unwind, but the Gentle-Bears Bar decor keeps up the theme. There are tons of teddy bears decorated throughout the bar! The interior is quite compact, but this helps create a cosy vibe and lets you feel like you are in a little bear’s house. No Goldilocks to be seen here though! Just tons of LGBTQ locals and tourists dancing to the pop and rock music. The DJs even throw in a few throwback tunes for the nostalgia feels. Throw in some tasty cocktails, and you have a fabulous night out!
Located at Mühlenbach 53, Gentle Bears is open from 6pm – 12am (Tuesday – Thursday and Sunday), 6pm – 3am (Friday), 6pm – 4am (Saturday) and closed on Sunday.
Note: Google has marked this as closed but we hope it's temporary! Updated August 2021
Flashing lights. Banging tunes. Tasty cocktails. These are all the components that Baustelle 4U have added to make their club night truly special. With a party-centric atmosphere, the staff are super chatty and love welcoming new tourists to the city. The DJs play a mix of pop, rock and throwback hits, so patrons are pleased all round. The crowds here are mostly young, as it's a more club-like setting, although everyone has an open attitude, so regardless of who you are, you’re always made to feel welcome.
Located at Pipinstraße 5, Baustelle 4U is open daily from 2pm until 1am, then until 3am on Friday and Saturday.
Gay clubs in Cologne
Whether you fancy a boogie on the dancefloor or a snog with a mysterious stranger, the gay clubs of Cologne are bursting with life and activity. Mainly found throughout the Old Town of the city, these are our favourite gay clubs in Cologne. Don't forget you can also join a tour of Cologne's gay clubs with an LGBTQ local guide.
With a hot, young crowd, Exile on Main Street is without a doubt one of Cologne’s most popular gay clubs. We went by on a Saturday, and it was packed with tons of people of all shapes, sizes and communities within the LGBTQ scene. We loved the music, mainly because it played all Top 40 tunes and pop diva ballads. The queues into Exile can be quite long, especially on the weekends, but trust us when we say it's totally worth it! Look out for one of their events, from bingo nights to drag competitions to dress-up parties. If you can, make sure to catch a drag performance. The queens here give true genderf**k realness, with some performers sporting beards and chest chair.
Located at Schaafenstraße 61A, Exile is open 8pm – 5am on Wednesday then 10pm – 6am on Friday and Saturday.
Station 2b (temporarily closed until they find a new venue – updated July 2021)
Boys night out? Check! Station 2b is one of Cologne’s most fabulous male-only clubs. Flashing neon lights illuminate an otherwise pitch-black room, delighting your senses. Match this with the pounding beats from the DJ booth, blasting out the best music of the pop scene right now, and you’ll feel you're truly liberated. Customers are generally between their 20s and 40s – and it tends to be a bit quiet during the initial open hours. Though once the night begins, there is no stopping the rhythm on the dancefloor.
Located at Pipinstraße 2, Station 2b is open 7pm – 12am (Monday to Thursday), 10pm – 4am (Friday to Saturday) and 3pm – 9m (Sunday).
Die Mumu starts off quiet and chilled out in the early evening. Perfect for those who desire a peaceful drink and chatter. But when night falls, the lights dim and the music gets louder, the magic begins! The dancefloor is always busy regardless of what time of the week you go, though it doesn’t compare to how packed it gets on Tuesday nights. All because of… karaoke! Yes, those Cologne locals just can’t get enough of belting out cheesy hits, and to be honest, neither can we. Friendly staff and great drinks all round, Die Mumu is a fun, carefree and fabulous way to finish off your day in Cologne.
Located at Schaafenstraße 51, Die Mumu is open from 7pm – 2am (Monday, Thursday and Sunday), 7pm – 5am (Tuesday and Wednesday) and 7pm – 6am (Friday and Saturday).
Held once a month in the Rich Club, the gays all have their calendars marked for the big gay event known as HomOriental Party. Descending on the club’s dimly lit dancefloors, a wide variety of those from across the LGBTQ scene arrive to dance their hearts out. The neon glow that emits from the walls and tables gives off a very spacey vibe, so it feels like you're partying in another galaxy. There are often themed nights, particularly around Christmas and Halloween. With lots of cocktails to keep their guests happy, a playlist to appeal to all music lovers and fabulous patrons who help elevate the evening’s atmosphere to a whole new level of fabulousness, the HomOriental Party proves just why it only needs one evening a month to prove its worth!
Rich Club Cologne is Located at Brabanter Straße 15, check their Facebook page to see the details of the next HomOriental night.
The World of Sexy Party is a company that holds various LGBTQ-themed parties throughout each month. Popping up in multiple clubs and bars across Cologne, you will become particularly aware of its existence around Pride in June, Christmas time or the Carnival parties in late February. Men dressed in nothing but leather and ropes perform erotic dances before thousands of eager clubgoers. The music at these events is often quite techno focused, so those who love a good rave will be in their element. The Sexy Parties are all about sex, pleasure and more sex! Keep an eye on their upcoming events on their website.
Gay saunas in Cologne
You have to thank the Finnish for this wonderful concept of getting your kit off, kicking back your feet and lounging around in a room made of heated timber, but the Germans also do it well. Cologne has fabulous options for gay saunas, and we’ve listed some of the best ones below:
Babylon is regarded as Cologne’s best gay sauna, so we had fairly high expectations when we arrived. And it very much delivered. This is a fabulous place to go with a big group of friends as some sauna rooms can seat up to 50 people! Offering views of the courtyard, the saunas help you feel thoroughly relaxed. The steam room is the largest one in the city, and instead of just being a big, expansive space, it takes advantage of its unique setting. Filled with meandering mazes and labyrinths, you’ll lose yourself in the steamy joy and pleasant scents. We also loved the Roman-style whirlpool, which had water temperatures of 36 degrees Celsius and gurgling bubbles. It felt like sitting inside the hands of a gifted masseur! Speaking of, the massages are a real treat!
Located at Friesenstraße 23-25, the Babylon Sauna is open from 10pm to 6am Monday to Friday and is open 24/7 on weekends.
Proudly declaring itself as a sauna for matures and fans – Vulcanus is a place devoted to the older members of the gay community. Stone walls and neon red walls illuminating images of the Devil give this place a real edge. Something about it feels so menacing and devious, which only adds to the excitement of being there. The night sauna is particularly popular. Allow the steam to melt away all your worried thoughts and stresses. After you’ve experienced all the spaces, cap it all off with a visit to the bar for a beer or sweet cocktail.
Sauna Vulcanus is located at Marienplatz 3-5 and is open every day from 11am until 11pm, then open until 7am on Saturday!
Probably the most mixed crowd out of all the saunas we visited in Cologne, expect to see a range of gay men both young and mature at the Phoenix Sauna. There was something happening in every spot we visited, whether it was in one of the sauna spaces or steam rooms. Though the huge jacuzzi is where the true action was. Carefree guys just frolicking around, enjoying life and eager to meet new people. Plus, if the sun happens to be shining, you can head outside with a drink and bask in the heat.
Located at Richard-Wagner-Straße 12, Phoenix Sauna is open from12pm – 6am (Monday to Friday) and 24/7 on the weekends.
Gay cruising in Cologne
When you think of Cologne, sex is probably the last thing that comes to your mind… ‘they've got Berlin for that surely?’ you cry! But darling, don’t judge a book by its cover. Even the sweetest and most wholesome of cities likes to get dirty sometimes. And boy, does Cologne like to get dirty. With cruising venues that sport darkrooms, labyrinths, gloryholes and hosting sex-themed parties, Cologne is on par with the rest of Germany in terms of options for great cruising opportunities.
Weekly sex parties. Darkrooms. Mazes and cabins and sex swings. There is nothing you won’t find in Station 2b. Spread across two floors, the ground area is devoted to cruising and hooking up. Enjoy a midnight fling, a torrid affair or a whirlwind romance over and over each time you visit. Everyone here harbours a carefree spirit, and it is not uncommon to see guys strutting around the club shirtless or brandishing S&M gear. Feel free to lose yourself in the pulsing beats of the music, or take a detour into one of the dark rooms or hideouts with a special friend. Station 2b becomes what you would like it to be.
Located at Pipinstraße 2, Station 2b is open 7pm – 12am (Monday to Thursday), 10pm – 4am (Friday to Saturday) and 3pm – 9m (Sunday).
Sorry ladies, this bar is just for the boys. Set in the eastern side of the city, Pullermanns is the perfect place for when you're on the pull! Pretty filthy huh? Well, it used to go by the name ‘Hands and Boners’, so if anything, it has gotten tamer over the last few years. That is until you step inside. Dark rooms. Gloryholes. Stripper poles and swings. It’s like a playground for lovers of all things sex, sex and more sex. Plus, the naked parties they hold on Mondays are always super fun and see some of Cologne’s hottest guys arriving at the club. The music is pretty good too… but we all know you’re not coming here for that.
Located at Mathiasstraße 22, Pullermanns is open daily from 9pm until 3am during the week, or 5am on weekends.
Party until dawn inside Deck 5. This club is for all the night owls of the city, open until 6am. Whilst it can be quiet during the early hours of the evening, once the other clubs and bars close up, all the LGBTQ people from around the city come to Deck 5. With fabulous music, friendly staff and reasonably priced drinks, it's a great spot to finish your night out, whether you're in need of a hook-up or a nightcap. It is small inside though. In fact, it is the smallest late-night bar in all of Cologne. Yet, it makes up for it in character and charm. There are still plenty of opportunities for cruising here, with hideouts and dark rooms available. The age group tends to be a bit on the older side, and leans more towards bears and hairy guys.
Located at Mathiasstraße 5, Deck 5 is open from 8pm to 6am every day.
Cologne gay pride and other gay events
As we've already mentioned, Cologne plays host to quite a lot of fabulous gay events throughout the year – especially their epic Carnival in February and Pride in June. Here are our picks for the best gay events in Cologne you should look out for:
Cologne Carnival Festival (Feb/March)
This is one of the biggest gay carnival events in the world and certainly the biggest in Europe. The main event is the “SEXY Party”. Organised by the “World of Sexy Party” group, you can expect to see over-the-top costumes, spectacular performances and risqué acts during Carnival. Not exclusively an LGBTQ event, but there are many queer oriented groups who participate, so you’ll become exposed to tons of new gay artists and performers that you wouldn’t see in any other setting.
Come Together Cup (May)
For many of us LGBTQ folk, sports has not always been the most inviting space. With the Come Together Cup, this gets turned around completely as the teams here not only accept diversity, they celebrate it. This is Europe's biggest recreational football tournament which aims to combat racism, homophobia and transphobia. Tournaments take place across 12 pitches and winning teams receive grand awards for their triumphs. There are often celebrity appearances and live music performances in the evening. Also, if playing sport isn’t your thing but watching it is, then that is cool too. Admission is free so you can come along just to observe.
Cologne Fetish Pride (June/July)
It’s five days filled with leather, whips and chains. For lovers of all things S&M, Cologne's Fetish Pride Week attracts people from all over the world. Coming together to celebrate their love of BDSM, locals and visitors alike bond over their shared kinky interests. The main events include the likes of The Bull Party, “COLOR Code XXL” and “BLACKcode”. It all culminates with the election of Mr Fetish North Rhine-Westphalia, where the most gorgeous boy of the event gets crowned!
Not only is Cologne Pride the biggest in Germany it's also one of the best Pride events in the world. Attracting over 1 million people to the city, every year the streets become a burst of colour, glitter and grandeur. From drag queens to muscular men dressed in angel or leather attire, this is where Cologne’s queer spirit comes to life. The march usually takes place throughout the Old Town, offering stunning sights of old chapels, ancient houses and the sparkling, winding river. It all ends in a fabulous staged concert with drag performances and queer artists from all over Europe.
Lighting up the cool, summer air in a cascade of colour and smoke, the Festival of Lights is Germany’s biggest fireworks show. Live music accompanies the spectacle, and if that wasn’t dramatic enough, a huge convoy of ships sets sail across the River Rhine. All you need to do to enjoy, is just curl up with a loved one under a warm blanket and take in the incredible atmosphere.
Run of Colours (September)
Always dreamed of completing a mini-marathon? Well, this might satisfy those dreams just a tad. A charitable fun run, that aims to raise proceeds for HIV and AIDS charities, the Run of Colours sees people undertake a 5km route throughout the city in bright colours or cool costumes. You will need to register in advance of the run if you wish to take part. Otherwise, it can be fun to watch the participants during their race and donate, donate, donate!
They say Halloween is the gay man’s birthday and Christmas rolled into one. After all, we get to dress up slutty and no other gay can say anything about it. Halloween is the chance to transform yourself into who you want to be. So, whether you want to use it as a chance to try drag or cosplay as your favourite movie character, the Gayoween event is THE place for LGBTQ people in Cologne. It takes place in Wall 7 and pulls out all the stops to make the evening as spooky as possible. With dress-up competitions and ghoulish themed drinks, you’ll never forget a night at Gayoween! Be sure to check out our guide for the best gay couple Halloween outfits!
Bear Pride Cologne (November)
For lovers of all things big, hairy and beautiful – Bear Pride strives to shine a light on a part of the community that can often be overshadowed by the twinks and daddies (no shade). Taking place over the last weekend in November, Cologne is lit up with the rainbow once more, with events gripping the city. Notably, the Mr Bear Germany competition, where the mightiest and fiercest of the German bears are crowned.
Heavenue Cologne (December)
When it is the season to be jolly, there is no better place to be than a Christmas market. Not only do you get to sip hot chocolate under dazzling, fairy lights, but you get to visit multiple stalls selling various handcrafted items. From jewellery to art pieces, there is something more authentic about getting a present for a loved one from a market. A Christmas market is one thing, but a gay Christmas market is on a whole new level! With all the magical festivities of a regular holiday market, Heavenue Cologne throws in stalls with cocktails and performance spaces for drag artists. Merry Drag-mas indeed!
Gay friendly restaurants in Cologne
Is all the roaming around giving you an appetite? Well, count your lucky stars! Cologne is bursting with plenty of options for places to eat. Everywhere we went was truly distinct and had a great selection of items on the menu. Here are some of the best gay or gay-friendly restaurants throughout the city:
Often one of the busiest places in the city, and for good reason, Café Rico is a cosy spot with great food and fantastic service. With outdoor seating, you can bask in the fresh Cologne air as you observe the city action. Inside, the decor is stripped back and minimalistic with white walls and black furniture. It is gay owned, marked as so by the Pride flag hanging behind the counter. You’ll notice lots of gay people coming together for brunch or a quick drink. More importantly, the food! With options ranging from healthy to downright devious (cakes, cakes and more cakes!), you’ll definitely be spoiled for choice.
Meet us in Saint Louis? For a quick bite to eat or a hearty lunch, Saint Louis is a lovely cafe to spend an afternoon in. With a wide selection of salads, soups, sandwiches and treats, every kind of craving will be satisfied. They also offer plenty of vegan options! Their coffee is famous throughout the city for its quality. Having been awarded the gold medal of the German Roasters Guild, caffeine addicts will be well impressed by the taste. Their cafe lattes, in particular, really hit the spot during breakfast, lifting us from our grumpy morning moods so we were ready to enjoy all Cologne has to offer.
With a rainbow flag flying proudly from the outside, LGTBQ folks are more than welcome in Diner's. Speaking of flags, the menu proudly waves the flags of many countries and cuisines from around the world. Choose from a range of French breakfast options, or for dinner decide between a Mexican grill or Norwegian salmon with vegetables cooked Asian style on the side. The philosophy of Diner's was to create a safe space for young, queer folk to meet up and grab a tasty bite to eat. This very much rings true, for when you do visit this place, you can’t help but notice all different kinds of people in the restaurant.
No Spice Girl to be found here, just lots of great Cantonese food. Ginger has to be our favourite Chinese restaurant in all of Cologne. Firstly, the staff are really friendly, happily serving up the tastiest Cantonese food. They gladly walk you through the menu, explaining in great detail the flavours and style of cooking that goes into making each item on the menu. Lovers of spice will be happy, with lots of hot dishes available. Our weakness has to be the delicious Dim Sum and the roast duck… honestly one of the best things we’ve tried throughout our time in Cologne.
From the great spices of China to the cheesy delights of Italy, NeoNeo has the upper hand when it comes to making pizza in Cologne. Having started off as a humble salad bar, the owners were inspired by the Australian custom of taking a tasty meal and making it as healthy as possible. All the sauces and breads are made in the restaurant itself, and the dough is allowed to rest for 72 hours before being moulded into shape and cooked. The result? Pizza that has a super soft and thick crust, layered with fresh sauce and delicious toppings. Matched with a glass of wine, and you feel like you are tasting a little slice of Heaven.
Hänneschen und die Pfeffermühle
One of our favourite restaurants in the old town in Heumarkt square, Hänneschen und die Pfeffermühle is a great place to get acquainted with German cuisine. The menu boasts a wide selection of sausages – we’d seriously recommend trying the bratwurst! The portions are very generous and will fill you up for the evening. Plus, there is a lovely seating area outside, perfect for street viewing and people watching. Lay back with a pitcher of German beer (or a cocktail) and experience an authentically cultural dinner. The inside is very… unique(!), with pictures and real wooden puppets!
Best things to do in Cologne
You’ve settled into your hotel. You’ve shaken off your jet lag. And you’re finally ready to explore the town. But what to do? Luckily, Cologne offers so many activities for you to enjoy. From exploring cathedrals to learning about the city’s fascinating history and artistic background, the city has no shortage of fun things to do for gay travellers. We’ve listed our favourite activities below:
Get a taste of Cologne's gay scene
We've already told you all about the fantastic gay scene in Cologne, but you could also join one of the fabulous Gaily Tours to get a taste of the city with a local LGBTQ guide. This is a great way to get oriented if it's your first time in Cologne, while also learning about the lesser-known gay history tidbits. Your guide will show you all the major sights in the Old Town area as well as telling you the inside scoop on gay hotspots in the city. You can also choose to do a night-time tour that will give you an introduction to the gay nightlife. With a friendly local to show you around, you'll get to visit the most popular gay bars and clubs.
Cologne Old Town
Set aside a whole day for exploring the Cologne Old Town. Its narrow cobblestone streets, traditional houses and ancient structures will take your breath away. There are so many gems across the district that make up the magic of the city. From the Rhine that meanders through the town’s centre (which has a pier you can walk along) to the multiple museums, you can float in and out while spending hours learning about various topics, such as the making of perfume or medieval art. If you don't feel like walking then you can even join a segway tour to explore the Old Town area.
It's UNESCO listed and one of Germany’s most visited sites, plus it's super hard to miss as it stretches over all the other buildings, so there is no excuse for not getting to Cologne Cathedral aka Kölner Dom. Due to the World Heritage Status, no other building nearby is even allowed to be taller! Whilst you can admire the cathedral from outside, we highly recommend venturing inside and joining a tour to learn about the fascinating history (which goes back over 1700 years), covering everything from the construction to all of the symbolism used in the architecture.
Groß St. Martin
With foundations that rest on ancient Roman remnants, Great St. Martin Church was originally Catholic but has since been transformed into a Benedictine monastery. It has been an iconic part of the skyline since the 1100s and is a wonderful place to go for those who are interested in history. Even just to sit inside its gorgeous interior for a few moments of quiet can be so wonderful. Admire the ancient architecture, stunning artworks on the wall, or maybe attend a service. You can also visit the Roman ruins in the bowels of the church for a small fee. Well worth it though as it truly is fascinating!
Crossing over the Rhine River on the Hohenzollern Bridge is like taking a walk through German history. One of the most important symbols in Cologne, the bridge survived countless airstrikes during the Second World War and was eventually blown up by the Germans when Allied troops landed in Cologne. Today, it offers lovely views of the city. However, the real highlight, and what we love about it the most is that couples clip padlocks onto it to symbolise their romance. As you move across, you’ll be surrounded by tokens of hundreds and hundreds of romances from all the world over. Of course, we had to add our own…see if you can spot The Nomadic Boys padlock firmly affixed on the Hohenzollern Bridge!
Memorial to LGBTQ victims of Nazism
Many LGBTQ lives were lost during the period of Nazism in Germany. Cologne is one of the few cities in the world with a memorial that honours these fallen angels. Made from pink and grey granite, the design reflects the triangle used by the Nazis to identify gay men in concentration camps. We felt as if we owed it to our queer ancestors to visit the plaque and pay homage. If you get time on your travels, we recommend stopping by for a quiet few moments. You can find it next to the steps leading up to the Hohenzollern Bridge, where gay men historically used to meet for discreet encounters.
Flora and Botanical Garden
If you love all things nature, then the Flora and Botanical Garden is a great space to escape from the bustle of the city. These gardens are two of the oldest in Cologne (now combined into one), so exploring them will help you soak up the historic, traditional side of the city. With over 10,000 species of plants, you can spend up to a full day wandering through the various greenhouses and gardens. We particularly loved the Palm House, that makes you feel like you're in the middle of a tropical jungle, even if it's snowing outside! What's more, it's totally free to visit, so what's stopping you?
As the birthplace of Eau de Cologne in the 1700s, the world owes a lot to this German city. If it wasn’t for Giovanni Maria Farina, we’d all be walking around smelling gross! The Farina Fragrance Museum is a fun and light-hearted way of learning about the process of making and designing the perfect scent. An actor, dressed as Farina, gives an excellent tour through the museum, allowing you to take a whiff of all sorts of unique fragrances. Make sure you also visit House of 4711 down the road, where you can actually dip your hands into a fountain of cologne(!), and even make your own cologne to keep as a souvenir.
Our names are Stefan and Sebastien… and we are chocoholics! Located in the Rhine harbour, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were entering into some sort of glass ship here. But nope, it’s Cologne's Chocolate Museum. A tour of the nine exhibition areas will talk you through 5,000 years of chocolate history, all the way from its invention to its current cultural influence. You’ll even get a peek at some masters at work in a chocolate making workshop. Have your own chocolate bar made, and dream of becoming the next Willy Wonka… There's also an incredible Chocolat Grande Café, for even more mouthwatering treats!
Standing 103 metres above the city, the Köln Triangle is one of the most prominent features of the Cologne skyline, although it doesn't really look much like a triangle! However, with an observation deck on the top floor, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city for only €3. If being up that high leaves you feeling a tad peckish, then you're in luck! For there is a fabulous Asian buffet restaurant in the building. Mongo's restaurant serves up delicious, spicy meals influenced by traditional Mongolian cuisine. If you plan to have a meal here, we strongly recommend booking well in advance as it does get very busy.
Museums, glorious museums. Cologne sure does love them, and why not celebrate your city by having a plethora of museums for visitors to choose from? Each one houses something that is truly unique to Cologne. With fascinating stories to be discovered, wondrous art pieces and, in some cases, hilarious exhibitions, there is so much to learn from simply passing through them on a day of sightseeing. Apart from the Fragrance and Chocolate museums already mentioned, we recommend the Ludwig Art Museum, the Romano-Germanic Museum and the Wallraf-Richartz art museum!
Boat trip on the Rhine
For something truly romantic why not go for a cruise on the Rhine River? Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) offer cheap day trip cruises on the Rhine. You can take a roundtrip to the likes of Dusseldorf, and see some of the wonderful sights along the way. Admiring the Cologne skyline from the waters allows you to take the city in all at once. As you get further and further away, you’ll truly appreciate all the beauty it holds. You can soak in the sea breeze and calming sounds of the river lapping against the side of the boat – as well as maybe having a couple of cheeky drinks!
Stefan almost PISSED himself! What a way to conquer your vertigo… For a true adrenaline kick on your holiday, take a detour from Cologne, towards the tower of Via Ferrata in Bruhl. Here, you can put your Spiderman skills to the test and walk, run, crawl or vogue across the walls of the Via Ferrata tower! You’ll be harnessed in, safety first of course, but then you are on your own. Starting from the top of the tower, you need to make your way back down to the ground. Standing 50 metres above ground(!) this excursion is a super fun thing to do with a big group of friends. There are various climbing routes with different difficulty levels as well, so depending on how accomplished you feel on the day, you can truly test yourself.
Before you go
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Cologne. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.
How to get there: Cologne has good transport links to the rest of Europe via trains, or you can fly to the Cologne Bonn Airport. The airport is open 24 hours a day and has great public transport links to the city centre, although we usually prefer to book a private airport transfer so we don't have to worry about juggling our luggage on trains or buses.
Visa requirements: Travellers from many countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia don't need a visa to enter Germany (and other countries in the Schengen Area) as a tourist. This means you can visit Cologne quite easily but make sure you check your personal visa requirements before you travel, especially if you are planning to visit other parts of Europe as well.
Getting around: It's quite easy to get around Cologne either by walking or using the efficient bus, train and tram system. If you purchase a KölnCard then you'll have complete access to the entire transport system for up to two days, along with lots of discounts on the best attractions!
Power Plugs: In Cologne, and the rest of Germany, power socket F is used, which is also compatible with plugs for types C and E. If you're travelling from within Europe you shouldn't have a problem using your electronics, but travellers to Cologne from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and many other countries will need to bring a travel adaptor with them.
Travel insurance: Even in a safe destination like Cologne, sometimes things just go wrong when you're travelling. Whether it's cancelled flights, lost luggage or even illness, we never travel without the security of knowing we have travel insurance to cover us if need be. We use and love WorldNomads Travel Insurance because they offer affordable and comprehensive cover, plus it's easy to make a claim online when you need to.
Vaccinations: Before travelling to Cologne you'll need to make sure you're up-to-date with routine vaccinations like measles, mumps, chickenpox, etc. Depending on what you are planning to do in other parts of Germany you may also need vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B as well as rabies. Check the most recent advice on the CDC website before you go.
Currency: The currency used in Cologne is the Euro, just like the rest of Germany and 18 of the other countries that are part of the European Union. The symbol for the euro is € and $1 US converts to about 90 euro cents while £1 is worth around €1.17.
Tipping culture: Tipping in Cologne can be a bit confusing. In general, a tip is included on the bill at places like restaurants, but you can always tip a few extra euros if you feel like you received very good service. In other places like bars or taxis then you can just round up to the nearest full number. You can read more about tipping etiquette in Germany here.
Internet access: There are free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout Cologne (read more about where here), plus you'll be able to get online in most hotels, hostels and restaurants. If you know you're going to need a lot of bandwidth for work etc, then you can also organise to hire a pocket Wi-Fi device to use during your trip.
Online privacy: Since Germany as a whole, and Cologne in particular, is very gay friendly, you're unlikely to encounter anything in the way of internet censorship or difficulty accessing gay dating apps. If you just prefer to keep your online activities private then we recommend using a VPN and our favourite is ExpressVPN. They provide very reliable and affordable privacy for when you're travelling.
Accommodation: We love using Booking.com when booking accommodation for Cologne, as they have all the best choices for great prices! What's more, many listings offer free cancellation if needed, while their online customer support is excellent and available 24/7.
Sightseeing and adventure: There are lots of exciting things to see and do in Cologne, beyond what we've mentioned in this guide. We like to use GetYourGuide to plan our adventures since they have many wonderful options, an easy to use online booking system and 24/7 online customer support.
When to visit: Cologne is one of those places that's enchanting pretty much any time of the year! It has wonderful Christmas markets in the winter and nice warm summers, while you can enjoy spring blossoms or autumn foliage in the shoulder seasons. It's really more down to what kind of season do you want to explore Cologne in, or if you are timing your visit to one of the gay events.
Gay map of Cologne
Here is our gay map of Cologne to show you all the gay hangouts we've mentioned in this guide. Use it to find out where all the best gay friendly hotels, bars and activities are for your own fabulous trip to Cologne!
For more inspiration:
- Find out what it's like to grow up gay in Germany in our interview with Marcel from Berlin
- If you're heading there anyway, here are some romantic things for couples to do in Berlin
- For a bit of naughty action, these are the best sex hotels in Berlin as well!
- Make sure you also visit some of the other gayest cities in Europe
- Budget travellers won't want to miss these awesome gay hostels in Europe
- If sun and sand is your thing, here are the best gay beaches throughout Europe
- Heading to Spain? Read about Spain's best Gay Pride events
- Then get inspired by these sexy Gay Pride costume ideas
- And don't forget to pack these must-have Gay Pride accessories!