You know you've reached the center of this historic city when you spot the towering cathedral (or Dom, as it's called). It’s the symbol of a cultural capital that keeps an eye on its past while forging ahead. Cologne (the Germans call is Köln) boasts a raucous gay populace that liberally imbibes Koelsch, an alcoholic brew that people swear is healthy.
The gigantic Cologne Pride celebration, Christopher Street Day, takes place each July and includes a wide array of street parties and dance events.
The downtown area is walkable, but if you’re traveling farther afield you have a network of buses, trams, and U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains at your disposal. See KVB for information.
Explore the gay neighborhoods of Alter Markt (the historic center that once stood within the city walls) and Rudolfplatz.
Currency and Money
Germany is part of the Euro Zone, so the euro is the accepted currency. There are plenty of ATMs in the downtown area.
Local Media and resources
Near the Heumarkt tram stop, Checkpoint Cologne (Pipinstrasse 7) is a queer knickknack store that serves as a sort-of community center, and offers the latest info on whom, what, and where. Anyway is Germany's first gay/lesbian youth center, with cafe, and activities that include second Friday dances for glbt youth and friends, 27 and under.
Gaestehaus Koeln (Pleilstrasse 43, entrance on Kettengasse; 49-221-257-0950), ideal choice for location on a decidedly gay street in Rudolfplatz area. Five clean, comfortable rooms, check-in by appointment.
Hotel Ariane (Hohe Pforte 18-21; 49-221-23-6033) in the thick of the other gay area around Heumarkt. No-frills room are clean and comfortable, and hearty breakfast buffet is included.
Hotel Altera Pars (Thieboldsgasse 133-135; 49 221 27 2330), ideal location at center of Cologne, short walk to most everything.
Marsil (Schaafenstrasse 27; 49 221 999 0942) inexpensive single and double rooms kitchenette apartments, casual second-hand furniture decor. Ensuite baths, WiFi. Sleep late, no room service will wake you. Tiny bar on ground floor, open until wee hours, usually packed with preppy/artsy crowd.
There are two distinct pockets of gay activity: the areas around Rudolfplatz, and the streets around Heumarkt, closer to the Dom/Central station.
Altstadt Pub (Unter Käster 5), locals' pub at historic center, mix of guys young to older.
Baustelle 4U (Vor Sankt Martin 12), downtown men's bar near Heumarkt, bears, food, festive nights, open to 4am.
Casino Eck (Kasinostrasse 1a, at Stephanstrasse) gay friends bought old local pub, invited over all their neighbors, young and old, for lots of fun.
Cox (Muehlenbach 53) bar for bears and "real men." The big paw above the door is a sure giveaway of big guys within.
ExCorner (Schaafenstrasse 57-59) long-time local favorite gay men's bar. Pop and "Schlager" trash parties, cheerful, cruisy, mainly 20s and 30s crowd, open-end all-night weekend hours.
Iron (Schaafenstrasse 45), American-style cocktail lounge, finger food snacks, mixed-age gay crowd.
iXbar (Mauritiuswall 84) cocktail bar, modern decor, handsome staff , beer and cocktails, DJs play the music.
Kattwinkel (Greesbergstrasse 2) majority male, all ages, outrageous drag shows, good times vibe.
Max Bar (Am Rinkenpfuhl 51) modern cocktail lounge, dance music seven nights, late to 4am Friday/Saturday, open-end hours on Sundays.
Mumu (Schaafenstrasse 51) neighborhood party cafe bar, young mixed crowd, mostly guys being guys.
My Lord (Mühlenbach 57) tidy pub and cafe, classic masculine style, well heeled older crowd and their admirers.
P9 (Pipinstrasse 9) bar and cocktail lounge, boisterous young mainly male party crowd.
Sasch's Bar (Wetzlarerstrasse 2) neighborhood bar with a great international mix of people, and special nights.
Verquer (Heumarkt 46), general public mix, men/bears bar, large terrace at Haymarket, open from 2pm weekdays, noon on weekends.
Zum Pitter (Alter Markt 58) tiny traditional gay pub, with large outdoors terrace for people watching, especially the passing guys who cast furtive glances.
Bars - sex and fetish
Boners (Mathiasstrasse 22), men's fetish and cruise bar, darkroom, sling, porn videos, friendly staff.
Bar Carbon (Richard Wagner Strasse 25), former Midnight Sun, cruise bar in Rudolfplatz area, darkrooms, leather, naked nights and fetish events.
Deck 5 (Mathiasstrasse 5) men-only sex and fetish bar, open from 10pm to 5am daily, and on Saturdays until 9am Sunday.
Station 2b (Pipinstrasse 2), Cologne's newest, biggest fetish club has a dance floor, lounge, cruising darkroom, labyrinth, slings, water sports bath tub and cabins, -- open to men of every kind.
Traumboys (Mathias-Brüggen-Strasse 13), male escorts/ callboys, in/out services near Wolffsohnstrasse, international travel options, 8-15 guys available, photos/bios and videos online.
Valentino Club (Altenberger Strasse 13) "house of boys" near Central Station, international young men to meet at the bar, strip shows, rental rooms (one with Jacuzzi), escort take-out service.
Dance Clubs & Parties
Several one-night and circuit gay parties are hosted around town. The roster changes constantly, but these are a few.
Backstreet Diaries at ARTheater (Ehrenfeldgürtel 127, Ehrenfeld), 2nd Saturdays rock 'n roll queer, straight & "not sure which" dance party.
Blue Lounge (Mathiasstrasse 4-6) a lounge and dance club with a young mixed-gender, mostly women crowd.
Bootshaus (Auenweg 173) mixed (mostly straight) dance club, cutting edge music.
Celebrate! @ Loom Club (Hohenzollernring 92) Wednesday night party for gays, lesbians & friends
Clip (Stephanstrasse 4), young energetic crowd, basement disco, happy hours and karaoke bar upstairs.
Cock-Pit @ Alter Wartesaal (Johannisstrasse 11), big dance party by the train station for men-only; lots of bears.
Flashdance @ Zeughaus 24 (Zeughausstrasse 24) 1st Saturday retro 70s and 80s dance party - no trance or house, mixed fun-time no-heavy-cruising crowd.
Nachtflug Club (Hohenzollernring 87, Friesenplatz), GreenKomm each first Sunday afterhours dancing 6am-on, one of area's most popular gay circuit parties.
Venue (Hohe Strasse 14) Poptastic 1st Saturdays pop disco mixed glbt crowd; Nightkomm 2nd Saturdays House & Trance party with young crowd moved over from Nachtflug; Gay Students 3rd Saturdays young crowd dance; Homoriental 4th Saturdays, Middle-East dance, Turkish, Arab, Kurdish, Greek, Persian, Punjabi, Israeli, Armenian and world dance music. Also Friday night events - see website.
Restaurants and Cafes
Bastard (Friesenwall 29), day and night bar and cafe, mixed/mostly guys, breakfast, salads, fresh soups, beer garden, roof terrace, DJs on Fridays & Saturdays.
Beim Sir (Heumarkt 27), country-style bar/restaurant, institution, all-ages mix, German music, pasta & Mediterranean food, good beer and wine.
Brennerei Weiss (Hahnenstrasse 22) is the quintessential gay diner where you may see everyone you've cruised in Cologne, over German and international cuisine.
Cafe Era (Friesenwall 26) a friendly cafe/bar, open 10pm to 1am, with good service, wholesome and inexpensive fare.
Cafe Rico (Mittelstrasse 31-33), gay cafe for breakfast, lunch, people-watching from their corner terrace.
Klaaf Bistro (Eigelstein 124), pleasant terrace cafe/bar near Ebertplatz, lunch, snacks, pastas, beer and wine.
For locations and website links to businesses listed above, plus more restaurants and hotels, see our map & listings section.
Cologne has four gay saunas.
Babylon (Friesenstrasse 23-25), rated among the best in the Europe, is an elegant institution with outdoor pool that attracts beauties from all over the continent. A must-do in Cologne.
Der Faun (Handelstrasse 31) has classic steam and Finnish saunas, sun beds and rooftop terrace.
Phoenix (Richard-Wagner Strasse 12 ) popular with a local young crowd, has a bar, Jaccuzzi and saunas.
Vulcano Saunabad (Marienplatz 3-5), "not a palace, not very big," but everyone's made to feel welcome here. A bear favorite.
Bruno’s (Kettengasse 20), local outlet of national chain from Bruno Gmunder: books, DVD videos, cards, calendars, gifts.
DOME (Handelstrasse 27) fulfilling erotic dreams with leather/latex/steel gear, uniforms, T-shirts, fetish/bondage paraphernalia and toys; and
Cosmic Wear (Englebertstrasse 59) leather and rubber apparel, accessories, fetish items.
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