Okay, so one piece of advice before we begin – if you go to Berlin, go in the summertime. Like any city that receives its fair share of snow each year, it hibernates. Summer is when Berlin comes alive, everyone moves outdoors, they dress down (or up!), exciting things pop up on every street corner, the ‘random’ factor increases. You’ll even find a pop-up beach along the River Spree with hammocks to boot. Summer in Berlin is where it’s at, ok? Just take my word for it.
Of course, I won’t lie and say that Berlin isn’t beautiful in the snow – the Christmas markets twinkle, the monuments take on a romantic glow. But when you’re freezing for 40 minutes in the queue at Barghain, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
We won’t bother telling you about Checkpoint Charlie or which holocaust memorial is the best to visit – you can get that from Lonely Planet. What we can tell you is where the best gay parties are!
Berghain on Sundays
Yes, you’ve probably heard of Berghain, even if you’ve never been to Berlin. It’s an institution and regarded as one of the world’s best nightclubs. This former power plant has an 18 metre high dance floor and can fit up to 1500 party goers. It’s as famous for its selective door bitches as it is for its steel and concrete dominated interior. If you’re looking for the gay crowd, Sunday mornings are your best bet. Although, that being said, you might want to come earlier on Saturday night for Lab.Oratory. This is the club in the basement. Bring your leather. Or wear nothing at all. Be ready to check your inhibitions (and dignity) at the door. Tom’s Bar, across town, is another cruisy nightspot you might wanna check out, if you’re seeking sleaze.
This monthly party is to Berlin what John is to Melbourne, or what Kooky or Bad Dog is to Sydney, perhaps. Expect wall to wall hairy homos from this alternative bear scene jewel. Check out their tumblr – it will give you a good idea of what you can expect.
This party, which seems to cater beautifully to the whole gay / queer / trans / lesbian spectrum, kicks into gear again this summer in Ostkreutz at a place called About Blank. It’s a formerly illegal, multi-room club with seemingly endless nooks and crannies. There are two main dance floors inside and in the summer DJs play outside in the garden. The place kinda looks like it should be condemned, but that’s all part of the Berlin experience. More info on Homopatik’s Facebook.
Chantals House of Shame (Thursdays)
Could this be the best party name ever? This is more for the trans / drag / queer crowd or for fans of the above. Come for the costumes, stay for the everything else. Check out Chantal’s Facebook for more info!
Where to stay?
After all that debauchery, you’re going to balance it out with quality food and a comfortable place to rest your weary bones. Don’t worry, whatever your budget – Berlin has you covered.
Hotel Adlon Kempinski – unparalleled luxury
I casually sip a glass of Moët and gaze out the window as snow falls on the triumphal Brandenburg Gate. Yes, this hotel is impressive, with impossibly comfortable beds, a pillow menu (you have a choice of seven!), flattering lighting and a keypad next to the bed that turns everything in the entire suite on and off. The bathrooms are full marble and come with two-person Jacuzzis and steam showers. In this well-appointed, gleaming parallel reality, nothing is too much trouble and everything is within reach.
The Adlon boasts 382 rooms, a buzzing lobby lounge with a piano player and grand central fountain, three Michelin starred restaurants, numerous full sized ballrooms, a fully equipped day spa, as well as a heated pool, gym and sauna. There’s even a private yoga studio only big enough for 3 people including the highly acclaimed teacher who is flown in especially. In short, you’ll want for nothing. Some will revel in the premium service, others will find it daunting.
First opened in 1907, the hotel survived both world wars, only to be destroyed by fire in 1945. It was rebuilt bigger and better in the 90s. Tucked up in bed, I wonder, was this the suite from which Michael Jackson dangled his baby out the window? I immediately take to Google to try and work it out. Book yourself a slice of luxury at the Adlon, and join the ranks of Albert Einstein, Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo.
Book early and you could get an executive room for as little as $284 (€216) per night. Visit the Adlon Kempinski website for special offers.
Ackselhaus Hotel – boutique gorgeousness
What Adlon accomplishes with sheer decadence, Ackselhaus achieves with creativity, comfort and the personal touch. Nestled in a residential street within Berlin’s trendy Prenzlauer Berg district, this guesthouse truly is a home away from home. This slick establishment offers 12 individually themed apartments, so you can keep coming back again and again and you’ll never tire of the décor.
We stayed in the newly built Africa suite and were blown away by the attention to detail. Wooden floors and fabric ceilings give the illusion that you’re staying in some sort of deluxe African tent. Wall mounted animal heads and fur rugs really bring the theme to life. In the bedroom are full-length wardrobe doors made from canvas, depicting an African desert panorama. Lit from behind at night, the room feels like it goes on for miles.
Don’t worry – they haven’t taken the African theme too far. There’s a Nespresso machine and an iPod dock, and the bathtub could possibly be the deepest you’ll ever find. Take advantage of the beautifully arranged crystal decanters filled with liquid soaps and oils. Relax with suds up to your chin as you watch TV. Ah, this is the life.
Other apartments include Cairo, China, Movie, Honeymoon, Maritime and Beach House – we’re sure they’re all just as charming as each other.
Rooms start from $158 per night (€120). Visit the Ackselhaus website for special offers.
Honigmond Hotel – classical and romantic
Tucked away in a quiet street, this hotel is within walking distance to the S-bahn, making it easy to get around, and it’s only a short walk to busier neighbourhoods.
The staff were friendly, breakfast was well worth getting out of bed for, there’s a lunch buffet if you feel like a quick bite – the whole experience felt like it should have cost more than it did, which can only be a good thing, right?
Double rooms start from €125 per night at the Garden Hotel, €145 for the Restaurant Hotel.