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 it Köln) boasts a raucous gay populace that liberally imbibes Koelsch, an alcoholic brew that people swear is healthy.
The gigantic Cologne Pride celebration 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.
Cologne bike sharing systems include Donkey Republic, FordPass, NextBike, KVB-Rad, and Radstation, with hundreds of stations and thousands of bikes to be rented and returned within a flex zone. See rates, locations, and sign up at their websites.
Explore the two gay neighborhoods of Alter Markt/Heumarkt-Mathiasstrasse, the older leather men's scene at the historic center, once within the city walls; and the younger and trendier Rudolfplatz-Schaafenstrasse area.
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.
Media & resources
Inqueery.de is a German online magazine with a guide to most cites including Cologne, plus photos and events listings.
Near the Heumarkt tram stop, Checkpoint Cologne (Pipinstrasse 7), health counseling, rapid HIV tests and sort-of community center.
Anyway is Germany's first gay/lesbian youth center, with cafe, and activities that include second Friday dances for LGBTQ youth and friends, 27 and under.
Heart of Cologne is an association of gay businesses, with a website listing upcoming events at member venues.
Bears Cologne has information on all the local activities and events for the bear community and friends.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Cologne listings pages.
Gaestehaus Köln (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; 49 221-75-988-0210) 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, Neumarkt; 49-221-27-2330), ideal location at center of Cologne, short walk to most everything; international restaurant, en-suite rooms with cable TV, WiFi.
Marsil Hotel & Bar (Schaafenstraße 27; 49-221-999-0942), inexpensive single and double rooms, kitchenette apartments, casual second-hand furniture decor. Ensuite baths, WiFi. Sleep late, room service won't wake you. Tiny bar on ground floor, open until wee hours, usually packed with preppy/artsy crowd.
See more hotels and guesthouses on our map pages.
There are two distinct pockets of gay activity: the areas around Rudolfplatz, and the streets around Heumarkt, closer to the Dom/Central station.
Bars & Cafes
Amadeus (Vor Sankt Martin 8), coffee, pastries and cakes until 2pm; evening bar, dance club.
Barcelon (Pipinstraße 3), Old Town gay neighborhood bar and art gallery, Mediterranean touches.
Baustelle 4U (Vor Sankt Martin 12), downtown men's bar near Heumarkt, bears, food, festive nights, terrace, busy Sundays, 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.
Clip (Stephanstraße 4, Altstadt), small gay/mixed dance club; foam parties, karaoke.
Club 21 (Hohe Pforte 13-17), small gay bar/ dance club, DJs play pop, dance and house music until 5am.
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.
Exile (Schaafenstraße 61), modern/stylish gay music bar/lounge, DJs and dancing, men/women and straight-friendly mix.
Gentle-Bears (Vor St.Martin 12/ Pipinstraße 5), party bar for bears, theme nights, cigar haze, contests, Bear Pride.
Iron (Schaafenstraße 45), American-style cocktail lounge, finger food snacks, theme nights; mixed-age gay/lesbian and straight mix.
Kattwinkel (Greesbergstraße 2, Ebertplatz), majority male, all ages, outrageous drag shows, good times vibe.
Macky's Asia Lounge (Richard-Wagner-Straße 25), gay/mixed bar, mostly Asian and European men, karaoke, buffets.
Mariechen (Am Rinkenpfuhl 51) 8pm-3am LGBT and M/W mixed bar; theme parties. Former Max Bar location.
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.
Ruhrpott (Balduinstraße 20), gay bar and cocktail lounge, mixed and relaxed, casual crowd, cafe snacks, small lunch menu, coffee and cakes, vegetarian options.
Schampanja (Mauritiuswall 43), small alternative and gay bar in Bermuda Triangle, middle-aged mixed crowd.
Zum Pitter (Alter Markt 58) tiny traditional gay pub, with large outdoors terrace for people watching, especially the passing guys who cast furtive glances.
CLOSED: Bastard Cafe/ Bar (Friesenwall 29), gay cafe/bar food and drinks, deck; iXbar (Mauritiuswall 84), cocktail bar, DJs; ONE Nightclub (Stephanstraße 4), karaoke, young gay/mix, weekend dancing; Zeitlos (Stephanstraße 2), traditional tavern, stage shows.
Men's Bars - sex and fetish
Deck 5 (Mathiasstraße 5), men-only sex and fetish bar, open from 10pm to 5am daily, and on Saturdays until 9am Sunday; cheap drinks, late crowd.
Jail (Mühlenbach 53), men's leather and fetish bar, naked nights, kinky parties, bears. Former Cox location.
Pullermanns (Mathiasstraße 22), men's fetish and cruise bar, darkroom, sling room, cage, hardcore porn videos, friendly staff. The former Boners.
Station 2b (Pipinstraße 2), Cologne's biggest fetish club, dance floor, lounge, naked nights, cruising darkroom, labyrinth, slings, water sports bath tub and cabins -- open to men of every kind.
Traumboys (Mathias-Brüggen-Straße 13), men's sex club near Wolffsohnstrasse, monthly first Saturday sex parties, mixed ages, relax/ massage sessions.
CLOSED: Ex-Basement (Richard Wagner Straße 25), men's cruise bar, darkrooms, leather, naked, fetish events. Valentino Club (Altenberger 13), international men, strip shows.
Dance Clubs & Parties
Several one-night and circuit gay parties are hosted around town. The roster changes constantly, but these are a few.
Artheater (Ehrenfeldgürtel 127), dance party venue on two floors; parties have included Backstage Diaries, second Saturday "bitchy queer party" events playing "Indie-Trash-Tronix-Brit-Pop" for "Queer-Straight-Not Sure Rock n Roll- Party" alternative crowd.
Bootshaus (Auenweg 173), large 3-level dance club billed as the 2nd best in Germany; mixed (mostly straight) crowd, cutting edge music. Gay parties have included Sexy special event and holiday dance parites.
Venue/ Weekend Club (Hohe Straße 14), dance club with variety of nights including Homoriental 4th Saturdays, Middle-East dance, Turkish, Arab, Kurdish, Greek, Persian, Punjabi, Israeli, Armenian and world dance music. Other nights and afterhours with gay-friendly/ mostly straight crowd. Poptastic 1st Saturdays pop disco LGBT nights, mostly on hiatus in 2017, returned once so far in 2018.
CLOSED: Blue Lounge (Mathiasstraße 4-6), Friday/Saturday lounge/ dance club; Celebrate! (Apostelnstrasse 11), dance parties for LGBTMyoung crowd; ONE Nightclub (Stephanstraße 4), young energetic crowd, basement disco, guest DJs, upstairs karaoke bar.
Restaurants and Cafes
Cafe Era (Friesenwall 26). friendly cafe/bar, open 10pm to 1am, with good service, wholesome and inexpensive fare.
Cafe Rico (Mittelstraße 31-33), gay cafe for breakfast and lunch; people-watching from their corner terrace.
Klaaf Bistro (Eigelstein 124), pleasant terrace cafe/bar near Ebertplatz, lunch, snacks, pastas, beer and wine.
CLOSED: Brennerei Weiss (Hahnenstraße 22), quintessential gay diner, German and international cuisine.
For locations and website links to businesses listed above, plus more restaurants, see our map & listings section.
Cologne has four gay saunas.
Babylon (Friesenstraße 23-25), rated among the best in the Europe, an elegant institution with outdoor pool that attracts beauties from all over the continent; sauna, whirlpool, cocktail bar. Fetish parties by MGW.
Pan Sauna (Händelstrasse 31), modern steam and dry sauna facility, hot tub, bar, massage services, rooftop garden terrace, cruise areas, sling.
Phoenix Sauna (Richard-Wagner Straße 12), men's sauna popular with a local young crowd, bar, Jaccuzzi and saunas.
Sauna Vulcanus (Marienplatz 3-5), "not a palace, not very big," but everyone's made to feel welcome here; Finnish and steam, bar, day sauna until 10pm, Saturday overnight until 8am, darkrooms, bar. A bear favorite.
Bruno’s (Kettengaße 20), local outlet of national chain from Bruno Gmunder: photo and comic books, DVD videos, cards, calendars, gifts.
Cosmic Wear (Englebertstraße 59, Rudolfplatz), leather and rubber apparel, accessories, fetish and bdsm items, sex toys and accessories.
DOME (Handelstraße 27, Rudolfplatz) fulfilling erotic dreams with leather/latex/steel gear, uniforms, T-shirts, fetish/bondage paraphernalia and toys.
Mega Gay World (Händelstraße 53), gay concept store, casual fashions, sports and streetwear, underwear, leather/ fetish gear and clothing, Mister B and Nasty Pig products; lubes, toys, gay print and DVD media.