A way of gauging how special a place is to visit is remembering how much you felt like a tourist when you arrived, compared to how you felt when (or if) you were welcomed with open arms by a whole society of people and leaving feeling like an honorary citizen; this is Cologne.
As Europe’s largest pride parade with over 300 floats made its way over the banks of the Rhine into the city on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, streets and balconies along the parade route are full with an abundance of locals coming together in colored paraphernalia to celebrate and show support for one of the strongest pillars of its community, drawing to a close a long weekend filled with such scenes; riverside artisan restaurants, gothic style architecture and hipster vibes make the vision complete.
Cologne appears to be a haven for LGBTI Germany, a league away from its tourist-ridden cousin Berlin, making it all the more exciting to spend a long weekend troubleshooting our way around the local-dominated gay districts in search of the hidden pockets that make being gay here so unique, whilst feeling completely safe and free to prance.
From talking to the very friendly (and insanely beautiful) natives, to trawling the apps for tips, here is a strategically planned guide to help you get the best out of your trip to Cologne with as much ease possible:
Where should I stay?
First things first, where to stay? The area around Neumarkt (not to be mistaken with Heumarkt) is slap, bang in the middle of one of Cologne’s most prolific gay areas.
Quiet during the day, bustling a night during the Summer whilst the famous Schaafenstrasse street parties take a hold during the pride celebrations, the place to be is here if you’re looking to meet the new friends with bargain booze from the local shop and eavesdropping on the music blaring out from the bars and clubs – trust us, it’s the best way to see what gay Cologne has got to offer in terms of men.
Hostel Koln is a newly refurbished and modern hostel located two streets over from the Schaafenstrasse street parties, far enough away to escape the noise but close enough to run back after a quick refresh.
The hostel offers both private rooms and dormitories, to book click here.
Tip 1: The hostel has its own bar which offers beers, wines and other alcoholic beverages to take outside without the queues of the corner shops on the street – cheeky!
Tip 2: Ask for a room at the top of the building, they’re quieter, closer to the breakfast buffet on the fifth floor and the rooms tend to be bigger.
Tip 3: If you arrive earlier than the 3pm check-in it is always worth asking if a room is available, the staff are very helpful and attentative if they can help you they will. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Where are the best places to party?
Well, we already mentioned the ever-popular Schaafenstrasse street parties, which were a huge favorite among our group and locals alike due to its money saving abilities and opportunity to talk to, rather than solely grind with, strangers.
But, if you’re looking for that super club vibe that Germany is famous for, Bootshaus is your place. Hosting the official CSD pride party ‘Sexy’ the club is the go-to place to mingle with other visitors to the city and celebrate with your international counterparts.
Hailing from Berlin, legendary club night ‘Revolver’ also descends on the dance floor of Bootshaus regularly, so you can expect the super club to be banging with the best tunes and hottest guys all year around.
Tip 4: Without exception, clubs in Germany don’t get busy until the early hours – so make your way to Schaafenstrasse before hand, grab some new friends/cheap drink and rock up at Boothaus around one or two in the morning. Nothing worse than being first in a club!
Tip 5: A guy who’s lived in Cologne for over 5 years told us that other popular club nights are ‘Sex im Dreck’ at Bauwagenplatz and ‘Backstage Diaries’, which is mainly hosted at Artheater. Always trust a good-looking guy.
Tip 6: The popular pre-drink among the crowds at Schaafenstrasse is a bottle of original Club-Mate and a 25cl bottle of Vodka. Order a ‘Mate Wodka’ and you’ll look like a pro. Drink responsibly.
Where are the best places to eat?
Cologne, and Germany as a nation, is very inexpensive. During you party weekend, there are many takeaway places and quick-bite shops with anything that takes your fancy, lovely pizzerias and Bratwurst stalls line the streets of Neumarkt.
If you don’t want to leave the square mile of Schaafenstrasse and party all night, eat takeaway and relax all day then Neumarkt is your place.
Heumarkt (don’t get them confused, again!) and the surrounding area closest to the banks of the River Rhine play host to some of the finest restaurants on offer in Cologne.
From traditional German cuisine to international dishes, one of our favorites was RheinZeit set against a warm summer evening with beautiful views of the river from the outside terrace.
Another fan favorite, as we ran in to take shelter from a very brief rainstorm between 40c glorious temperatures, was Peters Brauhaus in the scenic old town, offering us our first taste of real German traditional cuisine, with a ‘Cologn-ial’ twist.
Tip (Plead) 7: Please don’t limit your taste experiences purely to hangover food!
It’s our last day – what should we see?
If you’ve spent the entirety of your stay on the scene kissing cute boys and drinking Mate Wodka (which we can only imagine is your new favorite tipple) then you must spend your last day at least taking in the culture and attractions of Cologne – and there’s a lot to see.
The icon of Cologne (which you may have seen in emoji-form when you first checked-in on Facebook from the plane) is the gloriously gothic and towering Kölner Dom – simply put, Cologne Cathedral.
Beautiful inside and out, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Cologne Cathedral has dominated the city’s skyline since 1880 and was the tallest recorded height of any building in the world until 1884, it’s also Germany’s most visited landmark – receiving 20,000 visitors per day – so it’s definitely worth a visit (that many people can’t be wrong!).
Open daily, April through October, the Cologne Cable Car offers a unique viewpoint of the city as it glides over the River Rhine. Considered to be the safest, and most fun, means of transport in Cologne the cable car connects the beautiful landscaped gardens of Rheinpark with Cologne Zoo.
Cologne offers many cultural attractions including an unusually diverse museum scene, old town and waterfront complex, theatres and if you’re feeling adventurous the green hills of greater Cologne are right on the doorstep.
Tip 8: The Koln Card offers up to 50% off museum entry, restaurant discounts and unlimited travel on the entire transport network – well worth the investment at 18€ for an 48-hour individual ticket when purchased online at cologne-tourism.com
Why should I come to Cologne?
If you’re looking for a more authentic experience to your German gay pride getaway, then Cologne is the city of your dreams – take in the delights of being welcomed with open arms by a homely gang of locals, bask in the energy of walking off the beaten track and go with the crowds celebrating their beautiful city and its unique culture the best way they know how – partying in the streets!
Flights are available from £9.99 one-way when booked in advance and depart twice per day.