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LGBTI hotspots: Cologne, Germany’s gayest city

LGBTI hotspots: Cologne, Germany’s gayest city

Cologne Cathedral and the Hohenzollern Bridge are iconic parts of the skyline.

Berlin may be Germany’s political center, but its LGBTI hub lies some 570km south east from the capital’s bustling streets.

Called the gay capital of Germany, Cologne is not only home to Germany’s biggest Pride, with the main festivities stretching over three days and attended by up to a million people, but about 10% of the city’s 1.01 million residents identify as LGBTI.

Germany's gayest city does not just focus on Pride - IDAHOT marks another important celebration.
Germany’s gayest city does not just focus on Pride – IDAHOT marks another important date.

Despite these numbers (or because of them?) Cologne doesn’t have a residential gay quarter; the Heart of Cologne is the hub of gay clubbing, but its customers’ homes are spread out all over the city.

Living costs in Cologne, while on the more expensive side, still beat the costs in other major German cities – it may be the country’s fourth largest city, but it does not make the top ten when it comes to rent averages.

A studio apartment will likely cost renters from €450 ($490, £319) upwards each month, depending on the flat’s size and location, while a two bedroom flat clocks in an estimated €1300 ($1.417, £921) per month; usually, those prices do not include bills.

Those wanting to get a foot on the property ladder will find an exciting mix of old and new, ultra-modern and  historic homes throughout the city.

Designed by Boris Enning, 55 Frames tunes into Colognes modern, progressive character
Designed by Boris Enning, 55 Frames tunes into Cologne’s modern, progressive character

Minutes away from the main station and close to Cologne’s main high street sits 55 Frames, one of the city’s most exciting new developments designed by local architect Boris Enning.

Prices for one of the 81 new, state-of-the-art flats start from €314.200 ($342.100, £222.580) for a one bedroom flat; two bedrooms clock in at a minimum of €442.000 ($481.205, £313.024).

Living with Cologne Cathedral in sight is always popular – for a good reason, because the view is rather spectacular – but being able to look at the city’s famous landmark while having breakfast sees prices skyrocket.

No matter if tourist or local, no one can resist Cologne Cathedral.
No matter if tourist or local, no one can resist Cologne Cathedral.

A one bedroom flat near the Dom is set to cost €599.000 ($652.610, £423.732) – a spacious two bedroom, two bathroom flat clocks in at €1.44 million ($1.57 million, £1.02 million).

Ehrenfeld, together with the Belgian Quarter and the Südstadt (South Town), are the hotspots for students and young professionals; flats rent out and sell fast.

Home to large parts of Cologne's hipster culture, the Belgian Quarter is full of charming cafés and small boutiques.
Home to large parts of Cologne’s hipster culture, the Belgian Quarter is full of charming cafés and small boutiques.

Equally popular are the Old and New Town, but the masses of tourists strolling through the streets are infamous with the locals.

Families or those unwilling to live in busy central districts often prefer Lindenthal, Marienburg or suburbs like Brühl and Frechen – quiet and friendly suburbs allowing for an easy commute at all times of day.

Known throughout the country for its excellent education, provided by 18 universities and a number of colleges, Cologne is home to some of the best courses in media studies, journalism and business, all boasting close links to big players in their respective industries.

The Rheinhallen complex hosts a plethora of newsrooms for RTL, one of Germany's biggest free TV channels.
In 2010 RTL, one of Germany’s biggest media groups, moved their headquarters into the Rheinhallen complex.

The creative industries play a big role for the city’s workforce: Cologne is Germany’s television capital, with the BBC’s and ITV’s German offices located in the center, close to the headquarters of five national German TV stations and a number of local TV and radio broadcasters – and they’re always on the hunt for fresh talent.

When night falls, the central districts come alive: there’s never a quiet night in a a city with thousands of students, unless the law or high religious holidays say so.

Although student-centric on the surface, the nightlife is incredibly well-connected and as inclusive as you would imagine, with key venues catering to everyone.

From the Bermuda Dreieck, Cologne’s hub of gay nightlife, a short ten-minute walk leads to the Brüsseler Platz, where people flock to in summer; a 30-minute walk (or a quick ride on public transport) is all it takes to reach the Südstadt’s clubs and bars.

Swimming may be off limits, but lounging next to Cologne's Aachener Weiher is a popular summer pastime.
Swimming may be off limits, but lounging next to Cologne’s Aachener Weiher is a popular summer pastime.

In summer the Aachener Weiher, a small lake at the heart of the Hiroshima Nagasaki Park in the middle of town, is the place to be.

Swimming is not allowed for anyone but the pond’s resident turtles, but the park offers the perfect opportunity to indulge in some people-watching while enjoying the sun and a barbecue with your friends – if you manage to snag one of the prime spots, that is.

From the end of November, people start flocking to the Christmas markets, some of which are only open for a day or two, to enjoy a mug or three of mulled wine and to officially kick off Advent and the countdown to Christmas.

Deciding which ones to visit is hard, but from personal experience we can recommend two markets not to be missed: the Christmas Avenue, Cologne’s gay Christmas market, is festive and fun with first-class entertainment on their events stage.

Feuerzangenbowle, a mix of mulled wine, sugar and rum, doesn't just look spectacular but is a popular German Christmas staple.
Feuerzangenbowle, a mix of mulled wine, sugar and rum, doesn’t just look spectacular but is a popular German Christmas staple.

To soak up some German Gemütlichkeit and Christmas spirit, head to the Vringsadvent – famous not just for its 9.000 liter Feuerzangenbowle (the biggest in the world), made of sugar and rum set aflame on a pair of metal tongs so they slowly drip into a huge cauldron of mulled wine, but for its more traditional festive cheer.

Those who prefer urban landscapes rather than green planes of grass will cherish Cologne for its close links to other cities: Düsseldorf and Bonn are less than an hour away on the train and always good for a day out.

Trains to Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris run several times a day and rumor has it Eurostar are planning to establish a direct link between Cologne and London by 2017.

Berlin, Hamburg and Munich are also easy to reach, either by long-haul trains or domestic flights; with five airports in fairly close proximity, Cologne is connected to the whole world.