Bunt feiernde Personen auf einer CSD Demonstration
Young people marching for tolerance and equality. © Surprising_SnapShots/ Pixabay

Queer Cologne: the best places to explore the LGTBQIA+ community

Clubs, bars and loads of queer culture - here's our summary of the top locations and events in Cologne.

Cologne flies its rainbow flag with pride. According to a study by the city council, one in ten residents identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual or intersexual. Rather than hiding away in a niche milieu, the LGTBQIA+ community is very much part of public life and helps shape the city’s open and tolerant image. Gay clubs, bars and loads of queer culture – there’s lots on offer. Come with us as we take a look around the scene and the key locations and events.

Café era: a meeting place for old friends and new ones

People-watching can be a fascinating pastime and LGTBQIA+-friendly Café era is the perfect place to do it over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Meet up for a relaxed breakfast/lunch/dinner catch-up with friends or take advantage of the opportunity to flirt and meet new people.

Where? Friesenwall 26, 50672 Cologne

Breakfast all day long at Café Rico

This cult café in the centre of Cologne is a stalwart of the city’s gay scene. Located a stone’s throw from Rudolfplatz square, it has a hugely inviting (or invitingly huge?) terrace. There’s a warm vibe, a varied selection of food and drinks and a massive cake cabinet that gets refilled with homemade treats every day. This is a superb place to have breakfast – from morning to night!

Where? Mittelstraße 31-33, 50672 Cologne

“Coming in” at Café Anyway

Café anyway is the heart of the anyway youth club and caters for a young, queer clientele aged between 14 and 27. It offers a space where members and friends of the community can come together, chat and chill over a game of pool or table football. Twice a month there’s an event that goes by the name of “TIN*SPIRATION”, a sort of “coming-in day”, especially for newcomers. The volunteers behind the bar have an LGBTQIA+ background too and, more importantly than serving drinks, they’re there to answer any questions. In addition, the youth club has a helpline app that young people can contact anonymously. anyway also provides advisory services and workshops for other organisations and managers, aimed at raising awareness of sexual and gender diversity.

Where? Kamekestraße 14, 50672 Cologne

For more information on upcoming events, click here.

Sail through Cologne’s carnival with Stattgarde Colonia Ahoj

Eine Gruppe von Menschen steht auf einer Bühne, verkleidet als Matrosen und formt eine Welle. Vor der Bühne sitzt ein bunt verkleidetes Publikum.
Taking to the waves with Stattgarde Colonia Ahoj. © Dirk Loerper

Born of Cologne’s “pink” carnival more than 20 years ago, Stattgarde Colonia Ahoj is well and truly part of the city’s carnival scene today. With their maritime-themed outfits and “love and let love” philosophy, the group performs at hundreds of events during the yearly festivities. But they’ve always got their own events going on too – be it a get-together every second Friday of the month for “crew members, passengers and mates” or their annual Jeck op Deck bash aboard a boat. This mega party gets the carnival period started three weeks early with entertainment provided by the host’s band, shanty choir and dance troupe. Another must for your diary is the “ladies’ party” where the heels can’t be too high. Whether you go trashy or classy, the only thing that matters is you come as a woman.

There’s more information on Stattgarde Colonia Ahoj events here.

A movie marathon: the “queer film night” at Filmpalette

Man sieht einen alten Kinosaal mit roten Samtsitzen und einer kleinen Leinwand.
Filmpalette’s red velvet seats invite cinema-goers to sit back and enjoy the movie marathon. © Ulrich Kriest

Filmpalette in Cologne is a cinema like they used to make them. Whilst the 50s interior preserves the historical charm of that era, the programme is much more progressive. They put on a “queer film night” every second Tuesday of the month, where they show the best non-heteronormative films from around the globe. Today, queer film nights are held regularly at over 40 cinemas in Germany and Austria but if that’s not enough to satisfy your appetite, the annual, Germany-wide Queer Film Festival offers a whole week of highlights from the world of international queer film.

Where? Lübecker Str. 15, 50668 Cologne

You’ll find Filmpalette’s listings and showing times here.

The SLCK gay and lesbian choir: getting vocal for more tolerance

Bunt gekleidete queere Erwachsene halten eine Abschlusspose auf einer Bühne inne, nach einem Auftritt.
The SLCK choir on stage. © Jürgen Terhag

Started in 2010, the SLCK choir (the abbreviation stands for “Cologne gay and lesbian choir”) is now a regular on the live performance circuit in and around Cologne. In fact, people across Germany and beyond have heard of it too. As well as being musical, the choir is all about having fun improvising, using your imagination and having the courage to try new things. If you’d like to see whether you’ve got what it takes, they’d love for you to come to one of their monthly public vocal jams and have a go.

Fancy joining in? Further information is available here.

SC Janus sports club – it’s the taking part that counts

As well as being Europe’s biggest queer sports club, SC Janus was the first of its kind when it was set up in 1980. Today, it has one of the world’s largest memberships. Age, gender, ethnicity and sexuality are irrelevant at SC Janus. Even physical ability and sporting experience are secondary. The important thing is creating a discrimination-free space for sports lovers where the focus is on people the way they are. With over 45 sports and 90 different classes and groups, the club’s offering is hard to beat. They even have a well-established male cheerleading team, the Pink Poms, founded in 1993 and now a cherished part of Cologne’s carnival celebrations.

For more information on becoming a member, click on this link.

Bathing bliss by men, for men at Badehaus Babylon Cologne 

Get ready to reset in the 1,400m² of the Badehaus Babylon day spa. Open almost around the clock, it boasts a steam room, an outdoor pool, a Roman-style jacuzzi, a Finnish sauna and a bar. There are well-equipped deluxe booths for hire too for guests who want something a little more private and quiet. If you suffer from tense muscles, you can also book a massage. One of Germany’s top gay saunas, at Badehaus Babylon total relaxation and an ultimate spa experience are guaranteed.

Where? Friesenstraße 23-25, 50670 Cologne

Dirk Bach and his pink bench

Comedian Dirk Bach was arguably one of the most dazzling figures in Cologne’s gay scene. He passed away, far too soon, in 2012. From as early as the 1980s, his activism and humour visibly helped shape queer Cologne. Dirk campaigned for equal rights for homosexuals and took up the fight against HIV and AIDS. For ten years, a pink bench with a plaque in his memory graced his last resting place in Cologne’s Melaten cemetery. In October 2023, however, it was moved to a new home at the Atelier Theater on Roonstraße after a ban on private benches at the cemetery was introduced and the bench “disappeared”. Today, a plaque on a public bench at the cemetery serves as a memorial to the beloved celebrity.

Where? Roonstraße 78, 50674 Cologne

Feel like partying? Then take a look at our queer nightlife guide!

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