Gay Hamburg offers the perfect weekend getaway for LGBT travellers looking to book a holiday in Germany.
The second largest city in Germany is famous for its huge harbour, the original recipe for the hamburger and its thriving gay scene.
Those looking to spend a weekend in Hamburg can enjoy gay-friendly hotels, a handful of LGBT bars & clubs, trendy restaurants and world-class museums. Every year in early August Gay Hamburg also hosts a Pride Festival, known to locals as the CSD celebrations or Christopher Street Day.
Gay Hamburg History
Hamburg has a palatable sexiness about it. Germany’s largest port town is known for being LGBT-friendly and sex-positive.
A monumental fixture in the Hanseatic League trade alliance between the 13th and 17th-centuries, Hamburg is now best known for as a world commerce capital. The affluent city is a liberal place, welcoming foreigners who connect through Europe’s second largest harbour. More than 30% of locals are immigrants, coming from over 180 different countries.
Christian Knuth is a local from Hamburg who writes about the city’s gay scene. His stories appear in Hinnerk, Hamburg’s best queer magazine since 1993. Knuth comments about the German city’s unique LGBT culture, “Hamburg’s official motto, “Tor zur Welt,” or “Gate to the World,” is not only referring to trade. It is a kind of lifestyle for locals. They avoid asking or judging people for what they do in private. That’s why you can live an openly gay life here, feeling safe and without prejudices, especially in the historic former red-light-district St. Pauli.”
Gay Hamburg is perhaps best known around the queer world for its established leather scene. It was back in 1973 when Touko Laaksonen (famously known as Tom of Finland) chose to launch his first ever art exhibit in Hamburg. The wildly influential erotic artist is now a gay illustration icon, know for his ultra-manly imagery.
Hamburg’s most famous bar, Toms Saloon, originally opened in 1974 and now houses a gallery showcasing photographs of original leather fetish drawings by Laaksonen. Fetish fans descend on the city every August for gay Hamburg’s annual Leatherparty, which originally began in 1973.
Hamburg also plays home to an established gay film festival, Lesbisch Schwule Filmtage (or Hamburg International Queer Film Festival). It’s the longest running LGBT film festival in Germany, taking place each October.
Explore Gay Hamburg
The city’s best gay bars and clubs are located in the neighbourhood of St. Georg, located a short walk east of Hamburg Hauptbahnhof. Gay Hamburg technically has two LGBT hubs, with St. Gerog and St. Pauli offering a smattering of gay bars, cruise clubs, saunas, fetish shops and cafes.
We suggest starting your bar hopping tour of Gay Hamburg at Lange Reihe, it’s considered the heart of the city’s LGBT community. You’ll find friendly rainbow flags waving on both sides of the street with pride.
Gay Hamburg Bars & Clubs
- Extratour: friendly gay bar in the heart of Hamburg’s gaybourhood. Opened in 1989, it’s considered one of Hamburg’s last “old-style bars.” Located across the street from Pick Up.
- Pick Up Gay Bar: Extratour’s neighbour is an dimly-lit underground gay bar featuring darts and casino slots.
- WunderBar: is a classic tourist stop for twinks looking for a glamorous night out in St. Pauli. Music here is top 40 pop and R&B. The owners of WunderBar are also responsible for Hamburg’s most popular gay party, Pink Inc.
- Contact Men’s Bar: this basement bar is laissez-faire operating with a no-dress-code policy.
- Toms Saloon: Hamburg’s “Tom of Finland” experience is best enjoyed at this iconic gay leather and fetish bar.
- S.L.U.T. Club: Hamburg’s most famous sex club features darkrooms and slings for fetish fans.
- M&V Gaststatte: visit this bar to find cute and stylish guys of all ages. It’s a local watering hole where most pass through for a cold pint of beer on a Friday or Saturday night.
- Club 136°: this is Hamburg’s main dance club for gay boys featuring adventurous house and electro by local DJs in Neustadt.
- Thomaskeller: this former brothel is a basement bar which opened in the 1970s by a local gay man named Thomas (go figure!) Inside you’ll find vintage red cushion stools, a hark to gay Hamburg’s olden days.
- Bellini Bar: this cute corner bar is best known for its cocktails and features dangling disco balls.
Gay Hamburg Drag Cabaret
- Pulverfass Cabaret: established in 1973 and billed as “the greatest trans cabaret in Europe,” Germany’s oldest drag show offers a two stage spectacle every night.
- Olivia Jones Bar: a long established drag queen institution, Olivia Jones (aka Oliver Knobel) is a long-legged legend who puts on a show for straight and gay audiences.
Gay Hamburg Sauna
- Dragon Sauna: Hamburg’s best gay sauna is spread across two floors. Check the schedule as they host special weekday events geared towards singles, men over 40 and sexually diverse folks. Thursdays for example are mixed, welcoming men, women and friends of the trans community. Dragon Sauna features massage, stream room, jacuzzi and snack bar.
Gay Hamburg Shopping
- Brunos: Hamburg’s most popular gay clothing store sells underwear, swimsuits, tank tops, sportswear, jock straps, DVDs, LGBT books, magazines and more.
- Mr. Chaps: a gay fashion boutique specializing in leather, latex and rubber. In operation since 1985, it also offers a sizeable second hand clothing collection.
- Erotica Boutique Bizarre: this is one of the biggest sex stores in Europe offering an extensive collection of erotic literature, toys and films.
Gay Hamburg Cafes
- Cafe Uhrlaub: this popular gay cafe serves traditional German dishes starting at 8am. On a sunny day try and grab a seat on the backyard terrace.
- Cafe Gnosa: has been a St. Georg meeting point for the local LGBT community for over 20 years. Since it opens every day at 10am and serves breakfast until 4pm it’s an excellent brunch option after a late night dance party. It’s the best gay bakery in Hamburg to enjoy a morning pastry or slice of German cake.
- Kyti Voo: this popular cafe and bar offers Hamburg’s best gay patio. On a hot sunny day come here to people watch and enjoy Happy Hour between 5-8pm.
Gay Hamburg Pride
Looking to visit gay Hamburg during Pride? Cities in Germany refer to their annual LGBT festivals as CSD Celebrations, short for Christopher Street Day. The first gay pride in Germany was a Christopher Street Day celebration that took place in Berlin in 1978.
We chatted with local gay writer Christian Knuth about CSD Hamburg, the city’s annual Pride Festival and Parade. Knuth says, “In Hamburg they say confidently but with a wink, ‘Hamburg is the most beautiful city in the world’. For me, CSD Hamburg is definitely the most beautiful Pride Festival in Germany.”
He adds, “The highlights of Pride Week are the parade and the 3-day street fair. Visitors can skip through the stalls at sunset and enjoy the panorama of the Binnenalster-Lake, feeling the positive influence this form of queer visibility has to our society.”
Knuth continues, “In 2019, for the first time ever the Spielbudenplatz at Reeperbahn and its nearby gay bars and clubs were the official post-Pride Parade zone on Saturday night. The most famous Red Light District in the world was dipped in pink and rainbow colours! On Friday night, “Electro Pride“ at Uebel & Gefährlich featured the best German electronic dance music. If you really want to explore Hamburg’s queer underground, go to Queer Flora at the Rote Flora on Pride-Saturdays.”
Outside of CSD Hamburg, the city also hosts three other LGBT festivals annually.
- Harbour Pride: DJs and drag queens offer fun queer energy at the city’s historic fish auction hall in celebration of the Port Anniversary Weekend Festival. Each Sunday the local LGBT community is represented by a colourful musical boat as part fo the grand departure parade.
- L Beach: this annual lesbian beach party takes place on the Baltic Sea and completely takes over a seaside village near Hamburg.
- Winter Pride: this gay festival in December is perfect for LGBT travellers keen to visit a German Christmas Market.
Best Hotels in Gay Hamburg
The best hotels in Gay Hamburg are located near the main train station, a short walk from the city’s gay bars and clubs. Since Hamburg’s top tourist attractions are largely within walking distance, it makes sense to situate yourself in the heart of the city. All of Hamburg’s hotels are gay-friendly and many of the luxury properties offer chic interiors.
- Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten: this grand 1897 building overlooks Aussenalster Lake. Hamburg’s Fairmont Hotel offers posh rooms, fine dining restaurant, art-deco bar with terrace, trendy Asian-fusion eatery, hip cafe and day lounge for dogs.
- Hotel Atlantic Kempinski: dating back to 1909, this luxury hotel offers chic suites with designer furniture, upscale seafood restaurant, art deco bar, indoor pool, spa and screening room.
- Steigenberger Hotel: this luxury hotel overlooks the Alsterfleet canal and features modern rooms, chic piano bar, Mediterranean bistro, cigar lounge, spa and eatery serving Asian and European dishes.
- The Fontenay: this chic boutique design hotel is housed in a striking contemporary building on the shores of Lake Alster. Amenities include two restaurants, bar, indoor pool, outdoor infinity pool, spa and rooftop terrace.
- Sofitel Hamburg Alter Wall: located in gay Hamburg’s historic old town, this upscale hotel offers stylish rooms, indoor heated pool, gym, fine dining restaurant, lunch brasserie and canal-view bar.
Hamburg’s fine art museum is one of the largest in Germany. Founded in 1850, Kunsthalle Hamburg houses one of the few comprehensive art collections in Germany that showcases seven centuries of Europe art. Art aficionado’s planning a gay Hamburg getaway will love exploring the artistic works, which date from the Middle Ages to present day.
The museum’s permanent collection focuses on 14th-century paintings from Northern Germany. You’ll also find Dutch, Flemish and Italian masterpieces from the 16th and 17th centuries. The city’s celebrated Kunsthalle also includes a coveted collection of French and German drawing and paintings from the 19th-century, international modern and contemporary art.
The Kunsthalle is divided into 4 sections: Gallery of Old Masters, Gallery of 19th-century Art, Gallery of Classical Modernism and Gallery of Contemporary Art. Highlights of the collection include medieval alters by Master Bertram and Master Francke, 17th-century Dutch paintings, works from the German Romanticism period, and pieces from the school of impressionism.
Keep your eyes peeled for works by lauded European masters Rembrandt, Rubens, Tiepolo, Goya, Degas, Manet, Monet, Rodin, Munch and Klee.
Hamburg’s best art museum is made up of three connected buildings dating from 1869, 1921 and 1997. The museum is located in the Altstadt district, between Hauptbanhof and Alster Fountain at Binnenalster.
Located a stones throw from Kunsthalle Hamburg, Alster Fountain is located in one of the city’s most photographed public parks. Binnenalster is a lake located in the centre of the city, lined with ancient trees. In the centre of the oversized pond you’ll find Hamburg’s landmark, the Alster fountain, which has been frothing every year from March to November since April, 1987.
For those who have traveled to Switzerland, it may not surprise you that Hamburg’s fountain was an imitation of Jet d’eau in Geneva. Hamburg’s fountain is smaller (60-metres high) due to the city’s tendency for windy days. In the summer, the fountain sprays across the city, thrilling visitors who come here to photograph white swans swimming under beautiful rainbows.
Sporty types can enjoy the water by hiring kayaks and stand-up paddle boards in the summer. Or, if relaxing is your preference book a vintage boat for a lake cruise. In the cold winter months, the Alster often freezes over, transforming into one of Germany’s largest skating rinks.
Bei der Petrikirche 2, 49-40-3257400
Built by Pope Leo X, St. Peter’s Church is Hamburg’s most famous cathedral. It is thought that Hamburg Cathedral was built in 1189. In 1310 the cathedral was rebuilt in the Gothic style, and finally completed by 1418. Since the Reformation it has been a Protestant church, its congregation forming part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany.
The best known artworks in St Peter’s Church are the bronze lion-head door handles, located in the left wing of the west portal. Skip to the north end and you’ll find a Gothic mural from 1460 that shows the churches first bishop, Ansgar of Bremen, with the words “Apostle of the North”. A column in the choir area contains a statue by Bernt Notke, from 1480, showing Archbishop Ansgar and the Hamburg Marienkirche. You should also make time to stare in awe at two 17th-century oil paintings by Gottfried Libalt entitled Jacob’s Dream and Christ’s Birth.
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Across the street from St. Peter’s Church you’ll find the awe-inspiring Rathaus, Hamburg’s City Hall. The extravagant building still houses its original government functions with the office of the First Mayor and meeting rooms for Hamburg’s parliament and senate.
Constructed between 1886 and 1897, Hamburg’s City Hall sits perched over bustling Rathausmarkt Square. The present building was designed by a group of seven architects, led by Martin Haller. At the time it cost over 11 million German gold marks, about €80 million. Hamburg City Hall’s facade is designed in the neo-renaissance style with an impressive tower that that reaches 112 metres high.
In 1971 a room in the Rathaus tower was discovered accidentally during a search for a document that had fallen behind a filing cabinet. Local historians agree that there are probably even more rooms than the currently counted 647.
The much-photographed balcony features a mosaic of Hamburg’s patron goddess Hammonia and the city’s coat of arms. You’ll also find an inscription of the city’s motto in Latin, which translates to “The freedom won by our elders, may posterity strive to preserve it in dignity.”
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The Church of St. Nicholas was bombed by Allied forces during Operation Gomorrah in 1943. During this WWII air raid, the British Royal Air Force and US Air Force left most of the city centre in ruins. The original church building was destroyed, all but the spire, which remained relatively unharmed.
Today, visitor’s pay their respects at St. Nikolai Memorial, located in the churches crypt. The impressive World War II museum was recently renovated and its exhibitions contemplate the impact of war.
Adventure seekers can take a glass elevator to a viewing platform on the churches spire. At a height of 76 metres, it’s the fifth highest church steeple in the world. The viewing platform offers panoramic views over the port, city centre and Alster lakes.
A short stroll from St. Nikolai Memorial, Nikolaifleet is a canal, which was the original branch of the Alster estuary. First mentioned in 1188, the Nikolaifleet is considered one of the oldest parts of Hamburg’s port.
Photography fans love to visit Nikolaifleet to take pictures of the heritage red brick buildings, which stand perched above the canal. You can take the best pictures from Deichstraße, the oldest street in Hamburg. The area dates back to the 14th-century and today features beautifully restored 17th-19th-century houses.
A good view of the “Little Amsterdam,” warehouses can be enjoyed at Hohe Brücke. Fingers crossed the water is still when you visit, as you can capture the reflection of the houses as they shimmer across the canal.
Vorsetzen 1, 49-40-364297
City Sporthafen Hamburg is the best stretch of the city’s harbourfront to enjoy a scenic walk. The guest harbour features 80-120 moorings for ships up to 50 metres in length.
Cafes and restaurants line the waterfront and on weekends you can find romantic couples and families enjoying a stroll. We suggest walking past City Sporthafen when connecting from Hamburg’s Old Town to St. Pauli. The scenic stroll takes approximately 20 minutes and offers some of the best photo opportunities in Hamburg. Watch motor boats and luxurious yachts zoom into the harbour while enjoying a backdrop of Elbphilharmonie.
Sporthafen is also one of the star attractions during the annual Harbour Birthday celebrations, when beautiful boats from around the world parade across the city’s waterfront.
The piers at St. Pauli are the largest landing area in the port of Hamburg. The St. Pauli Landing Bridges are located between the lower harbour and Fish Market, on the banks of the Elbe River.
Today, the St. Pauli Landing Bridges act as a central transport hub, offering service with S-Bahn, U-Bahn and ferry stations for those looking to enjoy a cruise.
Enjoy a stroll in front of the St. Pauli Landing Bridges and you’ll see why it’s considered such a major tourist magnet. You’ll find plenty of restaurants (including a Planet Hollywood), cheap street food vendors, cruise companies and street performers who sing, dance and mime.
Interested in skipping under Hamburg’s harbour? Walk to the west end of the St. Pauli Landing Bridges and you’ll find the entrance to the Old Elbe Tunnel system. Inside the entrance you’ll find four elevators that plunge pedestrians and cyclists underground 24 hours a day, free of charge!
Alter Elbtunnel officially opened in 1911, as a pedestrian and vehicle tunnel in Hamburg. The impressive 426 metre long tunnel was an engineering and architectural sensation, located 24 metres underground.
Today, the Old Elbe Tunnel isn’t just a way for locals to get from one side of the river to the other. The tunnel also acts as a unique performance space, having been used as an art exhibition hall, heritage festival venue and intimate stage for an orchestra.
Platz der Deutschen Einheit 1, 49-40-35766666
Considered Hamburg’s most famous piece of contemporary architecture, Elbphilharmonie sits perched on the Grasbrook peninsula of the Elbe River.
The world-renowned theatre in HafenCity is one of the largest and acoustically most advanced concert halls in the world. Nicknamed Elphi by locals, the red brick and glass structure resembles a hoisted sail, wave, iceberg and quartz crystal.
Hamburg’s famous concert hall sits on top of an old warehouse building, originally built in 1963 and was designed by architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron. After almost ten years of construction, Elbphilharmonie hosted its opening concert in 2017, with a performance by the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra led by Thomas Hengelbrock. The initial estimated cost of construction was €241 million, which ballooned to €866 millon by its completion.
The Elbphilharmonie plays home to three unique concert venues. The Great Concert Hall can accommodate 2,100 visitors where performers are in the centre of the hall surrounded by the audience in a vineyard style configuration. The acoustics were designed by Yasuhisa Toyota who installed 10,000 microshaped drywall plates to disperse sound waves. The Great Concert Hall also features a pipe organ with 69 registers built by Klais Orgelbau. The Recital Hall is intended for the performance of chamber music and jazz concerts and can hold up to 550 people. The smaller Kaistudio offers seating for 170 visitors and is intended to offer educational activities.
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Are you a java junky organizing a weekend getaway in gay Hamburg? Be sure to pay a visit to Kaffeemuseum-Burg, one of the city’s tastiest museums.
Hamburg’s Coffee Museum is located in the scenic Speicherstadt neighbourhood. Since 1923, the Burg family has been running a coffee shop in Hamburg that roasts high quality coffee beans. Coffee has been stored and processed in storage facilities in Hamburg since 1896.
Purchase a ticket to Hamburg’s Coffee Museum and you’ll step into a vaulted cellar featuring hundreds of objects from the Burg coffee collection. Guests go on a journey from cultivation via the Hanseatic trading office to old coffee shops familiar only to German grandmas. You’ll learn about how coffee is grown, harvested, processed and converted into your fragrant morning cup. Hamburg’s Coffee Museum also features vintage tools, machines, roasters, grinders, filters, jugs and vintage advertising.
Finish your visit at Kaffeemuseum-Burg’s spacious cafe and gift shop. You’ll find a wide selection of premium bagged coffee, quality German chocolate, gourmet cookies and other sweets treats.
Inside the cafe you can order a dizzying number of coffee beverages, best enjoyed alongside a slice of German cake. Check the schedule in advance as the management regularly offer coffee seminars, tastings and guided ours.
Hamburg’s “Water Castle” is one of the most photographed landmarks in Hamburg. The historic building in Speicherstadt is featured in many of Hamburg’s romantic postcards because it is flanked by two bridges and surrounded by water.
The moated castle sits at the tip of a peninsula in an exposed position between two canals. The 4-storey building was built between 1905 and 1907 as part of the third phase of the Speicherstadt. Historians assume the design was done by two local architects Bernhard Georg Hanseen and Wilhelm Emil Meerwein, who also worked on Hamburg City Hall.
The facade is in the style of North German brick expressionism and was decorated with glass tile ribbons and granite. It’s signature green copper roof, tall bow windows and clock tower make it one of Germany’s most beloved castles.
The moated castle was originally used as a shelter and workshop for those who worked on Hamburg’s dockyards. Today, Hamburg’s Wasserschloss is home to a cozy tea house.
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Are you a beer fan looking to enjoy a sud-sloshed evening on a weekend in gay Hamburg? The city’s oldest craft brewery is Groninger Privatbrauerei in the heart of Altstadt.
The underground brewery has been open since 1722. It serves its signature Groninger Pils out of wooden barrels. In Hamburg’s sprawling basement brewery you’ll find a choir of old copper tanks, which give the dining room a magical ambiance.
Beer lovers can pair their pints with a selection of traditional German dishes such as pretzels, suckling pig or juicy pork knuckles.
Chilehaus proves that Hamburg truly is a vacation destination for architecture aficionado’s. The awe-inspiring 10-story building in Hamburg is located in the Kontorhausviertel. It’s considered an exceptional example of the 1920s brick expressionism style.
Chilehaus was commissioned by shipping tycoon Henry B Sloman, who made his fortune trading saltpeter from Chile, hence the name Chile House.
The large angular building was designed by architect Fritz Hoger and finished in 1924. Hoger’s building is famed for its top, which looks similar to a ship’s prow, and the facades which meet at a sharp angle at the corner of Pumpen and Niedernstrasse.
The best view of the building is from the east because of accentuated vertical elements, recessed upper stories and curved facade. Another one of Chilehaus’ claim to fame is that it features one of the few remaining working paternosters in the world.
Lange Reihe 96, 49-40-25328817
No trip to Hamburg is complete until you’ve feasted on a juicy hamburger, the city’s namesake dish. The exact origin of the hamburger will never be known with exact certainty. There’s a long-standing controversy surrounding the hamburger, a quarrel between Hamburg, Germany and Texas, USA.
We like to believe the German tale speaks truth. Minced meat was a delicacy in medieval cuisine as red meat was usually restricted to the higher classes. Russian ships brought recipes for steak tartare to the port of Hamburg during the 17th-century.
During the first half of the 19th-century, most northern European immigrants traveling to the New World departed from Hamburg’s port. New York City was a common destination for ships traveling from Hamburg, and various restaurants offered Hamburg-style steaks to attract German sailors. The steak frequently appeared on menus as a Hamburg-style American fillet.
The best restaurant in Hamburg to eat a hamburger is Frau Moller in St. Georg. Located in the heart of Hamburg’s gay neighbourhood, Frau Moller offers a rowdy dining room and street-side patio. The place gets absolutely packed with locals at the dinner hour. The kitchen stays open until 5am so it’s also a great spot to devour a juicy burger after a late night of dancing.
The hipster restaurant offers a cozy and comfy atmosphere featuring rustic wooden furniture with relaxed waiters and reasonable prices. Frau Moller’s specialty burger menu ranges from 8-11€ and features mouth-watering hamburgers stuffed with fried eggs, pepperoni, pesto and spicy jalapenos.
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