Bierhimmel, Berlin, Germany
Photos of gay bars, nightclubs, lounges, cabarets, and other nightlife options in Europe
A less over-the-top, more neighborhood-y bar and cafe along Oranienstrasse, Bierhimmel (Oranienstrasse 183) is a cheap and casual spot to start off an evening (or even an afternoon) of carousing. Drop by this cozy storefront cafe for a glass of wine, a light snack, or a cup of coffee before venturing out to some of the saucier spots around the SO 36 section of Kreuzberg, such as Roses and Mobel-Olfe.
Cafe Cafe, Prague, Czech Republic
Given its prosaic name, you might not expect much from this gay-ish lounge, coffeehouse, dessert venue, and restaurant on a well-trodden street in Prague's Stare Mesto, just around the corner from the Mustek metro stop. But Cafe Cafe (Rytirska 10, 420 224 210597) is a dapper, boisterous hangout that's favored by fashionistas in-the-know, and a mix of fabulous and wanna-be fabulous locals and tourists. It's not strictly a GLBT venue by any stretch, but you'll typically see plenty of "family" in here.
The cozy dining room with giant windows overlooking a street lined with fairly posh shops is far enough from the hordes of tourists at Charles Bridge to be relatively civilized. Most patrons linger here over a salad, sandwich, fruit tart, or a drink from the good selection of beers, wines, spirits. It's an excellent option for an inexpensive dinner, or for a drink before heading out to the more serious gay bars in Vinohrady and elsewhere. One decided note of gay-welcoming vibe: many of the staffers wear T-shirts with the words "straight-friendly" on the back.
de Spijker, Amsterdam, Netherlands
De Spijker (Kerkstraat 4) (meaning "The Nail") opened in 1983 and was a fairly intense leather-and-Levi's bar for many years before changing gradually into a more all-welcoming gay neighborhood bar attracting a diverse mix of all ages and styles. It's big with the after-work set in the early evening, then slows down before picking up steam again from about 10 on. Inside is a narrow, tightly packed bar with an extremely popular pool table in back; upstairs leads to a tiny and only sporadically busy dark room (what Americans call a back room), as well as some urinals backed by angled mirrors (which, of course, heightens their cruisiness). There are some TV monitors side-by-side over the bar, usually showing porn. A fireplace, extremely sweet and cute bartenders, and cool music (from alternative rock to old camp disco) add to the engaging ambience; also fun are the plaques around the bar labeling the de Spijker's exact distance from various international locales, from Tel Aviv to Marrakesh. Probably this bar's best attribute is its variety of offerings; a horny leather guy can find plenty to do here, and just as easily two dykes visiting from abroad will receive a warm welcome. You'll sometimes see pretty guys straying here from the trendy bars on Reguliersdwaarstraat, perhaps en route to Thermos Sauna, which is a couple of blocks away.
Macho Sauna, Brussels, Belgium
One of the most popular gay bathhouses in Belgium, Macho Sauna (Rue du Marche au Charbon 106, 32-2-513-5667) appeals to a mix of locals, students, tourists, and international business execs - it's just a 10-minute walk from Grand Place, in the heart of the cozy but bustling gay nightlife district. As is common among Belgian gay saunas, Macho closes at midnight, making it more of a day-time and early evening venue. It usually opens at noon, but on Sunday mornings, the doors open at 8 am.
Macho opened in the early 1980s and had always been popular, but praise has been especially great recently, as new owners took over in 2008 and have done a fine job updating the facility, which is uniformly clean and inviting, and staffed by a friendly, helpful bunch. It's set over a few floors, which include a rooftop terrace. Discounts from the 18-euro admission are applied for certain times, such as Sunday mornings, and to younger (under 25 years old) guys. And happy birthday! If it's that special anniversary of your entrance into the world, you're given free admission. If you're a bit of a novice when it comes to gay bathhouse culture, Macho is an excellent place for your explorations - it's exceedingly comfortable, friendly, and well-located, and you won't often encounter the attitude that prevails at similar venues in some other big cities.
Brussels has a quite lively gay sauna scene. Another option that's also highly popular (drawing plenty of attractive men) is Sauna Spades 4 (23-25 Rue Bodeghem, 32-2-502-0772), which is just a short walk southwest of Macho, near Annessens metro station. This is another facility with a quite friendly staff and clientele, and prices and hours are about the same as Macho. Sauna Spades 4 also has a popular locale in the beautiful Flemish city of Gent.
Other options with more of a locals following include Club 3000, which comprises a six-story bathhouse, cinema, and sex shop and is down by Bruxelles-Midi train station at 9 Blvd. Jamar (32-2-522-1050). Club 3000 is your best bet late on weekends, as it's open until 6 am on Friday and Saturday nights. There's also Sauna La Griffe (43 Rue de Dinant, 32-2-512-6251), which is a bit smaller but quite nice, having been fully redesigned in summer 2009 - it's favored by older gents and lies just a 10-minute walk south of Grand Place.
Parrot's Bar, Sitges, Spain
In the unabashedly quaint and artsy seaside village of Sitges, which feels a bit like Spain's version of Provincetown, you'll find numerous gay bars and cafes, including the open-air patio bar Parrot's along with its cross-the-Plaza-Industria neighbor, Parrot's 2. The gay resort village of Sitges is just a 45-minute trian ride down the Mediterranean coast from the sophisticated and progressive city of Barcelona.
Friends Bar, Prague, Czech Republic
A reliably friendly, centrally located spot in the heart of Old Town (Stare Mesto) Prague, Friends is a nice-size gay lounge with a smallish dance floor, located (as sooo many Prague gay bars) through a nondescript doorway and in a basement. Fun music videos play on the wall, a wide variety of drinks are served (wines, beers, liquor, mixed drinks), and there are different types of seating - cozy sofas, cocktail tables, a long bar-counter.
Located at Bartolomejska 11 (420-226-211-920), which is a new location since moving in 2004, Friends is a nice place to kick off an evening of partying, perhaps before venturing off to Escape Club or the gay-bar section of Vinohrady, about a 15-minute walk east. If you're staying in Old Town or even New Town, it's a highly convenient option, and it's open from 7 at night until at least 4 am.
Que Pasa, Antwerp, Belgium
Centrally located Que Pasa cafe (Lange Koepoorstraat 1) bills itself a gay Latin bar and cafe, and it is indeed a delightfully vibrant and friendly place with some fun drag parties, great mojitos, and fun music - you just may not see any Latino guys in here. It's very cozy and inviting though, and Que Pasa has some of the best drag shows in town (as pictured here).
Phoenix Bathhouse, Cologne, Germany
Part of a collection of gay bathhouses in Germany with popular branches in Essen and Dusseldorf, Phoenix Sauna Cologne (Richard-Wagner Strasse 12, 49-0221-258-11-71) opened in this gay-friendly city in 2004, right in the heart of the gay nightlife district that's centered around the leafy Rudolfplatz district. A beautifully decorated, rather upscale-looking gay men's club, Phoenix is a spacious compound with well-kept facilities that include a sun terrace, Finnish sauna, cafe, bar/lounge, and full massage and bodywork services on request. Just about every night of the week, Phoenix is crawling with guys - the younger, buff, nicely built crowd favors this place above the other gay men's clubs in town, such as Faun (around the corner), Babylon Sauna, and Sauna Volcano, although all of these establishments are fairly popular in this sexually forward and progressive city.
Saints Bar, Prague, Czech Republic
The Saints Bar looks ever-so-slightly like the basement rec-room you might find lurking beneath a split-level ranch house in the suburbs, but - of course - way cooler and filled with cute and engaging gay guys (along with a few women). The cozy two-room spot has a plush little lounge area with sofas, and a tiny bar that seats just a few lounge lizards. There's good lighting (you can actually see the faces of the people around you), fun music playing, and always a friendly bartender. What's not to like?
The Saints (Polska 32, tel. 420-222-250-326) is on a quiet residential street in Prague's stately Vinohrady neighborhood, just a short walk from Club Termix and not far from such festively gay gathering spots as Valentino and Celebrity Cafe. Stop by before venturing out to one of the larger and louder gay clubs in Prague, or if you meet an adorable creature elsewhere but can't converse over the din of ear-splitting music, bring him or her here for a quiet tete-a-tete. This British-owned bar serves a nice selection of exotic cocktails, plus several beers and wines. The very helpful staff is always ready to offer advice on other great gay-friendly spots around town.
Mobel-Olfe, Berlin, Germany
You won't find many bars out there with quirkier locations than Mobel-Olfe (Reichenbergerstrasse 177), which occupies the ground floor of a defunct mid-rise furniture store that's surrounded by Turkish-immigrant apartment blocks - the bar is just outside the northwest side of the Kottbusser Tor (U) subway station, and it's a tiny bit challenging to find. Best just to ask around, or bumble around until you spy a crowd of hipsters, slackers, artists, and bohemians mingling outside the bar's front door. Through large windows you can view the endearingly weird interior, which includes everything from a display of crappy old armchairs installed at a sharp angle high on a platform above the room to a human skeleton crowned with a cow skull.
Drinks are inexpensive and doled out in large portions, the music tends toward indie and alternative, and the crowd is a remarkably friendly (if self-consciously trendy) mix of women and men, most of them under 30 - but eclecticism rules here, from the decor to the crowd. It's a fun spot early in the evening right on into the wee hours, with a vibe that's just as inviting for friends in conversation as it is for singles on the make, although Mobel-Olfe is a huge departure from the cruisy-scene-y bars in Schoenberg around Nollendorfplatz. For its singular style and unassumingly funny sensibility, Mobel-Olfe deserves major props - it's completely worth the effort required to find this place. Just a block north, you'll find the countercultural Oranienstrasse strip, which has a few other notable gay-ish bars.
Why Not?, Madrid, Spain
Madrid's gay nightlife quarter, Chueca, pulses with dozens of gay restaurants, cafes, coffeehouses, and bars, including this tiny but popular subterranean boite, Why Not?, a fun place to grab a cocktail and mingle with locals - it's at Calle de San Bartolome 7. From here, you're steps from any of Madrid's top gay clubs.
Klub Stella, Prague, Czech Republic (closed Sept 2008)
Note: Unfortunately, Stella closed in September 2008
The secret is out - the somewhat hard-to-find, highly discreet gay lounge Stella was named in 2007 as one of Out Magazine's 50 Greatest Gay Bars in the World. Will the acclaim ruin this quirky spot? Doubtful. Stella is just an easygoing, somewhat kitschy, and entirely offbeat gay hangout, drawing a discernibly eclectic bunch of lesbians and gay guys. Some nights it's more student-oriented, other nights it pulls in beefy tattooed bears - you just never know, and that's part of the fun. Generally count on a scruffy, stylish, hip, dressed-down bunch - the sort of gays you'd see at a bar in New York City's East Village or San Francisco's Mission District.
Stella (Luzicka 10, 420-224-257-869) is on a very quiet, tree-lined street in a shabby-chic section of Vinohrady, not a terribly long walk from some of the neighborhood's other gay hangouts, such as Termix, Saints Bar and Celebrity Cafe. You must ring the bell to enter (not unusual) and to leave (unusual, and there's usually not somebody waiting to let you in or out...be patient, and a bartender will come up and administer the proceedings. The vaguely secretive vibe is part of the fun. You then wander into this rambling, oddly configured little basement warren of rooms.
You're apt to hear anything from Tori Amos B-sides to esoteric techno-electronic playing in the background. It feels a bit like a gay speakeasy - Stella is bohemian is the true sense of that word. It's smokey, it's dark. One room with better lighting has a few cafe tables and offbeat posters and daft artwork hang all around. A larger room has big sofas and lounge chairs. Wall decor includes a vintage photo of a train wreck, a poster of the Empire State Building doctored to look like an erect penis, some old framed liquor labels, an Oriental rug, an elaborate ornately carved darkwood mirror, a bunch of hand-drawn paper stars...you get the idea.
Club Termix, Prague, Czech Republic
In a fashionable section of Prague's increasing gay hub, the Vinohrady neighborhood, the intimate and friendly Club Termix (Trebizskeho 4a, tel: 420 222 710 462) occupies a narrow basement space beside the charming Bar and Books Corner Bar and Bistro (a nice option for a bite to eat before dropping in).
Termix has a small bar, a compact dance floor, and a petite lounge in back with some cushy chairs - yes, it's a diminutive space, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in spirit, drawing an eclectic, age-varied mix of gays and lesbians into the late hours (it's open Wed. through Sun.). The sound system is impressive, the decor imaginative, campy, and fun - although the fog machine is used here a bit too enthusiastically most nights. Locals, tourists, and expats invariably end up here, particularly on weekends, and often as part of a bar crawl that includes nearby gay spots like Celebrity Cafe, Club ON, and the Saints Bar. You enter by ringing a buzzer at street level - a doorman will then let you in, and you are free to wander down the stairs to the action. It's a great all-around cruise-and-dance bar.
Club ON (bar), Prague, Czech Republic
The quieter and more relaxed front section of the wildly popular Club ON, the bar is a relaxed lounge with a long bar and cafe tables overlooking bustling Vinohradska. There's a nice selection of Czech beers at the bar, and this festive little gay hangout is open nightly. A set of stairs in back leads to a small dance bar that's also open nightly, whereas the larger and spiffier sections of Club Valentino are open only on weekends.
Tingl Tangl, Prague, Czech Republic (appears to have closed)
Note: Tingl Tangl appears to have closed.
In Prague's Old Town (Stare Mesto), and quite close to the river, Tingl Tangl (Karoliny Svetle 12) is a slightly hard-to-find and rather off-beat subterranean space - it's below a friendly cafe serving affordable Italian and Greek food. When you walk into the restaurant, mention that you're looking for the bar, and the staff will point the way downstairs. At this establishment, you're issued a "ticket", which the bartender checks for each drink you order, and then you pay at the end of the night. There's typically a minimum charge when there drag cabaret shows are on (they're generally performed nightly), so ask about that first if you're whether you plan on sticking around for a bit. Down in this laid-back, rather dark basement you'll find a small cocktail bar, a tiny dance, floor, and a somewhat larger show bar with tables and chairs. Tingl Tangl is a bit quiet when there's not a show going on, so you might first ask around when it's a good night to saunter in.
Celebrity Cafe, Prague, Czech Republic
A swell-elegant gay restaurant in heart of the Vinohrady nightlife district, right next to Club Valentino, Celebrity Cafe (Vinohradska 40, 420 222 511 343) is a wonderful, atmospheric place with a couple of rooms lighted by candle and dim lamps, fun-kitschy faux-leopard walls and chairs, gilt mirrors, cozy round tables, and disco balls - it's a study in high camp, yet it's surprisingly cozy and tasteful. A few prints of celebs lien the walls, from Leo DiCaprio to Cindy Crawford to Goldie Hawn.
Although first and foremost a restaurant, Celebrity Cafe also makes sense as a venue for wine or cocktails, perhaps before venturing on to one of the other gay nightlife options in the neighborhood, such as Saints Bar or Club Termix. If you're here for a meal, expect a nice variety of Continental favorites, such as steak tartare, burgers, and pastas (try the gnocchi with Fontina cheese and asparagus, or the starter of goat cheese with sundried tomatoes). There's also a nice selection of desserts. This is a good bet for a late meal, as food is served till midnight, and it has more of a gay following and fewer tourists than Cafe Cafe. Lively Euro-pop music plays in the background, but at a manageable decibel level.
Escape Club, Prague, Czech Republic
And you thought all those fresh-faced, lithe, shirtless guys were talking to you simply because you're irresistibly fascinating? Well, this may be true, but if you find yourself showered with attention during your visit to Prague's Escape Club, in Nove Mesto (New Town) just a short walk from Wenceslas Square, consider that many - if not most - of the man-boy creatures in this saucy basement nightclub are looking to initiate business relations with you. Yes, the Escape Club is *that* kind of establishment, and the guys here are quite nice and friendly - there's no pressure to buy. You can just venture in, have a drink, and watch them take turns go-go dancing on the small stage. Prostitution is, in fact, entirely legal in this progressive nation, but the age of consent when it comes to paid sex is 18 (as opposed to 15, when no money changes hands).
Escape Club is at V Jame 8, tel. 420-602-403-744. There's a fairly nominal cover charge at night, when the disco heats up; earlier in the evening, Escape is a restaurant serving fairly ordinary but affordable Czech fare. It's not far from the gay establishments in Old Town (Stare Mesto), such as Cafe Cafe, Friends, and Tingl Tangl.
Club ON (formerly Valentino), Prague, Czech Republic
In the increasingly gay Vinohrady neighborhood just east of the city center, Club ON (formerly Club Valentino) (Vinohradska 40, 420-222-520-630) is one of Prague's top gay nightclubs, comprising three floors with distinct lounge, dancing, and chatting areas. This is the heart of see-and-be-seen Prague, drawing a youthful, pretty crowd, but still entirely unpretentious. It's a short walk from other popular gay hangouts in Vinohrady, such as Saints Bar, Termix, and - right next door - Celebrity Cafe.
Red & Blue, Antwerp, Belgium
Red & Blue (Lange Schipperskapelstraat 11) is not only the city's largest gay and lesbian disco, but the biggest one on Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The spacious building a 10-minute walk north of Grote Markt has a variety of large events, including a men's party on Saturday nights, which begins at 11 pm and pulses into the wee hours, usually wrapping up around 7 in the morning. This is the major see-and-be-seen, rump-shaking gay-male party in the region, and one of the best in Northern Europe. The club also hosts a slew of annual circuit parties, including Circuit in mid-March, Club Flesh in late March, Toolroom Knights in late May, Navigaytion in late June (during the city's big Gay Pride blowout), and an anniversary party in mid-November (to celebrate the club's opening in 1997).
On Sunday nights, twice monthly, Red & Blue hosts one of the region's hottest lesbian parties - these events rotate and are known alternately as Cafe de Love and Cafe deluxe, and you can learn more at their website (www.cafedelove.com).
The city also has some very popular gay saunas, including 't Herenhuis (de Lescluzestraat 63) and Kouros Sauna (Botermelkbaan 50). And you'll find a bit of the city's seedier and cruisier nightlife scene along van Schoonhovenstraat, just across Astridpleintk from Central Station. There are several gay bars and sex shops along this street otherwise known as Rue de Vaseline (Vaseline Alley).