Germany has firmly established itself as gay friendly destination over the past twenty years and while queer friendly cities such as Berlin and Cologne rightly steal the limelight, others, such as Frankfurt, are worth casting a queer eye over. “Unlike any other German city” is how The Lonely Planet describes Frankfurt-am-Main. The financial heart of Germany, its soaring skyscrapers and business credentials have earned it the nickname Mainhattan. Business aside, the city still has plenty to offer the lesbian visitor. Frankfurt is an open-minded, tolerant and multicultural place (a 1/3 of its population are foreign born, making it Germany’s most international city) and all of this is reflected in its well-developed gay scene.
Ease your way in by exploring the Altstadt
The Altstadt (Old City) is a good spot to ease into the city and makes for an interesting contrast to the gleaming skyscrapers. Home to impressive Gothic architecture and the medieval city centre Römerberg, whose 14th and 15th century buildings were restored post war. From there head to one of Frankfurt’s traditional coffee shops such as Café Wacker, on Kornmarkt, before hitting the Zeil. This mile long pedestrianised shopping street is home to high street brands and the new MyZeil shopping centre, worth a look for its impressive glass construction. When you’ve finished splashing your cash, head up to the roof terrace at the top of the Zeilgalerie shopping centre for impressive views of the city.
Get your lesbian shop on
Just off the Zeil you’ll find Inside Her an upmarket lesbian run sex shop, spread over two large floors. Here you can stock up on sex toys, sexy clubwear, and underwear. A bit futher up, near Konstablerwache, is the Oscar Wilde Bookshop on Alte Gasse, carrying a wide selection of queer books (mainly in German), DVDs and rainbow coloured accessories, it is also a good place to grab some scene flyers and listing magazines. If your German is any good, pick up a free copy of the excellent GAB magazine, which has detailed scene listings. For something a little more unusual make your way out to the Bornheim neighbourhood, where enterprising Lesbian designer Beatrice Anlauff runs Fraktali, a shop selling one of a kind bags, jewellery, furniture and accessories, all made from recycled materials.
Lesbian nightlife in Frankfurt
La Gata is Frankfurt’s only lesbian bar. Owner/Bar woman Ricky has been looking after city’s lesbian community since 1971 and claims it’s the oldest continually operating lesbian bar in the world. For that reason alone it’s worth a visit; think of it as a herstory lesson. Otherwise it’s like stepping back into an eighties time-warp, from the décor and music to the clientele.
For something a little bit more 21st century check out the bars in Frankfurt’s Bermuda Triangle gay area located around the streets of Alte Gasse and Elefantengasse, just a few minutes walk north of Konstablerwache. Here you will find scene favourites such as the mixed Lucky’s Manhattan and smaller bars such as dark and smoke filled Central, (Elefantengasse 11) which hosts a weekly Mädelsabend (girls night)for lesbians and friends every Thursday from 8pm. A little further north on Bleichstrasse is the ever-popular Pulse. This mixed gay & lesbian restaurant, bar and club is the place to seen and a German celeb hang out. At the weekend various DJs spin House and Electro tunes until 4am.
Claudia Bubenheim, the promoter extraordinaire behind Xtremities, has been organising the best Lesbian parties and club nights in town for over 11 years. Check out the website for the next event. If you visit in the summer, try and coincide your trip with one of their legendary lesbian boat parties that sail along the river Main (see photos above). Also keep an eye out for events featuring House DJ Miss Thunderpussy who has been keeping lesbian and gay parties dancing for over 20 years. Every July Konstablerwache plays host to CSD Frankfurt (Christopher Street Day aka Frankfurt Pride), one of the biggest Pride festivals in Germany.
Time for some culture
You can indulge your cultural side on the ‘Museumsufer’ (Museum Embankment), which has a selection of museums to revile Berlin’s, including the impressive Deutsches Filmmuseum, the German Architecture Museum, and the Museum für Moderene Kunst (Museum of Modern Art). Frankfurt is also the birthplace of poet and writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his house, where he wrote the masterpiece Faust, is now a museum. Many of Frankfurt’s skyscrapers are viewing attractions in themselves. Most of them are not open to the public one exception being the Main Tower, only completed in 2000, which has a viewing terrace allowing stunning panoramic views of the city. If visiting in December, the Zeil and Römerberg also host beautiful traditional Christmas markets – well worth a visit.
Where to eat
Frankfurt has a wide selection of restaurants catering to every taste and budget. For inexpensive eats in funky surroundings try Urban Kitchen on Kaiserstrasse, which serves up pizzas, salads, burgers, and noodles. Or try a a traditional Schnitzel in the mixed gay restaurant/café/bar Harvey’s on Bornheimer Landstrasse. If you want to sample the local tipple Ebbelwei (Apple Wine) served in a traditional ‘bembel’ (jug), Alte Sachsenhausen, the city’s biggest concentration of bars (think Frankfurt’s answer to Temple Bar) is the place. In recent years this area has lost some of its charm and is now home to a Hooters.
Where to stay
After all that you’ll need somewhere to rest your little gay head. Frankfurt’s multiculturalism combined with a German ‘live and let live’ attitude means no hotel will bat an eyelid at a same-sex couple checking into a double room, so take your pick. For something stylish check out The Pure boutique hotel near the main train station, where white minimalist decor, dark wooden floors, and iPod docks are the order of the day. Or if you’re on a budget try the excellent Frankfurt Hostel. This friendly little hostel has en-suite dorms and is centrally located.
A version of this article was first published in GCN magazine, in October 2011