Still a couple of decades ago the best places to find company were the dance floor and quiet corners of a bar. Nowadays Tinder, Grindr and other dating apps dominate the dating scene also in the LGBTQ+ community. Is there then space for gay bars in the new brave virtual world? As empowering meeting places – and safer spaces – yes there is!
The term "legendary" has experienced inflation due to overuse, but in the case of DTM, its cultivation is justified. Originally opened as Don't Tell Mama in 1992 on Annankatu, Kamppi, DTM is the longest-standing nightclub in Helsinki catering to the LGBTQ+ community. In the restaurant business, 30 years is an eternity, and "Mama" has indeed become a second living room, almost a home, for many generations. Its fourth reincarnation has been eagerly anticipated, and finally, it is ready. Carefully renovated in an industrial style, the venue exudes an industrial atmosphere and includes two dance floors (one of which has a ceiling height of 8 meters!) and an outdoor area during the summer. Expect clubs, live gigs, drag shows, balls - everything queer.
Mann's Street is a nightspot for those with more "mature taste", and an absolute must-go for friends of karaoke. Found on the central Mannerheimintie since 1998, this relaxed bar has preserved its status as an old-school original regardless of trends that come and go. Names aside, the bar has always also welcomed women who like women. It is easy to recommend "Manssi" to visitors. For the humble price of a beer, you can dive into multilayered Finn-nostalgia; gay karaoke with a provincial vibe, smack in the middle of Helsinki!
Mannerheimintie 12 A
The tiny Fairytale is a classic gay bar with a doorbell and non-transparent windows. Situated in the Kallio district, the bar resonates with the vibe of its unapologetic surroundings and has a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. The little bar's vibe is even a bit David Lynch-like. In the summertime, visitors can enjoy the sun on the terrace and admire the bustle of Helsinginkatu with a summery cocktail. There is a mere handful of seats at the bar, so this is not the place to go with a large party crowd.
Bear Park Cafe "13"
An interior with a personal touch and cinnamon buns make Bear Park Cafe a gentle and cozy bear café. It is located at the corner of the Kallio park carrying a very suitable name: Karhupuisto ('Bear Park'). Stuff yourself sweet and take in the wonderful flower arrangements of the park, and admire the statue of a bear and a beehive.
The gay establishment on Bulevardi is one stroke posher than its competitors. Located on Bulevardi, the central street bursting with old-time charm, Room BLVD is a tad bit posher than its competitors. The bar relies on a wide champagne and wine selection, and a minimalist Nordic style. The wine list ranges from casual bottles to the Penfolds Grange red wine with a price tag of 554 euros. BLVD Room is most suitable for afterwork drinks, a date, or other relaxed encounter. There is unfortunately no dance floor. In the summertime, the terrace takes over the courtyard, allowing all kinds of stars to twinkle.
Street Pride Bar
Street Pride Bar is a new, rainbow-tinted bar in the Kamppi district (at the corner of Malminrinne and Lapinlahdenkatu). A prime spot for casual socialising, the bar also features regular activities such as a pub quiz night. Guest DJs take the booth on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and weekends. The clientele is a diverse one, and the bar places special emphasis on a multicultural mood. Check Street Pride Bar’s Instagram feed for their newest programme updates.
The past couple years have proven to be a gloomy spell for Helsinki’s LGBTIQ+ club scene. Within a short time, both of the city’s big classic gay clubs, DTM and Hercules, had to shut down their operations due to space issues in their respective properties. First opened in 2000, Hercules is now making a strong comeback. The new central location in the Brutalist “sausage house” across from the main station has not tinkered with the club’s core concept. The new Hercules is just as proud to offer no-frills hits galore, from Euro Dance to Schlager –– with ever-flowing beer on tap for thirsty rainbow folks and their pals. See the club's website for details on entrance, coatcheck and bathrooms.
One of the most refreshing additions onto Helsinki's gay nightnightlife scene is not a bar, more of a movement. According to their own description, Helsinki Homoinvaasio (Helsinki Gay Invasion) has the aim of shaking up the gay scene in Helsinki, of luring the gays out to have fun and to meet new faces. Concretely speaking, this means taking over a random bar or club with the gay community, without prior warning. The selected venue and time are announced on the movement's Facebook page. The bar conquerers can get to know each other, hang out, and bring "homosexual abomination" from the dark corners right in the middle of heteronormative environments. Long live everyday politics and diversity!