Munich's club culture

The open-minded city

Munich also claims to be the world city of tolerance, diversity and openness. The 1972 Olympic Games stood for this and it is still reflected today in the city's club culture, which is subversive in parts. From the Pimpernel and the Palais to the Blitz club, the key phrase in Munich is: live and let live. And party a bit more outrageously if you like.

Pimpernel:

still plenty to see here

 

What to expect

A Munich nightlife institution that dates right back to the 1930s. It started out as a brothel, then after the Second World War it became a meeting place for sex workers, before it was transformed into an exclusive gay bar which would serve champagne into the early hours – even back in the days of regulated closing times. This is where Freddie Mercury partied with abandon, drag queens fought with their punters, and legendary DJ and music producer Sven Väth once arrived at an advanced hour with a hundred party animals for an after-hours session.

Most of today’s revellers may be unaware of the club’s storied history, but perhaps the wood-panelled walls have become infused with the weird and wonderful events they have witnessed – in any case, the atmosphere of this small, dimly lit club seems to incite hedonistic parties.

 

Who parties here

Though it became known as a gay bar, Pimpernel was actually always a meeting place for people of every sexual orientation – the main thing was to experience something together! That philosophy has been amplified since the end of the ‘90s, and now the club attracts not only people from the queer community, but anyone in search of some late-night festivity. So you can expect to run into people from all walks of life at Pimpernel – from students to leather-loving exhibitionists, and from drag queens to bank clerks.

 

When to go

Pimpernel is one of the only clubs in Munich to open every day, and it does so from midnight until 6 am. It usually fills up when the other bars and clubs close.

Pimpernel, Müllerstrasse 56

Palais Club:

making day into night

 

What to expect

The Palais Club is the place for anyone who thinks that daybreak is much too soon to go home and stop partying. The small club has been going in Bahnhofsviertel since 2002 and has become the most popular (in fact, the only) genuinely after-hours club in Munich. The interior delicately and lovingly reflects the seedy history of the place:

in the 1950s people would come to gamble in back rooms; then the venue became a “cabaret with erotic performances” and later a kind of strip club. As soon as you ascend the narrow stairs to the first floor, you are greeted by a prodigious volume of red velvet, leopard print and gold. To fuel patrons’ partying till noon, from 7am the club serves a breakfast that has become famous – or infamous – though you’ll notice that for most, the drink of choice is something stronger than coffee.

 

Who parties here

It is said that there are sober early risers who sometimes come to start their day with music and dancing; but most people in the club have been out all night and aren’t ready to go home yet. As the Palais Club is generally the last venue open in the city, it attracts a very mixed crowd.

 

When to go

The Palais Club is open Fridays and Saturdays until twelve – midday that is, not midnight. It usually fills up as the sun rises.

Palais Club, Arnulfstrasse 16-18

Blitz:

Where your smartphone can take a break

 

What to expect

On opening in 2017, the Blitz nightclub raised eyebrows with a door policy that had previously only been seen in Berlin: to get in, you have to cover the camera on your smartphone. This immediately gave cause to wonder: what debauchery that can’t be photographed goes on there? The proprietors clarified that their aim was to motivate guests to have a good time, by encouraging them to take a break from obsessively swiping their screens.

Though it’s worth noting that Blitz does host some nights that many guests would prefer not to be immortalised in pictures. For example, there are its “Cruise” and “Playground” parties, aimed largely at the queer community, where anything and everything goes in terms of clothing – from fully dressed to half naked to completely naked. But most evenings the Blitz is just a normal club – now boasting an excellent sound system that will delight hardcore techno fans in particular.

 

Who parties here

While leather harnesses and mesh tops are welcome, there is a dress code specifying one thing you absolutely cannot wear at Blitz: fur. Anyone in fur will not get past the door. This also means the club attracts a crowd that tends to be hip and young.

 

When to go

Although most events officially end at eight in the morning, parties at Blitz can run well beyond that. Many people arrive earlier though, when the main acts are playing – usually around two in the morning.

Blitz, Museumsinsel 1

Harry Klein:

where people constantly reinvent themselves

 

What to expect

There are few restaurateurs in Munich who have made such a lasting impression on the local club scene as David Süß. In the ‘90s he ran Ultraschall, the city’s first pure techno club, before going on to open Harry Klein in the former Optimol factory buildings. The club has since moved to Sonnenstrasse, but remains one of the first ports of call for wild techno parties. The secret to its success can be found not only in the upscale décor of the club, but also its proximity to the scene and the people it serves.

Harry Klein was the first of the city’s established clubs to launch a series of explicitly queer parties, including “Garry Klein”, a drag night; the venue also hosts the “Marry Klein” feminist and lesbian festival each year, which sees exclusively female DJs working the turntables.

 

Who parties here

Who you meet at Harry Klein depends largely on the event and the day of the week. Wednesdays are aimed at Munich’s queer community (Garry Klein night), while Thursdays are when up-and-coming DJs step up to the turntables, attracting a younger crowd – then at the weekend, everyone parties together.

 

When to go

Harry Klein is not the kind of club you “pop into” for a bit – it’s somewhere to start and finish your night out. It fills up around midnight and closes at 7 am.

Harry Klein, Sonnenstrasse 8

NY. Club:

with a celebrated gay heritage

 

What to expect

First it was called New York New York, then the New York Club and now it goes by NY.Club – but there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: Munich’s only purely LGBTQI+ club is an institution in the city’s nightlife. And if you are in search of an extraordinary party, you simply cannot pass it by.

Freddie Mercury knew that back in the early ‘80s; then in the ‘90s the club also became a venue for the first larger after-hours parties. These days Fridays are especially popular as this is “Luxuspop” night, a regular party that has been voted the city’s best multiple times in the Munich Nightlife Awards.

The club is usually well attended – meaning things are almost as cosy on the dancefloor as they are in the obligatory darkroom. Now and then the venue hosts men-only events, at which guests are welcome to arrive in costume or naked – with full nudity even earning free entry.

 

Who parties here

The club’s offerings are aimed mainly at the LGBTQI+ community, with a particular emphasis on gay men. It does also host regular “Amazonas” nights for people of all genders and sexual preferences. It is best to check what’s happening on a given night.

 

When to go

As the NY.Club has virtually no competition in terms of what’s on offer, cheerful party people generally turn up here pretty early. The club closes sometime between 5am and 7am.

N.Y. Club, Elisenstrasse 3

Zur Gruam:

where nobody is out of place

 

What to expect

What is it they say? Location, location, location! Zur Gruam scores many points there: it is situated on the busy crossroads of Thalkirchnerstrasse and Lagerhausstrasse, amid a sea of grey concrete and nestled beside a railway bridge. In short, the small, brightly spray-painted bar has the advantage (no small thing in a bustling city) of being in a location with no other people around – in particular, no residents to complain about noisy punters. As a consequence things get pretty wild here, with partygoers celebrating and drinking until dawn.

But it would be a misnomer to call the few square metres of Zur Gruam a club – the space is simply too narrow to dance in. But this place is nonetheless a cosmos of its own, a blend of Boazn (traditional local bar) and club, that still makes room for a mixing desk and a DJ despite the limited space. The pub has been here for over 30 years, so it has seen some things in its time. Back when Sendling was a rougher area than it is today, the bar staff found themselves often having to reach for the baseball bat that was kept under the bar. Things are much more harmonious these days, though just as social thanks to good music and a relaxed crowd.

 

Who parties here

Lovers of the finer things in life who also value carefully selected music. Along with electronic music, this is one of the few clubs in Munich to play reggae.

 

When to go

Zur Gruam is usually the last stop on a long night, but it doesn’t really matter what time you get there. The modest proportions of the venue call to mind something Andy Warhol said: “One’s company, two’s a crowd, and three’s a party!”

Zur Gruam, Thalkirchnerstrasse 114

Import Export:

where anything is possible

 

What to expect

Import Export was established in 2010 as part of a project by the Münchner Kammerspiele theatre company. Four years later it moved from Bahnhofsviertel to the Kreativquartier, onto Dachauer Strasse. This is where the “sociocultural, urban community centre” found its true home – because Import Export ensures creativity is truly found inside this place that has been labelled “kreativ”. The former locksmith’s shop is now a venue for concerts, parties, readings, discussions, plays and workshops. Essentially, Import Export is a free space where people can experiment without fear of failure. And its programme is accordingly unusual.

It includes a musician who presents songs about mushrooms, for example her piece “Erschöpfttintling” (“exhausted shaggy ink cap”), which she performs while lying on her back. The “Eksotik Meksotik” series of events sees bands play dance music from areas east and south east of Europe, featuring genres such as Kurdish Halay, ganzino music and Arabesque, Anatolian or Arabian psychedelia. Concerts are often followed by parties that go on late into the night. The “Turn Table Tennis” event format is especially popular in the summer, with table tennis in the inner courtyard while young DJs are allowed to try out their skills on the turntables.

 

Who parties here

Anyone who wants to expand their horizons and actively help shape what happens in the city. Lots of artists, DJs, musicians, activists and creatives.

 

When to go

Anyone who wants to expand their horizons and actively help shape what happens in the city. Lots of artists, DJs, musicians, activists and creatives.

Import Export, Schwere-Reiter-Strasse 2h

Feta Records events:

where it’s not just the catering that’s delectable

 

What to expect

In the ‘90s, it was still completely normal to take the S-Bahn out of town to party. This was because of strict regulations that were in place then, enforcing early closing times in the city centre. Once those rules were relaxed clubbing moved into town, and ever since, party people have almost exclusively gone out in the heart of Munich. But for a few years now this has shifted a little, with at least some revellers looking to other places.

This is due to new initiatives such as the Starnberg-based association Feta Records. Since 2016, it has organised the “Feta Morgana Festival” on a patch of forest and meadowland in Landstetten, between Starnberger See and Ammersee (lakes). The team spends almost a year working on organising the two-day festival – which features a lot of dancing of course, but also much more to enjoy. A small wooden town is built in a forest clearing, with food stalls, art and light installations, live painting, magic shows, dance performances and artists.

Even if you miss the festival, it’s still worth following the activities of Feta Records. The association is currently working on taking over an abandoned inn, with hopes of opening a creative centre that includes an open-air cinema and dancefloor. It also organises regular events in venues such as Harry Klein and the Rote Sonne, which present a great opportunity to meet people and hear all about what you can look forward to at the Feta Morgana Festival.

 

Who parties here

People from Starnberg, but also Munich residents who love subculture.

 

When to go

As early as possible! After all, you don’t want to miss any of the impressive performances (and you still need enough time to have a dance).

Feta Records e.V.

 

 

Text: Nansen & Piccard, Photos: Frank Stolle, Rockmuseum München, Anja Schauberger, Muffatwerk

Covid-19: current regulations

Hotels and accommodation establishments, shops, indoor and outdoor catering, and also clubs and discos are open. However, restrictions apply. All other important information on the coronavirus and your stay in Munich can be found here.

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