Cruise clubs and leather bars have been closing around the world. London lost its last leather bar with the closing of the Backstreet earlier this year. Does that mean kinky, queer Europeans have lost their interest in fetish festivals? We think not!
Europe is home to several big fetish weekends where you can explore some of your wildest fantasies with like-minded souls. Here are five outstanding leather events in Europe to start planning for right now:
Darklands takes place in the Belgium city of Antwerp. Its organizers recently announced the date of the 2023 festival: March 7-14.
Running since 2010, Darklands is a big deal: Five whole days dedicated to fetish partying and exploration, with a daytime festival featuring vendors from all over the continent and beyond. You can also expect entertainment and educational workshops. This is followed by wild, dress-code parties in the evening.
The daytime festival takes place in an industrial-chic venue just outside the city center. Next door to this is the daytime “Rebel Outpost” tent, which is free for anyone to check out.
There’s a special host hotel nearby (Darklands the Hotel in conjunction with A-Stay Antwerp Hotel). All of the 160 rooms are reserved for Darklands visitors, and organizers promise “A breakfast tailored to our community, a playpen for the pups” and the possibility of sling rental. If you don’t manage to secure one of those rooms, the event offers plenty of other suggestions on its website. The 2022 festival attracted around 17,500 participants, and organizers tell us they sold out 16 hotels.
Some of the money raised at the event goes to a chosen charity, which changes each year, and the We Are One Foundation. The organization dedicates itself to supporting the queer fetish community.
Men pack out the evening parties, but the daytime festivities welcome all.
The Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco is possibly the most famous queer BDSM gathering in the world. It dates back to 1984. Folsom Europe, which takes place in Berlin, arrived in 2003.
The 2022 event runs September 7-11th, with the signature, 10-hour street fair on Saturday 10th in Fuggerstr./Welserstr. in Berlin‘s fetish district, Schöneberg. The dates for the 2023 event have not yet been announced, but it tends to take place in early September.
Like San Francisco, expect hundreds of fetish lovers to gather for this kinky extravaganza. Besides the opportunity to shop and mingle with like-minded souls during the day, Folsom Europe offers a variety of big nighttime events, with organizers like leather devotees BLUF. For anyone who’s never visited Berlin before, there’s also the opportunity to take part in a bus tour and party boat cruise of the city.
Berlin has a reputation as one of the most decadent, anything-goes cities in Europe, and the Folsom festival certainly ticks all the right boxes. Like all the events mentioned here, it’s also community-minded. It’s collected over €300,000 for worthy causes since 2003, with recent donations going to queer organizations in Ukraine and HIV-related non-profits.
EURIX is the shortened name for the European Rigger & Model Exchange. This unique event, for all genders and sexual orientations, attracts those with a kink for rope bondage and other forms of BDSM. It began life in 2012. The 21st gathering will take place on November 7-12 at Holzmarkt/ Säälchen in Berlin, Germany.
If you want to try shibari, but need someone to show you the ropes (pun intended), you can sign up for a five-day absolute beginner’s course. This includes 30 hours of intense instruction on how to undertake rope bondage safely. Alternatively, more experienced rope bondage practitioners can take part in a myriad of workshops, meet up with potential new play partners, or watch internationally renowned experts demonstrate their techniques.
The artistic use of rope bondage, more commonly known in the kink community as shibari, traces its roots back to an ancient Japanese martial art called Hojōjutsu. The art form has since evolved throughout the centuries by shibari practitioners around the world.
EURIX brings together European riggers and models twice a year. After the November gathering, the dates for 2023 are as follows: EURIX No XXII April, 17- 22, 2023, and EURIX No XXIII, October, 16 – 21, 2023.
Fetish Week London
Dating app Recon is behind the big, annual, Fetish Week London, aimed primarily at gay men. It provides plenty of opportunities to meet like-minded men and dress in your favorite gear, with some parties taking place in cruisy sex venues and others in bigger spaces with headlining DJs and kinky cabaret.
It normally runs around the second week of July. The most recent festival offered everything from pup playrooms, mazes, FF zones, spanking and other CP activities, naked parties, and sportswear get-togethers. There were also plenty of shopping opportunities, an unplugged music session, and a queer walking tour of the West End (because no one can party for seven whole days!).
Sleazy Madrid is part electronic music festival and part fetish free-for-all! It takes place over three separate weeks each year. These include parties to coincide with Spain Fetish Week (the end of April/first week of May), Madrid Pride (the beginning of July), and also a Winter edition in early December.
The next gathering will be the Sleazy Madrid Winter festival from December 2-10, 2022.
Unlike the other festivals mentioned here, Sleazy Madrid offers more of a circuit party vibe. Set up by promoters Manuel Carranco and Toni Blanco, it’s been running for the past 22 years.
Expect big-name guest DJs at a different kinky clubbing extravaganza each night. The dancing begins super late and runs until the morning, with go-gos in outrageous, custom-designed fetish gear. Associated events include pop-ups and x-rated art shows.
If you don’t spend the daytime catching up on sleep, Spain’s capital city offers plenty of sights to explore and tapas to eat. The weather is also sure to be hot, hot, hot (at least for the May and July gatherings).