Berlin

Nearly a century after Weimar-era Berlin redefined the meanings of decadence and excess, the city is still pulsing at pretty much all hours of the night. Berlin nightlife still pushes boundaries and takes risks. In fact, to non-Berliners who aren’t used to it, some of the clubs and bars here can appear to be operating far out of the boundaries of decency—or even the law.

Many Berlin bars will often open as cafés in the afternoon, slowly getting darker and smokier as the hours wear on and the coffee and tea turns into beer and wine. In Germany the term Kneipen is used for down-to-earth bars that are comparable to English pubs. These places are pretty simple and laid-back; you probably shouldn't try to order a three-ingredient cocktail at one unless you spot a lengthy drinks menu. If you're looking for something more upscale, elegant bars and lounges can be found in Mitte’s Scheunenviertel, in Charlottenburg, and in Berlin’s five-star hotels, and new cocktail bars are cropping up in unexpected places, like Kreuzberg, Schöneberg, and even Neukölln.

The best and most notorious clubs in Berlin occupy old industrial buildings in formerly shabby, alternative neighborhoods like Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. As with bars, the snazziest clubs and lounges can be found near high-end hotels in Mitte around Unter den Linden and Gendarmenmarkt, or in Charlottenburg. Clubs are notorious for getting a shockingly late (or should we say early?) start: many don’t open until midnight, and aren’t worth visiting before 2 or 3 in the morning. Happily, the club scene is far less snooty and self-absorbed than in other major cities: for the most part, you’ll encounter lax door policies and casually dressed revelers. Since the fall of the Wall, Berlin has become a mecca for electronica, and that means club goers take dancing as seriously as partying. Prepare to be swept up in waves of endless, exuberant movement, much of it—especially in the case of Berlin’s most popular techno club Berghain—fueled by drug use. If that’s not your thing, though, don’t worry: there’s something for everyone in the city these days, especially now that the landscape has gone a bit more upscale. Note that clubs often switch the music they play nightly so the crowds and popularity can vary widely. Though club nights are driven by the DJ name, the music genres are written in English in listing magazines.

Berlin is unmistakably Germany's gay capital, and many Europeans come to partake in the diverse scene, which concentrates on Schöneberg (around Nollendorfplatz) and Kreuzberg. Check out the magazines Siegessäule (includes English-language listings and articles), (030), and blu.

You might not know to look at it, but Berlin is a veritable jazz destination. Home to one of Germany’s earliest programs of jazz study (at the Üniversitat der Kunste or University of the Arts) Berlin attracts serious jazz musicians from around the world, and nurtures its own homegrown talents. Aside from the large, long-running clubs focusing on international acts, smaller, cozier jazz clubs, barely larger than living rooms, are sprinkled throughout the city. The Berlin Jazz Festival takes place every November, uniting many of them.

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  • 1. b-flat Acoustic Music & Jazz Club

    Mitte

    Young German artists perform most nights at b-flat. The well-known and well-attended Wednesday jam sessions focus on experimental jazz....

    Young German artists perform most nights at b-flat. The well-known and well-attended Wednesday jam sessions focus on experimental jazz.

    Dircksenstr. 40
    - 030 - 283–3123
  • 2. Berghain

    Friedrichshain

    In an imposing power station in a barren stretch of land between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain (the name borrows from both neighborhoods), Berghain has achieved international...

    In an imposing power station in a barren stretch of land between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain (the name borrows from both neighborhoods), Berghain has achieved international fame as the hedonistic heart of techno music—it was originally a 1990s techno club called Ostgut. It's only open as a club on weekends (for 48-plus hours straight, from midnight on Friday to early Monday), though many international music acts pass through for concert performances during the week. It's become something of a local tradition to arrive on Sunday morning or afternoon and dance until closing. Upstairs, the slightly smaller (but by no means intimate) Panorama Bar opens on Friday at midnight and offers different beats.

    Am Wriezener Bahnhof
    - 030 - 2936–0210
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  • 3. Buck and Breck

    Mitte

    The entrance is so Berlin: an unmarked, nondescript door across from Weinsbergpark has a buzzer that reads "Bar." But once you're let inside this dark...

    The entrance is so Berlin: an unmarked, nondescript door across from Weinsbergpark has a buzzer that reads "Bar." But once you're let inside this dark and moody speakeasy and perched at the long table in its main room, which only seats 12, you'll be treated to classic, well-executed cocktails and a hip and lively crowd.

    Brunnenstr. 177
    - 030 - 4055–5994
  • 4. Clärchen's Ballhaus

    Mitte

    A night out at Clärchen's Ballhaus (Little Clara's Ballroom) is like a trip back in time; opened in 1913, the club is an impressive sight....

    A night out at Clärchen's Ballhaus (Little Clara's Ballroom) is like a trip back in time; opened in 1913, the club is an impressive sight. On summer nights, lines often stretch out the door, while the front courtyard comes alive with patrons dining alfresco on brick-oven pizzas. The main ballroom features a different style of music every night and there are often dance lessons before the party starts. One of the best things about this place, though, is the variety of people of different ages, nationalities, and social backgrounds.

    Auguststr. 24
    - 030 - 282–9295
  • 5. Monkey Bar

    Charlottenburg

    On the rooftop of the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, this often-packed watering hole affords scenic views over the Berlin Zoo and Tiergarten Park and an...

    On the rooftop of the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, this often-packed watering hole affords scenic views over the Berlin Zoo and Tiergarten Park and an impressive range of well-crafted cocktails. Expect a crowd at the ground-floor entrance (no matter what day of the week)—this place is worth the wait.

    Budapester Str. 40
    - 030 - 1202–21210
  • 6. Mr. Susan

    Mitte

    American transplant Susan Choi helms this airy and innovative cocktail haven. Though the drinks list is small, it focuses on seasonal ingredients (think peaches in...

    American transplant Susan Choi helms this airy and innovative cocktail haven. Though the drinks list is small, it focuses on seasonal ingredients (think peaches in summer and mushrooms in fall) and interesting flavor combinations you won't find elsewhere—plus it's nonsmoking, rare for a Berlin bar.

    Krausnickstr. 1
    - 160 - 536–7463
  • 7. Prater Garten

    Prenzlauer Berg

    This sprawling, 600-seat Biergarten is where Berliners go when the urge for a hefeweizen and pretzel strikes. Grab a beer and a snack (a bratwurst...

    This sprawling, 600-seat Biergarten is where Berliners go when the urge for a hefeweizen and pretzel strikes. Grab a beer and a snack (a bratwurst is the classic choice), squeeze in at one of the long community tables, and get ready for some marathon drinking—at least as a bystander, if not a participant. If the outdoor boisterousness is too much, opt for an indoor table at the slightly more upscale restaurant, which serves an expanded menu of German classics like Wiener schnitzel. The beer garden is open from April to September, while the restaurant operates year-round.

    Kastanienallee 7–9
    - 030 - 448–5688 - restaurant

    Nightlife Details

    Rate Includes: Restaurant closed Sun.
  • 8. Victoria Bar

    Tiergarten

    The elegant Victoria Bar is a stylish homage to 1960s and '70s jet-setters, and the cocktails are mixed with care. It typically attracts a middle-age,...

    The elegant Victoria Bar is a stylish homage to 1960s and '70s jet-setters, and the cocktails are mixed with care. It typically attracts a middle-age, affluent, and artsy crowd.

    Potsdamer Str. 102
    - 030 - 2575–9977
  • 9. A-Trane

    Charlottenburg

    A-Trane in West Berlin has hosted countless greats throughout the years, including Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis. Numerous free events make it a good place...

    A-Trane in West Berlin has hosted countless greats throughout the years, including Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis. Numerous free events make it a good place to see jazz on a budget.

    Bleibtreustr. 1
    - 030 - 313–2550
  • 10. Bar Tausend

    Mitte

    In the grand tradition of upscale clubs, Bar Tausend is well hidden behind a steel door under the Friedrichstrasse S-bahn tracks and guarded by a...

    In the grand tradition of upscale clubs, Bar Tausend is well hidden behind a steel door under the Friedrichstrasse S-bahn tracks and guarded by a discerning doorman. The futuristic main bar area, basically a long tunnel with circular lights at either end and mirrors above, looks like something out of the classic German film Metropolis. It would feel a bit claustrophobic if not for the excellent cocktails and stylish clientele. Hidden behind the bar is an even harder-to-get-into restaurant, whispered about by Berlin foodies—the so-called Tausend Cantina. For an unforgettable meal, call in advance for reservations.

    Schiffbauerdamm 11
    - 030 - 2758–2070
  • 11. BAR-O-meter

    This small vaulted cellar lounge, whose comprehensive cocktail list offers more than 180 classics and house creations, is much loved by both locals and visitors....

    This small vaulted cellar lounge, whose comprehensive cocktail list offers more than 180 classics and house creations, is much loved by both locals and visitors.

    Gutenbergerstr. 103
    - 0331 - 270–2880
  • 12. Becketts Kopf

    Prenzlauer Berg

    The only indication anything exists behind this bar's curtained facade is a glowing photograph of the head of Samuel Beckett in the window. Press the...

    The only indication anything exists behind this bar's curtained facade is a glowing photograph of the head of Samuel Beckett in the window. Press the buzzer and if there’s space, you’ll be ushered into the dimly lit, gentlemen’s club-like surroundings. Settle into a leather armchair and choose from sophisticated cocktails like the Lusitanian or the Widow’s Kiss, all crafted with artisanal spirits. Or, try a classic martini—one of the best in town. Reservations are recommended.

    Pappellallee 64
    - 030 - 4403–5880 - for reservations
  • 13. Bellmann Bar

    Kreuzberg

    The candlelit, rough-wood tables, water-stained walls, and frequent appearances by local musicians just dropping by for a few tunes give this cozy cocktail bar an...

    The candlelit, rough-wood tables, water-stained walls, and frequent appearances by local musicians just dropping by for a few tunes give this cozy cocktail bar an artsy, old-world feel. Lovingly nicknamed "the Gramophone Bar" for the old gramophone that sits in its window, Bellmann is a place to linger and chat over a glass of wine or a whiskey from the outstanding collection.

    Reichenbergerstr. 103
  • 14. Club der Visionaere

    Treptow

    It may not be much more than a series of wooden rafts and a few shoddily constructed shacks, but this club is one of the...

    It may not be much more than a series of wooden rafts and a few shoddily constructed shacks, but this club is one of the most beloved outdoor venues in town. The place is packed at all hours, either with clubbers on their last stop of the evening, or with locals and tourists soaking up the sunshine on a Sunday morning.

    Am Flutgraben 1
    - 030 - 6951–8942
  • 15. Connection Club

    Schöneberg

    Just south of Wittenbergplatz, the dance club Connection is known for heavy house music and lots of dark corners....

    Just south of Wittenbergplatz, the dance club Connection is known for heavy house music and lots of dark corners.

    Fuggerstr. 33
    - 030 - 218–1432
  • 16. Eschenbräu

    Wedding

    This Wedding brewery has major bragging rights within Berlin's craft beer scene. Not only has it been around since 2001, it also offers something the...

    This Wedding brewery has major bragging rights within Berlin's craft beer scene. Not only has it been around since 2001, it also offers something the newcomers don't: a beer garden. The brewery’s taproom is hidden away on the ground floor of an undistinguished apartment complex; finding it is like discovering buried treasure. The brewery usually has three concoctions on tap, which can include anything from the typical pilsner or hefeweizen to the unusual smoky Rauchbier to drinks with playful names like the Weddinator or the Black Mamba. There's also a small distillery on the premises, where ambitious and talented owner Martin Eschenbrenner tries his hand at schnapps and whiskey.

    Triftstr. 67
    - 030 - 462–6837
  • 17. Facciola

    Kreuzberg

    Facciola looks like a lovely little wine bar from the outside—large windows with some greenery, a red awning, a handful of Berliners sitting on the...

    Facciola looks like a lovely little wine bar from the outside—large windows with some greenery, a red awning, a handful of Berliners sitting on the stoop. Inside, the bartenders make the environment more than cozy, though. Fresh Italian foods and snacks are available on candlelit tables, but it’s the impressive selection of Italian wines that make the place stand out—and the over-the-top-friendly bartenders. Don't miss Aperitivo Thursdays, when light Italian snacks are served with every drink.

    Forster Str. 5
    - 0176 - 3036–8903
  • 18. Grace Bar

    Charlottenburg

    Fashionable locals flock to this swanky cocktail bar in the Hotel Zoo—both to its ground-floor, speakeasy-style space and in warmer weather, to the rooftop terrace....

    Fashionable locals flock to this swanky cocktail bar in the Hotel Zoo—both to its ground-floor, speakeasy-style space and in warmer weather, to the rooftop terrace. The drinks list leans toward the light and fruity, with signature cocktails that artfully fuse South American and Asian flavors. Dress to impress, especially on busy Friday and Saturday nights, when DJs spin house music.

    Kurfürstendamm 25
    - 030 - 8843–7750
  • 19. Green Door

    Schöneberg

    A grown-up crowd focused on conversation and appreciating outstanding cocktails heads to Green Door, a Schöneberg classic (note that smoking is allowed). The decor is...

    A grown-up crowd focused on conversation and appreciating outstanding cocktails heads to Green Door, a Schöneberg classic (note that smoking is allowed). The decor is retro 1960s style, with gingham walls and floor lamps.

    Winterfeldstr. 50
    - 030 - 215–2515
  • 20. Hafen

    Schöneberg

    The stylish decor and the energetic crowd at Hafen make it a popular singles hangout. ...

    The stylish decor and the energetic crowd at Hafen make it a popular singles hangout.

    Motzstr. 19
    - 030 - 211–4118

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