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. Berghain

    Friedrichshain | Dance Clubs

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

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  • 2. Clärchen's Ballhaus

    Mitte | Dance Clubs

    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...Read More

  • 3. Club der Visionaere

    Treptow | Bars/Pubs

    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...Read More

  • 4. Prater

    Prenzlauer Berg | Brewpubs/Beer Gardens

    This sprawling biergarten, one of the city's beloved institutions, is where Berliners go when the urge for a hefeweizen and pretzel strikes...Read More

  • 5. A-Trane

    Charlottenburg | Music Clubs

    A-Trane in West Berlin has hosted countless greats throughout the years, including Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis. Weekly free jam nights...Read More

  • 6. Admiralspalast

    Mitte | Cabaret

    The completely restored 1920s entertainment emporium Admiralspalast draws on its glitzy Jazz Age glamour, and houses several stages and a restaurant...Read More

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  • 7. b-flat

    Mitte | Music Clubs

    Young German artists perform most nights at b-flat. The club has some of the best sight lines in town, as well as a magnificent floor-to-ceiling...Read More

  • 8. Bar Jeder Vernunft

    Wilmersdorf | Cabaret

    The intimate Bar Jeder Vernunft is inside a glamorous tent and usually showcases intriguing solo entertainers as well as concerts and comedy...Read More

  • 9. Bar Tausend

    Mitte | Bars/Pubs

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

  • 10. BAR-O-meter

    Bars/Pubs

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

  • 11. Becketts Kopf

    Prenzlauer Berg | Bars/Pubs

    A bar for those who like to enjoy a drink in relative calmn (and a big armchair), Becketts Kopf resembles a gentleman's club—though it's coed...Read More

  • 12. Bellmann Bar

    Kreuzberg | Bars/Pubs

    The candle-lit, rough wood tables, water-stained walls, and frequent appearances by local musicians just dropping by for a few tunes gives this...Read More

  • 13. BKA–Berliner Kabarett Anstalt

    Kreuzberg | Cabaret

    Social and political satire has a long tradition in cabaret theaters and the BKA–Berliner Kabarett Anstalt is known for performances by Germany...Read More

  • 14. Chamäleon Varieté

    Mitte | Cabaret

    Within the Hackesche Höfe, the Chamäleon Varieté is the most affordable and offbeat variety venue in town. German isn't required to enjoy most...Read More

  • 15. Connection Club

    Schöneberg | Bars/Pubs

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

  • 16. Eschenbräu

    Wedding | Bars/Pubs

    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...Read More

  • 17. Felix

    Mitte | Dance Clubs

    The over-the-top Felix greatly benefits from its location behind the famous Adlon Kempinski Hotel—Hollywood stars drop by when they're in town...Read More

  • 18. Freischwimmer

    Kreuzberg | Bars/Pubs

    When it's warm out, the canal-side deck chairs at Freischwimmer are the perfect place to be, though heat lamps and an enclosed area make this...Read More

  • 19. Green Door

    Schöneberg | Bars/Pubs

    A grown-up crowd focused on conversation and appreciating outstanding cocktails heads to Green Door, a Schöneberg classic. The decor is 1960s...Read More

  • 20. Grüner Salon

    Mitte | Cabaret

    This is one of Berlin's hippest venues for live music, cabaret, dancing, and drinks. The programs change almost daily. ...Read More

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