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....Read More

  • 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...Read More

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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...Read More

  • 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....Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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,...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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....Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 15. Connection Club

    Schöneberg

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

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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....Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 20. Hafen

    Schöneberg

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

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