For the last three decades, Berlin’s nightlife has been the envy of cities all over the world. With a lingering reputation as Europe’s hedonistic capital of clubbing, neverending parties, and electronic music, its long and exclusive door lines and anything-goes dress codes still inspire pilgrimages from the world’s leftists, nonconformists, and boundary-pushing creatives.
In part, this now indispensable side of the city’s culture was helped along by Berlin’s once-abundant industrial, abandoned, and warehouse-style spaces scattered around since the fall of the Berlin Wall, which were available to use as bacchanalian playgrounds by night. But the city is transforming. While the night-owl culture may not be changing, the economy is. Real estate prices are rising and new developments springing up every day, which even means that some of the long-standing clubs are closing, despite the organized protests of locals. (Berliners have recently coined the word “clubsterben”, or “club death”, to describe the experience.)
But Berliners are still finding a way to see that nights come and go more quickly than you can come up for air. Beyond the well-trodden club staples like Berghain or the fetish and techno venue KitKat, the city’s uncountable open-air beer gardens, and it’s guidebook-documented rowdy bars (Madame Claude, Mobel Olfe, and so on), there are a growing number of experiences that offer something different. Here’s where to find them—and a wider view of Berlin nightlife right now.
A Real Artists’ Hangout: Bar 3
A moody bar space commonly swarmed by art, theater, and film types after shows let out, Bar 3 gives a real sense of what the hyped local art scene is about. Centrally located in the Mitte (meaning “middle”) neighborhood, the city’s cultural hub, it’s also appropriately stowed away on a backstreet cul-de-sac. It’s a blink-and-you-miss-it bar for a cultured muso—the owners have an unparalleled taste in records. Weydingerstraße 20
The Essential “Bunker Bar”: Fahimi
As you walk through a nondescript, sticker-covered door off a main road in the multicultural Kreuzberg district and climb some graffiti-clad stairs, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re about to enter a student house party. Fahimi is one of Berlin’s best “bunker bars”, housed in a former dilapidated wartime barracks under a railway bridge. The bar has minimalist style and big windows—because watching the illuminated U-Bahn trains continually pass by at eye level while sipping your cocktail is kind of the point. Skalitzer Straße 133
Live Music and Architecture: Funkhaus
That perfectly Berlin combination of large-scale club events and raves with contemporary installations and concert performances—they all happen inside this expansive former public radio and TV broadcast center long abandoned from the 1950s German Democratic Republic propagandists. The building is in the outskirt-y factory district of East Berlin, and inside the airy and massive multiple buildings, German modernism blends with classic Soviet architecture. The original design, which was masterminded jointly by architects and acousticians, sat abandoned for decades but has been restored to its original grandeur. This is one of the city’s best space for live concerts and DJ parties. Nalepastraße 18
A Dance Party in a Performing Arts Space: SAVVY Contemporary
Seemingly forever billed as the “upcoming” area for young creatives, Wedding is a district that sees true experimentation. SAVVY Contemporary is an inclusive, self-described “laboratory” for dialogue and cultural events, as well as an independent performance space for global artists: The curators primarily juxtapose African, Asian, and South American art with western art. When the night’s programming ends on weekends, the space opens up the floor for a come-one, come-all dance party that usually lasts until the early hours. Plantagenstraße 31
Cocktails Without the Clichés: TiER
Snaking down the international-leaning borough of Neukölln, Weserstraße isn’t short of late-night cafes and graffiti-stained bars open into the morning hours. Seemingly abandoned and unkempt buildings house some of the coolest and most clandestine finds. Tier lies in the midst. While it’s probably the swankiest and most stylish of the bars in the area—with really tuned in cocktails and modernist furniture—it has the requisite casualness of any actually populated bar in Berlin, full of cigarette-rolling clientele. Weserstraße 42