Nightlife in Berlin: go clubbing

by Paul.Sullivan

Some tips on getting hedonistic in Berlin - Europe's party capital

House and techno

Techno is Berlin’s trademark sound and its nexus is the massive, relentlessly industrial (it's a former power station) Berghain (Rüdersdorfer Straße 70, 030 29360210, www.berghain.de), and its smaller upstairs space, the Panorama Bar. The club has a 1500-person capacity, is renowned for parties that stretch into the next day, and has a reputation for unchecked debauchery. Slightly more manageable is Tresor (Köpenicker Straße 70, 030 69537731, www.tresorberlin.com), Berlin’s first techno club which, after closing in 2004, reopened in another former power plant. The 1500-capacity space is usually crowded. The club also has its own record label.

Another of the city's key clubs is Watergate (Falckensteinstraße 49, 030 61280395, www.water-gate.de), a beautifully designed space with LED lights running along the walls and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Spree. Several other well known techno spots are dotted along the Spree. Bar 25 (Holzmarktstraße 25, 0157 72525277, www.bar25.de) is an outdoor, after-hours venue, where it's entirely possible to enter on a Thursday and leave on a Sunday. The large Arena Club (Eichenstraße 4, 030 5332030, www.arena-berlin.de) is also popular, and part of a sprawling complex that includes the smaller (and cooler) Club der Visionaere.

There are lots more options in the centre of the city too, such as Weekend (Alexanderplatz 7, 030 24631676, www.week-end-berlin.de), which occupies the 13th floor of the distinctive Haus Des Reisens building in Alexanderplatz, offering views of the city along with a great selection of international DJs. The newer Tape Club (Heidestraße 14, 030 28484873, www.tapeberlin.de), set in a warehouse close to the main train station, long ago sealed its reputation with an excellent sound system, varying styles of music and a funky upstairs lounge.

For more commercial sounds head to 40 Seconds (Potsdamer Straße 58, 030 8906420, www.40seconds.de) a sleek, futuristic penthouse lit by elegant Vernon Panton lamps high up over the city (the elevator takes 40 seconds to get there, hence the name). Maria am Ostbahnhof (Straulauer Platz 34-35, 030 21238190, www.clubmaria.de) also draws a mixed crowd. Located by the Eastern train station, it consists of two huge rooms that accommodate up to 1500 people.

Cocktail bars

Despite its reputation as a sweaty club paradise, Berlin does a good line in elegant cocktail bars - with many of them named after famous folk, such as Charlottenburg's Gainsbourg (Savignyplatz 5, 030 3137464, www.gainsbourg.de), which is named after the French singer Serge and serves a long list of champagne cocktails, juleps and collinses, along with fruity frozen drinks and designated “hangover drinks". Mitte's Newton Bar (Charlottenstraße 57, 030 20612990, www.newton-bar.de) is named after the photographer Helmut, and is furnished with black leather armchairs, marble counters and Newton’s large black and white photographs (it has a long list of cocktails and an extensive whisky selection). Kreuzberg's Würgeengel (Dresdener Straße 122, 030 6155560, www.wurgeengel.de) is not named after a real person but the exterminating angel of Luis Buñuel’s film of the same name, and is located close to Oranienstraßee. This bar has a slightly worn-in feel and gets crowded on weekends. With a huge selection of cocktails, tasty tapas and small plates, it is a great pre-dinner snack spot.

Slightly trendier is Mitte’s Greenwich Bar (Gipsstraße 5, www.greenwichbar.com), which has an air of New York-style exclusivity, thanks to its shuttered windows and door policy, as well as stylish leather banquets, a back-lit bar, and - of course! - fish tanks along the wall. Bebel (Behrenstrße 37, 030 4606090), situated in the chic Hotel de Rome, is modern and elegant, with soft lighting, dark wood furnishings and armchairs - and a selection of top-shelf liquors and exquisite cocktails. Wine buffs, by the way, will love Weinbar Rutz. It's not cheap, nor is it informal, but it does have over 1000 different wines to choose from and a good selection of dishes to accompany them if you're peckish.

Al fresco drinking

Along with the outdoor bars of the previously mentioned Bar 25, Club der Visionaere and Weekend (which has a terrace open in summer), there are several places in Berlin where you can enjoy a drink in the sun. Freischwimmer (Von dem Schlesischen Tor 2, 030 61074309, www.freischwimmer-berlin.de) is right opposite Club der Visionaere, occupying a beautifully-converted boat rental house. The sunny terrace is a popular spot for Sunday brunch and it occasionally holds parties.

Kiki Blofeld (Köpenicker Straße 48-49, 0173 7828286, www.kikiblofeld.de) is along the Spree in a former boat bunker. The beach bar serves food and a good selection of cocktails, and you can lounge around in the garden and on the grassy mound love seats. The spacious beer garden at Heinz Minki (Von dem Schlesischen Tor 3, 030 69533766, www.heinzminki.de) is next to an old customs house and serves delicious cocktails and pizza, while Cassiopeia (Revaler Straße 99, 030 47385949, www.cassiopeia-berlin.de) occupies a derelict former train repair station. The club has several rooms that host live bands and DJs, a skate park, Berlin’s highest climbing tower, and a summer beer garden.

For a taste of Alt Berlin, try Prater (Kastanienallee 7-9, 030 4485688, www.pratergarten.de). Dating from 1837, it's the city's oldest beer garden, with cheap beer, a kitchen that serves basic but hearty German dishes (think bratwurst) and a great atmosphere.

More expert advice on Berlin

For suggestions on where to stay in Berlin, see my Berlin Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Berlin page.

Read my overview on Berlin nightlife.

Paul.Sullivan

I've been covering travel, music and culture as a freelance writer & photographer for a decade.

My articles and images have appeared in various international publications including The Guardian, The Independent, Sunday Times, Easyjet Magazine, Financial Times, Intelligent Life, Matador, and I've written, photographed and contributed to several high profile travel guides for publishers like Time Out, Cool Camping, A Hedonist's Guide To, Rough Guide...and more.

I first came to Berlin in 1999 to write about the city's incredible music scene. I fell immediately in love with its rawness, its history and its expansive, overwhelming sense of possibility. I returned over the years and finally got commissioned to write a guidebook (HG2 Berlin) in 2007, which was published in 2008. A year later I was living here, in leafy, laid-back Prenzlauer Berg.

I adore many European cities - Madrid, Paris and Amsterdam are among my favourites - but Berlin is the only place I've felt compelled to live. If anything, since I've been here my passion and respect for the city have grown exponentially.

My Berlin

Where I always grab a decent coffee: There are literally zillions of places to get decent coffee in Berlin. But for a truly outstanding cup I head to The Barn in Mitte, Bonanza Coffee Heroes in Prenzlauer Berg or No Fire No Glory in Friedrichshain.

My favourite stroll: In summer I really enjoy a walk along the section of the Spree where you can see the Reichstag and the Hauptbahnhof, and relax at one of the cafes on the embankment. In winter I like the atmosphere and relative emptiness of broad boulevards like Karl Marx Allee or Unter den Linden.

Where to be seen: Oh my, there are so many places to be seen in Berin. My favourite see-and-be-seen restaurant is Grill Royal, as it backs up the hyperbole with good views (if you can get a terrace seat) and excellent steaks and seafood dishes. Clubs like Tausend are good for showing out, but I prefer the more underground feel of Berghain and the Panorama Bar.

The most breathtaking view: Berlin has some great view points. You can take a lift up the Fernsehturm (TV Tower), ride to the top of the Kollhoff Tower on Potsdamer Platz or climb up to the memorial in Kreuzberg's Viktoriapark - Berlin's highest natural viewpoint.

The best spot for some peace and quiet: Berlin has many leafy parks in which you can easily get away from it all. My favourite is Volkspark Friedrichshain, which is vast and dotted with interesting historical monuments (as well as the gorgeous Märchenbrunnen fountain).

Shopaholics beware!: Both downtown Mitte and the side streets of Charlottenburg (between Kantstr. and Ku'damm) are full of amazing boutiques selling everything from underwear and jewellery to designer clothing and accessories. You'll need a lot of resolve to resist.

Don’t leave without...visiting the atmospheric Mauerpark flea market on a Sunday. In summer you'll also find the famous Bearpit Karaoke underway.