More insider guides for planning a trip to Berlin
These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey. Note that our writer visited pre-pandemic.
Berlin is famed the world over for its diversity of nightlife, never-ending nightclubs and anything-goes attitude. There’s a very good spread of establishments, from old-school corner pubs (kneipen) and smart wine bars to grungy indie bars and live gig venues. Read Telegraph Travel expert Paul Sullivan’s guide to the city’s best nocturnal hangouts.
This is one of the city’s longest-running electronic music clubs. Watergate can be found tucked discreetly away below the Kreuzberg side of the famous Oberbaumbrücke. It has consistently pioneered the particular ‘Berlin sound’ of chunky, minimal techno and tech-house, and continues to do so today. The slick interior, with its LED-light-filled ceiling, top-notch sound system and fabulous wooden deck that juts out onto the Spree, sets it apart from many of the city’s more ramshackle clubs – as does the consistently good DJ selection; expect big-name guests like Paul Kalkbrenner and Sven Väth playing alongside local residents.
Getting in: No dress code. Queues can get long so try to get a guest list if you can
This legendary club is named after Kreuzberg’s Berlin Wall-era postal code (SO standing for Südost, or southeast), and has its roots in the district’s punk rock scene from the 1970s and 1980s. Today it hosts regular big-name bands, mostly of a rock and indie persuasion, as well as up-and-coming local bands. The main room is big, basic and tends to reek of sweat, beer and cigarette smoke, but the anonymous black stage does its job and the crowds are usually game. There are also regular parties, including an LGBT+ pop and electronic music night called Gayhane.
One of Berlin’s better-looking club spots, located inside a former swimming facility in Kreuzberg. It’s part of the general resurgence of the formerly scruffy Moritzplatz area, and throws good-quality parties that usually span hip hop and electronic music. The former pool area has been transformed into a handsome sunken bar that serves up a decent range of beers, cocktails and mixed drinks, and the dancefloor tends to draw a more discerning, fashion-conscious clubbing set. The courtyard is a boon in summer.
Getting in: Dress clubby if you can
This New-York-style Charlottenburg jazz bar is one of the most popular in the city with a mix of local, German and top-end jazz ensembles performing each night. The space is fairly intimate (around 100 people), especially thanks to the shared tables system, but on the other hand you’re always close to the action on stage. To be sure of a spot, make a reservation in advance and try to arrive at least half-an-hour before the show begins. Saturday night is open-jam night and drink prices – beer, wine and mixed drinks mostly – are reasonable.
Contact: 00 49 30 31 32 55 0; a-trane.de
Getting in: No dress code
Reservations: Essential if you want a table
This former power-station-turned-club is awesome in the original sense of the word, and holds up to 1,500 people across a cavernous main room, upstairs bar and experimental music area on the ground floor. It boasts an industrial design ethic – no mirrors, concrete swings hung on chains, clean-easy chrome toilets – that’s as uncompromising as its door policy and vehemently underground music policy. Concerts are held during the week and there’s a club night on Fridays, but dedicated clubbers tend to come on Saturday (from midnight on) or Sunday.
Contact: 00 49 30 29 36 02 10; berghain.de
Getting in: Unless you can swing a guest list it’s notoriously hard to get into. If you don’t normally go techno clubbing, don’t bother trying
It’s not much to look at from the outside, but Cassiopeia has become one of the most consistantly good clubs in the gritty, venue-filled Raw Gelände complex next to Warschauer Strasse S Bahn in Friedrichshain. The cavernous interior has dancefloors on two levels where DJs and live bands play a variety of music styles that vary each night of the week – anything from hip hop, funk and soul, to punk, reggae and rock. During summer there is also a beer garden in the adjacent courtyard that serves up sausages, burgers and beer.
Since 1913, this former ballroom has been synonymous with fun-loving dance parties. With its old-school vibe and a soundtrack of predominantly jazz, swing and soul tunes, the venue hasn’t much changed much since the 1920s, even if today’s mix of hipsters, tourists and ageing (but agile) patrons make it feel more contemporary. Once used as a film set for Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, the grand old building boasts two main floors, the wonderfully faded Mirror Room upstairs being the grander of the two, plus a charming front terrace where visitors can grab a slice of pizza before entering the melee.
Contact: 00 49 30 28 292 95; ballhaus.de
Getting in: No dress code; reservations for the restaurant are a good idea at weekends
This hallowed establishment has a long and distinguished history that stretches back to its 19th-century origins as a circus and vaudeville theatre. Today it counts among one of the most modern and largest theatrical venues in Europe, with a broad repertoire to match its sizeable interior. As well as spectacular West End and Broadway productions you can also find children’s shows, ballets, and the popular Quatsch Comedy Club, which takes place each week in the venue’s basement area (the English version is on Wednesdays).
Hans Scharoun’s distinctive, gold-hued, tent-like building is home to the world-famous Berliner Philharmoniker orchestra and one of the leading classical venues in the world. Built to be as acoustically perfect as possible, it’s famous for pioneering the ‘vineyard-style’ seating that can now be found worldwide. The repertoire varies from large visiting orchestras and more intimate ensembles and quartets, who sometimes also play in the more intimate chamber music hall. Watch out for free lunchtime concerts and, if you can’t bag tickets, the venue’s innovative online Digital Concert Hall.
Contact: 00 49 30 25 48 80; berliner-philharmoniker.de
Getting in: Dress codes lean towards the formal here
Mitte’s only real jazz club, B flat, was founded in the mid-1990s by a trio of musician and actor friends. Located near Hackescher Markt, it hosts some kind of music event every night, usually local acts through the week and international names at the weekends. Wednesday night is a popular weekly jam session (free entry), but the atmosphere tends to be lively and friendly most evenings. Despite being located below ground, it has a fairly contemporary atmosphere with comfortable furnishings and a modern bar that knocks out well-priced drinks (no food).
Contact: 00 49 30 02 83 31 23; b-flat-berlin.de
Getting in: No dress code
Reservations: A good idea for weekends
Located on the refined Gendarmenmarkt and often cited as one of the finest classical concert venues in the world. Designed in eye-catching neoclassical style, its reconstructed façade and interior host its own orchestra (Konzerthausorchester, Chief Conductor Christoph Eschenbach), and three concert spaces: the Grosse Saal for larger orchestras, the Kleiner Saal (chamber music hall) for smaller groups and chamber orchestras, and the Werner-Otto-Saal for modern music and family programmes. Expect everything from symphonic works to contemporary classical. The short but sweet Espresso Concerts, featuring up-and-coming talent every Wednesday, are popular.
Contact: 00 49 30 20 30 90; konzerthaus.de
Getting in: The dress code tends towards the formal
One of the city’s few upmarket, dressy clubs. The swanky, tunnel-shaped interior, decorated at one end with an enormous doughnut-shaped light that pours light over the long, narrow bar, attracts a dapper crowd. The music is a slightly more commercial blend of disco, house and r&b than you might otherwise find in Berlin, and the bar churns out aptly sophisticated cocktails, some with a Japanese twist like the Oscaland (sake with basil syrup and jasmine tea). The club also contains a hidden but high-end Latin-Asian fusion restaurant, Cantina; reservations essential.
Contact: 00 49 30 27 58 20 70; tausendberlin.com
Getting in: This is the one Berlin club you should make an effort for – dress to impress