Nightlife in Berlin: Best Bars, Clubs, & More

Line at Berghain in Berlin
Emilija Manevska / Getty images  

Berlin is not only the largest city and capital of Germany—it is also the hub of the country's nightlife, with a diversity of ways to have fun at all hours. Late nighters will be at home in the city that never sleeps, where clubs don't really start coming to life until around 2 a.m. Plus, Berlin is an overall safe city with infrequent violent crime (theft of items like cash, passports, and cell phones is more common), so you can go out into the night for an unforgettable experience. The German city has an unpretentious nightlife scene and more affordable drinks and cover fees than many other cities, so visitors can enjoy after dark outings more often.

Many words can describe the club scene in Berlin, such as underground, avant-garde, and progressive. From electro and pop to indie, hip-hop, and rock, you can club in Berlin every night of the week. There are also pubs with live New Orleans blues and jazz, comedy clubs with performances in English, bars with beach-like environments including sand and lounge chairs, and late-night places to eat. And of course, don't miss the country's famous biergartens (beer gardens) where people drink, eat, and enjoy entertainment—usually at shared tables—while their children play nearby.

Bars

Berlin has many nice places—some of which incorporate the outdoors—to grab a drink and hang out. While the ocean may be far, some bars have stepped up to create a beach atmosphere (sand and all), which is especially nice in the summer when the weather is better. The warmer months also signal the opening of outdoor biergartens. While they typically aren't full-service venues, the gardens do provide some children's activities like playgrounds, sandboxes, ice cream, and non-alcoholic drinks. A few of the area's known bars:

  • Young African Art Market, known as YAAM, is a lively place that created a beach bar with sand and features reggae concerts and summer yoga classes. For children, check out art workshops and the summer YAAM Kids Corner with a playground and bouncy castle.
  • Venture to Badeschiff (bathing ship), a barge in the Spree River that has views of the Oberbaum Bridge and the TV Tower. Swim or sip on a drink from the beach chairs while listening to smooth electronic beats. The music continues at night, and you can also visit several clubs in Arena, the surrounding warehouse area.
  • Prinzknecht is a gay bar open daily all year with happy hours, special events, and fun indoor and outdoor areas.
  • Prater opened in 1837, making it Berlin's oldest biergarten, which is open from April through September. Visitors sit on benches shaded by Chestnut trees, with strings of lovely lightbulbs that come on at night.
  • Eschenbräu is one of the city's top craft breweries, and the onsite biergarten with big oak trees is beloved as well. It's located within a private residential Hof (courtyard) and offers seasonal and other beers along with organic pretzels and a few other food items.
  • Golgatha, a biergarten within beautiful Viktoriapark, turns into a party at night with DJs, electronic dance gatherings, and karaoke.

Clubs or Dance Clubs

The Berlin districts that are famous for their vibrant club scenes are the neighborhood of Mitte in the city center, Prenzlauer Berg (more high-end), or Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain (two distinct yet connected and alternative neighborhoods).

To find a club, check out Berlin's weekly German magazines called Zitty and tip Berlin, or English language The ExBerliner and the free magazine 030, which offers good club listings and current events. iHeartBerlin is another fabulous resource with an essential guide on how to behave in the club. Keep your eyes and ears open and your dancing shoes on; part of the adventure is finding the right club.

If you are looking for one of the city's underground clubs and bars in Berlin that spring up one weekend and disappear forever the next, you can usually find these clubs in backyards, old warehouses, and even basements of residential buildings. Often when leaving another venue or event, you'll be handed a flyer for these parties. You should also check with the local staff from your hostel or hotel and fellow Germans clubbers. A few popular clubs in Berlin:

  • The House of Weekend: One of the city's most-known clubs, this spot has a great panoramic view from inside an old office building, plus a rooftop terrace.
  • Sisyphos Nightclub: This large club in a former factory with several floors has a joyous festival vibe and an outdoor area.
  • Berghain: Considered one of the world's top clubs, this one brings techno beats in a former power plant with a tough door policy.
  • Watergate: Located along the river, this nightclub has international DJs and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the Spree River.
  • Golden Gate: This small club is beneath the S-Bahn's rapid transit railway arches and has a loose door policy.
  • Tresor: Berlin's first techno club in a Kraftwerk (old power plant), Tresor plays acid, electronic, and industrial music at high volumes.

While some clubs only require standing in line and paying a cover, several Berlin spots have legendary door policies. While there is no secret recipe to get in everywhere, there are some things you can do to increase your chances.

  • Know who is DJing and which party you are going to.
  • Speak some German, as responding in the language of the country will give you a better chance.
  • Don't talk too much; just answer questions as necessary and play it cool.
  • Avoid turning up in a huge group of more than three people.
  • Stand quietly in line, as bouncers often turn away a noisy or drunken group.
  • Patience is key, as waiting in line for hours at the top clubs at peak times is expected.

Late-Night Restaurants

Berlin has plenty of restaurants with cuisine from around the world—some open past midnight—for all the people out on the town. Those wanting local German food can head to Max und Moritz, a family-friendly tavern open every day and around since 1902. If you are craving some Italian fare, DaGiorgio's (closed Mondays) serves vegetarian-friendly pizza, and Pizza Peppino is open even later, past midnight every day. For some Asian fare, try Haveli (not open Mondays) for flavorful Indian dishes or Maison Umami's Vietnamese/ Fusion food; the restaurant is open daily.

Live Music

Visitors and locals will find live music performances all over Berlin in everything from clubs to old dance halls to piano bars and factories.

The underground Hangar 49 plays a range from heavy metal to Indie rock and features views of the Spree River. Check out Yorckschlösschen for New Orleans jazz, soul, and blues several times a week; you'll also catch swing and funk at times and a chance to people watch many interesting folks from all walks of life.

Comedy Clubs

The lively capital has various options for English speakers seeking some laughter and fun at comedy shows. See Comedy In English, Berlin for detailed information.

  • Cosmic Comedy is presented by newbies and veteran comedians in English on Mondays, Thursdays, and nearly every Friday and Saturday night in Bar 1820, the basement club at Belushi's Berlin. Free shots and vegetarian pizza add to the fun.
  • Comedy Cafe Berlin, an international comedy stage and bar, is another option for stand-up, podcast, and improvisation shows in German and English on Wednesdays through Sundays.
  • Chuckleheads English Comedy on Thursdays at Deriva Bar has a new lineup each week by some of the city's top comedians.

Festivals

Berlin has an abundance of festivals. A particularly unique world-renowned event is the free Festival of Lights over several days each October, which brightens up the city's gray skies. German and international artists light up nearly 100 city streets, landmarks, historical places, squares, popular neighborhoods, and such using light installations, 3D mapping, and video. 

For three weeks in August and September, Musikfest Berlin (Music Festival Berlin) hits concert halls all over the city with classical music by some of Germany and the world's top orchestras.

The Berlinale (Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin) held from late February into early March is a top cultural event, as well as one of the top film festivals in the world.

And Karneval der Kulturen, which spans four days in June, gives visitors and locals a chance to have fun watching numerous floats in a parade along with hundreds of musicians.

Tips for Going Out in Berlin

  • Most clubs don't even open their doors until 11 in the evening and the clubs in Berlin come to life around 2 or 3 a.m. So rather than being impatient, do as the Berliners do: Prefunk at a bar before hitting the dance floor. There are no fixed opening or closing hours, so you can dance the night away until the sun comes up over Berlin, which happens sooner than you think.
  • Sunday nights are usually a good time to get in and still revel in great vibes. 
  • Most Berlin clubs don't have a dress code, so don't worry too much about what you wear; Berliners are relaxed when it comes to style. However, black is always a good idea and some places—like Berghain—are infamously capricious.
  • Wegbier, or walking with an open bottle of beer, is allowed and commonly seen as part of the daily drinking culture in Germany. However, beer drinkers must be 16 and act responsibly.
  • When in Germany, don't drink and drive. Your punishment will usually be much stricter than that of the U.S., including high fines and losing your driver's license.
  • As for public transportation, buses and trains run at night in Berlin. The S- and U-Bahn rapid transit railway offer service 24-hours a day only on weekends. On weekdays, buses and the Metrotram provide transport at night, so there is no need to wrap it up so you can get back to your hotel or home. In Berlin, there are several taxi companies, and Uber offers the lower-cost UberX, a low-emissions Green service, and UberXL (for groups).
  • You can have a great night out in Berlin and not break the bank. The cover charge varies from club to club, but usually won't set you back too much.
  • Tipping is typically optional in Germany, but if you want to leave something in a restaurant or a bar/pub with table service, the range is between 5 and 15 percent. Taxi drivers don't expect tips, but you can round up your fare to the nearest Euro.
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