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Best Berlin Nightlife

AOL PICK from our Editors

Berlin generally revels in the offbeat, and nowhere is this truer than in the Berlin nightlife. Mainstream places are hard to find, and if a club doesn’t have an old industrial space as its home, it’s unlikely to survive for long. In these concrete bunkers thumping techno generally rules, but Berlin nightlife runs a horizon of superb options for night owls of all feathers. Cabaret has seen a revival since its famous 1920s zenith and there’s been a real renaissance in the popularity of dance halls, too. Meanwhile, the Berlin Philharmonic is just one venue for high culture of the highest quality. Despite the sheer variety and quantity of nighttime options, Berlin’s a city where it’s fairly difficult to zero in on a strip of bars to crawl. Vague concentrations exist around Nollendorfplatz in Schöneberg, Berlin’s gay village; in the mature but bohemian Prenzlauer Berg; around Eberswalder Strasse underground station; and along studenty Simon-Dach-Strasse in Friedrichshain—an area relatively close to several other major clubs spots there and in neighboring Kreuzberg. Wherever you go out on the town, you’ll find the best Berlin nightclubs get going fairly late. Most Berlin nightclubs only begin to get going at around 2AM. Closing times are every bit as flexible and late. Few places have a set time to close and some clubs stay open for days at a time, though it's the norm to wind down around 6AM, in which case it's usually easy to find somewhere else to go on to until about midday. Covers generally run around the modest €5-10 mark, and dress regulations are rare.

Clärchens Ballhaus

Neighborhood: Mitte

This long-standing dancehall first opened in 1913 and was the scene of much hedonism during the 1920s before it was forced into hibernation by, first, fascism and then communism. But now it’s very much back in style and a great place to go for traditional dancing. Nights are themed according to the day of the week, with salsa on Mondays; Tango on Tuesdays; swing on Wednesdays; waltz, disco or rumba on Thursdays; while weekends vary. But whatever the night, the crowd couldn’t be more varied in age or style. Arrive early in the early evening for free dance instructions (times on website). The most eye-catching part of the old-fashioned hall is the upstairs mirror room, where concerts are held on Sunday afternoons. Surprisingly, Clärchens also dishes up excellent thin-crust pizzas, so you needn’t go hungry after shaking a leg.

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Neighborhood: Mitte

Though the frontline for local artists and clubbers has long-since moved on, this venue remains one of the best places for visitors to easily get a handle on the gritty and faintly anarchistic Berlin nightlife. It was back in 1990, after the wall came down, that this one-time department store became an artists’ squat. It’s been in communal use ever since. Here you’ll find a heaving summer beer garden, the Café Zapata Club ( which has regular live music, and a dingy and heavily graffitied stairwell leading up to several busy and chaotic bars, late-night art galleries and even a cinema. The crowd tends to be very international and generally twenty- or thirty-something. The atmosphere is always upbeat. With the exception of special events, there’s no cover. Don’t expect things to die down until 1AM at the earliest.

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Neighborhood: Friedrichshain

Over the last few years, Berghain has pretty much become the undisputed king of the top Berlin nightclubs, and to many it’s even the world’s best. Certainly even picky local clubbers seem happy to wait over an hour to get in when other clubs have no line at all. Inside the old power plant it calls home, the flavor is typically Berlin—minimal techno and house pounds against an artfully grungy post-industrial backdrop. Cutting edge light systems blaze on gigantic concrete dance floors, though several more relaxed bars and backrooms (including some infamous dark-rooms—truly dark —where anything goes) offer respite for the evenly balanced gay and straight crowd. Photography is strictly prohibited and just having a camera with you will provide the notoriously picky bouncers a reason not to let you in. If you look like a tourist you won’t get in, either. Otherwise, entry costs around €10. The club opens on Fridays and Saturdays from midnight until sometime the following afternoon, with 3AM—9AM as the busiest time.

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Philharmonie Berlin

Neighborhood: Mitte

One of the world’s very best orchestras, the Berlin Philharmonic is blessed with an acoustically near-perfect, if distinctively ugly, concert hall. British Conductor Simon Rattle became resident conductor in 2002. Since then he has created a distinctive sound based on well-executed new interpretations of more modern composers. The Kammermusiksaal, a smaller chamber inside the building, produces high-quality, but more low-key, performances and it’s often easier to get a ticket. Tickets start at €8 and go all the way up to €150, a range that reflects the mixed crowd that spans the gamut, from students to well-heeled connoisseurs.

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Chamäleon Variètè

Neighborhood: Mitte
Accessed from one of the most attractive courtyards within the Hackescher Markt, this venue offers something of the feel of a 1920s Berlin cabaret. With tables scattered between a bar and the stage below gilded cornices and decorative high ceilings, this mid-sized venue has a laid-back yet stylish feel. So it’s worth arriving early for a drink to take it all in before the velvet curtains rise to a lively and balanced blend of variety, music, theatre and innovative vaudeville. Shows generally include outstanding artistry, imaginative stage design and impressive acrobatics.

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