What is Berlin’s biggest claim to fame? Some may say history or culture. But others may say nightlife, and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong.
It seems like the capital of Germany has been teaching the world how to party and play for a long time now. It’s a top destination for those who want to enjoy themselves with abandon.
Here’s a small sampling of suggested nightlife spots when you travel here, from the unapologetically hedonistic to the proudly traditional. Be sure to check each club’s particulars on dress codes and such before you waste time standing in a line. Some can be very particular about who gets in.
Located in the trendy Kreuzberg district that’s long been a home for alternative lifestyles, the name SO36 comes from the postal codes used back when the Berlin Wall was a thing.
The club is known for live music performances, and it has special event nights such as ’80s dance parties or roller disco lessons. It has its roots in the punk movement but has now moved on to showcase other genres, too: techno, hip hop, crossover and more. While not specifically a gay or lesbian club, it has a large following in those communities and does not pander to any sexist, racist or homophobic language or behavior.
Some of the bands that have played there: Life of Agony, The Cramps and Church of Confidence.
SO36: Oranienstrasse 190, 10999 Berlin, Germany; +49 30 61401306
Tresor started out in a shack on Potsdamer Platz in 1991 with a three-month license to operate as an art gallery.
More than 25 years later and a new location, it’s a veritable institution. In its cellar, one of its dance floors is set between old bank safes where people are surrounded by dense fog and a musical sound in the vault inspired by DJs and artists from Detroit, Michigan.
This legend in the techno music scene also has its own record label. Berlin nightclubs can be notoriously picky about who can enter, but Tresor has a more visitor-friendly reputation.
Tresor: Köpenicker Str. 70, 10179 Berlin, Germany; +49 30 6953770
This is where to go if your style is jazz. This small venue has been operating since 1992 but has had a big effect on the Berlin jazz scene, drawing talent from around the world.
Notables such as Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall, Wynton Marsalis, trumpeter Till Brönner, American pianist Uri Caine and Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava have played here, to give you an idea of the jazz styles you might hear during its regular evening concerts.
A-Trane is also known for its jam sessions after midnight Saturday when the regular show is done. It’s in the Charlottenburg district.
A-Trane: Pestalozzistrasse 105, 10625 Berlin, Germany; +49 30 3132550
Kit Kat Club
Do not expect to gain entrance to the Kit Kat in ordinary jeans and T-shirt. This club unabashedly celebrates fetish wear and minimal clothing. The more daring and extravagant you arrive, the better the Kit Kat likes it and the better your chances for entry.
The vibe is beach sex party meets S&M club. The club’s Saturday night party “CarneBall Bizarre” promises a raucous time with techno, trance and other styles of music conducive to a sexually charged scene. The Kit Kat suggests a Friday night visit for something more low-key and intimate.
Just be very clear about what you’re going to be walking into: The club’s website has a discussion board with topics such as a person’s role in a threesome.
Kit Kat Club: Köpenicker Str. 76, 10179 Berlin, Germany
Berlin’s nightlife scene is nothing particularly new. If you want to go old school with your night out and do a little “time travel,” try Clärchens Ballhaus, which has been around more than a century.
Your can relive the glamor of bygone 1920s Berlin at this restaurant and dancing club. The menu has traditional dishes such as wiener schnitzel and pickled herring. And Clärchens offers lessons if you need to brush up your more traditional dance moves.
If you’re not up for a night out, you can book a tour of the amazing building that houses it.
Clärchens Ballhaus: Auguststrasse 24, 10117 Berlin, Germany; +49 30 2829295
Monkey Bar Berlin
If you want to sample the Berlin social scene but you’re not the “just-getting-started-at-2-a.m” type, the Monkey Bar might be for you.
It’s on the top floor of the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin and sports great views. In fact, sunset is actually a popular time here.
It has an extensive cocktail menu with drinks such as the Monkey Monk (gin, chartreuse yellow, fresh mint, fresh lime juice, sugar syrup, soda). And unlike a lot of Berlin clubs with their dress codes, the Monkey Bar says “come as you are.”
Monkey Bar Berlin: Rosenthaler Str. 40/41, 10178 Berlin, Germany; +49 30 4000590
Chameleon Theater Berlin
Chameleon Theater mixes the usual night out for supper and drinks with a circus performance – and what you get are acrobatics with your appetizers and amazing dance numbers with dinner.
Throw in some comedy and music as well, and you’ll have a night unlike any other you’ll find in the city.
The bistro-style menu has a wide range – anything from nuts and popcorn to coq au vin.
Chameleon Theater Berlin: Rosenthaler Str. 40/41, 10178 Berlin, Germany; +49 30 4000590
Widely considered the “best nightclub in the world,” the publicity-averse Berghain draws a singularly eclectic mix: scenesters, misfits, bondage-clad muscled gay men, rich kids, Skrillex-haired lesbians, DJs, drag queens, tourists, old, young, whoever.
The line can take hours to get through, and then you might not make it past the doorman. But if you do, don’t be surprised if you’re there till next Monday morning.
Berghain is a bit of a rite of passage for visitors looking for what to do in Berlin. The sybaritic techno temple is housed in a massive former power plant in the industrial sprawl near Friedrichshain’s Ostbahnhof train station.
Berghain: Rudersdorfer Str. 7, 10243 Berlin Germany; +49 30 2936 0210
Charly Wilder and Thomas Rogers contributed to this story with previously published material.