Hipster guide to Berlin
Travel blogger Adam guides you on how to find the hippest bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes and brunches in Berlin city.
Berlin is arguably Europe’s coolest city. With 24-hour nightlife, a growing culinary scene and affordable living, Berlin attracts people from all over the world. DJs want to play in Berlin’s clubs – some of the best in the world – and artists want their work shown in the hundreds of independent galleries. There is always something interesting happening in Berlin and thanks to the city’s sprawling size and relative diversity, it’s now one of the world’s most hip cities. Whether you're in Berlin for a day, a weekend or long-term, you should be able to use the travel guide below to find unique and interesting things to do in Berlin.
Berlin's bars: Where to drink
Berlin seems to be fuelled by cheap beers (this is Germany, after all) and there is an increasing amount of cool bars and pubs worth visiting. Many have their own unique design, special events or just serve really good drinks (think craft beers or contemporary cocktails). There are a lot of areas in Berlin great for drinking but the best of the bars and clubs are generally to be found in Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Friedrichshain.
Bar crawls aren’t excessively popular in Berlin but if you’re looking for a street full of great bars, check out Weserstraße in Neukölln. The bars here change quite a bit and new ones are popping up all the time, but you can’t really go wrong with a night out on Weserstraße. And while you’re there, keep your eyes out for the giant frogs!
Hip bars in Berlin
- Lerchen und Eulen – go for Moscow Mule cocktails and the cosy interior. It’s a smoking bar so unless the weather’s good and you’re sitting outside, you will come home with a smoky scent.
- Ä – it’s got a simple name (if you can pronounce it with the umlaut) but there’s nothing simple about this laid-back bar in Neukölln. At the corner of Weserstraße and Fuldastraße, Ä has a few rooms (and basement dance floor when they feel like it) and the smoking section is kept separate.
- Hotel Bar – Kreuzberg hipsters come here after hanging out on the nearby Admiralbrücke. It can be very smoky inside. They’ve also got a bistro – good for lunch!
- Klunkerkranich – Berlin’s best summertime bar. Located on the rooftop of a shopping centre’s parking garage in Neukölln, Klunkerkranich is custom-built each season. Pro tip: skip the entrance fee by hanging out at the smaller bar by the entrance. The bar only opens March through December.
- Mein Haus Am See – this bar at Rosenthaler Platz is open 24/7 and has one of the best views in Berlin: stadium style seating allows you to check out all the cute hipsters below. They usually have DJs on in the early evenings and it gets loud as the evening progresses.
- Liberacion – this is a more alternative bar, located in Friedrichshain not far from the super-cool area around Boxhagener Platz. It attracts a lot of students, hippies and queer folks for its random parties and events. Just be careful going to the bathroom here – it feels like you may never return.
- Multilayerladen – this cool hipster place is hidden behind the Kaiser’s supermarket at Kottbusser Tor. Once you walk through the curtain, you’ll find cheap drinks, good DJs and a cool vibe from the other visitors.
- Locke Müller – they serve some of the best cocktails in Kreuzberg. It’s got the Berlin ambiance with a smoky atmosphere, but the bartenders really know their drinks. Although EUR 8 for a cocktail can be expensive for Berlin, it is worth it here.
- Gastón – in trendy Neukolln on Weserstrasse, this little Spanish tapas bar serves cheap beer and affordable tapas. With outdoor seating on a quiet street corner, you may just think you’re back in Spain.
- O Tannenbaum – this kitsch bar and club near Hermannplatz (in Neukölln) is decorated with fake Christmas trees and lawn furniture. They often have great DJs and it’s always open late.
- 8MM – this bar in Mitte, near Senefelderplatz, is known for its great music and awesome DJs. It’s got a great atmosphere on the inside and might just remind you of Brooklyn. Also worth checking out is Neu! Bar by the same owners.
- Facciola – this Italian wine bar in Kreuzberg, near Görlitzer Park, only opened at the end of 2014 and it has already hosted a number of cool events. The friendly bartender will hook you up with recommendations on what to drink, or else just nibble on the high quality Italian meats and cheeses.
Coffee in Berlin
With Berlin’s growing start-up scene, cafés have become the 'it' place for freelancers and self-employed entrepreneurs. Co-working spaces are popular in Berlin and new ones seem to open up every month but with the Berlin café culture, it’s still all about the coffee.
Hip cafes in Berlin
- St Oberholz – this cafe at Rosenthaler Platz consistently serves decent coffee but the real attraction is the free wifi and large workspaces. It’s Berlin’s best co-working café, often full of hipsters with laptops.
- Godshot – this friendly cafe in Prenzlauer Berg serves great coffee, has little coffee workshops and even sells Australian Tim-Tams for EUR 1 each.
- Café CK – it’s a chic and trendy café but with good wifi and conveniently located in Prenzlauer Berg. But the soothing interior design and the top-quality coffee make it a great place to relax. Bonus: it never seems very crowded.
- Bonanaza Coffee Heroes – one of Berlin’s first new wave coffee houses, Bonanza Coffee Heroes is well known among connoisseurs. Located on the beautiful Oderberger Strasse, it’s just steps away from Mauer Park. Be warned that it’s a very small space so often crowded on the weekends.
- Oslo Kaffeebar – I first discovered this place while taking a German language class at a nearby school. With a cosy interior and good coffee, it’s one of my favourite places to chill out in a cool but quiet atmosphere.
Berlin's restaurants and food
Berlin may not be known as a foodie destination but over the years I’ve lived here I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in the quality and quantity of good places to eat.
Hip restaurants in Berlin
- CoCo Bahn Mi – a great Vietnamese sandwich shop in Rosenthaler Platz. It's perfect for an affordable and tasty lunch.
- Maroush – this cheap eatery at Kottbusser Tor probably serve’s the best shawarma in Berlin – no joke! It’s tiny and not really a sit-down place, but if you’re looking for something cheap and delicious to eat, this is it.
- Markthalle Neun – this Kreuzberg market hall is home to Berlin’s best food events, including the always popular Street Food Thursday (you guessed it: every Thursday evening). They do other food markets, sometimes specifically around certain meals such as breakfast or dessert. Be aware that sometimes you have to pay to just enter the hall. Street Food Thursday is an experience, but it’s also very crowded. I tend to prefer the smaller street food market Bite Club.
- Tiergartenquelle – this old-school bar and restaurant sits underneath an S-Bahn station, and is one of my favourite German restaurants in Berlin. Portions are huge (and I’m not exaggerating), the beer is cold and the staff is super friendly.
- Dong Xuan Center – this warehouse complex in Lichtenberg (in east Berlin, accessible via tram) sells just about everything. Besides being an import center for random goods from Asia, there’s also a great Vietnamese restaurant.
- Thai Park – great for the summertime, Berlin’s unofficially titled 'Thaipark' (held in Preußenpark) is really just a weekend street food market reminiscent of those you’d find in Thailand. Full of Thai families, hipsters and picnicking Berliners, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon (or even an entire day). Many of the vendors sitting on the grass even make homemade cocktails such as mojitos or caipirinhas.
- Berlin Burger International – another cheap eat in Berlin, this Neukölln restaurant is one of my favourite burger places.
- The Bird – widely regarded as one of the better burger joints in Berlin, it’s a nice American-style bar that serves great burgers (even if they come on English muffins). There are two locations: in Prenzlauer Berg and also in Kreuzberg (as well as in Hamburg, actually).
- Nollendorfplatz Chinese Noodles – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a big box of EUR 2.50 Chinese noodles at the Nollendorf U-Bahn station. The woman who runs the shop is super nice!
'Brunching' in Berlin
A typical Berlin brunch means a buffet-style meal with sliced deli meats, cheeses, soft-boiled eggs and fruits. And sausages – this is Germany, remember? But that doesn’t mean Berlin’s best brunches are tepid affairs. Several cafés and restaurants have found ways to make the Berlin brunch memorable.
Best brunches in Berlin
- Bateau Ivre – this French bistro located on Kreuzberg's popular Oranienstrasse is great to visit morning, noon or night. But their tasty brunches (meat and cheese plates) and rustic interior make it a great place for leisurely brunches.
- California Breakfast Slam – go here for American-style egg plates or pancakes. Though, they’ve also got huevos rancheros (Mexican-style eggs with salsa) – yum!
- Café Anna Blume – you’ve probably read about this place in other travel guides and magazines…and rightfully so. Anna Blume serves one of Berlin’s most picturesque brunches.
- Datscha – want to try something a bit different? This Friedrichshain café serves a delicious Russian brunch with blinis and pelmini, plus a whole array of vegetarian options. On Sundays they offer a buffet brunch (typical for Berlin).
- Café Morgenrot – this queer-friendly bar and cafe also serves a vegetarian/vegan brunch every weekend. It’s just next to the K86 squat house (the Tuntenhaus). It’s a gay squat and a lot of the parties and live music at Morgenrot (in the evenings) are free and fun.
Berlin's nightclubs: Where to dance and party
With increasingly more people visiting Berlin not for its tourist attractions but for its cutting-edge culture, much of the action in Berlin takes place at the city’s countless nightclubs. Resident Advisor lists what DJs will be where, but I also recommend checking the Open Airs Berlin Facebook page (especially during the summer).
Hip clubs in Berlin
- Any U-Bahn station – you’ll find most of the pop-up U-Bahn parties in Kreuzberg, around Schlesisches Tor, Görlitzer Bahnhof and Kottbusser Tor.
- Berghain/Panorama – of course. The NY Times has called it the 'best club in the world' and its door policy is notorious. Formerly a gay club, it’s really for everyone – especially those that love to dance.
- Chalet – I really love this club. The music is good, the crowds are into it and the beer garden is perfect for chill-out periods. Inside the run-down buildings that make up the club it’s often hot and sweaty – just as it should be.
- Stattbad Wedding – this one-time swimming centre has been converted into an art and culture space, and like everything else in Berlin, it’s also a nightclub. If you’ve ever dreamed of dancing in a swimming pool, now’s your chance.
- Cassiopeia – it’s a consistently good club on Revaler Strasse. R&B and hip-hop nights are the most popular and the beer garden courtyard and rock-climbing are perfect in the summertime.
- Astra Kulturhaus – this indie club (also on Revaler Strasse) gets some of Berlin’s best live music and the parties usually continue afterward.
- Brunnen 70 – this underground club on the edge of the Wedding neighborhood hosts a number of different parties, including popular gay nights Rose Kennedy and Meschugge.
- Kaffee Burger – it’s a small indie club in Mitte with performances, DJs or special events just about every night of the week. It’s a bit small and smelly, but the crowd is usually cool.
- For students and younger travellers, Magnet Club and Lido are decent choices for indie music parties.
Adam Groffman is a freelance writer and travel blogger based in Berlin, Germany, where he covers city trips in Europe and around the world, expat life, LGBT issues, festivals and nightlife. His work has been featured in Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Traveler, DETAILS, USA Today Travel and numerous online publications. When he's not exploring the coolest bars and clubs, he's usually enjoying the local arts and culture scene. His travel stories are available on his blog Travels of Adam. Find him on Twitter @travelsofadam or view his daily photos on Instagram @travelsofadam.
Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.