Few cities in the world have such a wealth of great watering holes as Berlin. Here’s a selection of some of the best bars in Berlin.
Simply click on the district of your choice to see what drinking delights it has to offer.
Schönhauser Allee 6/7
Tel. 030 5034 8668
They probably don’t want the publicity (they apparently begged to be left out of a Berlin guidebook to avoid hordes of tourists, not that it has worked) but we’re going to give it to them anyway. White Trash Fast Food is a Berlin institution and is popular with both local and out-of-town celebrities–Mick Jagger famously went there during one visit to Berlin but Bruce Willis apparently got turned away for his Republican sympathies.
In its second incarnation, the bar and restaurant has taken over an enormous Irish pub but kept the faux-Asian elements it inherited from its last home in a Chinese restaurant in Torstrasse, leading to a hallucinogenic mixture of design styles. The main reference point is an imagined Bukowskian America of tattoos, rockabilly, and hard drinking, which goes down very well in Berlin even if the macho posturing can be a little offputting at times (if it all gets too much for you, the very cosy and welcoming Café Rosa is just down the street).
The food, which is mainly but not exclusively of the burger-type fare you would expect from the name, is surprisingly good and reasonably-priced. In a reversal of the usual stereotypes, the American wait staff can occasionally be brusque but the Germans are very friendly. There is a cover charge later in the evening and we’ve had bad experiences in the past with obnoxious door staff, so you might want to go early.
Despite these quibbles, it’s still the coolest expat hangout in town and a good choice for a Big Night Out: the Coconut Grove Sunday nights, when everyone wears evening dress and listens to white-gloved theremin performers, re particularly recommended. Just don’t tell ’em Expatica sent you.
The Sharon Stonewall Bar
Kleinen Präsidentenstr. 3
Tel: +49 30 2409 5502
The Sharon Stonewall Bar is unusual on two counts: first of all, because it is one of the few good bars left in the vicinity of the tourist hell which is Oranienburger Strasse, and secondly because it enjoys a mixed gay and lesbian clientele (rare in Berlin, apparently).
The bar opened in February 2004 and is small and cosy with a stylish interior and some of the best cocktails in town. The owners Helen and Robert are from Australia, meaning that gay expats and their friends are assured of a warm welcome.
Rosa-Luxemburg Straße 41
A contender for Berlin’s smallest bar, Café Rosa makes up for what it lacks in size with friendliness and personality. Very popular with Berlin expats, the diminutive café is a cosy place where it’s easy to make new friends. It is also one of Berlin’s main centres for expat cultural events: concerts, readings, theatre performances and even screenwriting workshops take place in the downstairs room, which is only slightly larger than the upstairs.
Fiona Mizani, Café Rosa’s charming British owner, is also one of the movers and shakers behind Berlin’s new expat literary magazine, Bordercrossing (www.bordercrossing-berlin.com).
Weinbergsweg 1a (in the basement of the Circus hostel)
U-Bahn Rosenthaler Platz
The phrase ‘backpacker hostel bar’ might conjure up images of smelly white people with dreadlocks helping themselves to warm beer from a malfunctioning fridge, but Goldman’s Bar confounds your expectations.
Like the Circus hostel itself, which with its stone floors and Ikea furniture is far too good for backpackers, Goldman’s is a proper quality bar, with a stylish interior, a good selection of cocktails, and specials such as quizzes, karaoke and DJs most nights. What with the hostel overflow and Anglophone staff, it’s probably one of the easiest places in Berlin to meet fellow English-speakers; the fact that your new friends will probably be leaving on a train to Prague the next day may or may not be a good thing.
Oranienburger Straße 27
The emergency-services-themed Ambulance is one of the few hip bars left on Oranienburger Straße, which used to be Mitte’s coolest street but is rapidly becoming overrun by stag parties and sex tourists. Inside, the bar has a relaxed loungey feel, and features DJs most nights (check out British expat breakbeat hero ED 2000 in his regular Sunday night slot)–you could almost believe you were back in 1990s Mitte.
KM36 is one of a new wave of Berlin bars that don’t actually have names as such, with the before-mentioned abbreviation being used simply for convenience by regulars. You might question the wisdom of leaving punters to come up with their own makeshift moniker, but everything else about the bar is deftly done.
Located in a huge glass box (actually a former GDR-era beauty salon), KM36 has the feeling of a Brazilian airport lounge circa 1974. The upper floor, previously home to massage rooms, now features readings to soothe and stimulate your soul. Relax on the soft furnishings with a cocktail, admire Karl-Marx-Allee’s breathtaking Stalinist architecture, and contemplate how Berlin could have turned out had the East won the Cold War.
Club der Polnischen Versager
Tel: 030 28 09 37 79
U-8 Bahn Rosenthaler Platz
The Polish Losers’ Club is an endearingly self-deprecating mixture of bar, theatre and music venue, and proof (if proof were needed) that the Poles are one of the cooler nations in Europe. An evening here feels more like a private party than a night in the pub (and not just because there’s always a queue for the one toilet). Hopefully the vanguard of a future wave of hip Polish bars.
U-Bahn Rosenthaler Platz/Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz
A former GDR pub (the original state-approved price list is still on the wall), Kaffee Burger is pervaded by a eerie feeling of history; an acquaintance claims he feels the ghosts of dead drinkers there. Can get extremely busy at the weekend, especially when Berlin author and celebrity Vladimir Kaminer is hosting his famous bi-monthly Russian Disco (not nearly as fashionable as it was, but probably more fun as a result).
Tel: 030 91 70 70 63
S-Bahn Oranienburger Straße/Hackescher Markt, U-Bahn Rosenthaler Platz
A café so pretentious, it borders on self-parody. However if you’ve just come from the tourist hell of nearby Oranienburger Straße, you’ll probably be in the mood for a healthy dose of pretension. Look out for the wraith-like owner, a former ballet dancer whose face is always covered in white make-up. If she’s not there in person, you can also see her depicted in one of the many paintings hanging on the wall.
Trendy retro cocktail bar which often features DJs and live music. The bar itself is a rabbit warren of rooms connected by steps and corridors. As the name suggests, the strawberry (Erdbeer) daiquiri is the drink of choice. And damn fine they are too.
Rosenthaler Str. 39
Tel: 030 28 06 415
U-Bahn Weinmeisterstr., S-Bahn Hackescher Markt
Apparently the first bar to open in the Hackescher Markt area after the Wall came down, it now looks like it’s been there for a hundred years and is considerably less snooty than the surrounding competition. Black and white photographs of some of its more photogenic patrons decorate the walls, and the old furniture lends the place a cosy atmosphere.
Tel: 030 44 87 286
U-Bahn Rosenthaler Platz
Russian-themed pub which — to its credit — seems to attract genuine Russians, who come for the borsch and the Baltika beer. While away an afternoon on the sofa in the backroom under the watchful eye of Gorky, whose portraits adorn the walls, or check out the hip retro furniture in the new, disappointingly unscruffy, extension (sure to divide opinions among regulars).
Hotel Adlon lobby bar
Unter den Linden 77
Tel: 030 22 610
S-Bahn Unter den Linden
The Adlon is Berlin’s most expensive and prestigious hotel, and the lobby bar reflects this in every detail. Luxurious furnishings, deferential staff and the all-pervasive reek of money make this a fascinating experience. The drinks prices are at least double what you would pay anywhere else, but it’s worth it for the feeling of luxury and the people-watching. If you ever want to prove to yourself that being rich doesn’t make you happy, come here and study the glamorously miserable couples.
Tel: 030 2828166
The Oscar Wilde pub by Oranienburger Tor in Mitte is probably the best place in Berlin to watch British football and rugby. They have a full programme of English, Scottish and European football shown on a giant screen in the back room. It attracts a mixed German and ex-pat crowd, and is always lively – the right place to go if you miss a real pub atmosphere. The food on offer is more or less what you would expect in a British or Irish pub, fish and chips, curry and so on.
Lychener Str. 63
S+U-Bahn Schönhauser Allee
Formerly an underground drinking den in the GDR, the Five Goats has refused to sell out under the new capitalist regime; hiding its light under a considerable bushel in the shape of a signless and empty front room, it can hardly be accused of over-promoting itself.
The candle-lit back room with its second-hand furniture is cosy and conducive to earnest political discussions, although the weak-lunged may be put off by the fact that this is arguably the smokiest bar in Berlin. And that’s saying something.
Tel: 030 44 03 56 53
U-Bahn Eberswalder Str.
Kakao pulls off the difficult task of being a chocolate-themed café which still manages to be hip. It establishes its cool credentials through touches such as pictures of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry on the sign outside, an exceptionally well-designed interior (check out the illuminated world map on the ceiling), and an electronica soundtrack.
Naturally there is plenty of chocolate in evidence on the menu, which features snacks such as chocolate flakes on buttered bread and chocolate anti pasti, as well as three kinds of drinking chocolate. The partner chocolate shop next door is also worth a visit for high class confectionary.
Klub der Republik
U-Bahn Eberswalder Str.
Coming along Pappelallee, it is easy to spot Klub der Republik. Located on the first floor of an angular 1960s building, its huge windows allow the passing voyeur to see the action inside. You enter the bar via the yard, scaling precarious scaffolding stairs, and then going through a shabby corridor carpeted with something akin to articifical grass.
A wall of smoke greets you as you enter the bar proper, whose interior is best described as GDR retro. On a good night, the atmosphere feels like a Heineken commercial maker’s wet dream, with musicians playing live instruments over turntables while the hip crowd claps along. Grab a beer, take a seat on the curvy sofas, and join in.
Tel: 030 44 55 458
U-Bahn Eberswalder Str.
One of Prenzlauer Berg’s best-loved bars, it’s difficult not to like the Wohnzimmer. A former Eckkneipe (‘corner pub’), the old furniture and creaky wooden floorboards make you feel like you’ve travelled back in time somehow.
A couple of years ago they opened a spacious extension which for some obscure reason wants to be a cocktail bar, but this doesn’t detract from the Wohnzimmer’s charm. Get there early and score the chaise longue for extra posing points.
Tel: 030 448 56 88
U-Bahn Eberswalder Str.
As well as the original hundred-year old pub, the sprawling Prater complex contains a shady beer garden, an outdoor cocktail bar, an open-air stage, and the club Bastard. In the summer the beer garden (reputably the oldest in Berlin) is packed with pretzel-munching revellers until late into the night.
U-Bahn: U8-Bernauer Str.- Eberswalder Str.
One of Berlin’s top locations for electonic music, NBI (which stands, grandly, for ‘new Berlin initiative’) is going from strength to strength and has recently moved into a large new location in the Kulturbrauerei entertainment complex.
The venue is a favourite with musicians, and the packed programme features a mixture of DJs and laptop gigs by NBI’s network of friends and acquaintances. Legendary Berlin noise band Einstürzende Neubauten recently played an ear-shattering live gig there, at their own request.
Stargarder Str. 13
Tel. 030 43 72 06 46
S-Bahn/U-Bahn Schönhauser Allee
A stylish café bar with elegant retro furniture, Marietta is surprisingly down-to-earth considering how trendy it looks. The breakfasts and sandwiches are good value, and DJs provide background music on weekend nights. Their witty website is worth a look, despite the fact that it depicts an imaginary bar bearing no resemblance to Marietta itself.
Im Volkspark Friedrichshain
Tel: 030 45 30 565-25
Relax after an invigorating walk in Volkspark Friedrichshain with a drink at Schoenbrunn, an oasis of GDR architecture hidden among the surrounding greenery. The concrete terrace is packed on a warm day, while the stylish interior is cosy on a cold evening. The food is also worth checking out, with Austrian cuisine a speciality.
Tel: 030 29 77 88 25
S-Bahn Warschauer Str./Ostkreuz
More like a cosy living-room than a bar, Kaufbar’s convivial atmosphere is partly due to its elegant second-hand furniture and candlelight, but the friendly staff who never pressure you to order anything certainly help. As the name Kaufbar (‘purchasable’) suggests, everything in the bar is for sale, and the fact that the furniture is slightly different on each visit suggests the business model works. Temporary exhibitions by local artists and the occasional reading add extra bohemian brownie points.
Boxhagener Str. 107
Tel: 030 29 66 64 57
U-Bahn Frankfurter Tor
Attractive brickwork, exposed pipes and candlelight make Intimes a cosy refuge from the bleak Berlin winter, while in the summer you can sit outside on the wide pavement and watch the local bohemians cycle past. The Turkish food is good and plentiful, and the buffet breakfasts are famous. The cinema next door (also called Intimes) has been there since the long-gone days when Friedrichshain was a workers quarter, and is possibly the only Berlin cinema heated by a coal stove.
U-Bahn Frankfurter Tor
S-Bahn/U-Bahn Warschauer Str.
With its space age decoration and general hipness, the Astro Bar stands out from the generic cocktail bars which line Simon-Dach-Strasse. Always packed, it’s extremely popular with the local student crowd who lounge about on the decrepit sofas until well past their bedtime. Men of a certain age can look fondly at the Asteroids computer game in the back room and reminisce about their misspent adolescence.
Tel.: 030 29 77 18 87
S-Bahn/U-Bahn Warschauer Str.
Cut from the same fashionable cloth as the nearby Astro Bar, Habermeyer is (thankfully) not as crowded and attracts a slightly older brand of beatnik. The eccentric retro décor includes a room where the walls are composed of cross-sections of cardboard tubing, and an ancient vending machine selling plastic toys and other knick-knacks. There’s a DJ most nights, with the music selection ranging from 1960s pop to incongruously high-energy techno.
Tel: 030 32 66 09 25
U-Bahn Samariter Str.
Located in Friedrichshain’s edgier northern half, the Wein Salon feels like an old-school Berlin illegal squat bar but is (probably) legal. Its rough-and-ready feel makes it a popular hangout of the arty ex-pats who gravitate around the nearby English bookshop East of Eden. Grab the cosy sofa in the side room or play pool with punks in the back room.
Tel: 030 6128 0334
This bar is a little out of the way, between Görlitzer Bahnhof and the canal, but it is well worth going out of your way for. It is lively most evenings, full of Kreuzberg intellectuals and the like. The interior has a kind of cool dingy garret look, with peeling plaster on the walls and candlelight.
The wine is very good, and the music is old-fashioned in the best sense of the word – Jacques Brel even gets played. It is named after a Russian singer, and has a small menu of Russian dishes such as pelmeni and blini.
Tel. 030 61 40 36 59
U-Bahn Kottbusser Tor/Görlitzer Bahnhof
Famous for the eccentric paper lanterns which decorate its ceiling, Bateau Ivre is always busy enough to have atmosphere, while seldom so crowded that you can’t find a seat. The second hand furniture and gratuitous art on the walls give it a bohemian air, while the huge windows allow you to observe Oranienstraße street life from a safe distance (something you’ll be grateful for should you be there during the annual 1st of May riots).
Kottbusser Damm 104
Tel. 030 69 35 649
With its superb location right next to the canal, the Ankerklause is a great place to sit outside on a summer’s afternoon or evening. Inside it is divided into various booths, nooks, and crannies, all decorated with the bar’s aquatic theme.
Popular with tattooed 30-something Kreuzberg hipsters, the bar gets extremely lively late at night, especially on a Thursday when they have a DJ. The food is straightforward and cheap, and the jukebox is reputably the best in Berlin (but make sure you can hear it from where you are sitting before you invest too much money).
Max und Moritz
Tel 030 69 51 59 11
Even before you enter, this Oranienstraße bar flaunts its personality. The exterior is covered with beautiful old green tiles, ‘Max und Moritz’ is written in blue neon, and a sign announces the bar as a Wirtshaus (an old-fashioned word for pub).
Inside, the parquet floor, chandeliers, ornate metalwork and stucco show that this is a bar with style, self-confidence and history—founded in 1902, it’s one of Berlin’s oldest pubs. It hosts regular live music, readings, and, apparently, a fish swap shop for aquarium owners every third Sunday in the month (I’m not making this up).
Vor dem Schlesischen Tor 2a
Tel: 030 61 07 43 09
U-Bahn Schlesisches Tor, S-Bahn Treptower Park
One of the nicest (and hence busiest) places to be in Berlin on a warm summer’s evening, Freischwimmer is located at water’s level right beside a Spree side-canal.
The bar comprises a long series of terraces, pontoons, and rooms along the water’s edge, and you could almost imagine you were in some balmy Mediterranean resort were it not for the post-industrial landscape in the background. Should you find Freischwimmer a tad too genteel for your taste, its edgier, scruffier, step-brother Club der Visionäre is just a short swim away on the other side of the canal.
Tel: 030 61 23 252
U-Bahn Schlesisches Tor
One of Kreuzberg’s quirkier bars, Konrad Tönz is named after a 1970s German TV presenter (he has actually visited the bar twice) and is suitably retro in its furniture and decoration, with amusing period advertisements and catalogue pages on the walls. There’s a DJ most nights, playing mainly German Beatles covers from 1964 on two mono record players similar to the one your family had in the 1970s.
Tel: 030 22 32 87 35
One of Berlin’s best Irish pubs, the Irish Harp is a favourite of expats in west Berlin and is a popular place to watch televised sports. Live music at weekends, tasty pub grub, and friendly staff all make this a great place to catch up with other English speakers.
Tel: 030 31 39 909
U-Bahn/S-Bahn Zoologischer Garten
Schleusenkrug’s curious location next to the zoo means you may hear elephants harrumphing while sitting outside in the spacious beer garden, which gets very full in nice weather. Inside you can admire the 1950s interior and watch boats waiting for the canal lock’s sluice gates to open.
Café im Literaturhaus
Tel: 030 88 72 86-0
This upmarket café is situated in the grand Literaturhaus arts venue, meaning you can catch a reading between drinks. The conservatory is very popular (table reservations essential) and the garden tables are pleasant in the summer. The elegant wait staff and eccentric regulars give the place plenty of personality.
Tel: 030 31 22 644
Popular with students from the nearby Technical University, the Hardenberg Café is a huge old-school Berlin café with dark wood furniture, newspapers and plenty of smoke. As befits a student hangout, the food is cheap and comes in large portions.
Tel. 030 88 13 829
A refreshing change from the upmarket cafes around the Ludwigkirchplatz, this is one of the few Eckkneipen (‘corner pubs’) in Berlin where the non-German visitor will not feel intimidated (although blatant tourists are more likely to be tolerated than welcomed).
With its three rooms, painting-covered walls, and huge TV showing the football, you could almost be in a British pub, especially as most of the punters seem to know each other, collaborating on crosswords by shouting across the room. The food is probably the most traditionally German you could (or would want to) find, with the menu featuring such supposed delicacies as home-made goose fat on bread.
Potsdamer Str. 2
Tel: 030 26 55 48 60
S-Bahn/U-Bahn Potsdamer Platz
A bar full of rich West Berliners and middle-aged tourists from the provinces isn’t normally my idea of a great night out, but Billy Wilder’s is so convenient for the attractions around Potsdamer Platz that it’s hard to avoid. The food is surprisingly cheap and straightforward given the general glitz of the place. Billy Wilder himself keeps a stern eye on proceedings from his photographs on the wall, lest you forget that he is The Man.
Grand Hyatt lobby bar
Tel: 030 25 53 12 34
S-Bahn/U-Bahn Potsdamer Platz
Like Billy Wilder’s, this minimalist lobby bar is very convenient for a post-Philharmonic drink. Grab a sofa, order a cocktail, and bitch about the residents as they wander past.
Tel: 030 78 70 60 57
U-Bahn Eisenacher Str.
It’s an institution, and it knows it. With its antique furniture and living-room vibe, it has one of the nicest interiors of any Berlin café. The back room is absolutely charming with its book-lined walls, grand piano, and doll’s house, and often features events such as live music and readings. ‘Virgin Suicides’ author Jeffrey Eugenides was rumoured to hang out here during his sojourn in Berlin.
Tel: 030 78 13 447
U-Bahn Eisenacher Str.
A real Berlin Kneipe, the Felsenkeller prides itself on its traditions. Old-fashioned wood fittings, no music (always the sign of a good bar) and the best Würstchen mit Kartoffelsalat in town. Another former haunt of Jeffrey Eugenides, apparently. How did he ever find time to write?
Tel: 030 21 52 515
One of those elite cocktail bars where you have to ring a bell to get in, making you feel like you’re part of some select club. Sit at the long bar and admire the skill of the shirt-and-tie wearing barwoman, who has cocktail mixing down to a fine art. The interior is nicely designed, with pleasing touches such as checked wallpaper and kitsch ornaments.