Tel: 49 30 208 79998
Clearly drinks sell art: It's almost impossible to find a Berlin cocktail bar that doesn't double as a gallery. The city's arty intellectual crowd currently hits Mitte's ArtBar71, a mod cinematic metal, wood, and glass space. The artwork changes regularly, and even the bar itselfwith a huge glossy-white egg-shaped facadeseems to be part of an art show, while the live music is suitably eclectic, from acoustic guitarist Diane Cluck to the rock stylings of Gloria Viagra, Germany's tallest drag queen. Thankfully, the mojitos and martinis are straightforward and strong.
Tel: 49 89 160 909 002 24
Munich star DJ Nikias Hofmann founded this black-and-red marble nightclub in the former home of Aubergine, Munich's much-missed three-star restaurant on the edge of the historical center. The club is oddly intimate, especially compared to the granddaddy of Eurotrash nightlife, the sprawling P1. A younger crowd than in many local nightspots dances here to electro and house music. There are three bars, but one lounge is easygoing and quiet enough to converse in, while the main floor features young heirs and heiresses dancing the night away.
Tel: 49 30 9700 5106
Linienstrasse, in the trendy Mitte neighborhood, is lined with a good chunk of the city's best art galleries. Follow the road east to tiny Weydingerstrasse and Bar 3, where every gallery party seems to happen. A regular crew of Ivy-educated Americans smoke and drink until late with German gallery owners and the occasional real-life, actual artist. Minimal white walls and plate glass aren't the draw here; rather, the circular bar allows patrons a clear view of the whole room, if the billowing clouds of smoke don't get in the way. It feels like a throwback to a time when the young and ambitious talked about art and hatched romantic schemes rather than discussing co-ops and summer shares. On warm nights, the crowd spills out to cover the triangular plaza in front of the bar, lending the whole affair a touch of Mediterranean—or maybe just postcollegiate—flair.— Ralph Martin
Tel: 49 30 883 15 82
Life is still a cabaret at this legendary venue, where song-and-dance routines, comedies, operettas, and full-scale musicals are performed beneath a beautiful Art Nouveau–style mirrored tent dating to 1912. Here, elaborately costumed, mostly German stars entertain guests who can bask in the vintage vibe while dining on international cuisine prior to the show or during intermission. The always innovative pair of owners/artistic directors, Holger Klotzbach and Lutz Deisinger, also opened a second tented venue, Tipi Zelt am Kanzleramt ("tipi" is German for "teepee") on the site of the old Tempodrome in 2002. From the outside, Tipi's pointy white tarps create an almost Alpine landscape in the Tiergarten; inside, bright lights and star-studded lineups help bring audiences back to the days of Christopher Isherwood. (Grosse Querallee, in Tiergarten park between the Chancellery and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Tiergarten; 49-30-39-06-65-0; www.tipi-das-zelt.de).
Am Wriezener Bahnhof
Tel: No phone
This colossal wee-hours nightspot along an isolated stretch of the Spree River was once a power plant for the city's eastern districts. Now long lines of clubbers jockey to get past the strict bouncer, ascend the industrial metal staircase, and dance to throbbing techno or house spun by international DJs (its sound system is reportedly one of Berlin's loudest). Take in the, yes, panoramic view from the bar beside the main dance floor (its ceilings are soaringly high), or go upstairs to check out the sexy oversize image by star photographer Wolfgang Tillmans and the building's old power switches. You never know what else you might see here; while crowds are mixed these days, the club's a successor to the legendary gay fetish venue Ostgut, and its new-Berlin decadence carries on. Cameras are strictly verboten, and though the doors open at midnight, you shouldn't even think of coming before 2 a.m.
Tel: 49 89 452 288 0
Home to towering blondes and ascot-wearing slicksters, Brenner is a perfect distillation of the Munich nightlife ethos. Located in a courtyard off Maximilianstrasse, the town's main drag for shops and bars, this cavernous, pillared space features low-slung beige leather banquettes under an arched ceiling (it also fronts the Brenner Grill). The clientele is decidedly upscale, which in Munich tends to mean a great age disparity between gentlemen and their consorts. Drinks start at $11—the long menu features a half-page of Champagne cocktails, the signature retro-hip drink of Germany. DJs spin on Saturday nights only.
Tel: 49 351 81 07301
Canapé's white leather seating, black decor intermixed with bamboo screens, Buddha heads, and water pipe in the back room, admittedly give out a few mixed signals. But the feeling is cool and urban, with ambient music and an eclectic crowd. The bartenders are friendly and the drinks strong, large, and inexpensive, with $7 to $8 cocktails.
Open daily 6 pm to 1 am.
Tel: 49 30 282 92 95
A prime pickup joint for lonely yet light-on-their-feet Berliners since 1913, Clärchen's Ballhaus reopened in 2005 after a year of closed doors. But it has luckily managed to escape the renovations that have homogenized other traditional Berlin spaces—only the bathrooms, kitchen, and bar were modernized—and even some of the bow-tied, old-timer employees have remained (the coat-check man is a vestige of another era). Lined with silver streamers and vintage fixtures and furnishings, the huge ground-floor ballroom offers tango and swing nights as well as lessons in standard ballroom dancing during the week; weekends attract elderly regulars (many of whom dance breathtakingly well), young art-worlders, and the occasional celebrity (Charlotte Rampling was spotted here during the 2006 Berlin Film Festival). The music is sometimes live, sometimes DJ-spun, and sometimes unapologetically cheesy (Beach Boys, anyone?). Worth a look is the fantastically ornate hall upstairs—a stunning chandeliered event space whose mirrors and moldings haven't been touched since the 1920s. Before cutting the rug, try a thin-crust pizza or German bockwurst at the tables in the front garden, a favorite summer spot.
96 Karl Marx Allee
Tel: 49 30 290 44741
Although located in Berlin's Friedrichshain neighborhood—known for its youthful, punky attitude and low rents—CSA is designed within an inch of its life to feel like a minimalist airport lounge from some Gattaca-like future. The setting in the old offices of Czech Airlines certainly has something to do with this. A neat row of upholstered seats fronts the bar where the clientele is a sophisticated crowd drawing heavily from the worlds of fashion and publishing. The bartenders are reputed to be among Berlin's best mixologists and the view of the street is worth the price of the cocktails. Karl Marx Allee is East Berlin's Park Avenue, a marble-clad, Stalin-inspired boulevard of high-rise apartments for old-time apparatchiks.
Open daily from 7 pm May through October, and from 9 pm November through April.
Tel: 49 40 309 930
A designer-duds crowd fills the multi-leveled space at the East hotel, in an unassuming street right off the main drag of the Reeperbahn. Designed to within an inch of its life, East has huge, suggestively shaped design elements protruding everywhere and a Clockwork Orange –style "milk bar" with what appears to be a ceiling full of teats hanging overhead, and an open dining area located one dramatic staircase below. Cocktails are the main trade here; try the East Beauty (saki, plum liqueur, aloe vera, "special East syrup," and pineapple).
Tel: 49 351 65 888380
Frank's is an old-fashioned cocktail bar with terra-cotta walls, tile floors, and Gershwin on the stereo. The patrons who choose from the encyclopedic book of cocktails on the bronze bar are anonymously good-looking and discreet, talking in low voices in alcoves. A rock 'n' roll joint it's not, but the immaculately prepared cocktails and wall of obscure whiskies, both American and Scottish, are pure pleasure.
Open daily 8 pm to 3 am.
Hamburg's history of tolerance makes it, unsurprisingly, something of a gay mecca. Nightlife is split largely between raucous St. Pauli and slightly quieter (though not much less sleazy) St. Georg, east of the central train station. Café Gnosa is a historic spot to pass the early evening hours (93 Lange Reihe, St. Georg; 49-40-243-034; www.gnosa.de); once things pick up, WunderBar is a sweatier affair, with frequent theme nights (14–18, Talstrasse, St. Pauli; 49-40-317-444-4; www.wunderbar-hamburg.de). The Frauenkneipe, to the west of the port, is ladies-only, with a regular succession of DJs and dance nights (60 Stresemannstrasse, Altona; 49-40-436-377; www.frauenkneipe-hamburg.de).
Tel: 49 40 319 799 30
A mainstay of edgy Hamburg nightlife since the 1990s, when it was a pioneer in spreading electronic music across Europe, the Golden Pudel is a grotty free-standing building on the Elbe riverbank, flanked on one side by a gentrified restaurant strip and on the other by DayGlo-painted squatter housing. Inside is a pair of tiny, graffiti-covered rooms where you'll hear a mix of hip-hop, electronica, and rock, depending on the night. Summer means heading out into the garden, with its long, much-abused wooden benches. The doorman may or may not decide to impose a nominal cover charge, the crowd is utterly heterogeneous, and it's definitely the place to go if you want to feel like an insider.
After Heinz Gindullis established himself with the now-you-see-it, now-you-don't nightclub Cookies, which opens, closes and moves shop with maddening speed, he opened the upscale Greenwich Bar. Now a classic on the cocktail circuit, it's a favorite of young celebrities. There's a green backlit bar, illuminated fish tanks, and lime-colored leather banquets. There's no name on the door and the telephone number is unpublished, but by now Greenwich is no big secret.
Berlin nightlife at its best often feels like 1990s New York, with unmarked doors leading to repurposed or rediscovered spaces with lots of original patina (in the case of King Size, past incarnations include a legendary underground gay bar from Communist days). The walls are a mix of bathroom-style tiles and exposed concrete that bears the scars and soot of many decades. King Size came about in early 2010 after the owners of the neighboring Grill Royal realized they needed a place to steer their rambunctious guests at the end of the night. This is where you will find the glitterati of what's known as the Berliner Republik, a group of journalists, gallery owners, writers, and hangers-on in their thirties and forties who seem, based on the heavy weeknight traffic, not to be concerned about getting up early in the morning. Stay late yourself and the golden lights and hazy smoke can start to play tricks on your mind. Before you know it, you're in a timeless Berlin belonging to no decade in particular. —Ralph Martin
13 Neuer Pferdemarkt
Tel: 49 40 432 149 22
Gorgeously done up in crimson fabric wallpaper, the Schanze district's Mandalay is part lounge and part dance club (you'll hear an eclectic mix here, with live acts playing everything from classical-inspired pop to electronica). A long bar leads past wooden booths to a small wooden dance floor. Ceilings are high, giving the whole place an airy feeling (a good thing, considering how much cigarette smoke is produced on a typical night); prices for cocktails are as relaxed as the clientele, a good-looking and designer-clad slackerish bunch who stick around late into the night.
Closed Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays.
39 Warschauer Strasse
Tel: 49 30 297 78590
Berlin's hipsters are hard to please; hotel bars are too sleek and commercial for their D.I.Y. bohemian tastes. But that's changed with the opening of the Michelberger, a quirky flashpacker-style hotel. A secret party night began in the basement during construction; now the scene has moved to the lobby and the Baustelle bar, a large interconnected ground-floor space with flea marketinspired decor by art housemovie stylists Anja Knauer and Sibylle Oellerich and local designer Werner Aisslinger: mismatched chairs, hanging lamps made from books, sectional-bookshelf walls. With a piano on hand and well priced drinks (try The Dude), be prepared for spontaneous jams come the wee hours.
Tel: 49 30 20 29 5421
To many in the art world, Helmut Newton is Berlin's favorite son, and he surely deserves a watering hole named after him. This bar on the Gendarmenmarkt—near the square's luxury hotels, with prices to match—is popular with older sophisticated and celebrity types. A large 18-foot-long print of the risqué Waling Women hangs on one wall; it's the largest individual Newton piece in private hands. The rest of the interiors were styled by the German architect Hans Kollhoff, who opted for heavy leather chairs, green marble, and dark oak.
Tel: 49 89 211 114 0
Billing itself as "Munich's Noble Disco," this venue feels like a northern outpost of St-Tropez, with all its excess, cheesiness, and decadence packed into one club. Located in the desirable residential neighborhood of Lehel, it opened in 1949 as a bar for U.S. Army officers, and evolved into a fantastically expensive, notoriously tough-to-get-into celebrity hangout. That said, the club is rumored to have passed its peak and the door policy can be lax on off-nights (try Thursday). The decor, by star designer Matteo Thun, is largely out of sight, but the lighting is spectacular, a constantly shifting palette of flattering shades that encourages patrons to check each other out. That's a good thing, because the sprawling venue can feel depersonalized, a parade of beautiful party people who could be dancing the night away in a dozen other equivalent nightclubs in Europe. But for the glamour-hungry, this is the obligatory spot (just ask Tom, Diddy, or Mick, just a few on the long list of illustrious visitors).
Tel: 49 30 813 21392
Berlin's impulsive, libertine nightlife scene spawns a new club every week. The latest is Raum18, a two-room, two-story venue in on-the-up Neukölln that hosts art installations and dance parties in a constantly transforming white minimalist space: One minute it's an airport, complete with check-in gate; the next, it's swathed in cobwebs with an enormous cake and fantasy figures hanging from the ceiling. The music is equally unpredictable, from dance and electronica to live Finnish drum and base, and the middle-of-nowhere location means no damper on the decibels.
Tel: 49 89 229 060
Barman Charles Schumann is a constant presence in German society pages, in addition to working as an ad pitchman. His bar in Munich is the institution that launched him, after having served for years at the local high-toned watering hole. The bar itself has recently relocated from Maximilianstrasse to Odeonsplatz (just north of the historical city center), causing some grumbling among regulars, but remains a chichi joint to see and be seen amid the light wood and white walls. Drinks are expertly mixed by Schumann's hand-picked bartenders (some of whom bolted to start their own bar, Tabacco.
Tel: 49 30 240 85502
This small pink bar with retro wallpaper and black leather couches projects icons of gay Hollywood on the wall: Silent companions to your evening are films starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day, and, inevitably, Sharon Stone and Liza Minnelli. Your hosts are low-key expats from Melbourne; although they run a Girl Savoir Vivre disco party for lesbians and their friends on Friday nights, every other evening here is all about schwullesbische (gay/lesbian lounging). The bar sits on a quiet street, but running parallel is the busy drag of Oranienburgerstrasse, known for its crumbling arts venue, Tacheles, and its ladies of the night.
Tel: 49 30 6140 1306
The facade is already one of Berlin's more atmospheric spots: a collection of metal grating and rotted wood plastered over with ancient rock 'n' roll posters, on a street that has seen more protests and rioting than most. SO36 is Berlin's CBGB: the place where German punk started, as well as the launch pad for much of the country's 1980s musical talent. Its glory eras may have been the late 1970s and '80s, when David Bowie and Iggy Pop would mix it up with the anarchists and countercultural types who had settled in Kreuzberg, but it continues to be a neighborhood center of interest. Inside, it's a long, deep performance space culminating in a stage, with facilities that are marginal at best. Most nights feature loud multiple bills of hardcore acts you've never heard of, but there's also the Turkish-themed Gayhane party, held the last Saturday of every month, and Café Fatal, a Sunday-night ballroom-dance party that includes a dance lesson and a cabaret act. And not to be missed is Kiez Bingo, on the second Tuesday of each month, an event that unites the neighborhood's graying punks, hipsters, yuppies, and old people for a rousing revival-hall-style night of good old-fashioned fun (take note, there will be a bingo hiatus from May to October).
Tel: 49 30 695 66775
In a cavernous former bakery from the Prussian era, the new Spindler & Klatt has brought several international nightlife trends to Berlin: so-called "vertical" nightlife, where guests can dine and dance in the same location, and giant oversized beds instead of tables and chairs. Guests are served Pan-Asian cuisine as they lounge horizontally in soft blue light. It's a sexy, informal vibe. Those who can resist the temptation of a postmeal nap are welcome in the after-hours dance club.
Tel: 49 89 227 216
A great retreat when you've maxed out on glitz. Despite its city center location, Tabacco is one of the few local nightspots on Munich's social map that is restrained and low-key. It was started by renegade bartenders from Schumann's, another local fixture. The sconce lighting and chandeliers make everyone look good, the simple leather chairs and wood tables (as well as an abundance of dark wood paneling) manage to be both elegant and homey, and a general, pleasant sense of permanence pervades the establishment, though it is a relatively recent addition to the Munich scene. The extensive list of mixed drinks doesn't come cheap, but the smart clientele tends to be more discreet than its nightclubbing compatriots elsewhere in the city.
102 Potsdamer Strasse
Tel: 49 30 2575 9977
Just as the art scene has diversified out of Mitte, reacting to its high rents and overconcentration of galleries and nightclubs, nightlife has also moved west and south, anchored by Viktoria Bar, which has established itself as the art crowd's after-hours spot. The interior of this narrow bar is done out in old wood and mirrors. The drinks aren't cheap, but the crowd is high-energy, often an interesting mix of artists, gallery patrons and leathery old locals. In open defiance of Berlin's antismoking laws, the place is filled with clouds of tobacco smoke late at night.—Ralph Martin
Open Sundays through Thursdays 6:30 pm to 3 am, Fridays through Saturdays 6:30 pm to 4 am.
6-8 Schönhauser Allee
Tel: 49 30 5034 8668
The newest incarnation of this ultrapopular restaurant/bar/club/live-music venue (it also operates the tattoo salon next door) is by far the biggest and best: In a former Irish pub, a cowboy-hatted American expat known only as "Wally" serves up delicious burgers and other downmarket Yank fare starting early in the night. Later, live, predominantly rock music by emerging musical acts (or local DJ sets) are on offer in the grottolike basement, and the always-packed main space fills to the gills with Berlin's art, fashion, and celebrity crowds. Despite the Irish touches and the odd Chinese trinkets dragged along as decoration from a previous location, the place has a strangely gunslinging, saloon-type feel as well as a low-key dress code. Ladies beware: In the wee hours, White Trash can live up to its name by becoming a bit of a meat market.
Tel: 49 351 56 35956
The name means "living room," and this lounge bar lives up to it with an odd mix of shabby-chic furnishings. The ground level features large tables and grand, almost thronelike wooden chairs with silk cushions. There's a 1970s look upstairs, with a brown-and-orange color scheme and a dark-wood wall console that takes the idea of a media center to a whole new level. The vibe is deliberately anti-slick, and the fairly standard menu of drinks starts at $3 for a beer, $7 for a cocktail.
Open daily 3 pm to 3 am.