Berlin: hipster haven, clandestine city, the ‘greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine’ in the eyes of David Bowie. As far back as the 1920s, the German capital has enjoyed an enviable reputation for its edgy, alternative nightlife. If you’re seeking a more off-beat, free-spirited Berlin break then forget Berghain, its interminable queues and high chance of rejection on the threshold. Tap into the underground vibe with my guide to the best ‘secret’ bars of Berlin, which will always welcome you with open arms and your poison of choice…so long as you can find them.
Does a Wild West-style speakeasy in Berlin sound just a little tacky? Darn tootin’ it ain’t! Stagger Lee isn’t just good on paper – it’s been listed as one of the World’s 50 Best Bars – it truly is a great watering hole. Ring the doorbell of this establishment in Schöneberg and you’ll be admitted to a saloon bar with piano and chandeliers: check out the fantastic cash register as you give your order (I recommend picking out a bourbon) to bar staff dressed as if they’re expecting John Wayne through the swing doors any moment. It’s a good idea to reserve in advance, as it does tend to fill up with (friendly) gunslingers in the evenings.
The speakeasy theme continues at Drayton Bar in Mitte, which is difficult to find but well worth the effort of snooping out. Once you’ve found this 1930s-style bar down a side-alley behind the Westin Grand Hotel – it shares space with Cookies Cream restaurant – you can enjoy a selection of unorthodox spicy cocktails that will add a little zip to the evening. Head to the Yellow Lounge if electronic and classical remixes are your thing; if not, then the DJ gets going from 1am with more chart-friendly material. Dark without being dingy and classy but not too serious, Drayton is exactly the kind of place that makes Berlin’s nightlife such a draw.
While it’s not quite bordering on the psychedelic, Fairytale certainly lives up to its name, with suitably quirky décor (think secret doors and cabinets of curiosities), costumed waiters and a playful drinks list that features the ‘Cinderella’ – served in a silver slipper, of course. And with seating for 40, it never gets too crowded in Wonderland. To find it, here’s a clue: look out for the ‘fountain of the fairytales’ in Volkspark and you won’t be far off heading down the rabbit hole. Don’t forget to ring the doorbell when you do arrive.
Having headed out with the intention of going clubbing you may find you spend the whole night at Aspettando Filippo! Never a place bursting at the seams (thanks to its low profile and not because of any shortcomings), this bar in the east district of Friedrichshain is perfect for a quiet cocktail while enjoying some post-punk music or an open-mic night. It’s run by a friendly Italian who’s found the magic formula for anyone in search of an off-beat Berlin experience – a comfortable but distinctive setting, warm atmosphere and lack of pretence.
How to Get to Berlin
Every week over 160 flights leave London’s airports for Berlin, so there’s bound to be at least one which matches your budget and schedule. British Airways and Ryanair operate direct flights from Heathrow and Gatwick respectively, with flights taking just over an hour and a half. Before you land at either Berlin Tegel or Berlin Schoenefeld, make your life easier by pre-booking a seat on a Shuttle Direct shuttle bus. Cheap and punctual, it takes less than 40 minutes to transport you into the heart of Berlin.
Where to Stay
Wombat’s City Hostel – This friendly hostel in Mitte has a range of small to medium-sized dormitories which come equipped with lockers. The communal vibe extends to the rooftop bar, where you can share stories with your roommates over a drink while watching the city below you. It’s ideally located just round the corner from the underground (which runs through the small hours on Friday and Saturday), while the 24-hour reception means there’s no danger of being locked out if you’re planning a long night out.
Pension Classic – This guest house is right in the city centre and has spacious, comfortable rooms. Next door is a 24-hour supermarket while Wittenbergplatz Underground Station is also nearby. Before you get going in the morning meet with fellow travellers while enjoying the great breakfast buffet. The helpful staff are always happy to share recommendations on places to visit, both in the day and after dark.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the leading provider of airport transfer services in Europe and North Africa. For years travellers have entrusted Shuttle Direct to handle their transport needs, and our excellent range of low-cost and efficient services provide holidaymakers with a stress-free start to their vacation. Book your transfer through our easy to use online booking system and let us do the rest while you plan your social calendar in Berlin.