Of all European cities, Berlin is the one that relaxes the rules to allow for a walk on the wild side – at any time of the day or night. It really has something for everyone, from date-night bars to crazy-right-now cocktail joints, from divine décor to distressed dives, from swish and swanky to retro and raw. These are our twelve of the best. Discretion advised!
BEST BAR FOR SWANKY COCKTAILS
Banca Bar & Velvet Lounge: Located in the Rocco Forte Hotel de Rome, this is an elegant and exquisite space, formal yet not so much that you’d feel unwanted if you walked in without a tie. The Banca Bar, however, is swish to a tee, with a cocktail menu of over 60 concoctions, many of which are conjured out of infusions of rare spirits and ingredients such as spices, herbs, dried fruits and vegetables. Fancy!
Address: Behrenstrasse 37, 10117.
BEST BAR FOR VIEWS
Monkey Bar: Located on the top floors of the 25 Hours Hotel (which is itself housed in the listed Bikini-Haus building), this uber-popular and trendy cocktail bar offers, alongside a vast array of expertly crafted drinks, matchless 360-degree views of the city, but notably of Berlin Zoo and its monkey enclosure (hence the bar’s name). “Welcome to our own private paradise”, says Monkey Bar. “Don’t mind if we do,” says us.
Address: Budapester Strasse 40, 10787.
BEST BAR FOR TIME TRAVEL
ORA: Following World War 2, this former pharmacy from the 1860s (whose original name, Orange, gives the bar its title) remained abandoned until 2015, which is when its entrepreneurial new owners reopened it. Because of the age of the decor, however, it was decided to keep many of the original features, which is why, as you sip your beer or cocktail, you are surrounded by oddities such as apothecary jars, cracked tiled flooring, and wooden medicine cabinets.
Address: 14 Oranienplatz 10999.
BEST BAR FOR ALICE IN WONDERLAND FANS
Fairytale Bar: Is this the most unusual bar concept we’ve ever seen? Located close to the fairground fountain in Volkspark, Fairytale Bar isn’t for kids, but rather for adults that claim they’ve seen everything life has to offer. ‘Drink Me’ cocktails are named after fairy tale characters, while champagne is served from a glass slipper. Aside from the novelty of seeing bar staff dressed in costume, this place is – no more, no less – a stunning little bar.
Address: Am Friedrichshain 24, 10407.
BEST BAR FOR MISCHIEF
Madame Claude: Many pieces of furniture in this former brothel are hanging from the ceiling, which makes walking into the bar something of a surreal experience. There are live shows and DJs every night (and a ‘Guess The Song’ pop quiz mid-week) so this place isn’t the best for a quiet chat, but we love its cheek as well as its approach to bar entertainment. And we also admire its mantra of being a bar “for common people”.
Address: 19 Lubbner Strasse, Bezirk Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg 10997.
BEST BAR FOR RETRO VIBES
Konrad Tönz: Any bar that describes itself as having a “cosy, dodgy bar atmosphere” is fine in our book, and so it is that Konrad Tönz sits nicely in this list of the best places to visit in Berlin. It’s a real retro bar, too, in more ways than one. Firstly, the vinyl played on portable mono record players offers music from the ‘50s to the ‘70s. Secondly, the bar is a bona fide smoker’s utopia.
Address: Falckensteinstraße 30, 10997
BEST BAR FOR ONE
Rum Trader: You might fit more than one person into this tiny, classic bar, but it would be a bit of a squeeze. Unusually, admittance is based on how smartly dressed you are, but if you are allowed in by the host/bartender then prepare yourself for a unique experience and some of the tastiest, most explosive bespoke cocktails (there is no menu) the city can offer. Word of warning: there is only one table here, so get in early!
Address: 40 Fasanenstrasse, 10719.
BEST BAR FOR TWO
Das Hotel: If you’re looking for something that is quintessentially Berlin (that is, a little bit dive-bar, a big bit enjoyable), then this intimate bar is for you. Despite its name, it isn’t a bona fide hotel but rather three small rooms and a basement, lit by candlelight and sporting a naturally distressed design aesthetic (visible bricks, peeling wallpaper) that you will either love or loathe. We loved it for its singular atmosphere and on-site bistro.
Address: 26a Mariannenstrasse, 10999.
BEST BAR FOR BEER
Vagabund: A recent addition to the best of the city’s bars, Vagabund was founded in 2013 by three American friends who were disappointed not with the quality but with the variety of craft beers in Berlin. Six years later, and the Vagabund Brewery and Taproom is a fully established place to visit. Its room space is larger than most, with repurposed tables and benches, but you’re here for the beer, right, and in that area Vagabund doesn’t disappoint.
Address: Antwerpener Strasse 3, 13353.
BEST BAR FOR WINE
Weinstein: Dark wood décor? Shelves upon shelves filled with over one hundred German and Austrian wines? Tens upon tens of wine to drink by the glass? You’re welcome at Weinstein, an old-school Berlin establishment that has evolved since its inception in 1993 from a basic enoteca to a wine bar (and restaurant) of exceptional quality. Another rewarding aspect of Weinstein is its premise of providing, simply and modestly, a good night out for you and your friends.
Address: Lychcner Strasse 33, 10437.
BEST BAR FOR CIGARS
Newton Bar: With décor straight out of a smart Mad Men-era Gentleman’s Club (red leather sofa chairs and banquettes; heavy oak furniture), and large-scale images of the naked body by famed photographer Helmut Newton (after whom it is named) this bar may come across as a bit too obviously ‘male’. This noted, the atmosphere is classy, the drinks pricey, and the upstairs cigar lounge most impressive. Our favourite area? The half-moon shaped bar in the lounge, which is brilliant for people-watching.
Address: Charlottenstrasse 57, 10117.
BEST BAR FOR AWARDS
Provocateur Bar: The burlesque bar of the titular hotel is the place to go to should you require a glimpse into the Berlin of the 1920s. With a design style straight out of Cabaret, So popular and flamboyant is this place that it nabbed the Hotel Bar Of The Year and Bar Team Of The Year gongs at last year’s Mixology Bar Awards event.
Address: Brandenburgische Strasse 21, 10707.
Feature Written By Tony Clayton-Lea