For both tourists and locals alike, one of the most exciting aspects of Berlin is its nightlife scene. Naturally, its many notorious clubs typically steal the spotlight in this regard, but this isn’t such a bad thing for the city’s secret bars. Most people probably didn’t realize it but these speakeasy-style bars and hidden gems exist all throughout Berlin, just waiting for the curious to discover them. Let us tip you off with these ten of our favorites.
Bar, Pub, Pub Grub
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Madame Claude is known for its topsy-turvy decor | Courtesy of Madame Claude
Located on one of the quieter side streets of the Wrangelkiez, Madame Claude is housed in a former brothel. The place glows with red light and the entryway entices visitors with its Lynchian vibe. The bar area itself is located at the bottom of a narrow stairwell, and there is a clever array of creatively arranged furniture fixed to the ceiling, which evokes a bit of a disorienting effect. Cozy up at one of Madame Claude’s eclectic tables with a cocktail or beer. The drink menu is fairly barebones, but this place is really about the ambiance. Madame Claude also holds live music on the regular.
Classy and upscale, Bar Tausend is situated in the heart of the city, near the bustling Friedrichstrasse, but it’s very easy to miss. Tucked below railway tracks and behind an imposing steel door, taking the time to search for this place is well worth it. They serve classic cocktails with elevated style. There is also a cantina that specializes in German-Asian fusion cuisine by personnel from the acclaimed restaurant, Dae Mon. The interior is upscale with industrial décor and sleek art deco finishes. Bar Tausend also hosts live music and DJ sets on weekends. It provides a practically unparalleled level of nightlife sophistication, and guests only get in if they are able to look the part.
With its elongated interior decorated in black and warm wooden tones, Bar Zentral, located in a busy Charlottenburg neighborhood provides an unexpected dose of style and elegance in both drink and design. Opened in 2015, this place has a robust set of regulars, but otherwise remains a bit of a secret within the Berlin bar scene. The design studio Hidden Fortress is behind the setup, which was created to foster elegance, intimacy, and coziness. Drinks are superb and balanced, also oriented around classics but often with a twist.
Located near the famed Märchenbrunnen, or ‘fountain of the fairytales’ in Volkspark, Fairytale offers an intriguingly whimsical ambiance, akin to the aesthetic of a Tim Burton film. The dim interior has a speakeasy vibe with detailed Alice and Wonderland décor and drink presentation. The cocktails are also fairytale themed with options like the ‘Cinderella’, which is served in a glass slipper. Meanwhile, the Mogli comes with a mix of chocolate, coconut, and rum. The bar staff are dressed in full costume to complete this imaginative experience.
Paloma is a little sliver of a bar that overlooks the bustling Kottbusser Tor. Its groovy 70s style décor in a prefabricated building of the same era that is, naturally, covered in graffiti from the outside and situated above a Kaiser grocery store. To access it, visitors must enter an uninviting metal gate and go up an equally dismal set of concrete steps. Yet, this hidden jewel has plenty to offer the patron willing to seek it out. For one, it has the true grit of an old school Berlin bar, and its windows provide a solid panorama of the notorious Kreuzberg neighborhood beneath.
With its 1920s style interior, Stagger Lee in Schöneberg is a themed speakeasy bar with all the fixings. The low-key atmosphere features exact replicas of quintessential prohibition-era saloon décor including an astoundingly ornate old cash register. Even the bar staff is dressed to fit the part, and getting admitted requires ringing the doorbell. Yet, none of it feels overdone or gimmicky. Expect perfect mood lighting and an impressive selection of bourbon. Making a reservation beforehand isn’t a bad idea as this place does fill up during peak hours. It was, after all, included on the World’s 50 Best Bars’ list.
Basalt is one of Wedding’s best hidden secrets. Here it is possible to find craft cocktails made with fresh ingredients and homegrown herbs in a gorgeous, dramatic contemporary ambiance featuring dark walls and a green tiled bar. Drinks include things like ginger mojitos and homemade Kwas or the ‘Pink n’ Spicy’, which is made of raspberry puree, rum, lemon, vanilla, cracked pepper, and coriander. The interior is decorated on a botanic theme, and its owners are longtime friends, Kieran and Matthias, who have extensive experience in the areas of tourism and gastronomy.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Cocktails, Pub Grub, German, $$$
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REDWOOD Bar Berlin
| Courtesy of Redwood
Redwood is another lesser known bar near Rosenthaler Platz in Mitte with a casual ambiance and phenomenal drinks. It’s unpretentious, slightly grungy interior attracts a friendly local crowd. What makes them special is that they make most of the components for their drinks in-house, including eggnog and bitters. Their cocktails are flavorful and always interesting, featuring blends of spirits, spices, herbs, and fruits at the perfect balance. They also have homemade yummy snacks like empanadas, because at this neighborhood gem, why not?