While Berlin is perhaps best known for its riotous nightclubs, the German capital is also home to a vibrant and varied bar scene. The city’s creative Kreuzberg neighbourhood boasts a wealth of bars perfect for an evening of cocktails, or a laid-back beer or sundowner.
Known for its edgy and eccentric vibe, Kreuzberg is one of Berlin’s most hip and happening neighbourhoods. Ever-evolving, it’s the place to see and be seen and, thanks to its central location and status as a digital start-up hub, it invites a young and lively crowd. You’ll never go hungry or thirsty here – bars and restaurants abound, with the many cultures and cuisines represented showcasing the diversity and dynamism of the district.
Bar, Craft Ale Bar, Beer, $$$
Neatly tucked away down one of Kreuzberg’s quaint cobblestoned, tree-lined streets, Hopfenreich is paradise for craft beer lovers. Offering 22 beers on tap from all across Europe, this relaxed spot fuses edgy industrial design and tradition in its combination of antique equipment, minimalistic furniture and low-hanging lamps. Make sure to try one of Berlin’s very own local beers, easily recognisable by the ‘Berlin’ sign pointing them out on the big blackboard behind the bar. If you’re unsure which to choose, simply ask one of the friendly bartenders – they know a thing or two about their hops and barley.
Don’t expect to find a clear sign for this hip spot, set in the midst of Kreuzberg’s happening Oranienstraße. Café Luzia sports a black exterior wall with a golden shield and armour motif, but its name is nowhere in sight. This modesty by no means correlates with the bar’s popularity; on any given day of the week, this hipster spot is buzzing. Make sure to arrive early to nab one of the comfy armchairs, or come at the weekend to enjoy mojitos against the backdrop of live DJ sets. Floor-to-ceiling sliding doors are wide open in summer, with the party spilling out onto the street.
Just a few hundred metres down the street from Café Luzia is the quirky and unpretentious Bateau Ivre. Large wooden tables, comfortable matching wooden chairs and accompanying funky music – think plentiful Manu Chao – make Bateau Ivre the perfect spot for groups of friends to kick back with a few drinks. While the menu offers a broad range of coffees, beers, tapas dishes and cakes, the real treat is their Aperol Spritz or Weißweinschorle (white wine spritzer) on a warm summer night. Adding to Bateau Ivre’s friendly vibe, the surrealist art that adorns the bar’s walls provides splashes of colour and a touch of playfulness to the space.
Madame Claude is known for its topsy-turvy decor | Courtesy of Madame Claude
Madame Claude is a veritable Kreuzberg institution. If being a former brothel wasn’t enough to pique your interest, this bar will quite literally have your head spinning with its unusual, topsy-turvy decor. The ceiling of this basement bar is bedecked with furniture of a bygone era, offering an upside down view of what used to be. Each dark and cosy nook and cranny offers a new view of 1970s armchairs, lamps and tables, VCR tapes and cassettes, all sturdily hanging directly above your head. Be sure to pop in on a Wednesday for Madame Claude’s popular music quiz or for ‘Freaky Friday’ guest DJ nights.
Right on the doorstep of Görlitzer Park, Mano Café is quintessentially ‘Kreuzberg’ in its decor and attitude; with its mismatched vintage furniture and laid-back style, this affordable and fun bar is a prime spot for afternoon coffee and cake or relaxed evening drinks. Get there early to camp out in one of the makeshift wooden mezzanine-meets-treehouse nooks, filled with bright carpets and cushions – undoubtedly one of Berlin’s comfiest bar experiences. Alternatively, settle down in a garden shed-esque booth, bursting with verdant plants and fairy lights, or simply sink into one of the well-worn couches by the bar’s back wall.
For a cocktail bar with a cool yet cosy atmosphere that will have you thinking you made a wrong turn and somehow ended up in Brooklyn, head to John Muir. Drawing a stylish, young crowd, John Muir is known for its stellar cocktails – enjoy one of their signature Negroni or whiskey sour cocktails on the bar’s patio, where the exposed red-brick wall is decked out with twinkling fairy lights. In addition to classic concoctions, the bar hosts an intriguing seasonal cocktail menu, which makes use of fresh (and at times unexpected) ingredients, including beetroot, pumpkin and rosemary.
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ORA’s former life as a pharmacy is evident in its interior | Courtesy of ORA
Walk into Ora and you may believe you have just walked into an old apotheke (pharmacy). This is precisely what reconverted bar Ora, named for its location on Oranienplatz, used to be. The bar’s owners decided to revamp the old pharmacy into a bar and restaurant, while maintaining its distinctive feel. Walls of pharmaceutical glass tubes and bottles are neatly aligned behind the counter-turned-bar, while dark wooden furniture and hanging chandeliers add an air of grandeur to the space. At the slightly higher end of the price scale, an evening sipping on a signature G&T or handcrafted cocktail at Ora offers the winning combination of history and glamour.
Just a stone’s throw away from cool Paul-Lincke-Ufer Street, which runs along the Landwehr Canal, Das Hotel is a relaxed “living room bar”. Previously part of a hotel, as the name candidly suggests, this tiny bar makes up for in exuberance what it lacks in size. Purple, green and yellow dried flowers in glass bottles dangle at different levels from the ceiling, while dried lavender and daisies pop out from the walls and fresh flowers adorn each table. To ramp the weekend up a notch, make your way downstairs to the intimate underground club, directly beneath the bar. This miniature club pumps different music depending on the night, but one thing that never changes at Das Hotel is the personalised service – the friendly bar staff are always happy to make you a customised cocktail.
Easily missed thanks to its low-key facade, Schwarze Traube is a moody knock-to-enter speakeasy famed for outstanding cocktails. Rather than offering an extensive menu, here the expert bartender instead gives you a detailed description of the cocktails of the day. If none on the concise, curated list appeal to you, the attentive staff are more than happy to create a concoction of your choosing. While the price tag at Schwarze Traube befits the bar’s reputation, it’s worth digging a little deeper into your wallet for this bespoke cocktail experience in luxurious surrounds – right down to the antique glassware.