When you land in a city dominated by its late-night, food, drink and fashion scenes, it is hard to go wrong with any bar you might stumble into as you wander the winding streets. But with so much on offer, it can be overwhelming arriving in Berlin and attempting to find the best spots. You sit in one bar, struck with the fear that you might be missing out on another that’s slightly cooler.
So whether you want to immerse yourself in the raw edge of Berlin’s up and coming east side or admire the minimalist chic of the old west, we’ve got you covered with this by no means exhaustive list of the best bars in Berlin.
Located close to Rosenthaler Platz, nestled among some of Berlin’s best vintage and antique haunts, Kaffee Mitte is modern, chic and minimalist. Think light pine, polished concrete, clean lines and dangling light globes. Serving up fresh pasta and great coffee by day, and wine, beer and cocktails by night, you won’t be disappointed with the offerings. Far from the electronic beat that seems impossible to escape in Berlin, this is the perfect way to wind down after a long day sight-seeing or shopping.
Not only is Common Ground one of the most conveniently located spots in town (right at Rosenthaler Platz, next to the underground), it is also one of the most stylish. Spacious and with a relaxed atmosphere, you can easily chill here for hours with a delicious cocktail or one of the many international and local beers on offer. The biergarten is a particularly good hang out in summer.
This place is truly a piece of Berlin’s old west preserved. Unique in kind in the city, the Ballhaus Berlin is a dance hall paying revived homage to its tradition of hosting ballroom dance parties in the twenties. Steeped in elegance with tall ceilings, beautiful arches and dangling lightbulbs that perfectly diffuse the otherwise red glow of the ballroom, Ballhaus is a step back in time to the raucous nightlife of the 20s. Stop in for a drink in the gorgeous biergarten or book a seat for an event; either way, you will leave feeling dreamy.
We seem to love anything with the mystery and allure of the unmarked entrance, and Tausend is undoubtedly the best in Berlin when it comes to nailing that brief. With a beautiful iron door sitting under a train overpass, this very adult bar is about as exclusive as Berlin gets. Contrary to basically everywhere else in Berlin, you’ll need to dress up to get in, but it’s worth it. The tubular, steel-clad bar will transport you and the drinks are both innovative and delicious (get the wasabi cocktail).
The best spot for a sneaky celebrity sighting in Berlin, Bar 3 packs out with slick clientele who roam the streets of Mitte and call this place a favourite. The large, horseshoe-shaped bar fills the space out, meaning you can only park up on a bar stool or choose to stand. Order the Kölsch beer from Cologne (a city in Germany’s west) and settle in for the night. Kölsch is served in small glasses and tradition dictates that the barman will continually refill or replace your drink until you abandon it or lay a coaster over the top. Be careful (or don’t be).
The simplicity of this place is what makes it so divine. With big front windows that let in all the natural light, basic furnishings and interesting old prints on the walls, this low-key, local favourite is perfect for a mid-afternoon drink that meanders into the night. You can treat yourself to some rather non-low-key Ukrainian vodka, or enjoy the blonde draught beer for something a bit less hectic.
For something on the fancy side, head to Newton Bar, sitting near to what is basically Berlin’s business district. Rich red leather chairs and heavy, dark oak tables lend themselves to a mature crowd; heck, there’s even a private cigar lounge upstairs if you want to get really proper. The real draw of this place is the chance to be surrounded by the work of fashion photographer Helmut Newton, with an entire wall dedicated to his black and white nudes of statuesque models reminding you it’s ok to eat that next Currywurst (though, you probably won’t be able to order it here).
Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke
If you love being part of a good story, you won’t want to miss Monster Ronson’s. Owner Ron Rinek moved to Berlin in 1999 with $7,000 to his name, purchased a karaoke machine, and started hosting karaoke parties in squat houses all over Europe somehow getting paid to do it. Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke is the brick-and-mortar proof that dreams do come true, and is no place to hold back your inner diva. With several different karaoke booths—some small, others with their very own stages and hosts—this place will not disappoint.
If you’re after a good cocktail fix but want to return to the bustle of Friedrichshain’s streets afterwards, Timber Doodle is the place to find it. The chandelier that hangs elegantly over the bar and the 1930s jazz music that’ll surely be playing eases you into a slightly more up-market experience for the area, and the cocktails on offer are of the utmost quality and taste. Their signature drink which shares the name of the bar is worth trying, but the recipe is a secret.
This is the ultimate piece of Berlin 90s squat-house history wrapped up in a great place to drink. After the fall of the Berlin wall, Friedrichshain and the surrounding areas were largely abandoned by then-residents and repopulated by punks, anarchists and activists who went about carving out space for themselves in the crumbling walls of Berlin’s east. This place is one of few squats that isn’t now a tourist site and offers dimly-lit grimy charm. If you’re not into punk music, the extremely cheap beer will come in handy.
Hops & Barley
As the name would suggest, Hops & Barley is a place for beer aficionados (self-proclaimed or otherwise). These guys are reinventing traditional German beer, and have shot to the top as a hub for local beer lovers. The interior feels clean and modern; think heavy wood and dark leather meets detailed white and green tiling and metal finishings. This is the place to take your time over a few beers and good conversation.
If you’re looking for somewhere to really kick the night off, this is it. Perfectly located where Kreuzberg meets Mitte on Oranienstrasse, Luzia offers up all your favourite drinks at affordable prices and heats up with a pretty rowdy crowd looking to party. Keeping you firmly grounded in Kreuzberg style is the bric-a-brac interior, with murals and ornaments landing the vibe somewhere between gothic and kitsch. Get a seat up front by the windows or on the street to really get the juices flowing.
Adding to Berlin’s long list of breweries is this urban favourite, BRLO Brwhouse. This place absolutely heaves through summer, with a massive and impressively modern outdoor drinking area that redefines the typical German biergarten. The interior architecture of this place has almost as many layers as the beer they brew, so you can carve yourself out a spot and then drink your way through the taps.
Set in one of Berlin’s many squares right where Friedrichshain meets Kreuzberg, this place is where you feel the subtle change in tone between the two neighbourhoods. Still raw, eclectic and packed with locals, Bateau Ivre has a bit more of the modern, cleanly charm that’s known to Kreuzberg. You’ll love the retro tables and mix 'n' match chairs almost as much as you’ll love the beverage selection.
It might be an outrageous call to make, but we’re doing it: this is the prettiest bar in Berlin. Set in what used to be a pharmacy, Ora has retained most of the original furnishings and interior making it actually to-die-for in terms of beauty. Think row upon row of tiny pigeon-holes and wooden drawers that once would have contained medical concoctions, now housing the many alcoholic offerings that are whipped together by friendly bartenders into some of Berlin’s best and most Insta-worthy cocktails. An absolute must-visit for anyone who loves Berlin’s drool-worthy interior architecture, or anyone who loves a cocktail that’s far too easy to drink.
Opening as a bar only on weekends, Nest is fascinating, beautiful and a whole lot of fun all at once. The place is stacked full of incredible retro furnishings and finishings, with beautiful old leather chairs sprawled through multiple rooms making for the most comfortable cocktail in Berlin. The tiny bar is entirely covered in chrome, and the dim lights and flickering candles set the mood to something sultry. With delicious cocktails and easily the friendliest service in town to boot, you mustn’t miss it.
This is a must-visit if you want to experience something Berlin is famous for—the Kneipen—best likened to a ‘working man’s club’. Many of these types of places cater to sports fans or speed metal addicts, but this one is just a cosy, local haunt where people happily congregate. Bordering on being a dive bar, this place is kind of so bad that it’s good. With an eclectic interior featuring bizarre toy dolls, old bicycles and random instruments, you will not be short on conversation here. The walls also proudly wear a badge proving the bar’s 30 years of never closing, and they seriously mean never. Open all the time and offering up cheap and plentiful beer (naturally), this place will top your Berlin experience right off.
If you don’t like craft beer, turn back now. Jokes, they also have cider, wine and a whole host of other liqueurs. But seriously, with 22 taps and a list of bottled beers too long to even scroll to the bottom of, Muted Horn is not mucking around in bringing the best of craft beer to Berliners and travellers alike. Clear your itinerary and settle in for this one, you are going to want to taste them all.
Another of Berlin’s craft beer shops that doubles as a bar, Lager Lager is not to be missed if you love craft beer. With an appealing interior featuring beautiful exposed brick, refurbished steel stools and farmhouse-style tables, you won’t want to forget your camera. Lager Lager has eight taps and a rotating tap list showcasing local and international favourites, which you can bottle up and take with you or enjoy in-house. You can even sign up for an informal beer tasting if you’re after an early-evening activity.
Post booze crawl, check out these four Berlin neighbourhoods you need to check out that aren’t Mitte.
Image credit: Berlin Art Institute