Berlin’s clubbing scene is, in a word, legendary. Although the city is perhaps best known for dance music – and particularly its ex-industrial techno behemoths like the legendary Berghain – the best Berlin club nights incorporate anything from bass and trap to hip hop, goth or experimental. Outside of the big tourist destinations, dress codes are rare, and the city’s clubbers tend to be a relaxed but long-lasting crowd (a standard night will keep going until 7 or 8am, while some of the more established spots will stay open well into the next day, or even longer). LGBT-friendliness is a given, with the boundaries between gay and straight nights blurring, and the focus lying more on the hedonistic pleasure of having a good time, and most of all, enjoying the music.
Berlin's best club nights
By day, Südblock is a popular community space, café and diner. By night, it's a dancing queen's dream – especially during Boo Hoo’s monthly sessions, where resident DJs Joey Hansom, Ziùr and Rodeo spin a winning mix of R&B, UK bass and twerky pop. The queer-leaning night is cheap and just the right kind of tacky, and rounds up a mixed, open-minded, drama-free crowd.
Where and when: Südblock, bimonthly. Check Facebook for further details.
Berries, hosted by Stitch and Tchuani (pictured), is Berlin’s reflection of hip hop's ever-increasing diversity. In their quarterly parties, the duo play a mix of trap, grime and contemporary, popping hip hop, while also hosting DJs and live acts like Jay Boogie and Micah Tron.
Where and when: OHM, quarterly.
There aren’t many bad nights at Berghain, but for an alternative to techno, Leisure System’s quarterly residency never fails to deliver. Since starting out in the sparse clubbing fortress seven years ago, LS have now hosted parties in ten countries and even founded a label. Expect electronic beats on the challenging side of the spectrum, and a diverse crowd who are there for the music. Now you just have to get past the notoriously picky door staff.
Where and when: Berghain, quarterly.
Queers, artists and exhibitionists congregate weekly at Ficken3000’s small and sweaty discoball extravaganza, where anything goes, especially in the darkrooms downstairs. DJs – usually drag queens or sexy out-of-towners – spin a selection of funky disco, camp classics, and '70s and '80s pop hits. As inclusive as it is extravagant, this is the place to get wild and unpredictable on a Sunday. The wigs and makeup might be there in the evening, but who knows what’ll happen when they come off…
Where and when: Ficken3000, Sundays.
Even in inclusive and progressive Berlin, non-male DJs are a small minority. Mint quietly demonstrates that an all-female night can also mean one of the best lineups in town. Held monthly at a variety of Kreuzberg locations, regulars such as Ena Lind bring dancefloor-friendly house and techno to a young, local and alternative crowd, that’s less of a sausage-fest than electronic nights elsewhere can be. This is just the kind of place to be if you want to lose yourself on the early hours on the dancefloor, beer in hand, to some of Berlin’s finest producers and DJs.
Where and when: Various locations, monthly. Check website for details of the next night.
Chantal’s House of Shame
Start the evening with the superstar Chantal’s acid-tongued drag hilarity, all under a lip-shaped disco ball, and sit back as it slowly rolls into a full-on gay house/techno disco party that could wind up somewhere around midnight on Friday. The setting of Prenzlauer Berg’s retro-themed Bassy Club (think burlesque, cowboy saloon kitsch) is over the top and fabulous in all the right places. Technically a gay night (it’s especially popular with twenty-something guys), but friendly to all.
Where and when: Bassy Club, Thursdays.
The megalithic Tresor has made huge contributions to Berlin’s status as one of the global centres of techno in the last 20 years, with acts such as Ellen Allien and Paul van Dyk getting started behind the cagelike grille of the ex-department store’s DJ booth. Today, alongside an excellent label that represents a mix of German heroes and Detroit legends, the club continues to support new names in the business with its New Faces night, a much-needed chance for underrated talent to get behind the decks. It’s the place to really get into the music, with hardcore techno fans rubbing shoulders with serious DJ aficionados.
Where and when: Tresor, Wednesdays.
Fusing art and underground music is no easy feat, but Liber Null’s unashamed policy of experimental and leftfield booking cements its place well beyond the mainstream. Dark, gothic sounds characterise the nights, which often feature live performances (both of the audio, dance and visual variety) playing out to the army of arty style-goths who attend. This is Berlin’s heavy avant-garde, hoping to send you into a post-human dystopian headspace.
Where and when: Various locations and dates. Check the Liber Null Facebook page for details of the next night.
Trade is a brand new monthly series, representing some of Berlin’s most exciting new producers like Lotic and Kablam. The ultra-hip crowd, dressed in mesh, sportswear and a lot of black, is made up of the international, young creative class: artists, writers and musicians – or, as they might prefer, 'collaborators'. On Wednesdays, this is where you’ll find the voices of their generation sipping cocktails and rubbing shoulders over glitchy and futuristic R&B-influenced beats, often from a live act or two.
Where and when: OHM, monthly on Wednesdays.
If you’re after a taste of everything from the musical smorgasbord, these classic Friday night parties at Schwuz’s new location in Neukölln are what you need. The spacious, repurposed industrial complex offers three dancefloors, including a dance stage, an indie room plus another that plays whatever strikes the booker’s fancy (often somewhere on the pop/hip hop/bass spectrum). There’s a focus on supporting the local music scene – the club styles itself as 'your neighbourhood disco'), and it’s a mostly gay crowd, but it’s just as welcoming to anyone who’s looking for a good time.
Where and when: Schwuz, first Friday of the month.