Best night Clubs in Berlin

Berghain: how to get into Berlin's most exclusive nightclub

Sven, somewhat surprisingly, is also a street photographer who, in the evenings, turns his artistic eye to curating Berghain’s crowd. According to his agent (and surely he is the world’s only bouncer to have an agent), “he seeks inspiration from the nocturnal atmosphere and meets characters that awaken his visions; he is able to discern the potential of his protagonists before they even suspect a thing.”

Many critics disagree with the somewhat flowery (if not pretentious) statement, believing Sven and his merry doormen simply reject people for their own enjoyment.

The policy’s ambiguity has lead bloggers to chart their own theories on how to impress the bouncers in minute detail, and last year a German developer even proposed a cringeworthy “How to get into Berghain” app to assist would-be visitors by providing style guides and directions to the club.

One thing is clear; people are desperate to get in. And on a cold night in January, I was one of them.

With the advice that I should wear black in mind, I donned my finest dark polo shirt, jeans and a nondescript jacket and set off. Despite the fact that temperatures in Berlin were dropping below 0C, I wore a rather thin jacket in the name of not appearing too showy with a more wintry number. After all, sacrifices must be made.

The venue is plonked right in the middle of an industrial estate and isn’t signposted. Low music rumbled from the club’s direction, as I passed a queue of ten taxis waiting to ferry people home. Driver Imad al-Darwish told me he takes passengers away from the club every night, many of them upset and dejected after being refused entry at the door. According to Imad, during peak periods the taxi line can stretch far into the distance, but things tended to move along very quickly.

A man dressed in hipster-esque clothing arrived and chained his bicycle to the metal fence surrounding Berghain. He took a swig from his beer, dropped it on the ground among a sea of broken glass, then proceeded towards the club’s entrance. He got in. Others weren’t quite so lucky. I spoke to two German girls who claimed to be regulars. They were both dressed in black and in the correct age bracket - the bouncers like people who look as if they are in their mid-twenties, apparently. But both were refused entry after being told that their names were not on the (non-existent) guest list.

Walking along the long, dusty track that leads up to the club’s entrance, I could already feel the stares of the bouncers. It is set up in such a way that they can see you clearly long before you can see them as much more than a silhouetted group. The door was framed by graffiti, adding to the underground feel of the whole place. On a Sunday evening, there was a small queue which was flowing steadily. The man in front of me, dressed in a denim jacket and jeans, stepped in. Clearly the doormen didn’t mind double denim.

Finally I was at the front and stepped into the spotlight of what felt like a perverse border control checkpoint, staffed by five large German men in matching black jackets.

Looking along the line I saw Sven. He is a rather short man, much more so than the other doormen, and was wearing a thick coat. Not even “Europe’s hardest bouncer” could bear the freezing winter temperatures. A question was barked at me in German. As I explained that I couldn’t understand another guard helpfully translated: “Sorry, you’re not getting in.” Why, I asked? “Because we decided”. It was hard to argue with logic like that.

I was not the only one though. Minutes later, a groggy German couple emerged from the club having queued for two hours and partied for a further ten on Berghain’s sprawling dancefloors. “There are a lot of fairytales online about how to get in, but you should just be yourself, ” one of them told me. “The people at the door can tell if you are pretending to be something you’re not.” Two tourists from Australia who were leaving the club after 16 hours, Scott Buchanan and Harriet Braid, said they had been surprised to have gained entrance after the bouncers joked that at 27, Scott was “too old”.

So why didn’t I get in? Despite following all the standard advice, at a club with huge queues and a limited capacity, I suppose it’s inevitable that some people are turned away.

I was just one of the night's many rejections - so many that the club could make a small profit from selling “I didn’t get into Berghain” t-shirts. And Sven bobblehead toys (I’d definitely buy one of those). Perhaps the door policy is unfairly skewed against foreigners. Perhaps my outfit was wrong. Perhaps I looked too nervous in the queue. Or perhaps one of the bouncers woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. Only one thing is for certain; Sven is not easy to please.

Advice (for what it's worth) from a man who succeeded

I lived in Berlin for some time and have gone to Berghain on numerous occasions, says John O' Ceallaigh. The bouncers don’t hesitate to deny entry – often for no discernable reason - but it will likely work in your favour if you:

  • Convince the bouncers you’re there to see a specific DJ rather than to gawk at clubbers – knowing your Ben Klocks from your Marcel Dettmanns helps
  • Don’t dress as though you’re on a night out in the West End – Berlin is a casual city and the only people you’ll see in Berghain in heels and fake nails are transvestites

Is it worth the hassle? If you enjoy clubbing, definitely. Berghain is an immense, industrial space with an exceptional sound system and unparalleled acoustics; despite, or perhaps because of, the stringent door policy, the crowd is one of the most diverse and enthusiastic you’ll find anywhere; and, with parties regularly running for longer than 24 hours, there’s no other major venue in Europe that matches its stamina.

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Interesting facts

  • The A-Trane is a jazz club in Berlin, Germany.
    The A-Trane was opened in late 1992. It is located in Berlin-Charlottenburg at Bleibtreutrasse 1 where its doors open every night at 9 pm. Uncounted locally and internationally renowned musicians have played the club...
  • "In this German comedy that features six characters in search of love, director Yves Yuri-Garate and screenwriter Andre Schneider bring a light touch to a hip urban tale. Alex (Andre Schneider) walks in on his boyfriend fucking someone else – and out he goes – much...

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