I admit it, I’m a huge Dance Music Tourist.
I went to Berlin for a month in July of 2015 because 1) Berlin is a really cool city, and 2) I wanted to experience the club scene of The Techno Capital of the World. Turns out, Berlin is home to more than 300 clubs. To experience all of them is impossible, but I did my best, going to 8 clubs and 3 surrounding festivals over 4 weekends.
Very basic pointers:
- Resident Advisor is the single most authoritative source to find events in the city. On any given weekend, you’ll see that Berlin has dozens of events going on!
- The best techno clubs in Berlin tend to be selective about who they let in. Because of Berlin’s status at the techno capital of the world, they feel that they need to do face control in order to preserve the culture of the place. While it can be frustrating, I can appreciate the need for them to do that. Basically, at more competitive places, don’t go in groups of 3 or more, and don’t look too posh.
- Germany is big on recycling, even in the clubs. If you get a drink or a beer, they usually take a deposit for it and give you a coin. When you return the cup/bottle and the coin, you get your deposit back (usually 50 cents or 1 euro).
Now, for a rundown of the clubs I’ve been to —
Berghain. My rating: 8.5/10
Berlin’s most (in)famous techno club. There are so many reasons that make Berghain special: The tough door policy, its dark techno, its hedonistic crowds, its 36-hour parties, and its amazing ice cream. I’ve written a post dedicated to this club.
Tresor. My rating: 6/10
Tresor is one of Berlin’s original and most influential techno institutions. The original Tresor actually closed its doors a couple years back, and the Tresor today was opened at a new location. Like Berghain, it has long lines (but maybe just around an hour long at its maximum), attracts a lot of tourists, no photos allowed, and has a tough door policy. When I went on a Friday night at 2AM, I saw more than half the people get turned away. If you go by the standard tips of going alone or in pairs and looking “cool,” your chances are not bad. Actually, when I got in, I wish that their door policy were tougher. It was full of foreigners and it seemed like they were not true techno lovers, as throughout the night many guys were trying to dance with me and being touchy – NOT okay for a techno club!
The club itself was quite cool. A long tunnel with epilepsy-causing, disorienting blinking light leads to the basement, “Tresor Club.” It has a basement with an industrial, grimy feel and with harder techno. There, I was met by an older couple – the girl quickly grabbed me to dance with me and gave me kisses on the cheek (ironically, the first thing I did when this happened was to protect my purse; living in Barcelona has gotten to me…). She asked me if I wanted to go to KitKat with them. At that time, I had no idea what that was, so I said I will get a drink first and went to the bar. Later, I found out that KitKat is a famous sex club in Berlin.
Upstairs, there is another club with is a lot of spacious, with “posh” lounging area and even a plasma globe (which does not work as it should when you put your finger on it!). The music upstairs was more chilled out techno, less intense than the downstairs area. My problem with the club was all the aggressive, young tourists…
Ipse. My rating: 8/10
Ipse is a new club in Berlin, and I’d actually say it is of my top favorites in Berlin. I went there to see Boys Noize my first time in the city, you can read about my experience here.
Watergate. My rating: 5/10
Watergate is another famous minimal techno club in Berlin, known for having a great Wednesday night event. Like all Berlin clubs, it has a line and a door control. I went in a group of four (1 girl 3 guys) and got in, but many groups of guys in front of me did not get in. When we got in the front of the line, they asked if we knew that this is Watergate, a techno club, and asked to see my ID (just me, not anyone else, a routine in Berlin as apparently I look young?) I have to say I was disappointed as the club was really small and posh looking, I expected it to be an alternative techno club. I’m also not big into minimal techno. A cool part of the club is the outdoors bar area, which floats above the river. I would not go again given all the other choices in Berlin!
Kosmonaut. My rating: 6.5/10
Kosmonaut is quite a cool club! Like all the other techno clubs, it’s in East Berlin’s abandoned warehouse area. It has 3 rooms/stages. While we were there, I heard music anywhere ranging from deep house, tech house, minimal techno, to hard techno. The strangest part of the night was that there was a stage that was so filled with white smoke when we walked in, that we literally couldn’t see anyone that was more than an arm’s length away from me. It was quite an interesting experience, but it didn’t blow me away… It’s the type of place I’d go to once, but given all the other choices in Berlin I wouldn’t return.
Void. My rating: 6/10
Void is literally right next to Kosmonaut and is really similar to it. I went on a Thursday night, which was a drum and bass night. Actually, I went during Void’s opening weekend; things change so quickly in Berlin that clubs and promoting groups quickly come and go. What was interesting was that the entrance fee was a “pay as you want” kind of system – quite a popular system in an anarchistic Berlin. I think we paid with some change we had, about 3-5 euros per person. It had only two rooms and what was interesting was that the DJ was in a cage with a framed photo of an iguana in the back. It was pretty peculiar. I didn’t take a picture, because no one takes their cameras out in Berlin’s clubs…
Magdalena Open Air. My rating: N/A
Berlin is blessed with having many Open Air parties in the summer. When the sun is out and it is warm, it is really nice. But, in Berlin, even in the summer, the weather usually is not so nice. Unfortunately we went to Magdalena open air party on a windy and rainy day. The weather was so bad that they even reduced the door ticket price (from 8 euros to 5 euros). I can see it being a nice venue if the weather were nice, as it is right next to the river, has a sandy beach, and with a good ambiance. Those that were at the party were real troopers, partying in the rain!
Else Open Air. My rating: 5/10
Else is an outdoor venue owned by a well-known Berlin club, Renate. I enjoyed the open air (except for the fact that the bar of the club was way too crowded). The music was the usual Berlin minimal techno and it didn’t blow me away. There was an outdoor area with a mesh net above the river that me and others chilled on with our drinks. Unfortunately, a wave washed in as a boat drove by and everyone’s pants and shoes got wet!
Felix. My rating: 1/10
If you like dance music and want to explore Berlin’s real club scene, please don’t go here. Just don’t.
Festival: Airbeat One. My rating: 7/10
A 3-Day Camping Festival about 2 Hours Outside of Berlin (Mainstream, Techno, Psytrance, and Hardstyle). Highly recommended for those who want to experience a real German festival experience!