Berlin rad: the city's coolest alternative spaces
Not so long ago, it seemed that every Berlin basement or half-abandoned building came complete with its own edgy club, arts centre or ramshackle bar. But things are changing, and in recent years dozens of well-loved, independent venues have closed their doors for good.
Whether the fault lies with rampant speculation and rising rents - or simply the fact that nothing lasts forever - the vestiges of alternative, dog-eared Berlin sometimes seem increasingly thin on the ground.
But luckily, Berlin as a place of counter-cultures continues to thrive: you just have to look a little harder to find it.
This eight-floor former office block (and yes, it’s painted a vivid green) provides a high-rise headquarters to hundreds of artists and musicians, complete with studios, exhibition halls, social spaces and pretty much everything in between.
There's always something happening here, from impromptu jam sessions to screenings, performances or parties; and although the quality is far from predictable, dull moments are rare.
And even if the likes of a concert for trumpet and electronics doesn't quite float your boat, the laid-back, top floor cafe 'Kantine' offers cheap eats, a friendly crowd, and sweeping views of the city you’d be hard pushed to find elsewhere.
Greenhouse Berlin: Gottlieb-Dunkel-Straße 43-44, 12099 Berlin
Opening times: morning until late
Clubbing in Ziegrastrasse
For several years now, in-the-know Berliners have headed to this side-street of light-industrial workshops for some of the city’s best alternative clubbing; events such as BRENN., Studio 69 or Sunday Club have all found a home in the desolate-seeming spaces scattered just off the Sonnenallee.
Of course, such under-the-radar nightlife has a tendency to come and go, although permanent Ziegrastrasse resident SOUNDS - a 'progressive, underground space for the queer community' - provides a plethora of reliably hip nights in its artily ramshackle premises.
An adjoining prefab at 11 Ziegrastrasse likewise hosts an oft-changing rota of some of the capital's coolest parties, while other events pop up, impromptu, elsewhere in the street. Check out clubbing guide RA for listings.
Ziegrastraße 11 (etc!) 12057 Berlin
Update: sadly a recent fire has destroyed much of SOUNDS - you can contribute to the relief fund here, although it’s unlikely to open again in the same space.
One of the best of Berlin’s remaining squat bars and clubs, Supamolly’s independent spirit takes you back to the 1990s, when punks, anarchists and activists claimed much of the city as their own. The space is suitably stickered and dishevelled, yet it’s also candlelit, cosy and authentic, a welcoming retreat from blandly identikit interiors.
A stage/dance floor hosts a roster of events ranging from little-known bands to a rather charming Sunday varieté - which just shows how much this former hard-core bastion has mellowed over the years. Coffee and cake in the bar on Sundays is another nod to convention, but Supamolly remains a place of alternatives, well worth visiting for a taste of largely lost Berlin.
Supamolly: Jessnerstraße, 10247 Berlin
Opening times: Tues-Sun, 8pm to late. Sun, 15.30, Kaffee und Kuchen.
Raw, experimental and rough around the edges, this former brothel repurposed as cutting edge music venue oozes true Berlin style.
A small bar leads to a spartan basement and stage/dancefloor, where an an inspired lineup of avant-garde soundmakers make Loophole a leading platform for alternative live music.
At least part of the club's appeal lies in its offbeat appearance and vibe, but be warned: the pocket-sized spaces can get seriously rammed.
Boddinstrasse 60, 12053 Berlin
Opening times: Mon-Thur, 6pm-3am; Fri-Sat, 9pm-6am
Despite its long-running status as a Neukölln hipster haven, this one-of-a-kind cultural mash-up still delivers some of Berlin’s quirkiest entertainment.
The upstairs bar/store revels in trippy eccentricity, brimming with vintage electronics, kitsch flea market finds and future-forward fashion. On Wednesdays, free cinema, (popcorn included in the non-existent entry fee) is a local highlight - get there early to partake.
Downstairs, one of the city’s sweatiest basements plays host to reliably cool clubbing, from funky electronica to offbeat oddities. Look out, too, for comedy nights in English - a nod to Berlin’s rapidly growing international crowd.
Sameheads: Richardstraße 10, 12043 Berlin
Opening times: Tues-Sat, 6pm-late
Even Panke’s location is pure Berlin: a labyrinth of ancient courtyards on one side, a graffiti-daubed stretch of the tiny Panke river on the other.
As its full name suggests, this quirky space is an all-encompassing artistic endeavour, comprising a bar, club, cafe and gallery that ‘support edgy creativity... away from mainstream culture’.
It’s a real charmer, too. Friendly and inclusive, events range from groovy all-nighters to workshops and chilled bazaars in the venue’s tiny garden. Combine a visit with a stroll past the ruins of nearby Wiesenburg, another of Wedding’s hidden gems.
Panke Culture: Hof V, Gericht St 23, 13347 Berlin
Opening times: Wed-Thur, 11am-4am; Fri-Sat, 11am-6am; Sun, 11am-12am
Tip: One entrance is hidden in a labyrinth of courtyards, so Panke can be tricky to locate. Note that the riverside walkway beside Gerichtstrasse 17 also leads past its back door!
An idyllic, waterside location, twinkly lights, ace tunes, barbecues on hand for grilling your own food, and if you don't feel like cooking, fabulous pizza. What more could anyone ask?
This makeshift medley of wooden huts and terraces is located right next to the Spree at Rummelsburg - just a few minutes from gritty Ostkreuz, yet evoking another world entirely.
Dishevelled rustic charm without leaving the city, Rummels Bucht is the perfect place to chill as the sun sets.
Image credits: rummels-welt.de
Rummels Bucht: Hauptstraße 1, 10317 Berlin
Opening times: Tues-Fri, 3pm-12am; Sat, Sun, 12pm-12am
Update: investors have acquired large parts of the Rummelsburg area and plans have been passed for its development. It’s presumed that Rummels Bucht will be forced to close, so go while you can, or visit lovely sister venue, Rummels Perle, in Kreuzkölln.
Trauma Bar und Kino
This relative newcomer turns its back on makeshift grunge, opting instead for clean-lined industrial aesthetics complete with in-house cinema, scintillating sound system and roomy performance spaces.
But eschewing Berlin’s trashed vibe for a far slicker set-up doesn’t make Trauma any less rad.
Image credits: Traumbar und Kino
In fact, having notched up a string of highly acclaimed party/performance/film/fashion hybrids (brilliantly curated, and far more convincing than the catch-all might sound) Trauma Bar und Kino easily claims a place among the city’s most exciting venues. Welcome to a new era of Berlin cool.
Tip: look out for the edgily erotic NSFW season, a very grown-up take on interdisciplinary clubbing.
Trauma Bar und Kino: Heidestraße 50, 10557 Berlin
Opening times: various; check web for details