There’s nothing more Berlin than an unmarked door. You’ll find them all over, shielding dark drinking dens from the unwitting masses (read: tourists). But the truth is that even locals have trouble tracking down proper speakeasies serving unique craft cocktails. They thrive in obscurity on unsuspecting streets and apartment blocks in staggeringly tiny spaces. Here are a few of the best, and how to find them:
From crazy cocktail lists in talking pop-up books to staff dressed as Lewis Carroll and Brothers Grimm finger puppets, Fairytale is taking the red pill in pub form. Fall down the rabbit hole (and hopefully into a crazy Berlin adventure) with fantastical libations and Champagne served inside dainty Louboutin glass slippers.
How to get in: Find the Märchenbrunnen or “Fountain of Fairytales” in Volkspark Friedrichshain. The bar’s directly across the street at Am Friedrichshain 24. Ring the buzzer.
Buck & Breck is Ernest Hemingway meets Johnny Depp, an old-world establishment with hipster bartenders sporting groomed beards and plenty of tats. Some of Berlin’s most raved-about cocktails are served here (also, foreign cigarettes in fanciful packs), and being a 30-seater, it’s exclusive. Just pick your poison and they’ll come up with the rest.
How to get in: The entrance is hidden behind what looks like a warehouse with a CLOSED sign, so ring the buzzer labeled BAR to get in. If it’s already full, the doorkeeper may take your phone number and call when a table is free (that is, if he likes the looks of you).
This buzzing watering hole is a P’Berg legend, but as it's nestled in a residential street, you’re likely to miss it. Once you’ve located Beckett’s portrait and entry point, relax inside on a red leather sofa and peruse a cocktail list printed on an old paperback play. No standing allowed, so go early for one of only 20-some seats.
How to get in: You’ll know you’re here by the photo of Beckett hanging in the bar window. Ring the buzzer next to it and hopefully there’ll be space.
Bar Tausend’s known for a strict door policy -- but unlike Berghain, you’re more prone to getting in here wearing heels or a collared shirt. At this tunnel-esque bar beneath a railway bridge, you’ll find Mitte’s fancy/cool crowd, strong libations, and an eclectic batch of DJs playing house, disco, and the like depending on the night.
How to get in: At the unmarked entrance (an old iron door), buzz for the “landlord” and try not to look awkward as the door guy thoroughly evaluates you with his eyeballs.
Bürkner Eck is a straightforward speakeasy -- while the front looks Neukölln shoddy, what you’ll find inside is a long, lovely bar covered in candles and a bartender earnestly shaking up classic craft concoctions. Like most other bars in its wheelhouse, taking photos inside is a big NO.
How to get in: Find the bar positioned right at the corner (you'll be able to faintly see "BÜRKNER" painted in white across the top of the door and see the bar through the door's windows). There's no doorbell, but the door will be locked -- just wait for the bartender to see you and buzz you in.
If anything can make you shuffle out to Schöneberg, it’s this bar. Decked out with checkered walls and retro relics, the Green Door's vibes are laid-back, but the cocktails are on-point, like the signature special with Champagne, lemon, sugar, and mint.
How to get in: The bar hides behind a discreet green sign, heavy windows, and (obviously) a green door. You'll need to ring the bell to get in.
Housed in a former barracks at Kottbusser Tor, Fahimi is a speakeasy that riffs on a grungier industrial feel. Check the Facebook page for 1) events like pub quizzes, live gigs, and occasional readings, and 2) weird and wonderful cocktails of the week, from margarita popsicles to caramel ice cream and a bourbon medley.
How to get in: Enter 133 Skallitzer Straße and go up the stairs. It’s on the first floor behind an unmarked door covered in stickers and graffiti.
Despite being perched in decisively uncool Charlottenburg, Rum Trader is a kitschy diamond in the rough. Being far from the city center actually ensures Berlin’s oldest speakeasy stays comfortably underground. Opened in the '70s, Rum Trader’s now run by a famous Berlin barman who will invent your own cocktail based on your preferences, no menu necessary.
How to get in: Look for the black door with gold trim next to the “Rum Trader” emblem. Ring the doorbell. Since it has only 20-some seats, you’ll have to hope for a spot.
If you’re looking for Cabaret-worthy grandeur, look no further than Prinzipal Kreuzberg. This 1920s Weimar-style bar basks in old-world glamour, from bartenders wearing bowties to regular burlesque shows, and more recently, magic shows. For performances, reservations are necessary. Check Facebook for more details.
How to get in: Find the unmarked door at Oranienstraße 178 and ring the buzzer.
Headed by an award-winning mixologist, Schwarze Traube (or in English, the Black Grape) boasts all the classic speakeasy traits: well-designed drinks, cozy quarters, and the lack of any menu whatsoever. What sets the place apart is the bold decor that includes black-and-gold wallpaper and brick walls, vibing with a relaxed and unpolished Kreuzberger feel.
How to get in: It’s behind the door with the “Please knock and smile sign” just down the road from Markthalle Neun.
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1. FairytaleAm Friedrichshain 24, Berlin
2. Buck and BreckBrunnenstr. 177, Berlin
3. Becketts KopfPappelallee 64, Berlin
4. Bar TausendSchiffbauerdamm 11, Berlin
5. Bürkner EckHobrechtstr. 39, Berlin
6. Green DoorWinterfeldtstraße 50, Berlin
7. Fahimi BarSkalitzer Straße 133, Berlin
8. Rum TraderFasanenstr. 40, Berlin
9. Schwarze TraubeWrangelstr. 24, Berlin
10. Prinzipal KreuzbergOranienstr. 178, Kreuzberg
Ring the buzzer at Am Friedrichshain 24, directly across the street from the Märchenbrunnen or “Fountain of Fairytales” in Volkspark Friedrichshain, and enter hidden bar Fairytale, where bartenders dressed as whimsical characters are slinging crazy cocktails. It's a bit like falling down the rabbit hole entering this quirky, dimly lit speakeasy, where drinks are listed inside talking pop-up books and staff are outfitted to resemble Lewis Carroll and Brothers Grimm finger puppets. Be prepared to imbibe on inventive libations served inside dainty Louboutin glass slippers.
This tiny one-room bar holds a capacity of 14, but its cozy size lends to its charm and enjoyability, not to mention the its dark and minimalist interior and excellent cocktails.
Once inside this Prenzlauer Berg bar, you'll be handed hardback copies of Beckett’s plays, which aren't for reading. Inside you'll find a cocktail list flush with exceptional drinks to examine while you lounge on leather armchairs in a classy ambiance.
One of the hippest bars in Berlin, Bar Tausend features fantastic craft cocktails inside its stylish interior, and they usually feature live music on most nights.
Ring the bell at the corner of Hobrechtstraße and Bürknerstraße, and you'll enter Bürkner Eck, a straightforward speakeasy that may look like a shabby Neukölln storefront, but offers a cozy, vintage interior and classic cocktails. The bartenders behind the long bar that's covered in candles are serving everything from G&T's to German beers to fine wines. Note: this hidden spot allows smoking and tends to get pretty cloudy.
Green Door's retro house decor -- including plaid wallpaper, pin cushion couches, and trendy telephone lamps -- sets the tone for a pretty elaborate cocktail list. A daily happy hour make this modish cocktail lair affordable.
Situated in a former barracks at Kottbusser Tor, Fahimi is an industrial-chic speakeasy full of dark wood, low lighting, and exposed pipe -- not to mention expertly crafted cocktails. To get here, you have to enter the unmarked door at 133 Skallitzer Straße that's covered in stickers, and head up a graffitied stairwell. Once inside, prepare for events ranging from pub quizzes to live music to occasional readings, plus a unique cocktail of the week, like a margarita popsicle or a caramel ice cream/bourbon medley. It has a jazzy vibe on weekdays when there's live piano, but expect things to get a bit more raucous on weekends, when DJs spin electronic beats.
If there’s one item of clothing Berlin speakeasy Rum Trader gets you in the mood for, it’s a waistcoat. That’s because the tiny Berlin Bar is run by Gregor Scholl dons the old-fashioned uniform each and every day, and he is ready to mix up an inimitable elixir for you (perhaps as a reward for finding the place). Opened in the 70s, the speakeasy’s less-than-hip location in Charlottenberg is actually its saving grace, for it maintains all the untouched charm that it did decades ago. But leave your pickiness at the door; the only say you’ll have in the whole drinks matter is whether you’re looking for something “süss oder sauer,” sweet or sour.
Like the well-meaning mysterious-leaning speakeasy that it is, Berlin’s Schwarze Traube asks all who try and enter to please knock and smile before a greeter comes to fetch them. Dark and eclectic, the bar is wreathed in a seductive black and gold color scheme, apparent especially in the damask wallpaper lining the space and complemented by exposed brick and crystal chandeliers throughout. Atalay Atkas, a man with multiple mixologist accolades to his name, is the owner of the drinkery, and his selection of four daily drinks concoctions are dripping with such old-fashioned authenticity that they are served only in antique glassware over enormous hunks of ice.
Prinzipal Kreuzberg, Berlin’s self-proclaimed “Rabbit Hole” is a speakeasy that focuses on original flavor profiles created with syrups, infusions, and bitters that are all made in-house. And there is something for every type of palate; savory drinks like the Bloody Betty, made with vodka, scotch, house-spiced tomato, and white balsamic, complement the Eflatun Royale, with cognac, lavender, lemon, and crémant. Of course, you are welcome to indulge in a classic cocktail like a Moscow Mule or a Dark n’ Stormy, but you can be sure that these will seem worlds more glamorous in this 1920s-style dark, intimate setting.