Berlin’s nightlife is notorious for its incredible clubs and strict door policies. Bouncers guard their club doors fiercely. It’s not quite Checkpoint Charlie, but things can get pretty tense at the front of the line.
Clubs with strict door policies in the rest of the world usually refer to things like not being too drunk and disorderly, or a silly rule about wearing smart shoes. But this is not the case in Berlin. And that’s why you need a game plan.
I am by no means an expert on Berlin, but here is a collection of advice from friends who know what’s what in the “clubbing capital” of Germany.
Why it’s Worth a Try
Berlin’s bohemian Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain area, the equivalent of Hackney Wick in London, sees most of the action. Abandoned-looking buildings open up to grand old mansions on the inside, at the same time both gritty and elegant, with a maze of different rooms and DJs. And even though the choice of music all falls under the house and techno bracket, it manages to keep a very chilled-out, laid-back feel.
You’ll find clubs in forests with twinkling disco balls swinging from branches and scattered bean bags, river-side clubs that seem to be open all hours or backyards filled with the type of upcycled art you’d stumble upon in the Shangri-La area of Glastonbury Festival. In fact, going out in Berlin feels like a non-stop festival.
Waiting in Line…
It’s not unusual to queue in line for hours, especially at Berghain (Berlin’s most infamous club) only to be turned away by the bouncer for no apparent reason. If you’re lucky you’ll receive a disappointed shake of the head and a straight-to-the-point “nein”. Or you might get a bouncer who wants to put you in your place for not speaking fluent German, for dressing up too much, for having too much fun in the queue, or for having too many friends with you.
But there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting into these clubs, as a couple of us Rockskippers discovered recently. And once you’re in, pretty much anything goes. Oh, apart from taking photos that is.
Most clubs have a no photo policy to make sure you’re living in the moment and not worrying about if you look like you’re having a good time in your selfies, but just concentrating on having a good time in real life. Also, with Berliners of all ages out clubbing, it’s not unusual to see your boss stumbling into a club at 6am as you’re stumbling out, so keeping photos off social media helps contain any awkward or unnecessary acknowledgement of these situations.
We did manage to sneak a few fuzzy snaps for you though. You can thank us later.
1. Go with a local
This is not a fail-safe way to get in, but it might help. They will be able to judge the nuances of the situation and play the right cards when the time comes. We didn’t have a Berliner among us but we were lucky enough to have someone in our group that has been living in Berlin for the last few months.
Tip: Befriend a Berliner and let them do the talking when you get to the front of the queue.
2. Learn some German
For those of us that didn’t take German GCSE at school, it seems a bit extreme to study advanced-level language lessons just for a short weekend city break. But that’s what some bouncers seem to expect you to do.
When we turned up to the Berghain on a Sunday afternoon, the lack of queue caught us by surprise and we somehow forgot about the door policy and started speaking in English. This was a big mistake. The bouncer gave us a telling-off in German, which he then repeated in perfect English, “When you come to Germany, you must only speak German. You will not get in today”. We accepted graciously and went on our way.
Tip: Learn how to say something along the lines of, “Do you mind if we speak in English?” in German.
“Ist es ok, wenn wir auf Englisch sprechen? Ich lerne Deutsch, spreche die Sprache aber noch nicht fließend.” This worked for us in other clubs. If you start off like this, it shows the bouncer that you are at least making an effort to speak the language.
3. Dress code
There is no dress code. But there is one word that always pops up when it comes to Berlin style, and that’s “casual”. You don’t want to look like you’ve made too much effort, or any effort. Trainers are the order of the day with an estimated 95% of club-goers opting for maximum dancefloor comfort. Weirdly, where labels are frowned upon in clothing, they are celebrated in sneakers. Nike, Reebok Classics and Vans make a recurring appearance.
For those that want to make a little effort (and let’s face it, dressing up is fun), then rock’n’roll leather, ripped denim, short shorts (for both men and women) or oversized items are all acceptable. You’ll enter a sea of vintage-washed shades of black clothing when you get into the club.
Tip: Wear trainers to look like a regular. They will also keep your feet happy so you can dance for longer.
4. Don’t go in big groups
This is quite a universal one. Clubs don’t like big groups.
Tip: If there are a lot of you, pair off or split into groups of three and keep your fingers crossed that you all get in.
5. Go in a mixed group
As we slowly edged closer to the front of the queue for Salon-Zur Wilden Renate, male hopefuls in front of us were getting turned away one after the other. Some pleaded with the bouncers but they were sticking to their guns. Once you get a “no”, there’s no changing their minds.
So we weren’t feeling too optimistic about getting in to this one, but with our one-guy-two-girls group and armed with a few German phrases to break the ice, we got in. High fives all round!
Tip: Girls and boys, boys and girls. Mix it up.
6. Have fun, but not too much fun
Berliners exude effortless cool and that’s exactly what you should do if you want to get past the door keeper. Be respectful of the club, the music and the desire to dance for hours on end. You want to give off the air of someone that will add to the party vibes but not be the life and soul of the party.
Tip: Chat but don’t shout.
7. Resist playing on your phone
They don’t like it. Possibly because it means you are not sufficiently excited about the awesome club you’re about to enter. But try to keep your phone in your pocket and above all, no selfies in the queue!
Tip: Even though you might be standing in line doing nothing for 40 minutes, fight the urge to flick through your social media feeds. Unless you’re looking at the latest @rockskippers photos on Instagram – that’s allowed, obviously.
If all else fails, you could always try sneaking in the back door. Chalet has a secret side street entrance on Vor dem Schlesischen Tor 3, but let’s keep that to ourselves. These seven measures won’t guarantee you entry but they should help. So go with your A-game and good luck. Viel Glück!