The Best Punk and Dive Bars in Berlin

It’s never hard to find a drink in Berlin. And while there are many good cocktail options—along with an increasing number of places devoted to craft beer—it’s the smaller neighborhood bars that keep the city going. Whether you’re looking for an old-school ecke kneipe (the traditional German corner bar), a low-key spot with ramshackle decor and a hip crowd or a place where the rock and roll is loud and the night is always young, there will almost certainly be something close by. There are a few notable places—Simon-Dach-Straße in Friedrichshain, the areas around Reichenbergerstraße, Oranienstraße or Schlesisches Tor in Kreuzberg and, of course, Weserstraße in Neukölln—with a higher-than-average concentration of bars; but there are hundreds of wonderful places dotted throughout the city, just waiting to be discovered. The list below does not claim to be comprehensive, but is rather a representative sample of what the city has to offer in this category. –Jesse Simon 

  • 1

    Ä

    Located at the corner of Weserstraße and Fuldastraße—the epicentre of gentrification in the once-sketchy borough of Neukölln—Ä is the kind of effortlessly hip, artfully divey bar that Berlin does so well. With tasteful music on the stereo (anything from the Specials to Nick Cave) and a small but reasonable selection of bottled beers and spirits, Ä attracts an international crowd of 20–30 somethings for whom evenings drinking and socialising in scruffy, dimly-lit splendour are simply a way of life. Although the bar does a lot of business on most evenings, Fridays and Saturdays can be especially crowded. But if you ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
  • 2

    Alter Roter Löwe Rein

    If you’re looking for drinks in Neukölln, but don’t have the stamina to contend with the hipper-than-thou Weserstraße set, you could do worse than this former old-man pub turned funky watering hole hidden in the Rixdorf neighborhood. Although the unplastered walls and rickety wooden furniture give Löwe Rein an aesthetic kinship with many bars in the neighborhood, the crowd is generally more relaxed, the music more judiciously selected and the drinks slightly more interesting. The place is also larger than it looks from the outside, so if you can’t find space in the main room, be sure to check out some of the cosier ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • live music
  • 3

    Bei Schlawinchen

    If you want a beer at five in the morning, at ten in the morning or at two in the afternoon, Bei Schlawinchen is the only address you need. This classic neighbourhood kneipe—which never seems to close—has about six tables, a handful of stools and a perpetual cloud of cigarette smoke obscuring the satirical art and random artifacts hanging from the walls and ceiling. And while it can be almost impossible to get to the bar through the densely packed crowd at 3 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday morning, you can go in at any time of day and not have to worry about drinking alone. They have a few mixed drinks available, but ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • day drinking
  • 4

    Clash

    Hidden away in a quiet hof (courtyard) behind busy Mehringdamm, Clash is a spacious punk bar with Napalm Death posters on the wall, a pool table in the back and a lively but generally low-key crowd. The inexpensive beer and smoker-friendly space invite an unpretentious mix of students, first-wave punks and locals from the neighbourhood. And while there is a constant soundtrack of punk, hardcore and rock on the stereo, it’s never so loud that it's an unpleasant place to catch up with a group of friends over a few pints. While the cigarette smoke wafting through the high ceilings is undoubtedly part of the ambiance, ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • outdoor / patio
    • games
  • 5

    Freibeuter

    Located on an unlikely residential street in Friedrichshain’s Samariterkiez, Freibeuter is an enclave of unreconstructed punk scuzz in a neighbourhood still reeling from rapid gentrification. There is a vague pirate theme to the décor, and while some of the regulars do look as though they could have had careers as pirates in an earlier century, the crowd is mostly a mix of punks, rockers and locals of all ages. The music (mostly hardcore and rock) is agreeable, the beer is inexpensive and the pool table in the back—one of the few free pool tables in all of Berlin—is a good place to learn the German they don’t teach ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • games
  • 6

    Das Hotel

    Lit primarily by candlelight and busy until the early hours almost every night of the week, Hotel is arguably the most perfect distillation of what makes a Berlin bar unique. It’s decor suggests that someone found an abandoned building and started selling alcohol there, encouraging patrons to bring their own cast-off furniture; the spirit bottles are kept behind the bar in ancient wooden crates and the selection of beer is fine if unremarkable. But once you get settled in with a few drinks, it’s the sort of place you might never want to leave. If Hotel is no longer quite the well-kept secret it used to be, it's ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
  • 7

    Möve im Felsenkeller

    This narrow neighborhood kneipe on Schöneberg’s pleasant Akazienstraße is neither a dive bar nor a punk bar, but rather a time machine offering a glimpse of what it was like to drink in Berlin 40 years ago. Situated beneath a vintage neon sign, the clean, well-kept—and surprisingly smoke-free—bar caters mostly to locals in search of a quiet beer or a low-volume chat. But unlike some of Berlin’s unreconstructed local bars—where you might not want to venture if you’re under 50, don’t speak German or don’t support Berlin’s soccer team Hertha BSC—Felsenkeller is friendly and inviting, an ideal spot to unwind after work, ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • bar food
  • 8

    Tilsiter

    There’s more to Friedrichshain than the Simon-Dach Kiez. On the north side of Karl-Marx-Allee, far from the students, punks and party seekers, this appealingly low-key neighbourhood bar features tobacco stained walls, aging mirrors and the atmosphere of a continental café from the interwar period. The crowd, drawn mostly from people who live in the surrounding streets, maintains a continual buzz of conversation while drinking from a fairly basic selection of beers, wines and spirits. There is a small cinema attached to the bar that offers recent releases and art-house fare, but one doesn’t need to be in the market for ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • outdoor / patio
  • 9

    Wowsville

    If you’ve ever gone record shopping after a few pints, you’ll know it’s perhaps not the best idea. But apparently no one mentioned this to Kreuzberg institution Wowsville, which doesn’t just facilitate drunken music purchases, but actively encourages them by combining a bar and record shop in the same space. Fortunately the shop closes before the bar really gets going. But even after the temptation to drop several euros on that rare new-wave 12” has been removed, the good music continues well into the early morning, as a diverse crowd knocks back moderately priced pints of cold lager in an agreeably scruffy ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
  • 10

    Zur Fetten Ecke

    Low lights, comfortable seats and a relaxed vibe make Zur Fetten Ecke a first choice among the myriad bars around Schlesisches Tor. The skull-and-blackletter logo on the sign of this refurbished Ecke Kniepe might suggest a punk or a pirate theme, but the interior is a tastefully low-key mixture of dark wood and candlelight. As with most bars in Berlin, it tends to get busy on Friday and Saturday nights, but it’s enough of a local favorite that it maintains its mellow buzz throughout the week. Its location, across the street from Lido—a good mid-sized venue for rock and indie gigs—makes it the ideal place for a pre- or ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date

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