Berlin’s night-life is legendary. And after a day on the tourist trail and a good meal out, what could be nicer than some music and dancing? But you don’t have to go clubbing until sunrise or hit the fashionista bars to be part of the after-dark scene. If you fancy something a bit more relaxing and less full-on – maybe even retro and romantic – you need look no further than Mitte, bang in the middle of the city. Although this borough has most of the grand edifices of historic Berlin, there is also an area loosely referred to as the ‘Scheunenviertel’ full of interesting side streets and shabby-chic charm. We can thank the GDR authorities for not razing it to the ground after the war and letting it fall into disrepair instead. Since reunification much of it has been renovated and modernised, but a sense of pre-war Berlin is definitely still palpable.
Strandbar by the Spree
Top recommendation for a balmy summer evening is the Strandbar (‘Beachbar’), a café/dance bar with a dream setting opposite the stunning Bode Museum which sits like a huge stone ship at the prow of Museum Island. In the evening many tourists don’t wander far enough from the main road to discover this area around Monbijou Park. In summer there is a small amphitheatre too, the ‘Hexenkessel’ which puts colourful performances of Shakespeare plays (in German). All in all, a perfect location where on a starry night you can take to the dance floor and soak up the Berlin feeling.
This season’s dance programme
I could also go into raptures about Clärchens Ballhaus in Auguststrasse, the heart of Mitte. Here time rolls back as you walk into the pretty Biergarten in front of this iconic dance hall, first opened in 1913. You can almost touch the 1920s.
The ground floor is a simple ballroom with wooden tables around the edge and at weekends live bands play on the stage. Upstairs on the first floor is the spectacular ‘Spiegelsaal’ (Room of Mirrors) which can be hired out for functions but also hosts concerts and plays. In pre-war days it is not hard to imagine which sections of society frequented each of the ‘venues’.
The dance floor downstairs and the evocative Spieglsaal on the first floor
Clärchens Ballhaus is a Berlin institution (follow this link the read a complete history) where people of all ages can turn up for dancing lessons or an evening of uncomplicated fun. No one cares who you are or what you’re wearing and you may be asked to dance by a perfect stranger. The food is pretty good too and there are plenty of wines and beers to choose from. This place maybe a bit of a nostalgic cliché but it’s not just a tourist trap – plenty of Berliners love it too.