Splashy signage? How gauche! Some of Berlin's finest bars, restaurants, shops and venues are hidden from view behind unmarked doors, in nondescript buildings, recycled historic sites and even a wartime bunker. Here's our pick of the best of these clandestine spaces.
Beyond an anonymous steel door, flirty frocks sip raspberry mojitos alongside martini-cradling three-day stubbles at this cosmopolitan drinking den tucked into a railway bridge. On weekends, the crowd lets DJs save their lives beneath the mirrored ceiling and steely gaze of a giant pupil installation bookmarking one end of the tunnel-shaped space. Hungry? Proceed to the 'cantina' in the backroom.
The vibe of war still hangs over the Nazi-era bunker turned shining beacon of art thanks to advertising guru Christian Boros. Boros collects practitioners currently writing art history - Olafur Eliasson, Elmgreen & Dragsted, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Wolfgang Tilmanns among them - and here shares a selection of his treasures with the public Entry is by guided tour only - make online reservations as early as possible.
Kudos if you can find this chic herbivore haven right away. Hint: it's upstairs past a dimly lit door in the back of the Westin Hotel's service alley. In the open kitchen of this elegantly industrial loft, a small army of cooks whips up meat-free compositions that are treats for both eyes and palate. On Tuesday and Thursday you can dance off your dinner in the eponymous nightclub downstairs.
Dive deep into the fairytale world of this exotic tearoom, imported straight from Tajikistan complete with plump pillows, hand-carved sandalwood pillars and heroic murals. On blustering winter nights, steaming tea poured from silvery samovars is perfect for staving off the chills. It's upstairs in the elegant 18th-century Palais am Festungsgraben.
Views of the Berlin skyline are truly impressive at this sparkling sky lounge atop a nondescript 1950s office building. Dimly lit and with great cocktails, it's a perfect spot for a date or sunset drinks. Even just getting there aboard an exterior glass lift is half the fun - at least if you're not vertigo-prone. The entrance is behind the Pit Stop auto shop.
With no mannequins to snag your gaze, you'd be forgiven for walking right past the empty white cube with only a staircase spiraling down to one of Berlin's best-edited fashion emporiums. Once in this plush jet-black boutique, you too can sift through high-end fashions by Vladimir Karaleev, James Perse, Vilsbol de Arce and other crave-worthy designers.
Heed the call of the Kasbah and find your favourite cushion in this sultry sheesha lounge above the ho-hum Rote Harfe pub. Amid ambient Arabic sounds and the sweet aroma of apple and honey, you can relax in the colourful Bedouin tent or reserve a private niche to sip your cocktails behind a tinkling pearl curtain.
Admirals Absinth Bar (Friedrichstrasse 101, Mitte)
Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde were among the fin-de-sie\`cle devotees of the ‘green fairy’, as absinthe is euphemistically known. The expert bartenders at this Golden Twenties-style speakeasy, accessed via the courtyard of the Admiralspalast theatre, will happily help you pick out the perfect concoction for your own mind-altering rendezvous.
Wind down the weekend with a free classical concert in one of Berlin's most unique spaces: the Spiegelsaal (Mirror Hall), hidden above a late-19th-century dance hall called Cla\"rchens Ballhaus. With its cracked and blinded mirrors, fancy chandeliers and old-timey wallpaper, it recalls past epochs when the city elite gathered here for wild parties.