The 30 Best Places to Hear Live Music in Berlin
By Edwin Linderkamp 3/4/16 - Berlin is poor, but it’s also sexy, filled with clubs, bars and concert venues offering live music to satisfy a wide range of tastes. For someone who lived in this German city for almost a decade, it’s tough to narrow down the selection to just 30 places to hear live music.
Berlin is a multicultural city that is constantly changing. Some of its greatest destinations for a night out have left over the years, such as Festsaal Kreuzberg, KaterHolzig, Knaack and the arthouse Tacheles together with Café Zapata.
Still, nothing can stop the city’s young, vibrant, constantly moving energy. This list includes large concert venues as well as small bars with bands playing music in dark, hidden rooms. In every one of them it is guaranteed that you will find a mixed crowd of partyers, tourists, gays, lesbians, and people shouting in different languages.
Berlin’s live music scene includes everything from new indie rock bands, DJs playing house music, mellow Jazz performers, live Balkan music nights, hip hop and reggae groups and musicians performing at huge festivals.
In recent years Berlin has become the most popular tourist destination in Europe, ahead of Paris and London. Its numerous possibilities, to have a night out, get a drink and listen to live music until the sun rises is part of the reason.
Here they are; the 30 best places to hear live music in Berlin.
The Arena Berlin is one of several attractions in the Arena warehouse facility area, which includes the Badeschiff, an outdoor floating swimming pool inside of Berlin’s ‘Spree’ river. This already makes the Arena Berlin a great location to visit. It is a large indoor hall that has hosted concerts by Oasis, The Libertines, David Guetta and the Turkish psychedelic rock band Baba Zula at the Spirit of Istanbul Fest 2013.
Baba Zula live at the Spirit of Istanbul Fest 2013 at the Arena Berlin. Photo courtesy of Edwin Linderkamp.
The name Astra Kulturhaus comes from the Astra beer, originally from Hamburg. It is located in the RAW Gelände, an old train repair complex, now filled with nightclubs, an indoor skate park and a climbing gym in a bunker. The Astra Kulturhaus has plenty of space with artists playing a variety of music genres. There have been performances by funk legend George Clinton, Ben Harper, Major Lazer, Twenty One Pilots and German reggae musician Patrice.
This small, classy international jazz club is in the heart of Berlin’s chic City West. Its seating area is between framed photographs of jazz musicians and its stage. You will find late night jam sessions as well as jazz funk for kids events for which children can get in for free.
For partygoers, Berghain is the place to be. The techno club, inside of a former power plant building, being such a popular destination amongst Berliner and tourists, has made it one of the most difficult to get into. Sven Marquardt, the legendary bouncer of the club usually calls the shots on who gets in. This is why people go there on Sunday mornings due to the better chance of being allowed inside. Even Lady Gaga has made an appearance at what many are considering one of the greatest clubs in the world.
DJ playing at Berghain. Photo courtesy of Robert Agthe. And Berghain at night. Photo courtesy of Michael Mayer.
The Berlin Philharmonie is home to the Berlin Philharmonic, one of the internationally most renowned orchestras. The building has a unique, tent-shape architectural style. The large venue has been hosting the Berlin Philharmonic and other highly acclaimed music groups for more than 50 years. It may be a bit pricy, but it is definitely worth it if you are passionate about classical music.
The b-flat jazz club is perfect for celebrating good times with lively jazz music. It is centrally located in the Mitte district, in a big room with the seating facing the stage. The musicians are often young and full of energy to keep the crowd cheering and moving. The drinks and service are also excellent, which is probably why it’s always so full and hard to find a seat.
Club der polnischen Versager
This small, cozy night club was founded by a Polish association in Berlin. Ironically, the English translation is ‘the polish failures club’. On top of offering live music to its diverse visitors, it also has literature readings, exhibits, and Polish, Estonian and Czech film screenings. Its narrow rooms create an ideal atmosphere for socializing.
The Columbiahalle is a huge concert and sports venue in a former U.S. Air Force building. Acts like the Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5, Motörhead, Ed Sheeran, the Arctic Monkeys and many more have performed at the Columbiahalle. The venue is often completely packed with pop and rock enthusiasts.
GRETCHEN is a spacious night club with mostly electronic and hip hop music, with a large variety of artists and visitors. Some of the greatest DJs who have spun their records inside include Questlove, Bassnectar, Bonobo, Dj Shadow, Mr. Scruff, and the German hip hop legend Max Herre has also made an appearance.
House of Weekend
The House of Weekend, formerly known as Weekend Club, is on the 15th floor of a high rise building in Berlin’s central Alexanderplatz area. Its minimalist design, good cocktail selection, the panorama view from the roof garden, with DJs playing house music makes it a great experience. Paul van Dyk, one of Germany’s most successful DJs, once held a free sunset session on the rooftop. The view to watch Berlin’s sunrise already makes it worth it.
Clubbers at the House of Weekend. Photo courtesy of Martin Nordell. And View of Berlin from the House of Weekend at night. Photo courtesy of Paul Birnie.
This is a music club in a basement, which has become very popular over the years. Jazz, swing, rock, pop, live Moroccan music, it can all be heard down in the Junction Bar. You can compare it to basement bars like those that you would find in Paris and New York. The Junction Bar is simply a great place to go out to with your friends and for meeting new people.
Kater Blau has taken over the old location of Bar 25, a former outdoor electro club next to the ‘Spree’ river. It was also named in remembrance of Kater Holzig, another club that was shut down. Kater Blau is there to keep the spirits of these clubs alive. There are two indoor dance floors and in the summer season the outdoor creative street art area is perfect for hanging out and partying.
Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin
Kesselhaus in the Kulturbrauerei (Culture Brewery) is the main concert venue between various bars and night clubs. Besides concerts, it also offers a rich program of theatre, literature readings and diverse parties. You will especially find rock, funk and jazz acts performed by international artists. The Kesselhaus also hosted a festival named ‘Music 'n' Migration: A European Jazz Odyssey’.
This is the second largest open air concert venue, after the Waldbühne Berlin. Black Sabbath, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Coldplay, Radiohead, Rammstein and the famous Paul Kalkbrenner gave concerts there.
The audience at the Kindl-Bühne Wuhlheide. Photo courtesy of Marcus Grbac.
Kunstfabrik Schlot is another great jazz club in a basement. You will find jazz orchestras, oriental jazz groups and young jazz newcomers playing some of the best instrumental music out there. The atmosphere is very casual, with a good selection of tasty beer, to sit back, relax and listen to the music. On top of being a jazz club, it is also a cabaret theatre.
This isn’t just where ‘Soul Explosion’, one of the best funk and soul parties in town takes place. There are also Balkan Beats parties, indie rock bands and international bands like A-WA that make this a very lively attraction. The music is performed in a big room where there is also a long bar serving drinks. Lido is one of the best places to have a blast and dance the night away.
You would not expect there to be a concert room in this small, very cozy and social basement bar. The bar area is covered with chairs and decorations hanging upside down from the walls and ceiling. What makes Madame Claude even better is the hidden downstairs room with all types of rock and electro musicians performing. The entire place is great for sitting and talking, playing foosball and seeing up and coming bands. It may seem a bit empty at first, but it tends to fill up quickly in the later evening hours, especially with international tourists.
Indie rock band at Madame Claude. Photo courtesy of Edwin Linderkamp.
Magdalena, formerly known as Maria am Ostbahnhof, hosts its electro parties inside a former dock power station next to the ‘Spree’ river. Similar to Kater Blau, it is a club with DJs like Stereo Express playing non-mainstream house and techno music. There is plenty of space to dance. It also includes a terrace with a nice view of the river and an outdoor clubbing area with DJs in the summer.
Quasimodo is a cultural jazz club and one of Berlin’s oldest. It is in the basement of the old Delphi movie theatre building and next to the Theater des Westens, a popular theatre. The international musicians Prince, Chet Baker, Chaka Khan and Dizzy Gillespie have held concerts and parties on Quasimodo’s stage. You will find other musicians playing jazz, funk, blues, soul, Latin and rock shows there. The Quasimodo also offers a spacious café and patio in the summer to its guests, serving good wines, several beers and cocktails.
Sisyphos is a bit further outside of the central part of the city, in Eastern Berlin. This does not mean that it isn’t a club worth checking out. Sisyphos is a large club and an events venue in a former factory. It has a party vibe and a large, funky open-air surrounding. This is another great club to visit, especially in the summer.
Originally a punk concert venue founded in the late 70s, it still stays true to its roots by mainly hosting punk and alternative bands like the UK Subs, The Casualties, the French-German band Irie Révoltés and the Turkish rock band Duman. In addition, there is the Balkan party Klub Balkanska that takes place in SO36. Its narrow black hallway was designed to create the punk and alternative rock setting.
Duman performing at SO36 in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Photo courtesy of Edwin Linderkamp.
Tresor is symbolic for Berlin’s electronic music culture. It is a club and a music label, located inside a steam power plant. Featured artists on the label include Jeff Mills, Robert Hood, Stewart Walker and DJ Surgeon. Tresor has been inspirational to Berlin’s music scene through its Berlin-Detroit music artist connection and Sven Väth’s performances at the Berlin Love Parade.
The Roter Salon is a concert venue within the Volksbühne Berlin (Peoples Theatre Berlin). The Volksbühne Berlin is primarily a theatre venue, in which the Roter Salon hosts musicians like Billie Ray Martin and the avant-garde composer William Basinski. This is a great place for hearing music and for watching theatre plays.
The Waldbühne is Berlin’s largest open air stage with the capacity for an audience of more than 22,000 people. It is an amphitheater where even Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley have taken the stage. Depeche Mode, Metallica, Queen, U2, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, and Rod Stewart, just to name a few have given concerts at this humungous facility. The Berlin Philharmonic has also been there for classical music concerts.
This has become another major tourist destination, which students and Berliner tend to enjoy as well. You will find appearances by electro DJs, such as Sven Väth and can enjoy one of the best views of the ‘Spree’ river while having fun indoors. There are two floors with rooms where you can find techno and deep house music. In the summer, Watergate also hosts open air shows for crowds of people dancing under sunshine.
White Trash Fast Food
As the name already suggests, this is a restaurant and bar with some American flair, where you can eat a delicious Hamburger, grab a beer or get a tattoo. Its old location was in Mitte, in a more central and urban setting. It is now in a small single story house with a green open space setting next to one of the ‘Spree’ river’s canals. Inside there is still enough space for a stage and a lively crowd of people to enjoy its flair of Chinese decor, live DJs and bands playing groove, blues, rock, soul, jazz, country and Cuban music.
Wild At Heart
Wild At Heart is a rock dive bar that never gets old. Its doors are open every day from 8pm until an open end. It offers new international live bands ranging from death metal, alternative rock, southern rock, punk rock, garage punk to wave punk, and even burlesque shows. If you feel like you are still wild at heart, then you’ll know exactly where to go.
The bar at the rock 'n' roll club Wild At Heart. Photo courtesy of Dennis Kleine.
YAAM stands for Young African Art Market. It is one of the most original, multicultural riverside beach clubs in Berlin. Like other clubs it was being pressured to permanently close. Instead it moved into the old factory site building from which the Magdalena club was evicted. Several years ago the legendary Berlin reggae bands Seeed and Culcha Candela had some of their first performances at YAAM and have been back several times. Besides live music, it also offers sports activities like hacky sack, skateboarding, basketball, beach and street soccer, and legal graffiti art forums for youth.
Yorckschlösschen is the home of live jazz and blues, and one of the mellower venues. From its Swing Brunch with live music to jazz and blues shows on the weekends, you won’t be disappointed. It has been around for over 100 years as a club and has offered live music in the past 30 years. The next time you are hungry for delicious European meals and some jazz, blues, soul, swing and funk to go with it, make sure to stop by.
Zosch is a cozy events bar not too far from the Oranienburger Strasse, which has been a known tourist destination. For this reason it can also become quite full, since there is limited seating, so that reserving a table might be a good idea. The jazz band La Foot Creole plays New Orleans jazz on a regular basis at the basement downstairs. There are also blues and electronic bands performing. In the summer it gets packed with young people sitting on benches outside enjoying the good vibrations.
Zosch bar in Berlin. Photo courtesy of La Citta Vita. And Live music at Zosch. Photo courtesy of RadieschenTontraeger.
You Might Also Like:
Going to a Concert? This is a Must-Read
When are Tickets Cheapest to Buy?
Money, Music and Pricacy
Why Are Concert Tickets So Expensive?
Drug-Related Deaths at Concerts