(Pre-)fab partying in Kottbusser Tor's hidden bars
Who'd have guessed that a shabby stretch of concrete '70s real estate could house quite so many hidden-away drinking dens?
For the most part, these tucked-away bars have been around long enough to endear themselves to an entire decade of in-the-know revellers, but for non-locals, Kottbusser Tor's cluster of concealed nightlife runs the risk of passing sadly unperceived.
Particularly since, to access it you'll need to negotiate dank, grafitti covered stairways and forbidding steel doors - because after all, no self-respecting speakeasy is ever going to advertise its presence.
Image credit: Paloma Bar facebook
A tiny wedge of a space permeated with electro beats and lots of cigarette smoke, the Paloma's kitsch, '70s decor seems more apt than ironic - you're sitting, after all, in a classic concrete pre-fab.
Sweeping views across the platforms of Kottbusser Tor U-Bahn are a major part of the bar's appeal, a gritty urban outlook that's suitably in tune with the Paloma's louche, hole-in-the-wall vibe.
Paloma Bar: Skalitzer Strasse 135, 10999 Berlin
Opening times: Thurs-Sat, 9pm-5.30am
Finding it: Not easy. Look out for a grim metal security gate shielding an equally grim concrete stairway between the Kaiser's supermarket and a kebab store (below). Take the stairs to the first landing and turn right.
Located in exactly the same stretch of sci-fi '70s real estate as the dimunitive Paloma, the much-loved (and substantially larger) Monarch pulls in punters with electro and indie sounds, a bijou stage for eclectic concert line-ups and, of course, those panoramic views across the Kotti (at least before the place gets so rammed that the windows start steaming).
Low-lit, ramshackle and reliably raucous, the Monarch of Kottbusser Tor reigns supreme as a firm favourite among Kreuzberg's late-night imbibers.
Monarch Bar: Skalitzer Strasse 134, 10999 Berlin
Opening times: Tues-Thur, 9pm-3am; Fri-Sat, 9pm-5.30am; Sun, 9pm-3am
Finding it: Look for the sticker-covered door with a sign above it for the 'Turkische Gemeinde zu Berlin' (image above, right). Take the stairs to the first floor.
A cultish club and gallery space that's particularly clandestine (no website; no Facebook page) this hidden hangout in the delapidated shell of a former dental surgery makes up for its zero-frills decor by hosting some of Berlin's better musical and artistic fare.
With an acclaimed programme of events ranging from underground indie bands to cutting-edge installations and performances, West Germany achieves the rather admirable feat of remaining hip years after it first opened its artfully battered doors.
West Germany: Skalitzer Strasse 133, 10999 Berlin
Opening times: Thurs-Sat, 11pm-6am
Finding it: You know the score. Look for the door covered in stickers (there's a sign beside it for 'Schatz EV Schulaufgabenzirkel') and take the scary-looking graffitied stairs (above right) up to the second floor.
Update: Sadly, West Germany has closed its doors for good. If you're looking for something similar, check out our list of Berlin's coolest alternative venues.
The newest addition to the bars overlooking the railway tracks is also something of mould-breaker - a stylishly designed cocktail lounge that eschews grunge for glam.
Positioning itself as a destination drinking spot rather than a boisterous, late-night pitstop, Fahimi's combination of soft lighting, shiny bar stools and classic cocktails all add up to a swankier (and far less sweaty) alternative to its bunker-bar neighbours.
Image credit: Fahimi Bar
Image credit: Fahimi Bar
Fahimi Bar: Skalitzer Straße 133, 10999 Berlin
Opening times: Tues-Sat, 7pm-open end
Finding it: Same entrance as for 'West Germany' above, and there's even a sign (albeit a very small one). Take the stairs to the first floor.