(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 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 a 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.
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.