It’s a question many tourists ask when they arrive in Berlin. The most notorious nightclub in Europe has a strict door policy. Some have argued that the bouncers use an unknowable logic to determine whether they say “Ja” or “Nein”. You simply have to queue in the cold for hours and hope for the best. The reality is quite different. The Berghain is a den of hedonism and pounding electro music. It began as a male-only fetish club and subsequently attracted a mixed though very “alternative” crowd. Soon its reputation as a temple of excess was spreading far and wide. It was hailed as the most decadent club in Europe’s most decadent city. It became, in other words, the place to be, and more people started to join the long queue outside the door. People who clearly didn’t fit in would be turned away by moody bouncers and the myth of the Berghain was born.
Trying to get into the Berghain became a Berlin tourist attraction that rivalled visiting the Brandenburg Gate and eating currywurst with a plastic fork. It became a *thing*. Oh my God, babes, you literally can’t get in! The Berghain is the most notorious club to emerge since the rise and fall of Studio 54. So, are YOU cool enough for the Berghain?
People get turned away when it’s too busy and their style is too normcore. Do not, however, turn up in outrageous clothes assuming you’ll get in! Those bouncers can spot an imposter! You know, like Nomi in Showgirls when she pronounced Versace “Versays”. Be you, whoever that may be. Supposing you’re kind of queer, you wear dark clothes and you look relaxed at the prospect of a night of Bacchanalian hedonism, then you’ll probably get in. It also helps – a lot! – if you speak German. Sometimes, if the bouncer can’t decide whether you’ll pass, you’ll be asked a question. It’ll probably be something along the lines of “Who have you come to see?”. As in which DJ. So, do you know your Honey Dijon from your Fidelity Kastrow? If not then sorry, you’re not cool enough. It’s a sad story when the bouncer tells you “Sorry, we’re full” and then proceeds to let five people in. Were they on some kind of list or were they just cooler than you?
The Berghain is located in a run-down industrial estate in Friedrichshain on the edge of East Berlin. You’ll walk down dark, deserted streets on your way and probably assume you’ve taken a wrong turning. But then, lo and behold, you’ll see disco dollies walking purposefully through the dark. Follow them and soon you’ll see the Berghain’s dingy facade and a long queue of people.
Insider tip: If you show up after 4 am the queues will be much shorter. Oh, and don’t, for heaven’s sake, show up too drunk!
Some Berghianers will roll up in the middle of the night, party for a few hours, go home for a nap and then return for another round. It has a magnetic pull.
You’ve queued for over an hour in that Cold War Berlin gloom. The bouncer barely even glimpsed at you and muttered a laconic “Nein.” You’ve just seen a bunch of people who don’t even look that cool strolling in. What do they have that you don’t? Perhaps you’ll never know. With a sinking feeling, you make your way back to civilization, resisting the urge to jump into the River Spree.
There’s actually a club around the corner from Berghain called Laboratory. It’s men-only and it makes the Berghain seem like Sunday afternoon at Betty’s Tearoom. You could always try your luck in there, hun! But be warned… just, be warned, OK?
Failing that, hop in a cab and head to SchwuZ in Neukölln. It’s a lively gay club that embodies the hedonism of Berlin nightlife, only in a more accessible way and it’s much easier to get in. You’ll have so much fun – even though you’re not cool enough for the Berghain.
by Alex | More: Gay Berlin