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Berlin Nightlife for the First-Timer: The Berghain Experience

In early May, I took a 5 day trip to Berlin, Germany, a city that’s been praised time and again as being “so amazing” that I just had to get a taste! No one ever explained why, and I didn’t really ask. I just took everyone’s word for it. That’s how many people raved about it.

Don’t judge me, but only after booking my flight did I learn that one of Berlin’s greatest highlights is the techno scene there. In fact, in March 2024, Berlin techno was added to UNESCO’s list of intangible world heritage! Having booked my plane ticket back in February, this was a serendipitous time for me to have pulled the trigger on Berlin after putting it on my list two years prior!

Upon landing in Berlin, the same evening, I immediately jumped into the techno experience in a unique way, through a techno painting workshop I booked on Airbnb Experience! As an artist myself, this felt like the perfect intro, but it’s definitely beginner-friendly, as the teacher and inventor of techno painting, Dina Shneider, will guide you through it from the coziness of her artsy apartment! And lucky me, I was the only student that day (yay, extra attention!) At the end, it wasn’t about the outcome, but about the journey, freely swishing and dabbing away to the music in a judgement-free zone, a plus being no other students there to compare my painting with. You can also book her directly at

As a frequent club-goer and ~10 year resident, Dina also gave me the scoop on clubbing life in Berlin, complete with examples of what she would wear in her closet!

In addition, I had done a good amount of Google and Tik Tok research, as well as received advice from another American friend who’s clubbed in Berlin before. Here’s a summary:

Clubbing is taken VERY seriously in Berlin.

I know, I know, isn’t it supposed to be fun?! But think about the times where you’ve seen aggressive drunkards thrown out of bars or clubs, or feared cattiness or judgement from women and men, alike, because you don’t have the trendiest clothes or perfect body type. Think of Berlin’s attitude as a way to truly appreciate the techno culture by fostering a judgement-free zone that’s focused on the music. Here’s the site I used to help me prepare.

There are several clubs and each has its unique vibe! But the common rule of thumb is KEEP IT CASUAL: NO heels, NO club dresses, NO trying to look chic! If you would wear it to a Miami club, DON’T in Berlin!

Now, I won’t pretend to know everything after my one experience, but based on advice from Dina and the internet, here are some examples of the unspoken dress-codes for some clubs:

  • Sisyphos: colorful, festival, or hippie-like

  • Kit Kat: BDSM, the more naked the better

  • Berghain: all black, leather, also a bit BDSM , but at the end, it’s all about your “vibe”

I wore an outfit that kind of blended the three, in case we could hit up multiple clubs.

Kimono inspired by Dina and bought at the Mauerpark Flohmarkt earlier that day!

For no other reason than trying to prove we could get in, we opted to jump the gun and first try to get into Berghain, the most exclusive club in the world!

Why so exclusive? It has the toughest bouncers, turning away about 60% of people, sometimes seemingly arbitrarily. Based on my online research, if you seem rambunctious, aggressive, judgmental, or like you just wouldn’t fit the vibe, you’ll be rejected. It's a great way to create a feeling of exclusivity, but also, again, they want to foster a safe and judgement-free environment, especially due to its history as a former gay club.

Due to its exclusivity and notoriety, Berghain is also known for its crazy queues, sometimes 2-3 hours long! But, given that the club is open non-stop from Thursday through Monday, you can find pockets of time where there is no line at all. I definitely was contemplating my backup plan if the line was any longer than 30 minutes because ain’t no way!

Sunday at 9pm blessed us with an extremely short line, getting us to the bouncer in just 10 minutes! And this makes sense, as most tourists would probably opt for Friday or Saturday.

As we got closer, I tried to remember all the advice I’d heard online:

  • DON’T be loud, better yet just don’t talk in line (The line was hilariously and refreshingly quiet).

  • DON’T be on your phone or taking selfies/pics (Seriously just leave it in your pocket. They’re not looking for annoying influencers, like myself LOL).

  • DON’T look too excited! Have a quiet confidence that says “I’m not pressed to be in here.” I think this is where “vibes” come into play.

  • DO split up your group to no more than 2-3 people and try to balance male-female ratio. I read this online and witnessed a group quietly get turned away right before us. (Add that to our already shaky nerves!)

  • DO know a little German and know who’s DJing that night. This could’ve potentially ruined everything for us because I forgot to check, knew no German other than “hallo” and “nein,” and didn’t dare to take my phone out to research in line.

This is the only picture I quickly snapped before putting my phone away

The Berghain Bouncer Judgement Call

Honestly, I don’t even remember them taking our IDs. Maybe I was too nervous and trying not to smile because I’m a smiley person, ESPECIALLY when I’m nervous. Meanwhile, my friend has a huge grin on his face and is wearing white sneakers, dark jeans, a red unbuttoned floral shirt, my cord necklace, and one of my dangling earrings, just for a touch of eccentricity. Plus, what might they think of me if they found out I'm an American? What about me clearly being Black? (I wasn't as concerned about this, but it was still a thought that creeps in from time to time). Anyway, this whole ordeal felt like it would be a real hit or miss….

They asked us nothing and just gestured us on in. And that’s it!

We made it!!

On the way in, you pay €25 per person (cash or card). And they place stickers on your phone cameras. NO pictures allowed inside. Again, you’re there for the experience, not the gram!

I can't adequately express my feelings about Berghain other than it is the most invigorating club I’ve ever been to! It has an industrial abandoned warehouse feel with several floors and super high ceilings. We spent probably the first hour just exploring all the nooks and crannies!

Despite the dance floor being packed, there were surprisingly a lot of spots we easily found to sit, chill, and converse with each other and other club-goers. I don’t know if this would be the case on Friday or Saturday.

I’d say DON’T go to Berghain (or maybe any Berlin techno clubs) IF:

  1. You don’t like techno music (duh)

  2. You’re very uncomfortable around… pharmaceuticals….

  3. You can’t foster an inclusive environment. Again, no judgey people!

  4. You are sensitive to cigarette smoke. I didn’t notice until leaving that I reeked of cigarettes and had a bad cough for a whole week after.

All in all, take my advice with a grain of salt. A rejection may depend on the time of day, the people you're with, or the bouncer's mood. I’d love to try again and see if things pan out the same way, as well as try other clubs! Let me know if you’ve gotten into Berghain and if you have more advice to share in the comments!

More on Berlin coming soon! Subscribe below to receive emails when I post to the blog!

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