Being a tourist in a foreign country comes with all sorts of unknowns. Some of these are fun surprises — croissant or baguette for breakfast? Historic castle or art museum? Will wine or beer be cheaper here? A taxi costs less than the bus? Sweet.
Sometimes, however, not knowing the ins and outs of a city can be detrimental to a good time. Especially when that time is limited and you’re trying to fit in as much awesomefuntasticness as possible. When it comes to heading out for a night of bar-hopping, it helps to know the places to hit and the ones to avoid. If you don’t have any insider tips, you’re at the mercy of … the internet.
We used the internet for pretty much all of our trip planning — booking hotels, flights, trains and buses — and it was invaluable. But for finding cool bars and clubs? Not so much. About an hour before heading out, we’d scan various websites all suggesting myriad hot & happening local hangouts, scrawl down some notes on our hotel notepad, and with a quick scan of Google Maps be on our merry way.
Thirty minutes later we’d be wandering some dark, deserted road, stopping in front of what should have been a bar “popular with the after-work crowd” or club “with a line-up spilling onto the street” but instead would inevitably appear to be a closed tanning salon, lunch bar or, more often than not, the back of a dingy apartment block.
On a Friday night in Berlin, after finally deciding we’d had enough of touring the deserted back streets of the city (we did manage to find one of the places on our list, which, rather than the three-level club we were expecting, turned out to be a weird, half-empty goth bar with a DJ playing Nine Inch Nails), we ditched our notes, found a main road and headed off, determined to find some kind of nightlife.
This was Berlin, after all — city of underground cool. There had to be something going on. Somewhere down the road, and probably on the other side of the city from where we started, we found a bottle store on the corner. Fine, we told ourselves, if we can’t find a decent bar to hang out in, we’ll just grab a drink to go and make our own fun. Five minutes later, with Smirnoff Ices in hand, we found it. An actual bar filled with actual people and actual decent music. All completely by accident.
We stayed at the glorious Kaffee Burger — a packed, quirky bar with great music — till the wee hours. Actually, past the wee hours and into the full-on daylight hours, which is one of the advantages of European nightlife (no final call at 2am). Or disadvantages, depending on what state you’re in when you stumble outside at 5.30am.
So, the lesson here? Any info on the internet regarding the latest ‘in’ clubs and bars, no matter how convincing, is usually out of date about a month after being published. What was the hottest venue around last week is quite possibly a dodgy parking lot this week. Your best bet is to ask a local for advice, or, as we did, just try and wing it. In sprawling cities like Berlin, this may mean one long trek around the streets (wear comfy shoes) but be determined — if it’s Friday night, somewhere, hopefully not far from you, people are having a good time.