Berlin insiders' guide: Bars

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The following is part of a series of visitor guides to Berlin. See also:
Berlin on a budget | Restaurants | Jewish Berlin | From the locals | Relaxing | Culture | Shopping

Berlin is awash in funky, fabulous and far-out bars. With some of the most affordable real estate of any European capital and tons of available space, local yokels have made imaginative use of the city's plethora of abandoned and out-of-the-box buildings. Here's a list of some of the most character-rich, fun spots in town.

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Roter Salon
(website)
Address: Roter Salon an der Volksbuhne, Rosa-Luxemburg Platz
Tel: 03024065806
It's East Berlin meets the Roaring Twenties at the Roter Salon. Part of the bombastic Volksbuhne Theatre complex known for its left-wing and alternative repertoire, this red-hued venue space, complete with sweeping velvet curtains and historic details galore, is transformed into a Tango-lovers paradise every Wednesday night and houses bands and acts throughout the week. Great place to dance and drink.

Luxus
Address: Belforter Strasse 18
Hours: 8 p.m.-2 a.m. daily
Housed in a former butcher shop, Luxus, which means luxury in German, could not be less luxurious. A bashed-up portable fire, eclectic furnishings and a forlorn-looking fish tank complete the deranged decor, which usually is complimented by a local transvestite serving drinks. The clientele is decidedly ragged looking in this quintessentially Berlin bar, which comes complete with the original tiles on the walls. A great place to experience off-beat Berlin.

Oxymoron (website)
Address: Rosenthaler Strasse 40/41
Tel: 03028391886
For a taste of 1920s class, visit the elegant bar/restaurant Oxymoron in one of Berlin's most beautifully renovated courtyard buildings, in the heart of the hip Mitte district. Between the palm trees and plush upholstery, there's a long cool bar and an even longer drinks list. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, check out one of the many bars, cafes and nightspots that fill the surrounding Hackesche Hoefe complex.

Clarchen's Ballhaus
(website)
Address: August Strasse 24
Tel: 0302829295
A charming if somewhat run-down old ballroom that fits right in with the recent trend in Berlin of re-occupying and re-purposing some of the city's historic spaces, Ballhaus Mitte is as much ballroom as bar. The fun nightspot offers a variety of drop-in dance classes, dining facilities and an outdoor garden for the summer, and live music plays here Friday and Saturday nights.

Roses
Address: Oranien Strasse 187
Tel: 0306156570
The camp and colorful gay bar in the grungy neighborhood of Kreuzberg is fun and fabulous and very intimate. Offering one of the biggest collections of glitter and gaudiness on the planet and some of the gayest revelers to boot, it's another good spot to soak up the Berlin of old.

Solar (website)
Address: Stresemann Strasse 76
Tel: 01637652700
Perched on the 17th floor of a nondescript office building near Anhalter Bahnhof, this hip spot offers one of the best views of the city. After a zoom up the glassed-in elevator, the door opens into a restaurant, and a spiral staircase leads to the bar, where patrons sit in overstuffed chairs or swinging loveseats. If you're lucky, there will be a spot available in the smaller lounge, which features cozy sofas and your own private bar.

Harry's New-York Bar (website)
Address: Grand Hotel, Esplanade, Lutzowufer Strasse 15
Tel: 030254788255
For a touch of old-fashioned elegance, check out Harry's New-York Bar in Tiergarten. The drinks list boast more than 200 choices, and there's live piano and lots of leather seats.

-- Liza Foreman
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