A footloose, nocturnal nomad could write entire books about the club scene in Berlin alone. You could probably go to a different bar or dance club every night in this city, and never see them all. Don’t worry—we’ll try to bring you a selective guide to the Hauptstadt’s vibrant party scene, with glimpses into other cities when the occasion arises. Welcome to our series, Nomad Nightlife.
In this first installation, I’ll be recounting my first trip to the Berlin club Magdalena (successor to legendary location Maria am Ostbahnhof) and the special experience of seeing Paul van Dyk play a sunset session on the roof terrace of skyscraper club Weekend.
Magdalena, Stralauer Platz 33-34.
On Saturday night, I was lounging around on my couch, doing what I normally do before choosing a club for the night: browsing Resident Advisor. I had all but decided on Club der Visionaere, when a last-minute glance at the lineup for Magdalena changed my mind. One catch—the cover charge went from five euros to ten euros at midnight. I glanced at the clock. 11:17. Could I make it?
I scuttled for the 240 bus to Ostbahnhof, jumped out at the station, and started walking. I’d never been inside the famed Maria at the same location—by the time my Kumpels and I tried to go on our study abroad year, the club had closed its doors for the last time. It had been a while since that confused night, so once again I made an error or two on the way to Magdalena’s front door. Searching for a shortcut, I wandered down a deserted lot to the Spreeufer. “Kokain?” asked a laconic voice out of the shadows. No. I marched back to the street.
By the time I arrived at Magdalena, my phone showed two minutes past midnight. The guy ahead of me was apparently trying to convince the Türsteher otherwise and get the lower cover charge. “Okay, aber du bist der Letzte.” Groaning internally, I couldn’t help asking, “Nee, oder?” By some astonishing fluke, this actually worked—the bouncer assumed I was with the man in front of me, the man in front of me played along and paid five euros for me, which I promptly paid him back, and BOOM, I was through the doors.
There’s something glorious about the first time experiencing an intensely good club. The first time I saw the gritty walls, overstuffed couches and Raucherbooth at Rosi’s, the first time I saw the sun rise over the Spree from Watergate, the first time I danced until I couldn’t stand at Berghain. Magdalena was another great first. Rapturous, enthralling minimal techno in the main room, and some first-class raw dubstep in the darker small room. I also adored the interior design of the club—Dada kitsch is definitely alive and well in places like this (Kater Holzig and Ritter Butzke are also masters of the Dada vibe) with carved fish, dim chandeliers, plants and giant crooked frames suspended over the DJ booth in the main room, and a hypnotizing light show playing over a three-dimensional cubist wall facade in the dubstep room. The outside area offered benches and a cozy, narrow walkway perched over the Spree—requisite graffiti and beloved, rundown Berlin feel included.
Drinks were also good here—friendly bar staff, reasonably-priced Sekt and the general atmosphere had me feeling utterly relaxed and happy as I danced in my own little world amidst like-minded, liberated individuals. One female bartender was rocking truly gorgeous leggings (think Black Milk, without the oversaturated ubiquity) so I asked where she’d found them. Turns out, she also has a day job—at the vintage London-style store Queen B in Prenzlberg. I’ll definitely be checking them out. All in all, an excellent night—thank you Magdalena!
Weekend (Paul van Dyk Sunset Session), Alexanderstraße 7.
I owed this unique experience to another tip from Resident Advisor—truly, this site is such an amazing resource for navigating the nightlife in your city. World-renowned DJ Paul van Dyk, promoting his new album Evolution by playing a hometown set on the roof terrace of Weekend, for free—of course I had to go. How often do you get to see one of the most famous DJs on earth spinning on top of a skyscraper?
After a late-morning interview over coffee at Sankt Oberholz, I arrived at Alexanderplatz to keep an eye on the situation. First-come, first-served, doors at 3—I definitely didn’t want to miss my chance to see the set. By 1:40 p.m., there was a relaxed line beginning to form. Everything was very chill until entry got going and it became clear that regardless of the special occasion, the Weekend security were going to apply their standard discretion in matters of Türpolitik, turning away numerous fans right at the front of the line. As I later read on the Facebook event page, some of these had come from far away on the promise of first-come first-served admission—definitely a disappointment, although I can also understand Weekend’s right to maintain their selection policies.
In any case, we all held our breath a little as the bouncers began waving aside chunks of the line. Once I was in, the guy next to me and I glanced at each other and couldn’t help laughing a little in relief. It’s been ages since I’ve had any problems getting into a club, but you never know. The surprise selectivity, the little event access lanyards they’d prepared for us, and the spectacular view at the top of the tower all amplified the excitement of being allowed to take part in such a unique event. Beautiful weather, amazing music and happy people. Paul laid down an intensely skilled set, pulling the crowd irresistibly in, as you might expect from such a master of the craft. “Such A Feeling,” indeed. Thanks to Paul van Dyk and Weekend!