The best of secret Berlin
The Sammlung Boros art collection is housed in this former concrete bunker. (David Peevers/LPI)
Splashy signage? How gauche! Some of Berlin's finest bars, restaurants, shops and venues are hidden from view behind unmarked doors, in nondescript buildings, recycled historic sites and even a wartime bunker. Here's our pick of the best of these clandestine spaces.
Schiffbauerdamm 11, Mitte
Beyond an anonymous steel door, flirty frocks sip raspberry mojitos alongside martini-cradling three-day stubbles at this cosmopolitan drinking den tucked into a railway bridge. On weekends, the crowd lets DJs save their lives beneath the mirrored ceiling and steely gaze of a giant pupil installation bookmarking one end of the tunnel-shaped space. Hungry? Proceed to the "cantina" in the backroom.
Reinhardtstrasse 20 Mitte
The vibe of war still hangs over the Nazi-era bunker turned shining beacon of art thanks to advertising guru Christian Boros. Boros collects practitioners currently writing art history - Olafur Eliasson, Elmgreen & Dragsted, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Wolfgang Tilmanns among them - and here shares a selection of his treasures with the public. Entry is by guided tour only so make online reservations as early as possible.
Friedrichstrasse 158, Mitte
Kudos if you can find this chic herbivore haven right away. Hint: it is upstairs past a dimly lit door in the back of the Westin Hotel's service alley. In the open kitchen of this elegantly industrial loft, a small army of cooks whips up meat-free compositions that are treats for both eyes and palate. On Tuesday and Thursday you can dance off your dinner in the eponymous nightclub downstairs.
Im Festungsgraben 1, Mitte
Dive deep into the fairytale world of this exotic tearoom, imported straight from Tajikistan, complete with plump pillows, hand-carved sandalwood pillars and heroic murals. On blustering winter nights, steaming tea poured from silvery samovars is perfect for staving off the chills. It is upstairs in the elegant 18th-century Palais am Festungsgraben.
Stresemannstrasse 76, Kreuzberg
Views of the Berlin skyline are impressive at this sparkling sky lounge atop a nondescript 1950s office building. Dimly lit and with great cocktails, it is a perfect spot for a date or sunset drinks. Even just getting there aboard an exterior glass lift is half the fun - at least if you are not vertigo-prone. The entrance is behind the Pit Stop auto shop.
Memhardstrasse 8, Mitte
With no mannequins to snag your gaze, you would be forgiven for walking right past the empty white cube with only a staircase spiraling down to one of Berlin's best-edited fashion emporiums. Once in this plush jet-black boutique, you too can sift through high-end fashions by Vladimir Karaleev, James Perse, Vilsbol de Arce and other crave-worthy designers.
Oranienstrasse 13, Kreuzberg
Heed the call of the Kasbah and find your favourite cushion in this sultry sheesha lounge above the ho-hum Rote Harfe pub. Amid ambient Arabic sounds and the sweet aroma of apple and honey, you can relax in the colourful Bedouin tent or reserve a private niche to sip your cocktails behind a tinkling pearl curtain.
Admirals Absinth Bar
Friedrichstrasse 101, Mitte
Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde were among the fin-de-siècle devotees of the "green fairy", as absinthe is euphemistically known. The expert bartenders at this Golden Twenties-style speakeasy, accessed via the courtyard of the Admiralspalast theatre, will happily help you pick out the perfect concoction for your own mind-altering rendezvous.
Auguststrasse 24, Mitte
Wind down the weekend with a free classical concert in one of Berlin's most unique spaces: the Spiegelsaal (Mirror Hall), hidden above a late 19th-century dance hall called Clärchens Ballhaus. With its cracked and blinded mirrors, fancy chandeliers and old-timey wallpaper, it recalls past epochs when the city elite gathered here for wild parties.
Berlin resident Andrea Schulte-Peevers is the author of Lonely Planet Berlin, Lonely Planet Berlin Encounter and Lonely Planet Germany.