How to get into Berghain according to party professionals

Dancer Roberto Bolle, dressed in all black, arrives at Berghain in Berlin, Germany.
Italian dancer Roberto Bolle arrives at Berghain in Berlin, Germany. Photo via Getty Images

Over the past twenty years, Daniel Nardicio has carved a niche within queer nightlife. Dubbed the “Sleaze Impresario,” by New York Magazine, the salacious party producer earned his moniker with such debaucherous events as Tigerbeat at the Slide and the D-World underwear parties in Fire Island. He’s collaborated with such icons as Liza Minelli, Carol Channing, Chita Rivera, John Waters, and Alan Cumming, the latter with whom he opened Club Cumming in the East Village.

In the realm of nightlife, Daniel Nardicio is an expert. However, even the most seasoned party professionals have a hard time getting into Berghain on the first attempt. “The first time I went wasn’t the first time I got in,” said Nardicio of the notoriously exclusive Berlin nightclub. “I think I didn’t get in, if I’m not mistaken, two times. They really torture you. They make you wait for a long time, it builds anticipation. Most clubs beg you to get in, and this one, you’re begging to get it.”

Housed in an abandoned soviet-era power plant, Berghain is infamous for its strict, often opaque door policy. Presided over by head bouncer/photographer Sven Marquardt, the criteria for admittance may appear Byzantine to neophytes of Berlin nightlife. Some potential patrons queue up for hours only to be arbitrarily turned away at the door.

Fortunately, Daniel has since learned how to get into Berghain from his past experiences:

Follow the dress code

“The number one rule is don’t talk to people in line,” he advised. “Germans love that sort of cut-off, unemotional, disconnected, Kraftwerk sort of vibe. And, obviously, it has to do with what you’re wearing.”

When it comes to getting into Berghain, clothing is crucial. Marquardt has often stated that he will automatically wave away anyone in pastels. The safest bet is to don a simple black ensemble. To Seth, an openly gay lifestyle concierge and consummate world traveler, it’s important to toe the line between “basic” and “extra.”

“What I saw being important for people getting in was the idea of layers,” said Seth, who requested we omit his last name for professional reasons, “showing you actually tried. Like, it was either you completely just don’t give a shit and you want them to know you don’t give a shit. Or you would put something together that showed you made a conscious effort. But, not trying too hard. Not rolled-out-of-bed-chic, but not a lewk. But something that showed thought went into each piece.”

Enlist a local expert

Seth gained entry to Berghain on his first attempt in part from his apparel, which was a white harness under a black fishnet sweater. But more important was the fact that he was taken under the wings by experienced locals.

“I had gone to a big circuit party and I met this hot couple,” Seth recalled. “I went to their house, as one does after parties for one thing or another. And then I was set to get on a flight to a work trip in Vienna. I had a few hours until I had to be at the airport, and they just looked at me and said, ‘we go to Berghain.’ And I’m like, ‘I can’t go somewhere right now,’ and they said, ‘we go to Berghain.’ And I’m like, ‘okay.’ They took me to my hotel, packed up my bags, showed me what to wear, and I got in line with them. I’m not sure if I would have gotten in without them. But, I knew because I was with them I was getting in.”

Berghain facade.
Photo by Britta Pedersen/picture alliance via Getty Images

The value of rolling up with an insider can also be attested by Carebear. (Like Seth, this pansexual jet setter asked to withhold his real name and instead use the “playa name” he received at Burning Man.) Carebear also credits getting into Berghain on his first try to the help of a local club kid.

“I was there with a buddy from LA and we checked out Kit Kat,” Carebear said, referencing Berlin’s iconic fetish club. “I met this Vietnamese-German girl, completely naked. We both were. A couple of days later, she’s like, ‘you want to go Berghain?’ I was like, ‘sure I’ve never been, I hear it’s hard to get in.’ So she was like ‘don’t worry about this. I got it’. And then we went in and she dressed in leather fetish clothes. And I thought it was gonna be difficult but we went up, and I was dressed in just normal black stuff, and she walked in the door, whispered something in the guy’s ear and they let us right in. It helps to have a little Asian girl dressed in fetish clothes.”

Try the Lab.Oratory door

For those not escorted in by kinky Berliners, there are a few other options, although they are far less reliable. One strategy is to get into Lab.Oratory, the gay sex club connected to Berghain. If you are lucky, the door between the two venues may be open, presenting an opportunity to sneak in. Or if you flirt successfully with the Lab bouncer, he may reward you with a Berghain handstamp. At one time, a prominent apartment share app hosted “Sew Your Own Berghain Clubbing Outfit,” a 4-hour-long seminar on how to get into the elusive nightclub, featuring a tutorial on making an ideal techno scene ensemble. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been offered since before the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Inside Lab.Oratory at Berghain.
Photo via GayCities user

Keep your cool

Those fortunate enough to get past Marquardt and his gatekeepers will be greeted inside by a stark, industrial aesthetic dominated by concrete and steel. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, local party promoters reclaimed abandoned bunkers, hangars, and in the case of Berghain, heating plants, to use as venues for the city’s then-nascent techno underground music scene. Like a bastardization of Frank Loyd Wright’s motto “form follows function,” the harsh anti-decor of the club is an extension of its culture.

“It’s very hard,” said Daniel, describing the interior. “It’s very intimidating. There’s nothing frivolous, it’s not very welcoming. It’s kind of German. Actually, all of those adjectives describe Germans.”

For Seth, this Teutonic iciness is best exemplified on the dance floor.

“There’s the main dance floor, and you’re kind of just seeing the vibe of people,” said Seth. “There is that underground European vibe of ‘I’m gonna move with the music but I’m gonna stand still to show that the music’s not affecting me and I’m more powerful than it. It’s so very German.

“It’s like The Birdcage,” he continued, channeling the late great Robin Williams, “You do Fosse, Fosse, Fosse, Martha Graham, Martha Graham, Madonna, Madonna, but you keep it all inside.”

Adding to the intimidation is the sheer size of Berghain. The space holds the capacity for 1500 partiers, and the walls of the main dance floor tower 60 feet high. This cavernous central space is just a part of a larger diverse labyrinth.

A view inside Berghain, cement pillars  and a steel staircase.
Photo via GayCities user

“There’s like a bunch of little branch-out rooms,” explained Seth, serving as our pseudo-sherpa. “You’ve got the bathrooms that are also their own sex dungeons. You’ve got a weird Western bar off to the side where people are drinking beer. There’s a little something for everyone. I don’t think one can ever truly explore everything in one visit. My favorite part is upstairs when you go into you the ‘ABBA zone.’ You’ll be in the middle of this darkness and go upstairs and there’s light coming in through the stained glass and ‘Dancing Queen’ playing.”

This upstairs space, Panorama Bar, is a favorite of Carebear’s as well.

“What stuck out the most though is that Berghain has this cathedral-style dance floor,” said Carebear. “It has Funktion-one speakers, which are the best speakers on the planet. And the acoustics of this room, in my opinion, is like the best acoustics I’ve ever heard on a dance floor of a club. Being in this room was just like getting a massage with music. I thought that was pretty incredible. Like just a body orgasm with music.”

According to Daniel, there are more than metaphorical orgasms at Berghain. While not an official sex palace like Kit Kat, the myriad nooks and crannies of this place provides ample opportunities to indulge in some sins of the flesh.

“There are play spaces where there seems to be a lot of sex and wild shit going on,” said Daniel. “People come there to live out these insane fantasies. Berghain brings people from all over the world for that depravity. Since it’s open for three days, Thursday to Monday, it’s a lot of drugs. I experienced the alphabet: C, K, G. [cocaine, ketamine, and gamma-hydroxybutyrate, respectively.] I always thought it was wild that there’d be people that would go there on Thursday and basically stay the weekend. How do you

It’s because of these excesses that Berghain enforces a strict ban on photography within its walls. But Carebear finds illicit substances at this club to be superfluous anyway.

“For me, you don’t need to take drugs to have fun,” Carebear opined, “because it was so much fun already. It’s such a bizarre kind of world.”

Over the years, the hedonistic fantasia that is Berghain has been hailed as “The Best Club in the World” by a plethora of media outlets. For the party professionals we interviewed, this distinction is highly subjective.

“As someone in the travel industry, when someone says ‘what’s your favorite place to go to,’ or ‘where’s your favorite place you’ve been,’ you can’t answer a question like that,” Seth explained. “There’s so many variables, so much context. I mean, it’s an amazing club. It is a pinnacle of clubs, but it’s not the end-all for everything.”

For all the hassles involved in just getting into Berghain, is it ultimately worth it? For Daniel, achieving entrance into this iconic club is a nightlife flex.

“It’s like getting into Harvard,” Daniel explained. “Is Harvard any better than Princeton? I don’t know. But the fact that you can say you got into Harvard goes a really long way. So is saying you went to Berghain. Afterward, you wind up in another place and tell some people, ‘yeah, I was at Berghain last night.’ It’s saying to people I was cool enough to get into Berghain.”

Of course, that’s only if you can get in. As the Germans say, viel gluck.

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