The YAAM

For the last twenty years, the YAAM (short for the Young and African Arts Market) has been a crucial part of Berlin’s youth and leisure culture. Comprised of makeshift shanty buildings covered in breath-taking graffiti art, tree houses with winding ladders, two recording studios, a stage area and beach bar with actual sandy beach, it is the perfect place to while away a sunny afternoon with a strong cocktail and good company.

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Initially, the YAAM was founded as a youth center for kids of various nationalities, with an emphasis on African culture. At that time art and music played a strong part in the community, with Dancehall/Reggae fusion musicians Culcha Candela and Seeed performing their first live concerts here. Sport was also a huge part of the YAAM; basketball tournaments are still held there today, and there is a pingpong table and small football space in the beach bar area free for anyone to use. A plethora of events are held at the YAAM yearly, including Graffitibox, Germany’s largest street art event, music festivals, outdoor film screenings, and DJ hosted club events.

Nowadays, it is more inclusive of all kinds of people including families with small children. Jamaican inspired food, like jerk chicken with rice and sweet potato fries, is served in the bar area during the day, and there are lots of toys scattered around the beach for toddlers to play with while parents enjoy a chilled drink and soak up the friendly atmosphere. In 2006, the community center was awarded the Mete-Eksi Prize for its contribution to the peaceful co-existence of youth from different backgrounds, and this feeling of peace and openness still exists in abundance today.

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Lazing in a hammock with reggae drifting through the air from the bar, looking out onto the river Spree glistening in the sunlight, you will feel a sense of overwhelming happiness and tranquility. Definitely aided by that person smoking a huge spliff next to you.

An der Schillingbrücke 3, 10243 Berlin | Mon-Sun 10am till late 

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Last Cathedral

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Ever dreamt of drinking from a beer tower in Dracula’s lair? If so, this horror rock bar on Schönhauser Allee is the crypt for you. Stepping inside, you are immediately swallowed by darkness and immersed into a gothic dungeon with medieval chandeliers, skeletons and spiderwebs hanging from every corner, and corpses lying underneath glass panels in the floor. They are not real skeletons, nor corpses, but that feeling of primal fear is still there as you continue to notice small spooky details all around, including deathly white faces embedded into the wooden benches seated around individual tables.

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With its scary interior and penchant for playing goth, punk, and metal music, this bar has long been an integral part of several Berlin subcultures. On Saturdays it holds a ‘Dance Macabre’ event, playing a mixture of post-punk, goth rock, and Neue Deutsche Härte music such as Rammstein and Megaherz.

Since the 1980s and the birth of Berlin’s own Neue Deutsche Welle (new German wave) bands Malaria! and Einsturzende Neubauten, the goth scene in Berlin has been more active than most paces outside of London and L.A., with several nights dedicated to an umbrella of genres all considered ‘gothic’. Although musically, Post-punk and Electronic Body Music might be extremely different, what unites these gothic genres is a love for all things macabre, and a distinctive physical appearance encompassing leather, latex, and velvet into outfits. Several of these events take place around Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße, including popular monthly goth/synth-pop night Centuries, making Last Cathedral the perfect place for pre-drinks and getting into the mood.

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Upon entry you will receive a free shot, and once inside you will find the drinks selection to be vast as well as humorous. Cocktails with names like ‘Black Death’ and ‘Hannibal’ arrive with edible gummy bats and eyeballs on cocktail sticks. Mentioned earlier, the ‘Beer Tower’ is a plastic tube of your own personal two, three, or four litre beer on tap, made to look like a old-fashioned contraption with use of copper base and rusted tap. A regular stop on the ‘666 Alternative Berlin Pub Crawl’, nowadays there are more tourists around than before, but this does not stop Last Cathedral from being a thoroughly good time and worth braving the night for.

Schönhauser Allee 5, 10119 Berlin | Mon-Sun 8pm-5am

Spielwiese

Stepping into Spielwiese is like stepping into geek heaven. If you are a board-game lover, you will no doubt see a holy light radiating from the shelves stacked against each wall boasting over 1000 games to choose from, you might even hear Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ in the background.

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This board-game cafe on Kopernikusstraße is cosy and brightly decorated, with orange and green paintwork, light wooden tables and floors, and funky hanging lights, achieving the perfect balance of geek and chic. The owner Michael Schmitt is an incredibly friendly man with an impressive beard, who will stun you with his knowledge of games. Feel free to ask him for recommendations for what you should play, it is said that he is able to find you your perfect game based upon your personality.

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Along with family friendly games like Monopoly, Uno, and Risk, there are also specialised fantasy role playing games like Call of Cthulhu and Year One, strategy games such as Dominion, and even a whole load of vintage games including Ambush! and Thunder Road. There are also two versions of Cards Against Humanity, something that even inexperienced gamers will enjoy for its dark humour and straightforward game play. Renting a game costs €2 and you can play for as long as you want. The cafe tends to fill up as the afternoon progresses, so it is advisable to get there around noon to bag a good table for your group. Drinks and snack are available from the bar, including a variety of coffee, organic beers and soft drinks, a range of sandwiches, and chocolate bars.

Kopernikusstraße 24, 10245 Berlin | opening times vary

Neo Tokyo

If you are craving the latest issue of Tokyo Ghoul, a copy of Kiryu’s new album, or you just want to experience something a little different, you will want to check out Neo Tokyo on Schönhauser Allee, a shop that specialises in Japanese pop culture. You will find yourself wondering around for hours, unable to tear yourself away from the innumerable rows of art books and Lolita fashion magazines, posters of Johnny’s Entertainment boy-bands, and adorable Rilakkuma lunch boxes and stickers.

neo tokyo 2The otaku subculture started along with the 1980’s anime boom, after the release of works like Mobile Suit Gundam and then branching into the Comic market. Nowadays, it refers to those interested in many aspects of Japan and its modern media. Germany itself hosts a large amount of anime and comic conventions such as Connichi and AnimagiC. Japanese street fashion such as Decora and Fairy Kei has also caught on in Berlin, influenced by Visual Kei music and style. Visual Kei fans are united by a love of flamboyant costumes- anything from Victorian dresses to outfits that wouldn’t look out of place in a fetish club- and music influenced by glam rock, power metal, and punk. Berlin has produced its very own Visual Kei band influenced by the Japanese style, Cinema Bizarre. Cinema Bizarre t-shirts, along with merchandise from Japanese bands An Cafe, the GazettE, and Miyavi, and more can be purchased from Neo Tokyo.

The shops stocks over 200 series of manga, and also sells gorgeous art books from series like Kuroshitsuji, Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist, and Junjou Romantica. There are also monthly copies of VK fashion and music magazines Cure and Fools Mate. Immediately noticeable is their large stock of CDs, from older Japanese artists like Gackt and Luna Sea, to current VK and metalcore bands such as Royz and Crossfaith. If you don’t want to spend a tone of money but still want a little taste of Japan, there are a range of cute snacks and Ramune drinks available.

Schönhauser Allee 188, 10119 Berlin | Mon-Fri 11am-7pm, Sun 11am-4pm

Computerspielemuseum

Although taking a while to catch on in the 1980s, video gaming is now a huge part of Berlin pop culture, with the German market outpacing that of the UK. Worldwide popular games to come out of Germany in recent years include Far Cry, the Crysis series, and Dead Island 2. And for those interested in the history of gaming, there is of course a museum for that.

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Gamers of all levels will experience euphoria after stepping into this geek haven on Karl-Marx-Allee, which is dedicated to vintage and modern consoles, games, arcade machines, and gaming merchandise. Even those with no particular interest in gaming will be amazed by the sheer amount of incredible memorabilia stashed away into this compact space, with over 300 exhibits to explore, most of them being interactive and playable for absolutely free.

The museum was founded in 1997 and was the first institution of its kind hosting a permanent exhibition on digital entertainment. Since then, it has attracted tourists and enthusiasts from all over the globe; even director of Konami/Kojima Productions, Hideo Kojima, and Apple founder, Steve Wozniek, have visited to the museum and signed their own pictures, now residing on the museum’s ‘Wall of Fame’.

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The layout of the museum itself adds to the experience as exhibits are stacked in boxes made of glass and coloured plastic, creating the illusion of pixelated walls. There is a small arcade room containing vintage machines such as Space Invaders and Centipede with walls adorned with neon signs, emulating the feel of the real 1980s arcades. There are even artificial ‘bedrooms’ and ‘living rooms’ built into the back of the museum, decorated in 80s and 70s styles, where you can sit and play vintage games with all the comforts of home. Particularly amusing is the decoration of the bedrooms; comics strewn everywhere, star wars posters on the walls, models figurines lurking on shelves.

Highlights of the museum include a number of computer prototypes including the Odyssey, the Vectrex, the PET 2001, and the 1977 version of the first apple computer. Gaming aficionados will enjoy trying their hand at extremely rare Atari games, while less intense gamers can literally climb onto a giant joystick and navigate their way with two hands around the PAC-MAN maze.

Karl-Marx-Allee 93A, 10243 Berlin | Mon-Sun 10am-8pm

Grober Unfug

This monster of a comic shop is the biggest in Berlin. From its humble origins as a tiny Kreuzberg store in the ‘80s, as part of the wall-era arts-based counterculture, to this larger Mitte location in 2010, Grober Unfug has played a huge part in both the nerd and arts scenes in Berlin. Conveniently for otakus and graphic art lovers, the store is located around the Rosa-Luxumberg area, just up the road from Neo Tokyo. Although a huge sign outside reads ‘Comics’, so much more can be found in Grober Unfug; stepping through the door you will find yourself in a Narnia of nerd-dom, with several huge rooms packed floor to ceiling with merchandise.

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Grober Unfug stocks a wide range of international speciality comic books, all hand picked by the owners. They import books from Japan, France, the US, and more. And not only do they stock comic books; they also have a vast array of children’s books, books about street art, photography, and film, as well as books about Berlin-based artists. This is the kind of place that sells best-sellers like Batman, Watchmen, and The Walking Dead alongside things you have never heard of, like Henry and Glenn Forever, a comic by various punk artists portraying the lead singers of Black Flag and Misfits in a domestic relationship. It also sells a whole load of comic-related wares such as t-shirts, mugs, plushies, postcards, and figurines. If you are unsure about anything or want to enquire about a particular book, ask one of the staff about it. Much like the owner of Spielgeise, they are friendly, passionate, and really know their stuff when it comes to graphic art.

As well as all this, Grober Unfug also has a gallery space where auctions, exhibitions, signings, and performances are held. A wide variety of Berlin-based artists have held events here, and there continues to be a line-up of exciting artists to check out.

Torstraße 75, 10119 Berlin | Mon-Sat 11am-7pm 

Silver Future

Silver Future is everything that a contemporary gay bar needs to be; specifically not a gay bar, but a safe space for everyone that stands within the LGBTQIA bracket. Founded in the Neukölln district, it has long been in partnership with popular queer club SchwuZ and offers free tickets to regular club events like Hot Topic every Friday.

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Unlike Roses Bar with it’s crowd of older cisgendered men, Silver Future does its best to make everyone feel welcome. The decor may be just as fabulous, but a tad less phallic. Dildos tacked onto the walls are replaced by framed pictures, bearing glittery slogans like ‘Congratulations, you just left the heteronormative section’ and ‘Ich liebe mein vagina’. The crowd is typically younger but there are also older regulars, with an even mixture of men, women, trans, and non-binary people. Also noticeable is its patrons being of all nationalities and from many different countries. It is truly something heart-warming to see all of these people together enjoying the casual atmosphere, good music, and delicious drinks.The cocktail list is fantastic as well as reasonable, with prices ranging from €5,70 – €7,20. Ordering from the cocktail menu will automatically get you a free ticket into Schultz’s event that night.

If you aren’t so much into the queer aspect but are looking for a bar with heaps of personality, the interior of Silver Future will most definitely delight you. Door frames laced with fairy lights, high heels and handbags handing from the ceiling, black and white photos of drag queens and queer couples mounted on the bright fuchsia walls, and a huge portrait of Audrey Hepburn with a mustache all add to the fun but poignant message that gender and sexual norms do not matter here. 

Weserstraße 206, 12047 | U Hermannplatz (U7 / U8)