A true survivor. Few places in Berlin have endured so many historical events during the 20th century as Clärchens Ballhaus: two World Wars, the division of the city, the fall of the Wall and the following gentrification of Mitte (neighborhood). This Berliner institution, currently a dance hall/restaurant/biergarten combo, is certainly a must-go when visiting Berlin!
Clärchens Ballhaus is impossible to go unnoticed when walking along Augustraße in Mitte. Its abandoned-looking building is located on a trendy corner, an area full of art galleries and design shops. Today, the decaying structure has a green front garden (in the summer), where the street-front building once stood. The front part was destroyed by the allied bombing during the Second World War. The back part, nonetheless, is one of the most iconic buildings in Mitte. Anyone who gets inside this place, is fascinated by its atmosphere. It immediately takes us back in time to the early 20th century. (For more on Berlin’s Golden 20’s, check out this other article we wrote).
Opened as a ballroom in 1913, right before the beginning of the First World War, in a Wilhelminian era building constructed in the late 1800’s, the habitués soon started calling it “Little Claire Ballroom”, referring to Claire, the wife of its founder, Fritz Bühler. She was better known by her diminutive nickname “Clärchen”. From that time, you can still admire the front sign, designed by the New Objectivity master Otto Dix.
The upstairs Spiegelsaal (Mirrored Ballroom) is surely the main attraction of Clärchens. Its high baroque ceilings and chandeliers, the huge cracked mirrors and the scratched paint walls, that were wisely left unchanged, expose all the bustle from the past. It remained closed for more than 50 years as the building was badly damaged during the Second World War.
Even though the dance hall was located in East Berlin, the place was also known by West Germans and became a meeting point between East and West Germans in Cold War times. Since 2005, when the Spiegelsaal was repaired and reopened to the public, Clärchens is a venue for dancing soirées, live music performances, food and drinks.
Open daily, it definitely figures in every Berlin tourist guide, but you will also find native Berliners there, of all ages! So forget about the sometimes rough door-policy of certain bars and clubs in the city: everyone is welcome at Clärchens, which makes it one of the most inclusive places in Berlin!
The 100 (and counting!) years old ballroom survived all the 20th century turmoils and recently served as location for the Quentin Tarantino movie Inglorious Basterds and hosted a party promoted by the royal British couple William and Kate.
Besides the Spiegelsaal, the ground floor of the building houses the Ballsaal (Ballroom), where the dance events happen, as well as the restaurant. The Ballsaal offers dancing lessons before the balls, that take place on the dance floor, surrounded by the tables, concerts and other live performances. It is the ideal place for meeting new people, since strangers ask each other to have a dance, induced by some alcohol consumption (hopefully!). Tango, swing and salsa are the main thematic evenings from Monday to Wednesday, when the entrance is free! On the weekends, you will find live bands performing on the stage and the very popular matinée Dancing Tea on Sundays.
The kitchen is open from 12:30 am until 10:30 pm. Food is also served in the very green Biergarten, at the entrance of the building, decorated with charming lightbulbs, which is simply perfect for hot summer evenings. The menu, served by old-style waiters, centers around German cuisine staples like Schnitzel and sausages, add to that quite honest Neapolitan pizzas.
When passing by the hip Auguststrasse, add a touch of nostalgia on your stroll and don’t miss this Berliner nightlife icon. Make sure you get inside (there’s even a hidden biergarten in the back and a fun little bar area once you walk across the Spiegelsaal on the first floor!!). You will be delighted by its timeless and decadent charm!
*This Article was written by Domingos Lepores and edited by Tulio Edreira.
Address: Auguststraße 24 10117 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30. 28 29 29 5