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Concert at Clärchens Ballhaus Berlin
Concert at Clärchens Ballhaus © visitberlin, Foto: Philip Koschel

Tracing the 1920s in Berlin

They say punk is not dead, but the Berlin of the twenties lives on too. Wander along Berlin's Chausseestrasse on an evening, and you could be forgiven for imagining you have been transported back to the roaring twenties. Dinner jackets, monocle bearing figures and glittering Charleston dresses float by like a ghostly parade. Join them for a unique visit to a Berlin of times gone by.

Ballroom dancing

 

Dressed like the 20s
Dressed like the 20s © lenanet

Clärchens Ballroom is one of Berlin's favourite twenties temples. Founded in 1905, this iconic venue hosts regular costume parties that still exude the authentic ambiance of the twenties. Elegantly faded grandeur pervades the ornate interior which has seen raucous 1920s nightlife, survived allied bombing and even hosted illicit sword duels. Behind a facade damaged by allied bombing during the Second World War, the original interior is the perfect setting for fans of vintage. The glittering chandeliers in the Spiegelsaal radiate a magical ambiance of decadence, making Clärchens an atmospheric place to tango. Cha-cha your way right back into the spirit of the twenties at this authentic Berlin gem, which also hosts several concerts a week.

Bohemian Berlin

The 1920s are never far away in Berlin, a city of bon vivants that perpetually channels the decadent spirit of the era. Wild nights in Berlin are suffused with surreal glamour, whether it be a burlesque dancer titillating audiences by performing with fire, or singing acts as potently infused with eroticism as the cocktails with spirits. Cabaret events invoke an atmosphere as electric as the one that first inspired the radical artworks of George Grosz and Otto Dix. Join the party with the vibrant Bohème Sauvage society for sophisticated entertainment, which regularly organises period themed events.

Berlin's vintage fabric

Do you seek outfit inspiration? Berlin's vintage shopping is some of the most fecund in Europe. With a profusion of enthralling antique and flea markets around every corner, there is no end of twenties paraphernalia to uncover. Follow the thread of twenties chic at specialist vintage treasure troves like Mimi Vintage Antiques in Schöneberg. Here, you can rummage through the mid century attire for genuine 1920s articles. Meanwhile, Elli Fatale in Kreuzberg produces handmade 1920s garb to deck out the glitziest period party. Costume shops litter the city, but for convenience's sake, Berlin's vintage connoisseurs have brought together the city's retro designers and purveyors of period clothing at regular Old Fleas events in Mitte. Held (fittingly) at the Ballhaus, events also feature taster classes in the Charleston, a vintage photo booth and cabaret performances. There is even a feast of vintage food stalls to tempt you.

Berlin's best cocktail bars

In need of some vintage beverages after all that vintage shopping? Primitiv Bar in Friedrichshain, for example, cuts a glamorous speak easy style figure, emitting vintage sounds and a Gatsby-esque ambiance on weekends. Sunday Soiree events feature burlesque performances by celebrated performers. Try the White Russian. Out west, Stagger Lee cocktail bar is named one of the top 50 bars in the world. Its moody interiors and vintage cash till pay homage to the celebrated American folk song first recorded in 1923 by Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians. Later re-recorded by Berlin music royalty Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the song's perennial popularity evinces the endurance of the twenties spirit.

Burlesque in Berlin

The spirit of 1920 Berlin also lives on in the city's thriving burlesque community which remains one of the friendliest and most engaging in the world. Artists and patrons from around the globe flock and flutter to be part of the city's cabaret scene, coming together in dazzling fashion for Berlin's annual Burlesque Week each May. Luxurious shows, entertaining workshops and thrilling social events tease and amuse all attendees of the nine-day festival. The rest of the year, you can celebrate Berlin's debauched past at the historic Bassy Club in Prenzlauer Berg, which hosts Pinky's Peepshow once a month. Thrice a year, La Fete Fatale features a first class line up that blends the beautiful with the bizarre. You can catch burlesque shows every weekend at Zum Starken August on Schönhauser Allee. Pasties and plumage are optional but highly recommended.

Sounds of the twenties

Those in pursuit of Berlin's most authentic twenties time capsules will want to seek out the city's record shops which glow with vintage treasures. Among big name record shops like Spacehall and Hard Wax, the melodious emanations of the roaring twenties still reverberate at hidden greats like Jazz Dreams. The biggest jazz collection in all of Germany is sequestered in deepest Pankow. Indeed, it is the stuff that jazz fiends dream of. Owner Peter Durek has amassed a collection of 35,000 jazz greats, meticulously archived across a space of 130 square metres. It is here that the discerning collector can find rare and lesser known twenties titles that are worth their weight in gold. Descend into the jazz bar downstairs for monthly listening parties. There's no more fitting setting than among these shelves filled with glorious shellacs that trace the development of jazz through the early 20th century.