They say the capital of Germany is an island in its own country, a reflection of new and old world Deutschland. And it’s true. To its very core Berlin is Germany, but to its fringes the city sparks with people, places and a culture that is found nowhere else in the country — or this globe, for that matter.
Berlin hangs on a rich but raw history; from this it offers a newfound world of colorful, experimental arts and culture, sophisticated dining and bars, vibrant nightlife and a melting pot of nationalities that are all here to enjoy the unique experience that is Berlin.
If you’re fumbling with just where to start with Berlin, here’s a gentle introduction:
Getting to Berlin
Berlin can be reached by train, plane or bus. To find the cheapest, fastest and easiest way to get there from your location, try searching your route with GoEuro. They compare bus, train and plane in one simple search to help you find the best way to get to the heart of Berlin.
Where to Stay
With room descriptions that span from Cosy to Loft, Lux, Hideout, Band and the Big One, your curiosity is immediately sparked when coming across Michelburger Hotel. Michelburger is unique, contemporary and homely in design. It screams Berlin from every pore with edgy, hipster vibes that happily compliment the attentive, welcoming staff, top notch bar and scrumptious buffet breakfast.
Fancy a view of the zoo with your room? Or perhaps a hammock to lounge in while you browse on a complementary MacBook? This is just a snippet of the seemingly extravagant, but somehow beautifully understated, luxuries on offer at 25hours Hotel Berlin. A hotel that likes to stand out from the rest, the design here seamlessly combines inner city living with jungle-like ambience. Don’t miss the vistas at the rooftop terrace or cocktails at ‘Monkey Bar,’ either.
If luxury is your calling when you’re next in Berlin, then Mandala Hotel is your response. A five-star hotel under private management, Mandala Hotel leaves little wanting in the way of comfort, pampering, delight and ease in your stay. Excellently located just steps from Potsdamer Platz in the central city with well appointed rooms, view-flooded balconies, a tranquil spa to indulge in and a two-Michelin Star restaurant, it’s no wonder this spot enjoys stacks of five-star reviews.
What to Eat
If you’re looking to leave the inner city circle to appease your taste buds, then Eins44 is waiting in Neukölln to serve you. Prepare to take a taxi here and ask for directions. It’s slightly obscured entrance can tend to confuse, but it’s all part of the experience. Trendy industrial by design and serving a simple but exquisitely executed menu that consists largely of traditional German cuisine, Eins44 knows how to please.
Restaurant Tim Raue
In his Berlin-based locale, chef and restaurateur Tim Raue serves up Asian inspired cuisine under the halo of two Michelin stars. The food is both sophisticated and experimental in nature, leaving your tastebuds explored and delighted. With all cuisine being free of refined sugar, dairy or gluten, there is a modern twist to both the setting and food on your plate. Prepare for impeccable service, but know that the waiters will be wearing sneakers — of the most cool, urban Berlin street style, of course.
For dining a little more casual in nature, The Bird is set to please. This New York-style steakhouse and burger bar knows its produce and knows how to cook it right. The atmosphere here is forever buzzing. You’ll be dining in the thick of a local Berlin crowd as you down, quite possibly, one of the most delicious burgers your mouth has ever met.
What to See
Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart
Berlin is flooded with art museums and galleries that easily hold their weight against others worldwide. One such gallery is Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart. Located in the old central train station, the sheer beauty of the refurbished building alone justifies a visit. But then there’s also the collection of undeniably good contemporary art that includes envious numbers of Andy Warhols and playful installations. Museum für Gegenwart is beautiful, obscure, joyful and confronting all at the same time. Did we mention it reflects Berlin well?
Visiting Berlin without dipping your toe into the history here is almost unavoidable, and well, really shouldn’t be avoided. A myriad of unmissable monuments to this history are all located within steps of one another when you hit Pariser Platz in central Berlin.
Start out at Brandenburg Gate and walk through its great pillars to encounter the Reichstag (Parliament building) to your right, try out walking the winding path inside the newly instated dome for views of the city. A tranquil lounge in the neighbouring Tiergarten Park may then be in order before embarking on a visit to the powerful Jewish Memorial.
Berlin Botanical Gardens
An unsuspecting inclusion on this list, the Botanical Gardens in Berlin are a beauty to behold. Wandering through the grandiose gates and up a winding path your breath will most certainly be caught in the tuck of your throat as you set eyes on the line up of palace-like glasshouses. Set on 43 hectares of sprawling land spotted with ornate gardens, forests, waterlily ponds and the greenest grass, it’s easy to get lost here for an entire day.
What’s a visit to Berlin without a trip to an abandoned airport? Tempelhof Field is an icon in Berlin’s bouquet of attractions. Grab a bike, some wine and a picnic blanket and head to Tempelhof for sunset. Sipping on wine as practicing circus performers play, kiteboarders fly by and a general hum of happiness envelopes all is perhaps a slice of what heaven looks like. Plus, it’s likely the only time you’ll get to speed down an aeroplane runway on your bike without breaking the law.
The Berlin Wall
Located on the lapping water’s edge of the Spree, East Side Gallery gives you a chance to walk the Berlin Wall. Draped in colorful murals by local and international artists, the wall has now become a canvas of remembrance, hope, freedom, debate and love. If you’re after more Berlin Wall action, then of course a stop in at Checkpoint Charlie is a must, too.
Step into Monkey Bar for a drink with undeniably one of the best views in Berlin (which includes the zoo). This place is chic and the cocktails are on point. Plus, the outdoor terrace is a treat.
There are too many cozy nook bars along this strip to list them all. Neukölln is fast becoming the ‘it’ area of Berlin and a sundry of hip bars with atmospheres that ooze cool are opening their doors to welcome you. Head here almost any night of the week, other than Monday, to enjoy a spot of bar hopping. As a starter, the wine bar Vin Aqua Vin or jazz haunt Thelonious will set your night off in the best of ways.
The legend that is Berghain is real. Little words can describe this super club, it truly is one you simply must experience. Know that it’s best on Sundays and expect a line, like at least a three-hour-wait line. And don’t be shy on learning a few tips on the dress code.
This club is like stepping into a medley of Alice and Wonderland meets The Lost Boys. Towering mushroom art installations, outdoor fire pits, psychedelic light installations and crowds of smiling dancers greet you. The techno tunes here will have you joining them in no time and provide you with a night in Berlin to remember. Again, be wary of the queues. It is the way of Berlin clubs.
They say the capital of Germany is an island in its own country, a reflection of new and old world Deutschland.
Street Food Thursday
There are street food markets, then there is Street Food Thursday at Market Halle Neun in the heart of Kreuzberg. This place is like a party and a street food market combined. Prepare for your olfactory senses to be piqued by the smorgasbord of options available. Freshly made traditional wurst (German sausage) is ready to be devoured, as are other delicious plates from around the globe. Plus, there’s plenty of local wine and craft beer to wash it all down with.
Sunshine, pad thai, coconut cocktails and a rainbow of sun umbrellas. This is Thai Park. Happening every day of the week, but best on Saturday and Sundays, Thai park is a Thai street food market in Preußenpark. Started up by the local Thai community, smiling cooks sit behind their gas burners and serve some of the most authentic Thai dishes you’ll try outside of their home country. Pack a blanket and prepare to enter a food and cocktail haze as you settle in for a sunny day here.
Turkish Markets at Maybachufer
Every Tuesday and Friday alongside the canal Maybachufer transforms into a fresh produce food market in Neukölln. There’s plenty of street food to indulge in, along with arts and crafts from local artists to peruse. Plus buskers and performers often create mini street party hang outs to laze back and enjoy.
Mauerpark Flea Market
Until just over 30 years ago, the area of Mauerpark was a no-go zone. With the Berlin Wall running right through it, you could be shot for even being there. To memorialize this in the most peaceful and celebratory of ways, Berlin now hosts a market that likens itself to a mini festival here every Sunday. Pick up knick-knacks and fashion items in the sprawling flea market aisles, sip and eat to your heart’s content from the plethora of food stalls on offer and open your ears to the line up of buskers in the grassy area. Then, of course, there is the legendary Bearpit Karaoke at 3pm, don’t be late.
Train and Bus
Getting around Berlin by local transport is a breeze. Most U-bahns (underground metro trains), S-bahns (trains) and buses come every 4 – 10 minutes and connect the sprawling city with ease. On Fridays and Saturdays the trains run all night to allow for an extra few hours of nightlife exploration too. Otherwise the nightbus is there to get you home. If you’re planning to move around a lot in one day it’s best to buy a daily pass for 9 EUR, which allows you to travel by both bus and train, otherwise you’ll be parting with 2.70 EUR each time you hop aboard. You can easily purchase tickets and plan your trip on the BVG website and app.
Hiring a bike is ultimately the best way to get around Berlin, especially when you’re outside of the traffic gridlock of the city centre. It allows you to get your bearings of the city a little better, while also letting you stop at your whim when something interesting is spotted. There are many bike hire shops to choose from. Take your merry pick.