For a city destroyed in World War II and broken apart during the Cold War, Berlin has risen out of its tumultuous past and today thrives as one of the coolest places for artsy soul searching and late night philosophising. Bike friendly, uber-trendy with a ton of museums and re-purposed spaces for art and recreation, Berlin is like Melbourne except with better public transport and more Germans!
Here is our guide to the best of the German capital.
SEE AND DO
There is no shortage of museums documenting Berlin’s turbulent past. For the rise and fall of the Third Reich, check out the free Topography of Terror. For a glimpse of life in East Germany, there is the interactive DDR Museum. But it’s not only museums where you will see Berlin’s history; you can see and feel it everywhere. The East Side Gallery is the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, while the replica of the Checkpoint Charlie border control booth and the famous ‘You Are Leaving the American Sector’ sign are further reminders of the east west divide.
When the wall came down, Berliners looked for new ways to express themselves and they found it in underground clubs all around the city. There are over 200 clubs catering to all sensibilities, but techno reigns supreme. For the first timer, a solid choice is Tresor, a power plant turned techno club in the centre of town. It’s the biggest and most respected with its own record label. The three rooms are often filled with diehard fans, young and old. Watergate is another popular venue for its riverside location and there-to-be-seen vibe.
Once a busy airport (closed in 2008), Tempelhof’s runways are now used for bike riding, dog walking and kite flying. There is also a community garden, BBQ areas and endless grassy space for picnics and hanging out. It is no wonder residents voted no to building libraries and condos at this unique airport park.
KONNOPKE’S IMBISS | PRENZLAUER BERG
Underneath a train pass, this kiosk sells a Berlin classic: the currywurst—a grilled pork sausage, diced and served in a thick tomato sauce and sprinkled with curry powder. Locals will order a bread roll to soak up the sauce, but a portion of fries will also do the trick. While currywursts are widely available in Berlin, Konnopke (a family business dating back to 1930) is reputable for serving the best. There is plenty of standing room and a small enclosed seating area, too.
BERLIN BURGER INTERNATIONAL | NEUKÖLLN
Opened in 2009, Berlin Burger takes hipster to an all-new level. Think graffiti brick walls, a shop front covered entirely in stickers, and a Nintendo Entertainment System with Super Mario 3! Of course, there are the burgers: nine epic, meaty piles of goodness (try the BBQ with Bulgarian feta and crispy bacon!) and two vegetarian options that will satisfy the most discerning food blogger. Save room for the chilli cheese sweet potato fries. The serve is so big; it makes your burger look like the side dish.
KNÖDELWIRTSCHAFTSWUNDER | NEUKÖLLN
Berlin has a thriving underground dining scene where everyday Berliners open their homes to strangers and cook for them. It’s My Kitchen Rules without the drama. Knödelwirtschaftswunder, which roughly translates to ‘cheap, miracle dumplings’, is where cheap and miraculous knödels (German dumplings made of bread, milk, egg and fresh herbs and spices) are made and served. The knödels are stuffed with ingredients like speck (fancy pork) and bergkäse (fancy cheese) or beetroot and gorgonzola. There are even dessert knödels made with chestnut, butter and sugar. Open on Friday and Saturday only, reservations (made on Facebook) are a must.
BONANZA COFFEE HEROES | PRENZLAUER BERG
Minimalist with white walls, high tables and matching stools, Bonanza is serious about coffee. The beans are sourced from Africa and South America and roasted in-house. The front stocks coffee hardware (filters, pitchers, kettles), but there is no point buying anything unless you take home the bearded barista too; you won’t be able to recreate this at home.
ART & WEISE | NEUKÖLLN
A newcomer in the trendy district of Neukölln, Art & Weise mixes all your favourite cocktails: Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Mai Tai and all the sours you can think of. There is also a whiskey, bourbon, ginger, apple juice and bitters concoction called F**k Yoga which is worth it for the name alone. Candle lit with mismatched furniture, this cosy space doesn’t sit more than 30. After a few late night cocktails, you will be fluent in German.
Ä | NEUKÖLLN
In a more rowdy part of Neukölln, Ä bar is dark, grungy and ‘so Berlin’, which means you can go with unwashed hair and tracksuit pants and no one will bat an eyelid. There are live acoustic sets on Wednesdays and DJs spin records on the weekends. The non-smoking room is a welcome relief to non-smoking revellers.
MICHELBERGER HOTEL | FRIEDRICHSHAIN
In 2009, Tom Michelberger had a dream. He dreamt of a large groovy place for all his friends to live in. So he gathered said group of mates, found an abandoned factory and converted it into the stylish Michelberger Hotel. Choose from over 100 loft-style rooms, each furnished with comfy beds, pretty wallpaper and flea market treasures.
HÜTTENPALAST | NEUKÖLLN
Once a vacuum cleaner factory floor, Hüttenpalast offers beds in vintage caravans and mountain huts, all parked indoors. Complete with plenty of communal spaces (garden with a hammock, in-house café with fresh brews and pastries), this is glamping to the max. For those who prefer ‘normal’ rooms, there are also six high-ceiling and large windowed chambers with en-suite bathrooms.
In a bid to combat Berlin’s housing storage, the German government has passed legislation which forbids the renting of apartments to tourists. Luckily for us, there is a two-year grace period (ends mid-2016) for holiday flat owners to make alternative arrangements. So for now, we can still rent a cheap, inner city apartment and live like a true Berliner.
Image Credit: Hipsterfestival.com