I was recently asked:
“As a Berlin local now, do you have any recommendations for us of things to see and do?”
My immediate response was “Sure, I’ll send you a few notes” but after sitting down and thinking about it, I realised that my notes are ahem quite extensive. It occurred to me that there may be others of you who are interested to know these things and so I have decided to write a post dedicated to this endeavour.
But be warned, this guide is in no way the definitive list of things to do or see – it is more like the highlights package from my time here. I have demarcated sections according to area or kiez of Berlin.
Neukölln is a hipster/Turkish area that is attractive to young tourists because it is cheap and cool. There are many bars, café’s and restaurants here. My Neukölln picks are:
Roamers – for a coffee, a breakfast, or a snack (really great staff, hipster aesthetic, delish coffee & food)
The California Breakfast Slam (Ca.B.Slam) – for breakfast burritos and other yummy breakfast fare
Hamy – cheap Asian food
Schiller Burger – Burgers and sweet potato fries (locals tip: order via the bar “Schiller Bar”, then you can enjoy the awesome decor and ambiance while eating your burger – but you have to go order the burgers yourself and bring them to your table)
Fräulein Frost – amazeballs ice cream
Klunkerkranich – It’s the best during the summer months, a rooftop bar on top of a shopping centre overlooking the whole neighbourhood, there is an entrance fee of 3€ and some very long queues to get in but the view once you’re there sure makes up for it!
Tier – Found along the very popular Weserstraße, it is my favourite bar – beautifully decorated, quaint and cool. Take lots of money to spend on the amazing selection of whiskeys and cocktails
There are a few nice little boutique/vintage stores in Neukölln.
Templehofer – The famous abandoned airport that has been re-appropriated as a common area and recreation park for all of Berlin. It’s obviously best when warm but can be enjoyed all through the year. Amazing for sundowners.
The Spree – there is nothing that is more typically Berlin than buying a beer from a Späti (Spätkauf aka corner shop that stays open later) and sitting alongside the Spree/Canal. Obviously more of a summer tradition though.
I would say that Kreuzberg is at the centre of things happening in Berlin at the moment. Lots of bars, many clubs and tons of drunk tourists, goths, punk rockers, and gypsy squatters! These are my “X-berg” picks:
Food and drinks:
19 Grams – Good coffee
Miss Saigon – Good, cheap Asian food
Cocolo – great ramen bar
White Trash – food, drinks, vibe (it’s an all-round goody)
Markthalle neun – It’s a market, usually very crowded. Go for Streetfood Thursdays or the Sunday Breakfast Market.
Vögelchen – across the road from Markthalle Neun on Eisenbahnstaße is my favourite bar in Kreuzberg. Look out for the tableclothes made of growing grass and take a walk through the magic cupboard.
Madame Claude – affectionately known as “an upside down bar” – you’ll have to go to see why.
Gorlizer park – the main park between Kreuzberg and Neukölln (the two are separated by the canal or Spree) where you can find everything from African drug dealers to a petting zoo with goats and miniature horses
Silo – Good coffee, overpriced but delicious breakfasts
Shakespeare and Sons – Bagels and books, a good place to read or do some work on your laptop
Milch & Zucker – Nice but noisy
Lemongrass – cheap Asian food (you can order from the Japanese place next door as well)
Neue Heimat – Markets nearly every day of the week, special events, themed markets, Christmas markets, etc.
Berghain – the one and only, big ass techno club, probably the most famous club in the world. Go on a Sunday afternoon.
Kater Blau – outdoor/indoor, on the banks of the river, techno music.
The famous East Side Gallery
Mitte, which literally means “centre” is in the middle of Berlin. It’s not the most hip and happening place and certain hipster know-it-alls will turn their noses up at the idea of it as it is probably the most grown up and serious borough of Berlin.Well dressed, upwardly mobile global citzens walk the streets along with throngs of ‘bus tour’ tourists. It’s mostly great for its shopping!
Eat and drink:
St Oberholz – good coffee and great people watching, free wifi, coworking, etc.
Soho House – fancy AF bar/club
Dudu – great Asian food
Mein Haus am See: Amazing little wine bar, bottomless wine, amazing decor, fun fun fun.
Alexanderplatz – all about that touristy mahem. Think London’s Regent/Oxford street.
SOTO: Situated on Torstraße (a long street with lots of shops), grab the High Snobriety Store Guide and you can see that Mitte is really all about shoppin! Check out that entire area including Rosenthaler Platz and Hackescher Markt.
Other than shopping, Mitte is also the place for sightseeing.
TV Tower – Affectionately known as “the needle”, this tall landmark (similar to the one that shapes the Johannesburg skyline) is open for tourists who want to go to the top – great views if it’s clear.
Museum Island – 5 Museums on an island- that’s a whole lot of museum action!
Brandenburger Gate – Pretty much the most famous landmark, go during the day and night because it’s spectacular when lit up
I haven’t spent much time in P’berg as i like to call it. It is a bit of a ‘hipster hasbeen’ spot that was one of the first neighbourhoods to go under the gentrification knife. The cool kids have since moved on to grungier, cheaper pastures and all that remains in P’berg is a vast array of boutique coffee shops and yummy mummies with their infants casually draped all over them. In P’berg, a child is your no 1 accessory.
I really like this neighbourhood though, it’s quiet and clean and free from the drunk masses that pollute the streets of X-berg. It’s grownup but still very chic.
Mauerpark – a massive park that gets taken over every Sunday by 1000s of stalls selling anything from Leather jackets to antique crockery
Vintage stores – there are tons of great vintage stores
Bars and cafes – I’ve been to a few but nothing sticks out, just go and walk around.
This is what people describe as “the true West of Berlin”. It’s posh, snobby and clean. It’s a little bit like what the rest of Germany is like. I mostly go there to do shopping but there are also cultural activities like sightseeing, opera and a zoo.
KaDeWe – Berlin’s biggest department store, rivaling Harrods, champagne and caviar bar on the rooftop, that kind of thing..
Uniqlo – my number one reason to go to Charlottenburg is Uniqlo – they make the best of everything. Simple, clean and comfortable clothes.
Bikini Berlin – It’s Berlin’s new concept store – pretty cool, mostly just pop up stores set up in a mall-like arrangement.
So that’s basically it in terms of the main areas that I frequent. Of course there are others but you probably won’t find much there. In the summer it is great to take a long train ride to one of the many Lakes surrounding Berlin. And it’s quite interesting to take a train ride to the far corners of the U-bahn or S-bahn lines. I have visited Friedrichshagen before, which is a sweet little suburb/town on the outskirts of Berlin. It’s got a nice big lake and pretty forrest. I also highly recommend going to Potsdam on a day trip. You can read more about my experience at Potsdam here.
While I’m at it, I reckon no city 21st century guide would be complete without a few links for websites and apps that I have found useful while navigating around Berlin and I regularly check the event guides to try and keep up with all that is happening in this busy city. Here are a few I use:
First and foremost, the definitive guide for Expats in Berlin:
For events and culture:
For all manner of free events and activities: