Berlin is always worth a visit. Even if you already know the classic sights, there are plenty of things to do in Berlin far from the crowds and throngs of tourists.
Berlin is neither as regal as Vienna nor as charming as Paris nor as traditional as Munich. Berlin is creative, fascinatingly different, somehow free and constantly evolving. The artistic graffiti, the legendary club culture and decades-old multicultural vibe have transformed Germany’s capital into something quite unlike any other place in the world: a city of endless possibilities.
This is where trends are born—Berlin is always one step ahead of the curve. Dance until midday Monday at Berghain, surf an indoor wave, explore old WWII bunkers or discover the latest fashion trends. Berlin’s got it all! But you have to start somewhere and we have some useful tips for you.
Starting the day with a hearty breakfast is always a good plan. Wahrhaft Nahrhaft in the heart of Friedrichshain on Berlin’s gritty East Side affords guests freshly prepared delicacies daily: tasty, richly topped bagels, homemade cakes and tarts, freshly squeezed juices and every coffee speciality known to man. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available. The ambience ranges from homely to lovingly decorated but always charming. You could easily spend a whole day here just people watching and enjoying the coffee culture Berlin is renowned for.
Einstein Stammhaus near Nollendorfplatz is a restaurant with a rich history and is the spot to try some authentic Germanic dishes. The decor is traditional Austrian coffee house but the Austro-German cuisine elevates the staid interiors. Breakfast is served until 3 p.m., perfect for brunch aficionados. Changing daily specials and a well-curated menu make the decision on what to have for dinner that much more difficult, but you should definitely leave some room for dessert. Our favourite is crème brûlée with coffee ice cream, pomegranate seeds and khaki ragout–simply divine! For a nightcap, head to the upstairs bar, which features tufted Chesterfield sofas and chairs. An excellent selection of cocktails and long drinks awaits you, but we’re partial to the gin and rum drinks. The Mai Tais make me long for Polynesia. And if you love a cigar, the bar boasts a host of Cuban brands that will make you feel as if you’re part of the Rat Pack.
Berlin is known for its Markethalles, expansive, brick buildings with a variety of fruit and cheesemongers as well as bars and restaurants. Markthalle Neun in the heart of Kreuzberg is by far the most popular. The focus here is on high-quality regional and seasonal cuisine. At Street Food Thursday (every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.) you can feast on bite-sized delicacies from around the world—think tacos from Mexico, momos from Tibet or game from local farmers. Come here with an empty belly and a full wallet as you’ll surely want to nibble at each and every spot.
Berliner charm is famously infamous. So it’s worthwhile to mingle with the locals. Start at “Alex” (Alexanderplatz), the most well-known square in the city with its many shops and opportunities to people watch. Near Alexanderplatz, you’ll find the Nikolai Quarter, Museum Island, Unter den Linden Boulevard and Humboldt University.
Give your feet a rest and take bus number 200 to explore the city and work your way across Berlin in the direction of Zoologischer Garten. Buy a day pass and hop on and off as much as you want. It sure beats an expensive guided tour!
Berlin breathes art, culture and history so it’s no wonder that the city’s many flea markets are swarmed on weekends in the summer. “Boxi” (Boxhagener Platz) hosts a bustling market every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Here you’ll discover unique curios from Berlin’s varied history. Don’t be surprised if you go home with a souvenir. The flea market at Mauerpark (Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) attracts music lovers thanks to open-air karaoke and legendary jam sessions by international artists.
You won’t be bored in Berlin even on bad weather days. The computer games museum near Frankfurter Tor makes the hearts of children and Pacman fans beat faster. Berlin’s often inclement weather means more opportunity to explore photography exhibitions at C/O Berlin near the Berlin Zoo.
Adventure-hungry locals tour the Berliner Unterwelten e. V. through abandoned railway shafts or historical bunkers. If that’s not enough action for you, you can surf on Berlin’s first artificial wave in the recently opened Wellenwerk.
Teufelsberg is located slightly off-the-beaten-track in Grunewald in the far western part of the city. Built from the ruins of the Second World War, Teufelsberg houses an old listening installation that was used by spies during The Cold War. Today, the graffiti gallery is one of the largest on the continent.
There are tourist sites to check out, even if you know about them already. Despite its popularity, the TV Tower offers one of the best 360-degree views of Berlin’s epic sunsets. To avoid long lines, book your ticket in advance.
The clocks tick differently in Berlin. When the sidewalks are already being raised in other metropolises, Berliners really get going–especially in Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. No matter the time or neighbourhood, you can always find a way to enjoy a cold brew in a cosy bar, trendy club or “Späti” (24/7 party store/deli with cult character). If you don’t want to be seen as a tourist, don’t order a “Fußpils” (an amusing portmanteau related to foot fungus and Pilsner beer).
Pro tip: Pay attention to building exteriors, entrances and courtyards. You’ll be surprised how much inspiring street art you’ll discover. Banksy is just one of many artists who have written a graphic love letter to Berlin.
The Michelberger Hotel awaits you right in the alternative heart of Berlin, on the border of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. The artistically themed hotel is a hotspot for locals during lunch and after work. Guests can expect modern rooms with private baths, free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs as well as a small fitness centre and a cosy library-cum-lounge with a host of books gifted by the hotel and recent guests. The restaurant serves regional and organic dishes, with both vegan and vegetarian options. It’s hopping after dark thanks to live sets by local artists.
Circus Berlin, centrally located in Mitte, is a three-in-one: a hostel, hotel and apartment building. The hotel boasts colourful rooms with high-quality furniture and accoutrements. The balance of playful and chic elements is both inviting and inspiring. All rooms feature a private bathroom, free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs. Enjoy a sumptuous breakfast at partner restaurant Commonground, next door. Intrepid guests can rent bikes to explore the city the way true locals do.