As a follow-up to our Top Berlin blogs : a tale of two cities, we’ve asked our bloggers to provide some great insiders tips for an unforgettable trip to Berlin!
Our very own Sandrine sent them a questionnaire to discover all the secrets and hidden gems that Berlin holds in order to give you a great guide straight from the locals!
Aaron Wiener from http://dasberlinblog.wordpress.com/
Adie from http://alternativeberlin.com/
The Berlin team from http://www.myberlino.com/
Emily from http://berlincheesecake.blogspot.nl/
Joab Nist from http://www.notesofberlin.com/
I won’t keep you any longer, get ready for the good stuff!
1. In which neighborhood do you recommend visitors to stay in order to get the most out of Berlin?
Aaron Wiener: Kreuzberg is probably the most lively, though Mitte (around Hackescher Markt and Rosenthaler Platz, not near Alexanderplatz or Friedrichstraße), Friedrichshain, and Prenzlauer Berg also vie. Neukölln is also getting more interesting by the day.
Adie: Depends what you are here to do. If you want to have lots of fun exploring and partying. Probably the Friedrichshain, Simon Dach strasse / Revealerstrasse is your thing. If you want to local for sites and modern Berlin then Mitte , Alexanderplatz area is the most central. I think Torstrasse , Mitte is great for a mix of entertainment and close to most sites.
My Berlino: Wedding, Kreuzberg (Görlitzer Park). Prenzlauer Berg: Weinbergsweb
Emily: The East and Mitte are the where the tourists flock to but I prefer somewhere quieter like in Schöneberg or Charlottenburg in the West. There are still lots of great parks and cafés but it means you can really unwind after a full day.
Joab: Kreuzberg and Neukölln! However, Berlin offers more than just the popular districts that are named in every city-guide. Try to walk off the beaten path and you will might end up in less hyped areas such as Wedding, Moabit and Schöneberg. And that’s Berlin too!
2. Berlin is a big city, geographically-speaking; what is the best way to get around?
Aaron Wiener: Public transit or bicycle, hands down.
Adie: Trains are the best. You can walk and bike around too but the Metro Sbahn, Ubahn network is phenomonal.
My Berlino: By Bike mostly and secondly by Ubahn and S-Bahn.
Emily: Definitely by the public transport system which includes under and overground trains, buses, trams and even boats. A day ticket costs around €6 but there’s also a weekly one if you’re staying longer for around €27. Bikes are good to hire if you’re staying in a more contained space.
Joab: The public transportation system (Underground, Bus, Tram) is excellent. Also on weekends. And yes, Berlin is BIG.. but if there is no raininess, save money and rent a bike (for even less than 10€ a day. Berlin on bike is a must.
3. In which way are signs of Berlin’s varied history still visible?
Aaron Wiener: In many ways, the former east is now posher than the former west. But when you get farther away from the city center, the differences are much more obvious.
Adie: Try going to Schönenberg then go to Weissensee and have a look at the differences between East and West. It´s a great divide. Go to Wedding Leopoldplatz or Pankstrasse then go to Kastianallee , Prenzlauerberg and compare the different people and shops. The Soviet style architecture on Karl Marx allee and that of the Western Ku-damn are worlds apart. u airport was built in the Nazi area and is very omninus looking. If you follow a path through the sidestreets in Hacksher market you can see a few reminders of the former Jewish community there. In Kreuzberg there is street art and graffiti everywhere and derelict buildings built into clubs and party places.
My Berlino: Division of Berlin made possible that the actual difference, also urbanistically speaking, still persists. The difference is complicated but a sign is the tramway network, which exists only in the east. Prenzlauer Berg, for example has kept lots of the fin-de-siécle buildings whereas Kreuberg has many new buildings. Alexanderplatz is a mixture of different styles and architecture. Here the signs are extremely evident. On the opposite Potsdamer Platz has just two eras to show the West Sixties and the new, united, Ninties.
Emily: At first glance, Berlin can seem a bit ugly and modern but look closer and you’ll find traces of the past all over. For example the pock marked facades of many buildings damaged by bullets during the final days of World War II. There is the ruined tower of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Zoologischer Garten, the East Side Gallery and many buildings from the GDR time.
Joab: Well, you might wanna visit the “Mauermuseum” (Berlin Wall Museum), “Checkpoint Charly” or the “Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer” (Berlin Wall Memorial). However, just turn your eyes open.. there are more historical signs that can be explored.
4. We called our last Berlin blogpost ‘a tale of two cities’ – in light of the separation of east and west, and their reunion in 1989, do you still feel a sense of duplicity from Berlin?
Aaron Wiener: The east-west divide is imperceptible at times, and very perceptible at others. Cobblestones and plaques mark the wall’s former location. Going farther back, there are all sorts of memorials to victims of the Holocaust, from monuments to little brass stones indicating homes from which Jews were deported.
Adie: Sometimes yes when you meet the people that live in the districts. Sometimes it´s hard to tell where people are from. People have moved around alot in the last 20 years. Sometimes it´s hard to find a born and bred Berliner.
My Berlino: Sure. Have a look at the non-Eruopean amount of foreigners in the East and West.
Emily: I think that the East German history still makes the government feel uncomfortable which is why they were keen to get rid of the old Palast der Republik (the East German parliament building) and would ultimately like to replace these Plattenbau (prefabs) in Mitte. While there are still some Berliners from the East who wouldn’t go out in the West and vice versa, I think the city today presents more unified image and to get that sense of duplicity it’s necessary to go a bit further out, say to Köpenick where you feel very much that it was part of the old East, whereas East Berlin today is pretty unrecognizable and as I mentioned above, actually the coolest part.
Joab: When it comes to the architecture, ok. When it comes to the people: more or less no. But ask someone who has lived in Berlin before the turnaround. I am pretty sure the answer will differ from mine.
5. It is often said that Berlin has Europe’s most exciting nightlife; what is your favorite spot, bar or nightclub?
Aaron Wiener: Berlin’s famous for its big techno clubs, but the best thing about the city’s nightlife are all the little bars, which are cozy, well-decorated, and cheaper than their equivalents in any other major European or American city. In the livelier neighborhoods, there are several of these on every block.
Adie: Hard to say. So many. Many of my favs are longer around but there is always new spots popping up. I like chilling on the spree or one of the canals bars like Club Visionaire or Fleisch Swimmer. For tunes I like The Yesterday bar in Prenzlauerberg 60-80´s mix. For a good sunday party Sisyophos is great and for bands Lido, Festaal and K17.
My Berlino: Wohnzimmer my favorite bar. Gretchen best club.
Emily: I have to confess to not really being a serious night owl so I’m not the best authority on nightclubs or bars. When I first came to Berlin in 2007, I went out partying all the time to places like Maria and the Berghain but I’m sure there are much hotter spots now. I sometimes like to to to A-Trane, a jazz club in Charlottenburg, though.
Joab: Don’t miss out the “BERGHAIN” (some years ago it got awarded being the best club in the world). It’s an experience worth it. Specially on Sundays-afternoon! “Club der Visionäre” to enjoy drinks on the waterfront..
6. Which places are a real must-see and worth a visit?
Aaron Wiener: The Neues Museum and Pergamon are great, but in nice weather, you can’t do better than spending your time outdoors, at the city’s many lakes, parks, and outdoor cafes.
Adie: Aside from the tourist spots that everyone visits. Arena and the Badschift (Floating swimming pool in the Spree) Yaam beach for chilling. Mauerpark sunday market.
My Berlino: Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas, Reichstagskuppel.
Emily: Even if people scoff at the touristy places, I still think any first time visitor needs to see classics like the Reichsatg, the Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz, Unter den Linden, Tiergarten and Potsdamer Platz – they’re amazing. Hop on either the 100 or 200 bus and take a round trip looking over all the main sights – magic. But I also love the Gemäldegalerie very much which has a wonderful collection of paintings, Treptower Park and further west, the Max Liebermann villa with its wonderful garden.
Joab: “Mauerpark-Fleemarket” and the hills of “Mauerpark” for sunset… and if you wanna buy excellent food, don’t leave out the Turkish weekly markets such as at “Maybachufer”…
7. Which food or drink can not be missed in Berlin?
Aaron Wiener: Not the German food! You won’t find a ton of German restaurants in the city. The best food is Mediterranean: Italian, Turkish, Lebanese, etc.
Adie: Banana beer at Yaam
Emily: I don’t eat meat but Berlin is famous for currywurst so give it a try along with Berliner Weisse, coloured beer flavoured with fruit or syrup. But you also shouldn’t forget to try some wonderful dark German bread, for example from Brot und Butter at Ernst Reuter Platz, Laugencroissants (sort of a cross between a pretzel and a croissant), German style cheesecake which is drier and lighter than the American kind and Baumkuchen from Café Buchwald (literally treecake – a buttery layer cake coated in chocolate). I’ve rarely had a bad cup of coffee in Berlin and also love Apfelschorle which is basically fruit juice with sparkling water.
Joab: Currywurst! And of course German beer..
8. We all need to put our feet up from time to time; where do you like to just hang out?
Aaron Wiener: The city has hundreds of great, cozy, atmospheric cafes, with both indoor and outdoor seating.
Adie: Volkspark , Friedrichshain or Muggelsee (Lake)
My Berlino: in Volkspark Friedrichshain or Viktoriapark in Kreuzberg.
Emily: I love to hang out round Savignyplatz, a leafy square in Charlottenburg. There are nice bookshops like Marga Schoeller or Bücherbogen and good cafés. Dussmann in Friedrichstraße is where I often end up; it’s a huge bookshop open till midnight nearly every day where you can simply browse to your heart’s content in peace and they have a separate English bookshop too. Cinema is my other passion in life so I love to catch films in English at the Sony Center or Hackesche Höfe.
Joab: Turkish Hamam. Reasonable prices and you can spend there hours to relax from the hectiness.
9. A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook, “Berlin: a city where almost everyone is cooler than you” – is it really such a cool place?
Aaron Wiener: Yes — but not in a threatening way. Sure, people here dress better than you and probably have more fun. But the city doesn’t break into cliquish scenes like, say, New York does. It’s very inclusive.
Adie: Nah that´s a myth. You do what you want to here. People can be cool and hip as they want doesn´t bother me. People can be uncool and un hip and do their own thing to. Who cares.
My Berlino: No. There are also many decent and ordinary people
Emily: It is cool here but you don’t need to worry about not being cool enough because it’s also one of the easiest and most relaxed places I know. Nobody cares what you wear; dressing up is actually seen as rather ostentatious. I love the fact that it’s more important to enjoy the evening rather than having to spend hours getting ready beforehand. I think Berlin is cool because it’s always changing, there’s so much going on and nobody knows how it will look in 10 years’ time.
Joab: Well, is it really cool, when everyone is cooler than you?! Berlin is super-hyped and hipsterized… that’s what’s NOT so cool about the German capital. I personally think: If you ARE cool, there is no need to SHOW it!
10. What is your favorite Berlin soundtrack?
Aaron Wiener: My own personal iTunes library. Can’t say I’m wild about the dominance of electronic music here. Not that there aren’t good concerts.
Adie: I would chose a film if I may. “Schwarze Schafe” . You can get an idea of what Berlin is about from that film.
My Berlino: Sky and Sound Broths Kalkbrenner
Emily: It’s always nice to hear Nylon singing “Wannsee Ahoi” or “Frühling in der Schönhauser” though as well as Kitty Hoff’s “Mein Berlin”. It’s a bit of a cliché but “Heimweh nach dem Kürfürstendamm” by Hildegard Knef pretty much represents what I love about this city.
Joab: Berlin Calling
11. Berlin has some great value accommodation – so, with all these pfennigs that we save, what can we afford to splash out on?
Aaron Wiener: The airfare! Really, everything here is cheaper — outside of clothing. Live in decadence and come back home less poor than you expected.
Adie: Always wanted to stay at “The Propeller Island” for a unique experience.
My Berlino: Rent a bike, participate to art and/or theater performance. Going out to eat good Italian food made by Italians.
Emily: Well, there are lots of tempting boutiques in Mitte where you can lose those excess euros – Finnish design shops Iittala and Marimekko are my ruin! Berlin is such an affordable place to eat out so definitely treat yourself to some good meals plus coffee and cake. You could even have breakfast at Käfer on the Reichstag terrace which isn’t cheap but the view is amazing. Visit some of the great museums or take a boat trip on the Spree. It’s a very democratic city so you don’t have to spend much to have a great time.
Joab: Spend some of your money for the many homeless people in Berlin and buy one of the often offered Homeless-Newspapers (e.g. MOTZ-Magazine) in the subway.
So there you have it: fantastic tips to get even more out of this wonderful and exciting city! Don’t wait and plan your trip to Berlin! Thanks again to our Berlin bloggers for their insights, and also to Sandrine for pulling this all together.
Do you have any more tips that you want to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below!
Joab Nist has a book coming out about his blog Notes from Berlin, check the trailer here!