Berlin—that mecca of artists and bohemians—may have that historic flair so typical of European cities, but these days its history plays second fiddle to its resurgence as Europe’s new capital of cool. And with summertime fast approaching, there’s never a better time to visit than now. With world-class nightlife, its own fashion sense, cutting-edge art, an expanding international food scene and a history that’s hard to miss, it’s hard not to fall for Berlin’s unique vibe (we at STA Travel certainly have) 72 hours just might not be enough. But to get you started, Adam, our own #STATravelInsider and blogger extradonaire from Travel’s Of Adam has put together a Berlin beginner guide, check it out.
To visit Berlin is really like visiting a hundred different villages. The city is big (it’s Germany’s largest), but it’s also conveniently divided into different neighborhoods each offering up their own atmosphere. Here’s a quick lowdown on the Berlin districts:
- Mitte: Translated to “middle” or “center,” Mitte is Berlin’s central district. In this area you’ll find a lot of great shopping, museums, art galleries and also some of Berlin’s best hostels and most convenient hotels. Try Wombat’s Hostel or The Circus Berlin which are both located close to the action in Mitte.
- Kreuzberg: The epicenter of “hipster Berlin,” Kreuzberg (or if you want abbreviate like the locals, it’s Xberg) is where you’ll find Berlin’s best cheap eats, street food, trendy bars, thrift shops and underground art galleries. In Xberg, you’ll want to stay near Görlitzer Park at a hostel like the always-popular Baxpax Kreuzberg.
- Friedrichshain: This Berlin neighborhood is home to Berlin’s (and maybe the world’s) best nightlife. Plus Hostel and the Michelberger are good flashpacking choices here.
Other neighborhoods in Berlin you need to know about include: Neükolln where you’ll find good food and good clubs (and Berlin’s only cat café) and Prenzlauer Berg with cute cafés, great coffee and Berlin’s most famous flea market.
What to Do:
With just 3 days in Berlin, finding the right things to do and managing to squeeze them into your itinerary might seem like a challenge…but in Berlin anything is possible. And it doesn’t matter, really, because Berlin has a way of capturing its visitors’ hearts and you’ll almost certainly want to return again (and again). For your trip, consider buying the Berlin Welcome Card giving you unlimited rides on the metro system plus discounts at some of the hotels. To get you there, AirBerlin is even offering up $50 off your flights to this coveted bohemian mecca until XX XX 2014
Start your day with a “free” walking tour to catch all the major historical sites in central Berlin. First up is the Brandenburg Gate in Pariser Platz—a great meeting spot plus a handy place to easily catch Berlin’s most important landmarks. There’s even a contemporary art museum located there if you’re keen.
Just around the corner from Brandenburg Gate, you’ll find the highly photograph-able Holocaust memorial (officially: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe). The memorial is unique and it’s one you won’t soon forget. If you have some time and enjoy crying in public, be sure to visit the free museum underneath the memorial.
Across from the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe you’ll also find two other Holocaust memorials just inside the Tiergarten park. One commemorates the gay and lesbian victims of the Holocaust and the other, the Roma and Sinti victims.
To get your fill on history, you should also visit the nearby Topography of Terrors. The free museum documents the crimes and history of Germany’s Gestapo and secret police.
By sunset, make your way to Berlin’s central Alexanderplatz and visit the TV Tower for a nice panoramic view over the city. The nearby Hackescher Markt is home to some of the coolest shops in Mitte. Wander from courtyard to courtyard and you’ll start to see what makes Berlin so unique. Walls are covered in graffiti and in-between designer shops are more quirky bookstores, independent cinemas and smoky coffee shops. Visit Café Cinema (Rosenthaler Straße 39) for a cool drink and sit in one of the outdoor picnic tables for a view of the street art.
For a cool dining experience, make your way to White Trash Fast Food — a former Asian restaurant converted into a hybrid American Western bar and British pub. Get a burger and if you’re lucky there just might be some live music playing in the corner. Afterward you can head downstairs to their nightclub in the basement, or visit the indie dance club Kaffee Burger across the street. Don’t worry about closing times in Berlin — this is truly a city that never sleeps. Especially during the summer when the days are long and the sun doesn’t start to set until after 9:30pm.
INSIDER TIP: For night owls, there’s always Mein Haus am See — a hybrid café & bar open 24 hours/day, 7 days/week at Rosenthaler Platz. It’s a fun place to hang out in the early evenings and then again late at night. Plus the music’s great.
Saturdays in Berlin are great for shopping. Head to Kreuzberg and take a stroll down Oranienstraße strasse. From art shops and bookstores to cafes and cheap restaurants, this is the hub of Kreuzberg’s hipsters. Go for brunch at Bateau Ivre (Oranienstraße 18) and if the weather’s good, make sure you grab a table outside on the corner. For shopping, visit Voo Berlin which sells all the necessities: trendy clothes, smart books and organic coffee.
In the afternoon, make sure you visit Görlitzer Park to experience that oh-so-special Berlin atmosphere. On sunny days you’ll find barbecues, people selling snacks and impromptu music events.
In the evening, head out to Friedrichshain and make your way down Revaler Strasse where there are countless nightclubs and events. For live music go to the Astra Kulturhaus. But if you want an easy-to-enjoy Berlin bit of nightlife, visit Cassiopeia which has three dance floors, a beer garden and a climbing wall (though the climbing wall isn’t open at night — that’d be dangerous).
Insider Tip: Want something a bit more “cool”? Make your way to Club der Visionaire — a nightclub on the side of the canal at Schlesisches Strasse. Part of it is on a barge and the atmosphere here is always fun. Plus if you get hungry, they serve a delicious home-made pizza.
On Sundays in Berlin, there’s really not much else to do except visit a flea market (flohmarkt). They’re practically a Berlin institution and you’ll find them all over the city. Mauer Park is the most famous — and understandably too. In the afternoons at Mauer Park each Sunday you’ll find the famous Bearpit Karaoke. It’s a free, fun experience where tourists and locals alike join in to cheer on strangers. Check their Facebook page to make sure it’s on as it’s weather-dependent.
And for one last bit of history in Berlin, you really can’t leave without visiting the East Side Gallery. It’s the largest remaining bit of the Berlin wall and was painted by artists to become an open-air gallery in the 90s, commemorating Germany’s reunification. Just be conscious of the art here and don’t add your own graffiti to an important historical landmark.
Insider tip: When the weather is warm, a great way to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon is at the Arena Badeschiff — a floating pool inside the river Spree. Admission is only 5€ but be warned you might have to wait if it’s a particularly beautiful day.
By Adam Groffman, #STATravelInsider
About the Author:
Adam Groffman is an #STATravelInsider and the writer of a popular travel blog, TRAVELS OF ADAM, which focuses heavily on the most hip and cool things to do around the world. Follow him on Instagram and Pinterest to discover his latest cool travel finds and check out his latest trek to Amsterdam.
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These sunny autumn days have been rejuvenating, if only briefly. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of events. I've traveled to three countries, written thousands of words, danced until daylight, slept on couches, shared some beds, seen some sights, and avoided emails. . I took the last weekend to ignore it all and just enjoy life for a bit—a welcome respite which I desperately needed. Self-care is so important and for me, that means taking the time to enjoy life. And recently I've just been enjoying all of my life in NYC. . I moved here 7 months ago and it's felt like a non-stop rollercoaster ride. I want to write about and share it, but also: I just want to enjoy it. So I'm sorry if you're not seeing much of me on here or Twitter, these days. Just know I'm around: living my life and doing what I want to do. . . . #travelsofadam #nycweekend #gaytravelblog #gaytravel #brooklyn #brooklynbridge #gayselfie #seeyourcity #NYC #ilovenewyork #iloveny #ilovenyc #gaybrooklyn #travelwriter #travelblog #travelblogger #gayblog #lifestyleblogger #nycblogger #nycblog #bloggerlife #styleblogger #autumnweather #autumn🍁 #brooklynbridgeig #brooklynbridgeview #brooklynbridgenyc #grindr #grindrguy