DESTINATION: Berlin, Germany | The Artsy Young Free Capital City
DESTINATION: Berlin, Germany
Politically and physically divided into East and West by the Berlin Wall for nearly 30 years, Berlin is one of—if not the—most unique capital cities in the world. Since November 9, 1989 when thousands of East Berliners stood up for their freedom, Germany’s headquarters have stood tall, unified by an audacious, artistic spirit, and amazing tourist attractions. Here are some tried-and-true, trendy and neu (new) ways to: STAY | SHOP | EAT | TOUR | PLAY in Berlin.
Dive right into your tourist checklist when you book a stay at Das Stue, the #1 ranked hotel in Berlin and all of Deutschland (the way Germans actually say “Germany”). Located next to Tiergarten (“Animal Park”), this luxury boutique hotel features a private entrance to Tierpark (Berlin Zoo) and the fine dining of Michelin-starred restaurant Cinco by Paco Pérez. If you prefer a higher profile place to lay your head, Hotel Adlon is just adjacent to Brandenburger Tor, Berlin’s top tourist site, and has hosted dignitaries and celebrities from President Barack Obama to Queen Elizabeth II to Charlie Chaplin to Michael Jackson who infamously dangled his baby “Blanket” off an Adlon balcony. To feel like royalty, The Ritz Carlton at Potsdamer Platz will suffice, however if you’re more of a trend-seeker—and setter—check into the Members’ Club and Hotel Soho House Berlin or try the Über creative Michelberger Hotel with a funky bar and bedazzled rooms like the “Golden One”.
For the ultimate Berlin shopping experience, look no further than Kaufhaus des Westens, aka KaDeWe, the largest department store in Europe outside of Harrods in London, dressed head to toe in high-end luxury. Other world class shopping centers include the impressive Mall of Berlin, Galeria Kaufhof (with the newly opened TOPMAN), and Alexa Centre near Alexander Platz where you’ll find the tallest structure in Germany, the Berliner Fernsehturm—that iconic TV Tower punctuating the city’s skyline. And get your vintage kicks—literally—at Paul’s Boutique in Prenzlauer Berg stocked with 1000s of sneakers, T-Shirts, Star Wars collectibles, boomboxes and more showcased amidst eccentric décor.
After all that shopping, it’s time to EAT! Listed as the top restaurant in the city, Zur Gerichtslaube is in the heart of Berlin’s Old Town and considered one the city’s oldest structures having been built around the year 1270. Old World meets Art Nouveau at the inviting bar, restaurant and ballroom Wirtshaus Max und Moritz.
For food on the go, you must try Berliner street food. First up is Currywurst. Made of sliced sausage (Bratwurst) served with curry ketchup, and best enjoyed with Pommes (French Fries), the most sought after Currywursts are at Curry 36, and Konnopke’s Imbiss under the Schönhauser Allee S-Bahn (city train). And perhaps even more popular to eat on the street is Turkish döner kebab, with the best spot—and longest line—hands down being Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap in Krezberg right outside the U-Bahn (underground train) Merringdamm Station.
Berlin is a lovely city to include on your Cycling Through Europe tour, rich with art, culture and history. Of its many museums, the Pergamon Museum on Museumsinsel (Museum Island) along the River Spree is a tourist favorite, while Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, provides a way to honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Experience “Berlin’s C.B.G.B.” at the Ramones Museum and tribute to the legendary punk band.
See and touch what still stands of the Berlin Wall at the outdoor East Side Gallery painted with powerful murals and signature graffiti art. Viktoria Park has a 360° view of Berlin and running waterfall during warm-weather months, while Mauerpark (Wall Park) hosts a flea market and Bearpit Karaoke on (most) Sundays. One of the most beautiful squares in Europe, Gendarmenmarkt includes Konzerthaus Berlin and, during the holidays, WeihnachtsZauber (“Christmas Magic”) Market which is key to the German Winter Wunderland experience—especially when you warm up some Glühwein (Mulled wine).
Now it’s time to…DANCE! Germany is world-renowned for its electronic music scene, and the hottest nightclub in Berlin is Berghain where celebs like Lady Gaga and André Galluzzi frequent. Join the party after 3am, that is, if you can get in. (Our sources say Britney Spears was once turned away at the door due to her poor choice of shoes.) With a panoramic view of the Oberbaum Bridge and Spree River, Watergate is another topnotch club playing techno, electro and house music. For a “jazz lounge” that also plays funk, soul, Latin, blues and rock, Quasimodo is king. For hip hop, check out The Swag Jam at Badehaus Szimpla every Tuesday. And for Berliner-style Ballroom Musik & Tanz (music & dance) like Salsa and tango, give Clärchens Ballhaus a whirl.
If you don’t speak Deutsch and feel a bit intimidated to visit Berlin, read our guide on how to prepare for a country when you don’t speak the language, then go for it! You’ll encounter interesting people from all around the globe, visiting and living in Germany’s dynamic capital city. Do you have other spots to recommend in Berlin? Let us know in the comments.