Berlin needs no introduction. For a city to have spent hundreds of years caught in the middle of fiery ideologies, wars, occupations, movements of every possible kind, countless demolition and construction projects, music scenes, party scenes, art scenes… Berlin seems to have come out on top. The city is an inspirational hotspot, there’s no telling what will spring to mind when walking through either of its distinctive neighborhoods. Boredom is completely foreign to Berlin and her inhabitants, so come with an open mind and expect it to be filled. In many ways, the German capital is a modern utopia, proof that a people united by their humanity are united by just enough. Berlin has seen it all– that’s why it’s so important to see Berlin.
Album: David Bowie – Heroes
Book: Alone in Berlin – Hans Fallada
Movie: People On Sunday (1930)
Season: Summer or Winter
Tempelhofer Damm 1-7
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it feels like to bike/run/skate/windsurf down an airport runway, here’s your chance. Flughafen Berlin-Templehof has been given over to the people of Berlin– and they’ve taken full advantage. Having spent most of the 20th century as an active airport, this space has been turned into one of South Berlin’s most eccentric and inviting public parks. The surrounding neighborhood is fun to bike around, too. Volkspark Hasenheide is just across the street and one of the city’s best (and least appreciated) greenspaces. If you have time, pick up a copy of DBC Pierre’s novel Lights Out In Wonderland to read before getting to Templehof.
Schönhauser Allee 176A
Just above the Senefelderplatz stop of the U2 line sits an absolute gem of an establishment. The Bassy Club calls itself “Berlin’s best-kept secret” and only spins records pressed up until 1969. Every night of the week, Berlin’s best DJs turn up to flip through their stash of 45s and absolutely set the place ablaze. The party won’t start ’til after midnight on weekends, but once you’re in, you’re not going to want to leave. If you’ve decided you’re not a dancer, Bassy will prove you wrong. They offer a smoking annex and quality beer for relatively cheap. Check out their program to make sure you don’t miss one of their themed nights.
There’s something really exciting about a non-profit organization acting out their mission statement– and taking the public along for the ride. Rotating tour schedules offer near-impossible perspectives of a Berlin that once was (and, in some cases, never should have been). A full tour through World War Two and Cold War bunkers and underground bomb shelters will give you goosebumps while the Germania exhibition might alter your perspective of Berlin once you resurface. Part academic, part adventure, these tours are worth the small admission fee.
Rosenthaler Straße 39, Hackesche Höfe
Another great independent theater, this one is tucked away in the back of a pretty remarkable alley/courtyard, hidden inside the fairly busy and touristy Hackescher Markt. They show first runs, but also show small-budget, sometimes locally-produced films that never enjoy worldwide distribution and acclaim. Once a month they screen the 1927 classic Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, a somewhat misleading classic, but a classic nonetheless. Many of their weekend movies run after midnight so you may be in luck if you wanted to start your night out here at the Central.
Flohmarkt im Mauerpark
Bernauer Straße 63-64
With several great Sunday flea markets to choose from, this one may be Berlin’s most complete. Books, records, furniture, clothes, historically significant cigarette tins, cameras, original artwork, absolutely anything and everything. It’s perfectly reasonable to spend an entire afternoon there, sampling from the various food stalls and talking to merchants about some of their more curious items. Easily reachable by the U2 line, the short walk from the station to the park is lined with pop-up boutiques and coffee shops.
Warschauer Straße 39/40
Known around the city as a ‘working bar,’ Berliners are known to spend hours at a time in this posh coffee shop/bar. Considering its part of the Michelberger Hotel, its decor is definitely original, but tastefully tame. A subtle vibe of tropical energy floats around the cafe’s fluffy couches and stacks of retro–not antique– books. Don’t be surprised to run into an international band here, sprawled out across the pillows, relaxing before their Berlin show– Honolulu’s status as an under the radar, non-flashy safe zone makes it a favorite amongst off-duty touring talent.
Neue Schönhauser Straße 19
While you’ll miss out on the experience of weighing your thrifty selections at checkout as has become common at so many other of Berlin’s vintage clothing stores, you may enjoy the neat and thoughtful layout of the place. Located in the Mitte district, it’s only a quick jaunt from Alexanderplatz and you won’t leave worrying that you might smell like a stranger’s attic. The huge selection and helpful staff go a long way, too.
We have yet to come across a cheaper, more enjoyable late-night dining option anywhere. Luxa is around the corner from several of Berlin’s most popular hostels, but also on the way to (or from) Mauer Park, Senefelderplatz, or the rest of Prenzlauer Berg. They have shawarma that could make your mouth water from across the city and some quality hummus to go along with it. Less than five euros gets you a loaded pita (super fresh vegetables) and a large bottle of local brew. Not a bad way to tackle a meal after blowing your day’s spending money at the flea market or thrift shop.