2013, I was lucky enough to spend 6 months in Germany’s hottest city. Woop woop. Since then, i try to visit the friends I made there at least every 3-4 months, take more photos and refill my little stock of analogue films.
Let’s face it, Berlin is only a city. But what a city. Full of life, powerfully vibrant, with new projects, great cafés, beautiful as well as appalling street art around every corner. But you don’t just find the widely derided Hipsters in Berlin. This city has something to offer for everybody, as long as its size and the extremes you may encounter do not make you feel uncomfortable. Walking along the famous Ku’damm can be rather exhausting, but far off the typically touristy hot-spots, there are so many places to leave all worries behind and simply enjoy the beauty of the moment.
This article is aiming to give a little overview over at least some of the recommendable things to do in Berlin. To be honest, none of these is so secret that you won’t find them in any tour guide. That’s because Berlin is so full of visitors that nothing stays secret for longer than a week. So these are rather recommendations for everyone, who is planning to stay a little longer than just a weekend and who wants to see more than just Brandenburger Tor and Alexanderplatz.
1. Believe it or not, but: do the Touristy-thing.
If you’ve never been to Berlin, I seriously recommend you do the touristy thing: Brandenburger Tor, Reichstag, Friedrichstraße, the Museumsinsel and Alexanderplatz are places you definitely have to see. Which does not mean that you have to plan a whole weekend to do this. If you’re a good walker, you can definitely do all of these things in one day, torture your camera while doing it, and afterward have your head free to discover new things.
It’s best to start at the U6-stop Kochstraße. You will find yourself directly at Checkpoint Charly, and if the weather is well, you might even consider enjoying a view over the whole of the city with the famous Spirnger Balloon. It takes you 150m up in the air for approx. 15 mins. And it costs 15 EUR. They definitely love their 15’s…
When you walk down Friedrichstraße, you’re not just in one of the shopping hot spots, but you can also take a straight stroll down to Gendarmenmarkt on the right side. There you can either pay way too much money for a hot or cold beverage of your choice. Or,if the sun is shining, I recommend you bring your own drink, and enjoy some time on the warm steps on one of the three beautiful buildings.
Back on Friedrichstraße, down to Unter den Linden on the left side you will find the Brandenburger Tor, Reichstag, the Paul-Löbe-Haus and the beginning of the famous Park – the Tiergarten. To your left, you will find the Holocaust-memorial and the Potsdamer Platz. If you prefer, you can turn to the left and walk to Alexanderplatz. On your way, you will first payy the Museumsinsel, the Berliner Dom and eventually the Alex. Your feet will probably ask for a major break by then. Good to know that there’s good places to find something to eat everywhere.
2: Tempelhofer feld
The former airport is the biggest city park in Europe. Because of it’s bituminization it offers great practicing opportunities for lovers of skateboards, longboards, skates, and everything else that glides. The grass is frequently used for barbecues in spring, summer and autumn, and rumor says that somewhere on Tempelhofer Feld a piano is hidden. The entrance is free.
3: alter st. matthäus cemetery berlin schöneberg
Before you tell me I’m morbid: This cemetery is not only incredibly old and beautiful, it is also the place where the brothers Grimm (yes, THE brothers Grimm) have found their last peace. And if that’s not exciting enough for you: every week, masses of children leave little letters, notes and drawings to thank the brothers Grimm for their beloved fairytales. And that is really something beautiful to see.
4: Sony Center
Even Berlin can take a bit of glamour evry once in a while: the tentlike roof-construction of the building floats like an umbrella over the heads of its visitors. Inside, a little piazza, a beautiful fountain, and several restaurants as well as the Cinestar (one of the few movie theatres in germany where they only show movies in English) offer its visitors a good time. Also, this is the place where most Hollywood-Premiers take place. So if you hope to find Brangelina: Maybe start there.
The Nilokaiviertel is Berlins oldest district. Heavily destroyed during WWII it was additionally strongly neglected by architects in the times of the GDR. Only when the city celebrated its 750 years anniversary, the ruins where restores and new houses build. Nowadays, you can find beautiful cafés here (side note: and also an awful lot of rabbits, considering that you’re more or less in the city centre) and enjoy some delicious coffee and cupcakes in the sunshine.
Tipp 6: East side gallery
A feast for every photographer and lover of street art: the East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain consists of the 1316m long remains of the Berlin Wall. After the wall came down, the remaining parts and pieces were decorated by 118 artists from 21 countries, and has been the longest open air gallery ever since.
7: Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg
This may sound rather general: But Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and the colourful people living there are perfect to stroll around for hours, breath in the flair of the city, grab some ice cream, find some beautiful shops and street and to get lost. Big time. Every guide will recommend different Bars. Problem: The city is so fast-moving that many restaurants, shops and bars close just as quickly as the have opened, so that in the end you can never have guarantee whether the “ultimate spot” you’ve been recommended still exists. And to be honest: There is not “the ultimate shop/bar/restaurant” you have to see. Everyone’s taste is different, and in the end only you can decide whether you find a place appealing or not.
8: Spreepark plänterwald
GDR’s former amusement park has been inactive since 1989. For a small entrance fee, you can participate in a guided tour, which will offer you some absolutely great photography possibilities. Nature has started to reconquer its territory, which gives this scenery a purely fairytale-like touch.
8: The yaam
Close to the Ostbahnhof is the YAAM, an African-Carribean beach bar with its very own flair. The prices for the drinks are normal to low, the two african dishes they always offer absolutely delicious, and the overall flair extremely relaxed. If I remember correctly, you pay a small entrance fee and have to hand in any drinks you may be taking with you. However, I really enjoyed my stay there and can recommend it to everyone.
9: strandbar mitte
Opposite the Bodemuseum in the Monbijoupark lies the capital’s first beach bar. Here you may find everything a summer addicted heart might crave: salsa music in the background, hot pizza, sand, beach chairs, palm tress and cozy lights at night. No entrance fee necessary. But you should take some anti-mosquito-spray with you, because the little devils will find you in a summer night down at the spree…
tipp 10: Prenzlberg and flea market at the Mauerpark
Just like Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg is not just gentrified and hyped, but also promises great food, a beautiful neighborhood, fascinating shops and interesting faces and stories. The famous flea market at the Mauerpark opens every Sunday and offers a spectacle of (very often too expensive) antique stuff, self-made and DIY treasures, delicious food, open air karaoke and street artists. No matter if you’re by yourself or with friends: This is a great place to get lost, enjoy the sun and collect some beautiful memories.