I would characterise Berlin as a hedonistic city, especially for short-term migrants. Now what I mean by hedonistic is that it’s really common to go out to a party on a Thursday or Friday and return home on a Sunday or even Monday morning. There’s no time or day when you wouldn’t be able to find some techno music playing in some cool raunchy club. If you happen to be so lucky to be there in the summer, you’ll find things to do and people to meet pretty much anywhere – outside, inside, on a rooftop or underground, at a beer-garden, by the lake or just on a random street that you happen to pass by. Spending a night drinking beers in front of a Späti is practically a ride of passage for a wanna-be Berliner.
The hedonistic attitude is also reflected in the fluidity of dating, the longevity of a job (as most of them are in start-ups) and even in personal style, as Berlin offers much freedom for one to redefine oneself. Also, it helps that Berlin is one of the most inexpensive cities in Germany and one of the most affordable capitals in Western and Central Europe.
One of my favorite things about Berlin would have to be the diversity and inexpensiveness of food and the incredible art scene and colorful culture. Because about 30 % of Berlin residents are foreign, this city offers a platform for over 190 nationalities to come together and live as a weirdly amazing entity. One of the best examples of that has the be the Carnival of Cultures which happens every June where people from all walks of life come to enjoy the parade, sing, dance, perform, eat, do art, and so much more.
Speaking of things to do in Berlin, let’s get straight to business. Because I was living in Neukölln and working in Kreuzberg, this list will mostly focus on things to do in East Berlin with some jewels from other neighbourhoods. This is my little but diverse guide some cool things to do in Berlin if you’re tired of reading about the Brandenburg gate and the TV tower.
One of my all time favorite things I did in Berlin is visiting an NSA spy station, located on Teufelsberg or should I say “the Devil’s Mountain”. The construction of the complex started back when Hitler wished to have a trainee station on the tallest mountain in Berlin. The sturdy building survived WWII and afterward got turned to an NSA spy tower for the Americans and the British to be able to eavesdrop to East Berlin during the cold war. Nowadays it has been turned into a cultural center where amazing street artists are invited to do their art – there’s graphite, installations, people playing music, and they even have outdoor film screenings during the summer. To put the cherry on top, this place offers an amazing view of the city and the skylight and so I’d say it’s totally worth the 7-euro ticket fee.
Close to the metro station Jannowitzbrücke there’s Kater Blau, which is not only a great place for a party, but just as wonderful to visit during the day as it looks almost like Nevereverland from the Robin Williams Peter Pan movie The Hook (it’s the way my friend described this bar to me and now it’s all I see when I think about it). The place is right by the river and can be really chill during the day (with occasional art installations and poetry readings) and crazy fun during the night. If you choose to just visit this bar for a quick drink and then continue exploring, you’ll find Yaam just around the corner. Similar to Kater Blau, Yaam also offers a chill vibe, especially due to sandy floors, and lounge wooden chairs. They also host and display works of different Berlin artists which is always interesting to see.
Schlesisches Tor station is, besides Warschauer Strasse, one of THE metro stations if you’re in looking for a cool place to hang or party with your friends. My two favorite places around this area would have to be Birgit & Beer and Club der Visionäre. The former is a dope beer-garden that makes it’s own beer and is filled with random stuff like a big carousel, a piano, and a pink pong table all of which make this place extra entertaining. Just across the river, there’s Club der Visionäre or CDV for short, a really chill minimal techno place that looks just like a renovated river dock. This is actually where I spend my 25th birthday at and I had an amazing time!
Let’s continue our tour to downtown Neukölln, a truly a spectacular neighborhood with so much to offer that you could easily spend a whole day just exploring. You can read about A Day in Neukölln here.
Klunkerkranich is a creative hipsterish rooftop bar on top of the Neukölln Arcaden, a big shopping center in downtown Neukölln. Flowers in bathtubs, live music, a photo booth, and an amazing view of the city that will leave you in awe, this place is simply unforgettable. Not far from Klunkerkranich, there’s also a chill bar called Twin Pigs (and yes for those of you that are also fans of David Lynch, the bar’s name is inspired by Lynch’s series Twin Peaks). This place is a gem by design and regularly offers beers from different local breweries.
There are some great places to visit in Mitte too, but in comparison to Neukölln, you should expect a rise in prices and a decrease in subcultures. One of the best brunch places in this neighborhood is the House of Small Wonders, wonderfully decorated café that has it’s twin in Brooklyn, NYC. Then go back it time by visiting the Clärchens Ballhaus-old ballroom. Although this place offers some great German dishes, it is mostly visited and admired for the Mirror hall, which will take you back to 1913 and leave you wanting to learn all about its ghosts and stories. Continue your trip to the past by visiting Prinzipal Kreuzberg for a Burlesque experience over some great cocktails.
Now for some honorable mentions that require a bit of scheduling. If you’re in Berlin on a Tuesday or Thursday, I’d recommend visiting Maybachufer market, which is a mostly Turkish market full of food for a great price, jewelry, and clothes. For all of you foodies out there, you can find Markthalle just a few streets down which is opened daily (except for Sundays) but is by far best to visit on Street Food Thursdays from 5 pm onwards when they host international food delicacies from around the world. A Sunday in Berlin would not be complete without a visit to Mauerpark. There you’ll find a huge flea market, culinary delights from around the world, all sorts of artist and entertainers, and if you’re brave enough you can even participate in singing some karaoke in front of a big fun crowd.
Finally, it’s only right to finish this piece by mentioning some of the best naughty clubs in Berlin which should be on your to-do list if you’re open minded, curious, and ready for a night that you won’t forget. Although there are tons of them in Berlin, I’d like to mention Kit Kat, Insomnia, and the famous Bergheim. These are all extremely popular places so the gymnastics of getting in has to be mentioned. Basically, dress in black and as little as possible and be calm in line, don’t be on your phone or act like a tourist. Be cool.
Same goes for Sisyphos, the ultimate party place in Berlin in my book! Getting there can be a bit tricky – you really shouldn’t take the S-Bahn (cause you’ll end up on the other side of the tracks with a dead end), but rather take a bus or even better, a taxi. This little village has several dance floors, an area to chill by the pond, and healthy fresh soups that will make you not want to leave this place no matter the time – that’s when you can say you had a true Berlin experience.