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Berlin, my second Heimat: discover my Best of Berlin tips

Updated: May 4

My first encounter with Berlin was love at first sight. I was 18 years old and hitchhiked for 11 hours from Amsterdam to Berlin (something about huge trucks as the main mode of transportation). Everything about the place felt right: a very young, vibrant and rebellious atmosphere; lots of colourful, open minded people; a wild party scene; incredibly affordable; rich in history and culture; and art at every corner. I knew, one day I'll live here. About 8 years later I made that happen. I enrolled in German classes and found a shared flat via a colleague I worked with at the time. Before I knew it, the planned 2 years to finish a Masters degree turned into 6. It was with a heavy heart that I left the place that once felt so deeply like home. Luckily Berlin's not too far, so I still visit at least twice a year. Today, I want to share the places that I enjoy, since I get asked for recommendations frequently.

This page is a work in progress. I'm far from done sharing all my favourite spots, and at the pace Berlin is developing, this page could be updated on the daily. So, stay tuned for more additions to the list.


First of May street parties. Photo: Timor Kodal

So many neighbourhoods, so many vibes

Berlin is like multiple cities in one. It's big and diverse; every neighbourhood has its unique vibe, architecture and crowds. When I lived in Neukölln, I regularly made a day trip to another "Kiez" (neighbourhood) and it would feel like a little escape from my daily scenery. To give an example: Mitte, the central neighbourhood, is known for its museums, many historical sights, and fancy restaurants and bars. On the flip side, Neukölln is more edgy, multicultural and with a more 'underground' vibe to many bars and restaurants. One could easily write an entire guide book about just one area of the city, as it's that big and happening.


Outdoors / active

Treptower park / Insel der Jugend

A big beautiful park in the east of Berlin, that runs along the Spree. There is a tiny island, connected with a bridge called Insel der Jugged (island of youth). In summer, it is a nice place for a drink, to rent a kayak, and sometimes there are concerts or movies played outside. In Treptower park, there’s also an impressive Soviet War Memorial.

Spreepark

Close to Treptower park is Spreepark. This abandoned theme park posed quite the challenge to explore back when I lived in Berlin. Evading security guards while attempting to capture the spooky atmosphere in photographs added an exciting element to the adventure. Today, the park offers a different experience as guided tours are available.


Funkhaus and Stand Up Paddle on the Spree

Funkhaus Berlin, once a DDR radio station turned into an events venue, is an impressive architectural design set along the Spree. In front of the Funkhaus, there’s a SUP station where you can rent out SUP’s or join guided tours. In summer, it’s a great and more quiet area to chill as it's a bit outside of the hustle and bustle of Berlin. If you’re hungry, you can grab some lunch at Milchbar or pizza at Zola. Be aware, that besides the mentioned things, not much else is around here.


Have a stroll along the Landwerhkanal

You’ll find many people having a beer by the water side, meeting up with friends for a walk or playing Petanque. There are many nice cafes and bars on both sides of the canal.


Landwehrkanal in summer

Tempelhofer Feld

I love this place. I wrote my dissertation on the development plans of this former airfield which has an incredible rich history. It's a funny experience to walk over the former landing strips. Berliners go here to enjoy all kinds of sports. There's also some rental options for sports equipment on the Southern side. In summer, you can chill between the neighbourhood gardens, visit the open air cinema and bar. Any time of the year, I enjoyed the spaciousness of the terrain, which is a very rare sight in big cities. There are also guided tour which I highly recommend. The airport building is worth a visit for its architecture and historical importance.


Rummelsburg

A fairly recently built neighbourhood along the Spree. Perfect for a tranquil, greenish stroll along the water. Continue on the Northern side and you'll reach a huge boulder hall. This spot offers a chill atmosphere to sit by the water and enjoy refreshing drinks and snacks. Occasionally, they arrange for a DJ to add to the weekend vibe. If you want proper food: Hafenküche next door is a good place to go. You can also rent a boat there, optionally with a picknick basket.


Badeschiff

A swimming pool and bar in the Spree river where the techno music gets louder later in the afternoon, and the vibe feels festive. Super popular and busy though. In winter they cover the swimming pool and there are regular concerts taking place.


Teufelsberg

“Devils Mountain”: an abandoned former American spy station on a hill outside of Berlin with awesome street art.


3000 lakes around Berlin

If you’re done with busy city life, or need to cool off on a hot summer day, going to one of the many lakes is a great day trip. In autumn also wonderful for a stroll.

Day trip to Potsdam

A beautiful city with lots of palaces and gardens, just a 30 minute ride away from Berlin. For the Dutchies, there is a “Holländische viertel” full of traditional Dutch architecture, and a great cafe serving all kinds of delicious cheese cakes.


Day trip to Spreewald

Wow I was pleasantly surprised to find this beautiful UNESCO bio reserve, with such a rich and interesting culture too. Amazing if you want to spend a day out in nature; hiking, biking or even better, exploring the endless water ways by canoe. Since many villages are built on the water, even the police and post office move around by boat! It's about one hour away from Berlin. You can take a train to Lübben.


Markets

I love visiting markets, ”Flohmarkt” called in German. Here are some favourites:

Maybachufer: Tuesdays and Fridays for food and handicrafts. During the warmer season, there’s a clothing market, every two weeks on Sunday‘s 10 am to 5 pm.

Marheinekeplatz: Runs every Saturday. It's not so much the stalls where people sell their own stuff, rather it's the general vibe that makes this place worth a visit. Lots of locals chilling, often there’s some musician playing, and it’s in a beautiful neighbourhood called “Bergmann kiez”.

Mauerpark: This huge market in Prenzlauer Berg runs every Sunday. Lots of clothing, food, furniture, and the highlight: a karaoke circle (your moment for a few seconds of fame!).


Boxhagenerplatz: Every Sunday, antiques, food & clothing in the heart of Friedrichshain. Also great area for dining out and bar hopping.


"Görli" or Görlitzer park in Kreuzberg

Restaurants

This list could be endless. Berlin is beyond amazing for eating out; it's relatively affordable, generally good quality and you can find any flavour you possibly look for. Here are just a few recommendations that come to mind:


Italian places: Terra, Goldener Hahn (amazing Italian place, former drug store, dim lights, lots of candles), Briefmarken Weine (wine bar & tapas), Masaniello (Napolitan pizza! In summer grab a pizza and eat it in the neighbouring park Hasenheide), la Piadina

Markthalle 9: Thursday night young crowds gather in this market hall where you can try many flavours of the world. The Italian bakery in there is also a gem!


Modern German: Butterhandlung, Peter Schlemihl, G wie Goulasch, Crackers Berlin (funky restaurant and bar in a former night club)


Breakfast places: Hallman & Klee, Tuckers (Aussie menu in F'hain), Plan C, le Bon, Croissanterie (omg these croissants! maybe better to take away though), la Maison, Distrikt coffee, le Belfort good french cafe), la Femme, Myxa.


Coffee & cakes: Orangerie (cute cafe in a lovely garden called Körnerpark), cafe Strauss (another cafe in a green area (aside a beautiful cemetery), Zazza, five elephant (cheesecake!), Duo for real Scicilian ice-cream (multiple locations), Tee.Salon.Iki (for the best Greek tea blends and delights)


Middle Eastern: Mugrabi, Kitten deli, Defne, or Nil or Marafina for a quick take away


Party

Where I used to be quite aquatinted with the club scene, corona has changed Berlin’s night life incredibly, and I haven't been clubbing much since. Here are however some clubs that survived and are still awesome:

  • Wilde Renate (it's like a villa with lots of different rooms and just wild!)

  • Holzmarkt (colourful, cultural center at the Spree)

  • Club der Visionaire (club without big outdoor on the water) and the surrouding area

  • Sisyphos (festival vibe with different areas in a former factory)

  • Yaam (riverside "beach bar", which used to be pretty awesome at its former location but still fun if you’re into reggae, Afro beats and general laid back atmosphere).

  • Berghain and Panorama bar (world renowned techno temple. Dress black and don’t look too excited if you want to stand a chance to get in, if you don't mind to spend hours and hours in a queu.. ;-))

  • RAW-Gelände: area full of clubs and bars. Cassiopeia is, as the name tells, a little more on the brasilian vibe, if you want something other than techno for a change. Has multiple (outdoor) areas, a skate park, climbing area, and also offers open air cinema and live music.

  • Hoppetosse (techno parties on an anchord boat)

  • Engtanz (a funny party all about love and romance with cheesy love songs, red heart balloons everywhere and lots of people finding a romantic partner (maybe just for the night)

Some bars I like: Lerchen & Eulen (always happening, good shots), Nathanja & Heinrich (candle-lit cozy bar, good for a talk), Klunkerkranich (a roof terrace so you have a bit of a view and live music sometimes), Sameheads (arty bar with a little dance area), the Clash (if you're in a punk mood), schwarze Traube (a dark cocktail bar), Konrad Tönz (back to the 50s with an actual record player), Dietrich bar, Ankerklause (a classic), Hopfenreich (if beer is your thing), Oblomov,  around Weserstrasse and Kotti (Kottbusser Tor) there are many bars (I'm sure you'll find something to your liking there).


Art & history

Endless possibilities, e.g. König Gallerie, KINDL, Philharmonie for its architecture and classical music, BOROS foundation for contemporary art in a former bunker. There’s basically endless museums and pop up exhibitions for everyones liking.

If it's your first time Berlin, I would recommend to learn about the history of Berlin as well, such as in the Stasi Museum, or the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, where guided tours are given by people that used to be political prisoners in former East Germany. Goosebumps guaranteed. You can also bike or walk along a part of the Berlin Wall Trail, and visit the street art at the East side Gallery (the longest remaining part of the Wall).


Summer / winter specific tips

For summer season, keep an eye out on spontaneous “Open Airs” (outdoor parties/festivals) and “Open air Kinos” (outdoor cinemas). In December, there are dozens of cozy Christmas markets all over Berlin to gather around a fire and indulge on some Glühwein.


Getting around

Besides public transport, biking is a great way to get around Berlin. I use the NextBike app, to find bikes all around Berlin, you pay 1 euro per 15 minutes. But there's also VOI and what not.


Find out what’s going on in Berlin



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