Berlin, what a weird, wonderful little place you are. I arrived on a freezing day in January to a bustling city wrestling with its past and trying redefine itself as a city of innovation and cultural renaissance. Filled with young people and beautiful street art, Berlin's buzzing optimism is palpable throughout its historic districts. You're going to love it.
Check out my recommendations below for a healthy dose of history and distinctly Berlin experiences:
SEE & DO
- Street Food Thursday at Markethalle Neun - Every Thursday night, this market in Kreuzberg fills to the brim with street vendors selling delicious afforable, cuisine alongside €2 glasses of wine and local beers. Still a destination-evening for locals, you'll feel right at home and guaranteed to leave happy and full. Bring cash.
- Must-see historic sites from World War II and the Cold War:
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews - A striking interactive memorial atop a heartbreaking museum outlining the atrocities of the Holocaust.
- Brandenberg Gate - An enduring symbol of the division and reunification of Berlin.
- Walk along the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall - An outdoor memorial of the former Berlin wall showcasing the iconic street art that defined the liberation and freedom of the East Side after the fall of the wall in 1989
- Berlin Wall Memorial Museum - An incredibly well-designed museum showcasing the history of the wall, complete with a look-out point showing the remains of the actual wall and the Bernauer Strasse area.
- Shopping in Mitte District - Following a warm breakfast at Father Carpenter, take a walk around the Mitte district filled with boutiques you'll recognize, and some local (or at least European-only) stores. Check out Royal RepbuliQ's first brand store and a chic & Other Stories location. Pro tip - fantastic street art to be found around every corner.
EAT & DRINK
- Neni Berlin - Honestly, I just prefer to eat good food in a beautifully designed space, bonus points for rooftops. Neni hits on all fronts. After walking around the Berlin Zoo or trading in all of your cash at Bikini Berlin, head to Neni for a spanish/indian/moroccan fusion meal that will warm you right up. Go late afternoon for beautiful views of the city. The place is gorgeous.
- Monkey Bar - After you fill up at Neni, make time for a drink at next-door Monkey Bar. Same great views, better exotic cocktail offerings.
- Spreegold - A bustling breakfast spot in the Mitte district serving fresh juices, coffee and all-day breakfast/brunch (just bookmark it for when you stagger in the morning/afternoon after checking out the Berlin nightlife!).
- Weinerei Forum - one of Berlin's infamous 'pay what you want' bars. The concept became so popular that it was forced underground behind a door marked Private, speakeasy style, and only on weekend evenings. We went for a lazy afternoon and it was just as quaint, drinking cheap red wine ($2 a glass!) and checking in via their free wi-fi. A delightful lull in a hectic trip.
- Father Carpenter Coffee Brewers - Quite possibly my favorite meal in Berlin came with a beautifully constructed almond latte and perfectly portioned poached eggs smothered in hollandaise sauce. If we hadn't found it on our last morning, I would have come back each day for the smashed avocado and homemade coconut granola. Charming hidden atmosphere in the Mitte district.
- Tommi's Burger Joint - After hours of walking around taking in the sights (Berlin Wall museum is just around the corner!), pop into Tommi's and reward yourself with a burger. Hard to describe, but it's just one of those delicious ones with good sauces and crispy fries.
We only spent a couple of (very chilly) days in Berlin, next visit I'd like to see:
- the Breakfast Market, a street food market dedicated to breakfast only and which happens every third Sunday of the month in Markethalle Neun.
- visit the Reichstag parliament building. It was sold out while we were there - book in advance!
- visit the world-famous Christmas Markets in the winter.
- or in the summer, spend the afternoon hanging around the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood boutique hopping and drinking afternoon cocktails in the park.