There has been a lot of hype surrounding Germany’s capital city for some time now and with good reason. The city is definitely one of the most vibrant yet relaxed places in Europe. There is an old saying that feels very apt for Berlin: ‘once bitten forever smitten.’ Here are 10 things to see and do, all of which show off the best of the city.
GALLERY | Boros Art Collection Bunker
In 2003 Christian Boros bought a huge former air raid shelter in Mitte and turned it into a private exhibition space to house his large contemporary art collection. Visitors can book to view the private collection and visit the imposing bunker-turned-gallery. The bunker has five floors and the exhibition includes all media, including sculpture, installation, painting, drawing, video, and photography.
BAR | Roses Bar
For the adventurous, if you only go one dive bar in the city make it Roses Bar in Kreuzberg. It’s worth a visit just to marvel at the fantastic and garish interiors. Shag-carpeted doors and pink fluffy walls with subversive looking fixtures and fittings adorn this place. It is quite a small venue so it can get a little packed. Popular with the LGBTQ community, its vibe is very laid-back, carefree, and lacking in any pretension. The drinks are reasonably priced, considering it’s located on the bustling Oranienstrasse; Roses has a supremely cosy feel to it.
MUSEUM | Hohenschönhausen Prison
Anyone who has seen the award-winning and highly acclaimed movie The Lives of Others got a chilling insight into the culture of fear and paranoia for many East Berliners under the GDR and Stasi regime. Today you can take guided tours of the infamous ex-Stasi prison, Hohenschönhausen. Most of the tours are given by ex-prisoners and the stories they tell you about the shocking practices of the Stasi are fascinating. Essentially the Stasi prison had one objective and that was to break those who were detained there. Its tactics were horrific and unimaginable. This is definitely one of the most interesting historical tours you can take in the city.
CAFE | Five Elephant
There are plenty of coffee and cake, or ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’, places in the main touristy spots in Berlin, but it’s worth paying a visit to Five Elephant in Kreuzberg for some seriously good coffee and the best cheesecake in town. The owners are coffee buffs and have their own roasting machine on the premises. The cheesecake is the real star, and it brings people from all around to indulge. There are also tables outside on the pleasant tree lined Reichenberger street for when the weather is nice.
MUSEUM | Topography of Terror
The free permanent exhibition at the Topography of Terror should be on everyone’s short list when visiting Berlin. The exhibition venue is on the actual site of what used to be Nazi headquarters in Berlin. The SS, the Secret State Police, and the Reich Security were all situated in the area. The exhibition is very well laid out and fully documents the Nazi regime and its exploits over a long period of time. There is a lot to see, and you can easily spend a whole afternoon captivated by most of what is on display. There is also an outside exhibition trench where you can get more information about the actual site which was used by the Gestapo for interrogation and torture.
Niederkirchnerstrasse 8, 10963 Berlin
RESTAURANT | Massai African Restaurant
If you are looking for a different dining experience then it’s well worth checking out the Massai African Restaurant in the Prenzlauer Berg district. For starters, there is the funky decor keeping in tune with the African theme. Meat lovers will be in their element with unique menu choices of ostrich, wildebeest, and zebra along with traditional staples like beef and chicken. For vegetarians, there is a good selection of options as well.
MUSEUM | Jewish Museum
Daniel Libeskind’s strikingly designed Jewish Museum should also be on the lists of new visitors to the city. The permanent exhibition provides a comprehensive look at the plight of Jewish people throughout history. There is an additional emphasis on German Jewish history, and on Berlin in particular. The Libeskind building adds an extra disorientating dimension that is hard to define but certainly thought provoking. Part of the exhibition includes personal items such as letters, photographs, clothing, and other possessions highlighting connections and loss of the individuals who were killed during this dark period of history. The Jewish Museum provides a very engaging, informative, and reflective experience.
BAR | Weinerei Wine Bar
The Weinerei has been a favorite with locals in the know for a while now. The really unique aspect is the honor paying system, which is wonderfully old-school Berlin. You pay two euros for a glass and then drink away, paying what you consider is the right amount at the end of your evening. If you spend considerable time here, you can get to know regulars and the staff and start to really appreciate all the different wines that are out there.
Veteranenstraße 14, 10119 Berlin
DISTRICT | Reinickendorf
Situated near Tegel Airport in the north-west part of the city is the Reinickendorf District. It’s a little off the beaten track but well worth exploring. It provides a real contrast of architectural styles from the modernist housing estates to the listed Borsig Tower and gate. Around the Hallen am Borsigturm Center, you will see both historic and contemporary styles. Finally, head for Lake Tegel with the elegant Greenwich Promenade for great sunset views. The nearby Fisherman’s Restaurant offers alfresco dining overlooking the lake.
ARTS SPACE | Stattbad
Located in the Wedding District is Stattbad, as is apparent for anyone that visits it used to be a swimming pool, is now used as an arts and cultural space. It also hosts some exciting party nights when the old swimming venue rocks into the early hours to the sound of booming techno and electronic music. Typically when there is a party night there is also an exhibition on so it offers a perfect mix of art and music for culture vultures and party goers. The unique location is typical of the Berlin culture of utilizing spaces and transforming them into multi-purpose venues.