Kreuzberg has been cool since Bowie and Iggy hung out here in the Seventies and the neighbourhood’s main strip continues the party today with legendary clubs and lively bars.
Its edgy credentials may predate the fall of the Berlin Wall, but it was this moment that kick-started Kreuzberg on its journey from impoverished neighbourhood to cool counterculture hotspot. While parts have since succumbed to gentrification, it remains one of the German capital’s most exciting areas. Slicing right through the middle is Oranienstrasse, a pulsating thoroughfare that reflects the district in all its diversity and distinctly Berlin buzz. We’ve picked out its best bits, plus a couple of great places to stay close by.
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Overlooking bustling Oranienplatz, this handsome hotel occupies an Art Nouveau building that dates back to 1913, having emerged from WWII incredibly unscathed; today, it stands as a national monument. At its centre is the Living Room, an inviting combination of swish restaurant, bar, lounge and stage that hosts regular soul, jazz and world-music concerts. Rooms are a subtle blend of Italian and Eastern influences, with splashier suites adding big bathtubs and platz-view balconies. Spoil yourself to their eight-course Sunday brunch with live music, though you might have to head back upstairs for a lie down afterward.
Being a neighbourhood popular with Berlin’s Turks means you’ll find some of the city’s best Turkish restaurants here. Among the finest is the Oranienstrasse eatery, Knofi. Originally a typical Turkish grocery store, there’s still something wonderfully authentic about the place with its busy shelves and rustic ceiling hangings. The food is hearty and homemade, with freshly baked bread and loads of veggie options – all at reasonable prices – with the option of streetfront dining on warmer days.
Despite being just a five-minute stroll from Oranienstrasse, this contemporary boutique hotel is set in surprisingly peaceful surroundings. Stepping inside, a palette of soothing tones adds to the sense of laid-back urban oasis, with minimalist interior design and wonderful landscaped gardens completing a sense of Zen-like calm. For even more chilled-out vibes, head for a dip, massage or steam in the wellness zone. There’s more tranquillity in your room with comfy king-size beds, and breakfast is served overlooking the leafy gardens.
If you’re a fan of craft beer, there’s only really one place to go on Oranienstrasse. Biererei Bar and Vintage Cellar is an independent, smartly understated tavern offering up to 20 artisan brews on tap at any one time. From imperial stout to milkshake IPA, you can find some serious draft beers here, as well as hundreds more in their cellar, along with super-knowledgeable bar staff to help navigate you through it all.
Named after the district’s old West German postcode, SO36 is a legendary club with roots in Kreuzberg’s 1970s punk scene. It even counts the likes of David Bowie and Iggy Pop among former guests, when they famously spent time in the German capital, inspiring the music of the Berlin Trilogy. Nowadays, the line-up tends to be a little more diverse, hosting an eclectic programme of parties, events and concerts – you can even get your skates on for a monthly roller disco.
If you’re a lover of design, fan of kitsch or just interested in things, this fabulously off-beat museum is a great way to spend an hour or two of your time. The main focus is industrial manufacturing, with examples of iconic everyday designs from the 20th and 21st centuries. Collections are cleverly arranged in thought-provoking displays that make you see the familiar with a fresh perspective.
Another real slice of Berlin history, the walls of this low-lit establishment are choca with graffiti, photographs, curios, stickers, posters and, erm, a mounted boar head…all coalescing into an atmospheric dive bar. Its grungy punk-rock vibe won’t appeal to everyone, but cheap drinks and regular live bands on their small stage pack in a mixed crowd for a rockin’ good night of unpretentious fun.
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