Berlin is a bohemian metropolis, welcoming visitors with its signature blend of ever-present history, creative style and vibrant culture. It’s a city in constant flux, where discovering every corner of its multifaceted identity can feel like an impossible task. While this might be true, if you’ve done these 17 things, you’re on your way to being a bona fide Berlin expert.
The old adage that beer is cheaper than water in Germany is not only true, it also makes beer the drink of choice in the German capital. Luckily on almost every corner spätis or late shops provide the goods, at infamously low prices. If you want to have a real Berlin night out, pick up some Berliner Pilsner for less than €2 (USD$2.35), some beer nuts and hang out on the picnic style tables at the front of your local späti.
Berliners love their döner kebabs, with around 950 kebabs eaten every day. Head to areas with strong Turkish influences, like Neukölln or Kreuzberg and tuck into this beloved fast food treat. Vegans and vegetarians don’t have to miss out either, and can opt for an equally tasty falafel or halloumi kebab instead.
Let’s be honest, this happens to everyone in Berlin at least once, even the coolest techno scenesters. It’s the nature of the club and there is something quiet unifying about experiencing the ego-crushing ‘no’ from the bouncers and long lonely walk past the onlooking line. You’ll never be smug about your Berghain track record, or stare down the poor dejected souls again after going through the experience yourself.
Currywurst is a local delicacy that has to be tried in Berlin. The curry-ketchup and sausage combo is delicious, simple and best enjoyed at a small, no-frills, local food stall. In summer or winter, Berliners gather outside at the small standing tables to enjoy their beloved local dish.
Summer in Berlin can be swelteringly hot, and Berliners have long know the perfect remedy: escape the capital for some wild swimming! The city is surrounded by hundreds of lakes, from the popular, easy-to-reach ones, to the out-of-the-way, lesser-known spots. You haven’t experienced a summer in Berlin without heading out to the lakes.
On the border of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg lies the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, called East Side Gallery. The sprawling open-air gallery spans 1,316 metres (4,314 feet) and boasts a range of iconic, political and colourful murals. Taking some time out to walk the wall helps build perspective of this once oppressive symbol and Berlin’s checkered past.
Similar to the Berlin Wall, many of the city’s left-over and abandoned sights are rife with history. Urban explorers have captured and highlighted the affecting beauty of these sights, and now that venturing out to well-known spots such as Teufelsberg can be done with relative ease and safety, exploring them is a must when in Berlin.
Nestle next to clubs, lining local streets and hidden in unlikely locations, Berlin’s photoautomats are an easy-to-miss, beloved-by-locals icon. No night out in the German capital is quite complete until you and your friends all pile into the cramped booth to take a group selfie with the old-school analogue photobooths.
May Day is a truly unique Berlin experience. Combining the city’s flair for partying and politics, the day is a singular mix of dancing in parks, protesting on the streets and letting your inner punk run wild for a day. Being in the city to celebrate May Day is something every Berlin expert needs to experience at least once.
Berlin’s Museum Island is home to five amazing museums, boasting world-renowned collections. Art lovers, culture buffs and anyone looking to explore the magnificently polished side of Berlin, needs to spend a day wandering Museum Island.
Impactful, important and understated, the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe is a must-see in Berlin. When you’re there remember to be respectful though, or you might end up being part of a viral art project.
Berlin’s creative bounds truly know no limits, meaning that art can be found in the most unlikely places. You haven’t fully experienced the diverse art scene until you’ve attended a weird, wonderful and über-local art show.
Germany arguably has one of the most tumultuous histories of the 20th century, and with Berlin at its centre, the country has evolved and survived through decades of change. There are plenty of ways to better understand Berlin’s history, from exploring the city’s world-class and informative museums to reading about German history, or immersing yourself in the language and culture. In doing so you’ll not only learn more about its past, but also what has propelled the Berlin to be the city it is today.
The community is an important part of Berlin, and its open, welcoming atmosphere is at the heart of what the city is all about. Whether you’re a local, a tourist with some spare time or an avid visitor, giving back to the community in Berlin promises to be accessible and rewarding. With a range of English-speaking, low-commitment volunteering experiences throughout the city, everyone can jump on board and lend a helping hand.
It’s a well-known fact that Berliners know how to party, and as the city boasts some of the best nightlife in Europe, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has never danced ‘til dawn. Whether you’re a techno-fiend, soul lover, or live music fanatic, the city will certainly have a wild and wonderful party for you.
While some Berliners might pick a cool spot and stay there, the best way to really know the city is to explore all its diverse neighbourhoods. Each offering their own vibe and charm, taking your time to hunt down hidden gems across Berlin’s twelve boroughs means you’ll discover everything the city has to offer.
Probably one of the most infectious and Berlin experiences, Bearpit karaoke at the Mauerpark amphitheatre is something truly unique. When the weather is warm, there’s no better place to head on a Sunday than to Mauerpark to be serenaded by daring tourists and locals at the weekly jam session. Pack some beers, huddle into the crowded amphitheatre and prepare to cheer and sing along with the brave singers.