Having served as a central stage for the political turbulence that rocked Europe in the 20th century, Berlin today remains ridiculously cheap and engagingly scruffy for a capital city. Playing host to the snappiest startups and hippest hipsters, Berlin has knocked London off its plinth as the trendiest city in Europe. Visit now before it loses its cool.
10:00am: Food from the world at the Gölitzer Markthalle Neun
As Berlin has become more cosmopolitan, so has its cuisine. Markthalle Neun in central Kreuzberg offers an array of tasty treats ranging from Milanese pastries to chutney from the Isle of Wight. Bustling with activity, long wooden tables are laid out so fellow foodies can rub shoulders together.
11:00am: Bargain hunting at the flea markets
Berlin is justly renowned for its Flohmärkte (flea markets). From Markthalle Neun you can catch the U1 across the river to one of the best at Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain, to sift through porcelain dolls, wonky antique furniture and dusty piles of vinyl.
12:00am: The Berlin Wall and Soviet architecture
The longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall runs along the Spree, christened ‘East Side Gallery’ for the murals painted along its breadth, supplemented with graffiti – some anarchist, some in adoration of Justin Bieber. Following this you can walk down to Frankfurter Tor, the twin towers that mark the start of Karl-Marx Allee, the world’s first Soviet Boulevard. This heads directly to the Fernsehturm (TV tower) in Alexanderplatz, the heart of Berlin.
1:30pm: No. 100 bus to Zoo Station
The No. 100 bus from Alexanderplatz to Zoo Station passes much of the most spectacular tourist attractions in Berlin. Elbow your way to the front seats on the top level for the best views of the Berliner Dom, the Bundestag and the Presidential Palace Belle Vue. KaDeWe, the largest department store in Europe after Harrods in London, is a 5-minute walk away from Zoo Station, and is both quieter and less saccharine than its British counterpart.
2:30pm: Lunch at Schwarzes Café
Leave behind the eye-watering prices at KaDeWe’s food hall and instead visit Schwarzes Café. Opened by West Berlin anarchists before the wall came down, this café, fit with Gothic décor and candles like witches fingers, is open all hours and attracts the weirdest fish in Berlin. Giant glasses of Merlot and club sandwich-mountains are highly recommended.
Catch the S-Bahn from Zoo Station and go one stop to Tiergarten, Berlin’s Central Park. Here you will find secluded hollows, ponds and statues of fine-looking Teutons spearing boars. Walk to the end of the park due east, where you will find the memorial to the homosexuals persecuted by National Socialists and, just beyond the trees, the Brandenburg Gate and the eerie Holocaust Memorial.
6:00pm: Kebab by the canal
Head south into Kreuzberg, grabbing a Turkish ‘Döner Kebab’ at Kottbusser Damm and set up camp on the banks of the canal just off from Admiralbrücke. Buy yourself a beer from the nearest Spätie (late night convenience store/kiosk) and look out on the swans while listening to the melodious chatter of the carefree unemployed – and perhaps a hippy from Minnesota yodelling to a ukulele.
8:00pm: Any old bar on Weserstaße
Head to Weserstraße, the heart of ‘Kreuzköln’, where hipsters rule and every second building is a bar with no name where wallpaper is faded and the menu hand-written in English. Savour a Hefeweizen beer and fog of second-hand smoke.
At this point, it really comes down to taste: Suicide Circus for techno heads, Edelweiss in Gölitzer Park for jazz. For the more ambitious, the infamous Berghain isn’t far (expect a long queue and a swift rejection at the door). Alternatively, hop onto the U8 and head to Kit Kat Club, but be sure to know the dress code of the party that night to avoid any, um, raw surprises.
7:00am: A well-deserved breakfast in Neukölln
Emerging into the daylight, it is time for breakfast. We would recommend Ungeheuer on Emser Straße. Staffed by just one harassed waiter, you can expect a delay – and expect the delay to be worth it.
Before You Go
Though seen as the scruffy brother to cities such as Paris and Rome, Berlin is, and has been for the last century, a vibrant hub for the arts. Before you arrive, take a look at these to get you in the right mood.
To read: Through the raucous Weimar Twenties, horrors of the Nazis, and brooding suspense of the Cold War, Berlin is the setting for some great literature. For a contemporary perspective, however, try Chloe Aridjis’ witty and haunting Book of Clouds, about a women adrift in Berlin at the turn of the century.
Find the book on amazon.co.uk
To hear: Berlin is the world’s techno and electronic capital, with club Watergate and record store Hard Wax forming an integral part of the Berlin-Detroit techno axis. Either one is a good place soak in the sound of Berlin. For local DJs, start with Paul van Dyk.
Find the album on amazon.co.uk
To watch: Jan-Ole Gerster’s 2012 film Oh Boy is set in the disparate, bohemian Berlin of today. Both funny and poignant, Gerster manages to reflect face of the modern city while rooting the film in Berlin’s memories.
Find the film on amazon.com
Article by Bertie Alexander
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