Quirky Berlin attracts artists and other creatives, expats, misfits, entrepreneurs, and immigrants, who happily live amid long-standing Berliners who call this city home.
The diversity means it’s hard to pin down Berlin’s ambience precisely: it’s whatever you want it to be.
When you visit Berlin, reminders of the city’s fragile history—like the Berlin Wall and Berlin Palace—will surround you. Such historical attractions mingle with today’s many nightclubs, which have made Berlin one of Europe’s most exciting destinations for young adults who travel to Berlin to experience the booming techno scene. Still, the city offers plenty of outdoor attractions like the Tiergarten and Viktoriapark, and an impressive collection of cutting-edge museums and galleries. No matter your interests, there’s never a shortage of things to see and do. Here’s a few of our recent favourites!
Bring the house down in the park
You have never felt authentic joie de vivre until you watch a 70ish-year-old German man sing a tuneless Johnny Cash cover to a crowd of folks who cheer and applaud with the most genuine warmth. And no one is even drunk! BEAR PIT KARAOKE happens in the open-air amphitheatre in Mauerpark, every Sunday afternoon.
Find it: www.bearpitkaraoke.com
Check into an abandoned airport
You’re probably already going to TEMPELHOF, the former airfield-cum-park, where skaters and bikers whizz along the airstrip and young people picnic among renegade gardens. But go deep and check out a tour of the vast old airport building itself, which will take you from a Third Reich bunker to an early-90s basketball court once-frequented by American GIs. Yes, this tour is well over two hours long, but it’s wonderful.
Find it: www.thf-berlin.de
Find yourself at an off-the-wall concert
Stuffed to the gills with bits and pieces of magnificent old instruments, PIANO SALON CHRISTOPHORI is a workshop-slash-warehouse that by night becomes an eccentric concert hall, hosting intimate performances by world-class classical and jazz musicians. Pour yourself a glass of wine and get lost in the music; payment is at the end, and by donation.
Find it: www.konzertfluegel.com
Creep around a derelict fairground
Once the site of East Germany’s sole amusement park, run into the ground by a hapless owner, SPREEPARK is a now-defunct fairground on the east side of Treptower Park. It is bizarre and fascinating. Enter at your own risk, in terms of both your physical safety (beware the rotting planks of the roller coaster) and emotional welfare (the ferris wheel turns with a ghostly creak whenever the wind blows). Have a wander on your own, or wait for a special occasion – last winter saw a Christmas market on the site, and there are rumours that the miniature train will ride again.
Address: Kiehnwerderallee 1-3, 12437 Berlin
Drink everyone under the counter
By day a café, former pharmacy ORA – complete with all the antique fixtures – transforms into a charming bar at night. Cocktails are that’s mixed up from one of the vintage glass jars behind the wooden counter, and there are light snack from the creative bio-speise (organic food) menu. Easily one of the most romantic new spots in Kreuzberg.
Find it: Ora Berlin
Dance like nobody’s watching
FARB FERNSEHER is a perfect little club for the kind of night when you want to dance, dance, dance but don’t want to stand, stand, stand in line at Berghain. Head there around 1am or 2am, grab a vodka Maté (Berlin’s signature soft drink, Club Maté, with a wildly unmeasured shot) and get ready to move on the crowded, sweaty, butechtfriendly floor until you fall over.
Find it: farb-fernseher.de
Get hooked on gourmet KFC
That’s Korean Fried Chicken, but you knew that. Korean-American chef Lauren Lee got her start in Berlin cooking for pop-up restaurants events and catering for tech start-ups, as well as runnning a monthly kimchi subscription service. Now, she’s put down roots in Prenzlauerberg at FRÄULEIN KIMCHI, where her signature cooking – she calls it ‘Seoul Food’ – is complimented by special events like the twice-monthly Fried Chicken Friday and Karaoke.
Find it: fraeuleinkimchi.com
Eat the finest food in the city in Mitte
It’s not easy to find an expensive meal in Berlin, but Michelin-starred PAULY SAAL delivers a perfect fine-dining experience in a beautiful space in a former Jewish Girls’ School in Mitte. Seasonal menus are augmented by a 600-strong wine list and gorgeous cocktails, at your table or as a nightcap in the sexy and upscale bar.
Find it: paulysaal.com
Take off your clothes and jump in a lake
With little air conditioning in the city, summer drives Berliners out to the city’s lakes. You can get to Muggelsee and Wannsee on the S-bahn, but rent a car and drive 40 minutes to AM BERNSTEINSEE for the dream #lakelife: walk through the forest to a pristine white sandy beach, swim in perfect clear water, indulge in a spot of naturism if it takes your fancy (goodness knows Berliners won’t blink).
Find it: www.bernsteinsee.de
Go Turkish in a hipster hood
There’s great Turkish food on pretty much every block in Kreuzberg, but FES TURKISH BBQ has the edge over the others, certainly in terms of style. In a bright, modern space, they serve contemporary takes on traditional dishes cooked on table-top grills, plus a list of well-executed twists on classic cocktails.
Find it: Fes Turkish BBQ