Why you must visit Berlin

Call me biased but Berlin is one of my favourite cities. Well, I wouldn’t have chosen to live there for two months if it wasn’t. There’s amazing food, world famous museums, street art on every corner and legendary nightlife! Here’s my overview of the city and some of my highlights;

The Food

Frequently rated the vegan capital of Europe, and almost all shops/cafes/bars have clearly labelled options. There’s a lot of specialist restaurants, from traditional German to American fast food style, so you can try a vegan version of pretty much anything! The website ‘Vegan Berlin’ has a very useful map to find vegan and vegan friendly places nearby where you are. 
This is a whole other post, but a few of my (100% vegan) favourites are;
Brammibals – Incredible vegan donuts and amazing Oatly coffee! 
Vöner – Famous for its vegan Doner kebabs.
1990 Vegan Living – Loads of amazing small dishes and the best Vietnamese coffee. There’s also the incredible vegan ice cream shop Balaram just round the corner for afters! Two words: free toppings.
YoYo Foodworld – Super casual with amazing cheap burgers and huge portions.

The Nightlife

Berlin is world renowned for the Techno clubs with the strictest door policies anywhere; think Berghain and Tresor. But if, like me, you don’t feel like standing in line for two hours and then being rejected is the ideal start to a night out, don’t worry! There are clubs for all music tastes and bars on every corner. Just avoid the very touristy places. My recommendations are;
Urban Spree – Home to exhibitions, concerts, artists residencies and a massive Biergarten. Worth checking out both in the day and at night.
Cassiopeia – Gigs, Vinyl Flea Markets, a club night for every music taste and you can even play Supermario.
The Alternative Pub Crawl – Guides take small groups to some small, local bars and then a club. Not the usual bar crawl where inebriation is key, this one is all about culture (until the club anyway). Venues change every night; we went to an absinthe bar, a ping pong bar and a techno club. Well worth going on, especially on your first night to get your bearings.
Watergate – The only larger Techno club I experienced, Watergate is a split-level club overlooking the River Spree in Kreuzberg. It has floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the river and there is also a smoking area floating on the river. Perhaps the most impressive part though is the massive LED lighting panel that spans the entire length of the top floor of the club.
YAAM – Short for Young African Art Market, a pretty chilled out place with a massive beach club, bar and gallery. 

The Museums and History

The history of Berlin is a fascinating one, and many Berliner’s you meet have lived through the wall being built, being torn down and the threat of Cold War. You can still see the divide between the districts of the old East and West Berlin, and how gentrification is affecting the city today. My first recommendation, the East Side gallery needs no explanation and is worth an afternoon walk.

Free Walking Tours start from the Bradenburg Gate and take you around the historical spots in Mitte. Expect to see The Memorial to the Murdered Jews, the location of Hitler’s underground bunker and Checkpoint Charlie amongst others. The enormous park Tiergarten is worth an explore after. The Reichstag is situated at the edge of Tiergarten and the dome is well worth a visit, though you’ll need to book here a few weeks in advance, especially in summer.

You could spend months just visiting the museums of Berlin. Coming from someone who isn’t really a museum person, my favourite and one I truly enjoyed going to was the temporary exhibition Nineties Berlin, running until 28th February 2019 (run by the DDR museum). It has a lot of touchscreen, interactive elements and some really interesting interviews from people who lived in the 90s; DJs, football hooligans and nightclub owners to name a few.

The DDR Museum is one of the most interactive in the world and another that held my interest. All about everyday life in the DDR and the realities of socialism, this museum truly makes you step back in time, including many replica rooms (which looked exactly like the East Berlin flat I stayed in…).

Finally the Otto Weidt museum is a small but very informative museum showing how Otto Weidt protected the blind and deaf Jews who worked for him. The free tour was particularly good.

The world famous Museum Island is where you’ll find all the most popular museums. My favourite of the five was the Old National Gallery. Allow half a day for each of these! Another wordy but very informative museum is the Topography of Terror, focusing on the crimes of the SS and police in the ‘Third Reich’.

The Street Art

A post for another day, the street art of Berlin is incredible and often the work of large street art gangs. There are many walking tours that go around the most famous pieces, though you’ll spot smaller works on every corner. The best way to explore is just to walk around!

By Alice Pasquini

Victor Ash – The Cosmonaut

The Markets

I’ve already written a post here about Mauerpark and the Sunday fleamarket. The flea market sells everything from vintage jackets to political prints, and the food offerings are extensive and varied.

Streetfood Thursday in Markthalle Neun is the best indoor food market, and you’ll find it hard to choose just one thing! I had a tofu burger, momos and ice cream mochi.

Smaller markets also pop up every weekend and you’ll likely stumble on a few. Of course the Christmas markets are worth a visit alone!

The Lakes

Visiting Berlin in Summer, the lakes are an amazing way to cool down, relax and have a swim. Weissensee is close to the centre, small enough to walk around and has a fountain in the middle you can swim to and sit on. Müggelsee is the largest lake with a far wilder feel. Schlachtensee has the nicest water and is really close to the S Bahn stop named after it. Rent a pedalo and make a day of it. 

The Badeschiff, a pool floating on the river, is also a good option in the summer if you want to stay in the centre. It has drinks, deckchairs a couple of food vans (the only vegan food however is chips) and a DJ.

The Neighbourhoods

Berlin is a massive city with no distinct centre. It’s split into 12 different districts, and within these are many more neighbourhoods. Each neighbourhood has a different feel and all are worth exploring. Some of the central ones that i’d recommend staying in are;
      Mitte – One of the most central districts, Mitte has a lot of historical and political attractions. The Reichstag, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Museum Island and Brandenburg Gate just to name a few. The first time I went to Berlin I stayed at the amazing Wombats Hostel which has a rooftop bar. 
Kreuzberg – Hipster paradise, Kreuzberg is packed with third wave coffee shops, veggie and vegan food places and street art. A strong part of punk rock history, the bars and clubs here have an authentic, alternative counterculture.
      Friedrichshain– Close to everything and has the highest density of clubs in the city, including the world famous Berghain. Diverse culture, experimental nightlife, loads of vegan food places!

Friedrichshain: The bank of the river Spree, beside the East Side Gallery.

So hopefully by now I’ve convinced you that Berlin is the perfect place to visit for a city break, or to stay for longer. Let me know what you think of my top picks and any others you’d add.
Hazel x

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