The only thing not to love about Berlin is leaving it. Seriously. While London is absolutely my Heimat, it has to share its space in my ❤ with Germany's beautiful capital nowadays. Having spent many a teenage summer, occasional winter (brr) and half of my uni year abroad there – as well as now being a fully-fledged Berlin resident (yippee!) – I feel informed enough to relay some cool spots I've come across on my travels. I'll just keep adding on and on and on, indefinitely.
First things first: "Should I buy a travel ticket [Fahrkarte]?"
Berlin is generally known as a city of sparse ticket inspectors, and lots of people like to take their chances. A thrifty theory, perhaps, but I would definitely advise against it! Because a) they're definitely becoming more on it, less sporadic. And b) when the (plain clothed) inspectors DO catch the perpetrators, they properly embarrass and ultimately fine them. Don't say I didn't warn ya.
For the more active amongst you, hiring a bicycle or Fahrrad is an advisable alternative travel means! Decent bike lanes are omnipresent, and enable you to see the city from a different angle.
|Above: Tiger Spice chai latte at The Michelberger Hotel, Warschauer Straße.|
Berlin is an absolute haven for coffee/tea enthusiasts like myself. Where you can, I definitely advise weaning yourself off the likes of
Starbucks (while there at least), since Berlin is absolutely brimming with quirky and charming independent cafés. In my opinion, far more adorable and enticing! Here's a lil selection of the food and drink spots I've sampled and loved.
Not to be confused with the handful of other eateries in the city bearing the same name, this Friedrichshain Lebanese restaurant is famed for its incredible Platte (the "Ali Baba" or "Vegetarische Platte" according to personal preference); a gargantuan offering of all the Lebanese specialties you could ever wish for. Some of the best falafel I've eaten, and I've eaten a lot while here.
This peaceful Brunnenstraße retreat is an unassuming café-cum-bookstore, with sweet staff, an extensive display of literature and a fine little food and drinks menu. They have free wi-fi too.
The coffee here is spot on, along with the service and simple interior. They also keep a nice little selection of mags to keep you entertained while you're sippin' their quality flat whites.
Another winner on the interior front, Aunt Benny supply top quality food, coffee, service and free wi-fi to boot. A perfect spot for Sunday brunch.
BAN BAN KITCHEN
Winners of Berlin's Best Burger at the 2014 Burgers and Hip Hop event, Ban Ban Kitchen serves up finger-lickin' Korean soul food for carnivores, veggies and vegans alike. Feast on kim chi fries, nori tacos, fried dumplings, bulgogi burgers and more.
This adorable coffee shop and roastery serves a top brew and a resplendent range of homemade sweet treats (the pastel de nata is a personal highlight) and fresh juices. They consciously don't provide free wifi, presumably as a means of deterring folk from typing away all day in their somewhat petite seating area.
BBI BERLINBURGER INTERNATIONAL
Ohh man, these burgers. What they lack in sufficient seating, they more than make up for with their outstanding burger makin' skills. BBI know their patties - both meat and veggie.
BONANZA COFFEE HEROES
Caffeine cravers rejoice! The baristas behind this spot are totally passionate about the entire coffee process, from bean to cup to lips. And yeah, it shows. The flat whites blow my mind a bit (how do they make them so silky?).
This place is never short of customers, and with good reason - the burgers are hands down some of the best in the city. Found opposite Schleisches Tor U-Bahn station, Kreuzberg's former public toilet building is now home to hoards of ravenous burger munchers. The queue's worth it.
Part of the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Café Bravo is a sweet little retreat with a very serene atmosphere. They have a cool selection of magazines to read, too.
Aww, this little love of a café supplies Swedish delights in the homiest of surroundings. Ideal for Scandi-style snackettes and delicious drinks.
Sometimes the only companion you need is a good coffee in sweet surroundings. Find just that inside Voo Store on Oranienstraße.
The. Best. Sushi. Not just incredible quality - the warm crispy rolls are a must (trust) - but insanely low-cost too. If you're a sushi fan, you canNOT afford to miss out on this place. More pics here.
An authentic little Italian café with a fine selection of design/art/fashion mags to pore over, this spot creates crackin' cresciones. No, I didn't know what they were either. Since you asked: they're an amazing thin flatbread type concoction, sort of like an Italian take on a quesadilla, with your choice of fresh fresh fillings. I recommend the mozzarella, basil and tomato combo. Keep it simple.
A fun little café with a cute interior and real nice selection of food and bevs. Their motto: "New York is king, but Berlin is King Kong".
You'll find the beans of this fine coffee roastery/cake shop in cafés all over the city (Aunt Benny is one of them); they're pretty renowned. But their own Kreuzberg store - where they roast their beans - is worth a trip too! Even if only to sample a sweet treat, namely their highly reputed cheesecake.
Pretty in pastel pink. A sweet place to chill out, literally, with delectable Eis in an impressive assortment of flavour fusions.
With their extensive fresh juice and smoothie selection, as well as natural savoury and sweet bites (the raw vegan macarons are on point), Friedrichshain's Funk You is a bit of a super food emporium. They also have regular pop-up juice bars, at the likes of Markthalle Neun and other Berlin-based market events.
For my fellow health nerds, Goodies is a total gem. They mainly do fresh, inventive vegan fare (I'm not actually vegan, I just like vegan food), as well as having a sweet selection of hot and cold drinks. Apple pie latte? Perhaps a 'Get Up and Goji' juice? Goodies have two cafés on Warschauer Straße (one of my favourite streets), one of which is seated within Veganz - a perfect people watching perch too.
The next door neighbour of Ali Baba (up top), Goura Pakora dishes up the most flavoursome and beautifully presented Indian food, vegan style. I adore the dosas, but if you're in a pair - or just feelin' particularly peckish - you MUST check out the Thalis. So good.
KAUF DICH GLÜCKLICH
Lovely interior, diverse selection of delectable drinks and won-der-ful waffles. You'll find three branches in Berlin; one being solely for fashion (Rosenthaler Straße), one café/fashion mash-up overlooking the park (Kastanienallee) and another café on Oderberger Straße which stocks a unique selection of trinkets and gifts. They also have a cool online shop.
Perched inside the me Collectors Room, this is a really nice café with great interior design (a sure way to my heart, as you've probably noted).
With its trusty 'Eat crêpes no crap!' slogan, this petite French-run café serves up a delectable display of both gluten-free galettes and sweet crêpes, not to mention top-notch macarons.
I really couldn't big this place up enough. One of those rare spots that has a wonderful atmosphere at any time of day. Ideal midday coffee haunt, equally ideal for a late night cocktail meet-up. Perfect interior, super chilled, lovely staff and wicked menu. And of course, amazing rooms to sleep in. Prime location too. I like it, a lot. Can you tell?
A cosy café on Mitte's lovely Auguststraße, Milch Halle serves up Bonanza Coffee (so it's good) and a nice assortment of sweet and savoury bites. A good location to sit outside on a sunny day and watch the world go by.
You can find milch&zucker on both Warschauer Straße (Friedrichshain) and Oranienstraße (Prenzlauer Berg). Simple, industrial interior and a fine little menu with an extensive drinks and snack selection. Their Chai latte varieties are particularly impressive, as well as the sweet mango-vanilla number.
The two guys who founded this cosy, friendly café/bar/occasional events + exhibitions venue converted their house into what has now become a really cool and innovative space. Situated in hipster hub Neukölln, the staff are super lovely and the furniture is spot on.
Housed inside a very charming bookshop, the café at Ocelot is a real nice chill zone where you can sip, reflect and read. Meander to the back of the shop and there's also a well-stocked Bibliothek [library]. Worth a peruse.
Yet another quality coffee bar with sweet staff, beautifully minimalist interior and good wi-fi access. They also have some tasty breakfast and lunch options.
The alleged birthplace of many a Berlin startup, Sankt Oberholz is the go-to for new media/digi kids looking to drink good coffee, access the cloud and get sh*t done.
SHAKESPEARE & SONS
Also found in both Paris and Prague, this lovely English language bookstore doubles up as a gorgeous space to munch water-boiled bagels (the real deal), sip good coffee and access free wi-fi.
As you'll probably gather by this little ode, I'm a big time fan of dreamy Friedrichshain coffee spot Silo. You really can't fault the sweet vibes, beautiful cups, interior design, publication offering and - of course - the coffee calibre.
This made me happy, too:
A very nifty concept indeed: half lovely café, half fabulous vintage store. One of the first places I discovered here, and I return time and again.
Ideal little spot to refuel and unwind with top quality coffee and friendly staff.
"Sweet sins", as it translates, is a lovely ice cream spot on Friedrichshain's leafy Niederbarnimstrasse. It's open until midnight, making it an ideal post-meal or even post-drinks sweet treat spot. The flavours are lush and the prices low (1€ per scoop).
This cool café aims to be "like your living room - only equipped with a real good coffee machine". You won't just find a decent cuppa though, but all the gear you need to cycle in style, too. Their in-house bike store stocks frames, chic biking garms and accessories.
TOMMI'S BURGER JOINT
Another burger-shaped blessing in Berlin, Tommi's is a cool little joint with quality baps and gooood milkshakes.
Neukölln has acquired quite the reputation for cute coffee independents, Two Planets surely being one of them. This Hermannstraße haunt has a wholesome offering of delicious drinks, homemade treats, top-notch bagels and - when the weather permits - fresh ice lollies. For a more detailed description jump here.
It might surprise you (or not) to hear that there's absolutely no shortage of vegan fare in Berlin. It's widely accessible, largely affordable and very, very delicious. Vöner - as the name suggests - offers a 100% vegan take on the traditional döner, as well as vegan burgers and nuggets. And the "special chips" - daaaamn.
Ahh Vux. A serene and beautiful little vegan establishment with a resplendent array of drinks and foodie bites. Its minimalist interior is truly beautiful and the atmosphere is pretty gorgeous. Highly recommend!
In an area typically characterised by tourist-aimed attractions and Starbucks-style chains, Westberlin is a welcome find. A beaut coffee bar with good food, drinks and reading material, they stock an impressive range of publications to purchase too!
A lovely hang-out; beautiful "shabby chic" kinda interior and a very reasonably priced menu of food, cocktails and non-alcoholic bevs. A good spot for both Sunday brunch and weeknight drinks.
The city is an incredible Schmelztopf [melting pot] of cultural curiosities, from museums to Kinos to street art. This is just the tiniest of tasters.
BAUHAUS ARCHIV FÜR GESTALTUNG
You realise how ahead of their time the Bauhaus movement pioneers were when you pay a visit here; their work is absolutely timeless. And the shop is a definite highlight, perfect for all your well-designed product and postcard pining. A definite must-see for design appreciators.
Always a winner. Its minimalist white interior, cool exhibits (they get some really interesting artists in) and nice little shop - I've never left disappointed!
Font fans hollaaa. Not your type? Get with the Times, New Roman.
This kitsch and charming independent cinema in Friedrichshain is a must for film lovers. Unique Rococo furniture, cosy vibes, a diverse screening selection and 4€ tickets make the Ladenkino just great.
HELMUT NEWTON STIFTUNG
As someone totally in awe of Mr Newton, the eponymous gallery is a wonderful testament to this seminal fashion photographer and his stunning work. For a cool little insight into the German-Australian gent and his photography (before checking it out in real life), the folks at Artsy have fashioned this dedicated overview.
|[source: Vogue Italia]|
Perched on the corner of Friedrichschain's Niederbarnimstraße/Boxhagener Straße, this petite cinema screens around three different films at a time. At between 3-4€ a ticket, it makes a lovely and above all affordable last minute cinema stop.
Literally translating as "culture brewery", this 25,000 sqm vast and beautiful space has a bountiful selection of things to do and places to frequent, including a Kino [cinema], fab furniture store, a dance school, supermarket, Photoautomat and a whole lot more. Loads of arts and music events are also based here.
FREILUFT KINO [open air cinema]
An annual fixture in the Berlin calendar, this event generally takes place throughout the Spring/Summer months (May-September time) and is definitely worth a visit. Reasonable prices, lovely atmosphere and a perfect way to watch the sun set of a summer evening.
The Ostkreuz Kino gem has two cute screening rooms and a cool film choice. There's also a bar for some pre-/post viewin' chill time.
KW INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
KW is a really fun little art institute with a very charming café too (see café reviews above). Housed in a gorgeous building, with super interesting exhibitions and reasonable entrance fees, KW is a definite must-see if you're a bit of an art aficionado. Tip: keep ya peepers peeled for all the sneaky notes and scribbles on the walls and ceilings!
*Team your visit here with a trip to the me Collectors Room (info below), since they're in immediate proximity to each other! Handy.
LA SOUPE POPULAIRE
Cool industrial interior, fine food (if not the cheapest) courtesy of the double Michelin-starred Tim Raue and a gallery too.
A far cry from the likes of ODEON and other large-scale cinemas, Lichtblick provides a super immersive and intimate viewing experience, with a really diverse selection of films (old and new).
This fine cultural establishment boasts some of the most sought-after expos in the city, having housed the likes of Ai Weiwei, David Bowie and many many more. The building is stunning both inside and out.
ME COLLECTORS ROOM
Positioned on the same Straße as KW, the me Collectors Room is a nice spot to swing by. As well as its cute café and lovely gift shop, the gallery hosts some really great exhibitions and (generally free) events.
NGBK (Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst)
Small but sweet, this peaceful little gallery is totally free and puts on some fascinating displays.
This sweet little gallery gets some really captivating solo and group exhibitions in, featuring all kinds of mediums.
This is by no means a definitive list. Try these for starters, though.
Found on the corner of Neukölln's Weserstraße, Ä is a chilled bar with cool mismatched furniture and a nice atmosphere.
This graffiti-clad Kreuzberg watering hole is a sweet spot for a relaxed drink, as well watching the world go by.
A little hit and miss in my experience (the crowd is very unpredictable), but nonetheless a night haunt to consider swinging by, if only to have a drink in the outside area - which has pretty reliably good vibes. Cassiopeia also host a range of other events too, such as outside cinema nights come summer time.
CLUB DER VISIONÄRE
This popular canal-side bar/club is a pretty idyllic haunt of an evening, especially when the weather's fine! Plenty of seated areas, but equally space to dance when your feet start twitching.
This lively Warschauer Straße bar always has a cool crowd and atmosphere. The drinks are good and the bar staff are sweet.
If you've ever been to SE London and visited Franks, you'll already have an idea of what to expect at Neukölln rooftop bar Klunkerkranich. Perched on top of Neukölln Arkaden's multi-storey car park, this beaut evening spot promises chilled vibes, a nice crowd and good drinks - not to mention stunning views of the city.
This somewhat inconspicuous, homey Neukölln bar has a welcoming vibe and a well-stocked drinks display. They also have a petite stage area for their programme of live music and acoustic nights, such as this Kae Sun gig.
Sat within the impressive Aufbau Haus complex, this cool little venue is host to a handful of music nights (in a range of genres) - ideal if you're after more than the pure techno of many a Berlin nightclub.
Located in hotly tipped area Wedding, Stattbad defines itself as an international and interdisciplinary place for contemporary art, music and culture. By night, this former swimming pool becomes a lively club, which has also played host to underground music event Boiler Room.
SÜSS WAR GESTERN
This Friedrichshain haunt is an ideal in-between if you fancy a bar/club environment with good music, good drinks, decent dance space and also more chilled areas. A perfect place to hit to warm up before a bigger night out, but equally great vibes if you stay for the entire evening.
Really rate this fairly inconspicuous, homey bar perched on the corner of Weserstraße - a super street for bars - in Neukölln. It has a delightful lil outdoor space (hammock and all), a warm indoor area and a lovely buzzy atmosphere.
This fresh concept mall has a range of higher end independent stores, as well as a bunch of nice bars and restaurants.
Priding themselves on being "Berlin's cheapest vintage" - not sure if it's 100% proven but the vintage is certainly cheap - Blank keeps a beautiful stock of vintage treasures for both guys and girls. Special shout out to their occasional 1€ sale, where you can pick up high quality wool pieces and denim jackets for, yeah, 1€.
DAS NEUE SCHWARZ
All kinds of über cool labels are to be found in this vintage fashion store on the trendy Mulackstraße. Raf Simmons, Acne, Comme des Garçons and a whole bunch more.
DO YOU READ ME?!
Every kind of art/design/fashion publication you could wish for is stocked in this faaaaantastic bookstore.
Amazin' place. A total Aladdin's cave of costumes, furniture, decorations and props from theatre and film productions.
Slightly off the beaten track, but this underground vintage store stock all kinds of hidden gems at very reasonable prices.
Just like the name, this cute clothing emporium will leave you with a smile on your face. Really fun exterior, cool clothes and a really massive bright pink door.
Housed on Friedrichshain's Grünberger Straße, hhv supplies a winning mix of music, streetwear, books, skateboards and trainers. In-store record players, mags and cushy chairs make it a more than pleasant shopping experience. They also host fairly regular music nights and events, such as their super cheap vinyl flea market of over 15,000 records in Soul, Funk, Jazz and Hip Hop.
Keen thrift shoppers, you'll be in your absolute element here. There's a smattering of these charitable secondhand stores across the city, but if you just go to one, make it the gargantuan store at Frankfurter Tor. Scaling four huge floors (the very top features the best vintage), the secondhand Kaufhaus stocks thousands upon thousands of frugal finds. You'll just need a bit of time to rifle through.
KAUF DICH GLÜCKLICH
The fashion branch of one of my favourite Prenzlauer Berg café stops (find it above), Kauf Dich Glücklich's clothing and accessories collection is a little bit dreamy. And a little bit out of my price range. Otherwise, I would likely snap up the whole shop.
Leyla Piedayesh's chic label Lala Berlin churns out on-trend, wearable garments in stunning cuts and colours. Comb through the latest pieces in her Mitte store.
LET THEM EAT CAKE
Another great spot for thrifty finds in lovely surroundings, Let Them Eat Cake is both a well-stocked vintage store and creative project space. Located on Neukölln's Weserstraße, it shares the company of a spoilt-for-choice number of nice bars and retail haunts.
A petite papeterie with stunningly designed stationery gems and accessories. An ephemera hoarder's dream.
I might be a contact lens wearer nowadays, but that doesn't stop me from swooning over Berlin's most fabulous store for vintage frames. For those of you blessed with perfect vision and no need for specs, check out their cool range of sunglasses.
A lovely haunt for unique vintage fashion finds for both men and women. The staff are super friendly too.
Housing a coveted collection of Adidas wares, No74 is a sweet fashion and lifestyle space situated on Mitte's Torstraße. Comprising of a sweet back garden and spacious sales area, the retail hang-out offers a pretty superlative store experience.
MODULOR (part of AUFBAU HAUS am Moritzplatz)
This extensive arts/crafts store supplies everything a creative character could ever, ever wish for.
Cool little sneaker and streetwear store right by Rosenthaler Platz, around which you'll find a bunch of sweet shopping side streets. If you catch them around sale time, you'll find some very decent discounts.
Oye is a well-frequented record store based in Prenzlauer Berg. You'll find thousands and thousands of sweet vinyls from a wide range of genres.
Bookish souls will absolutely relish this first-rate thematic bookstore, which stocks a dreamy array of architecture, art and design publications.
This petite purveyor of pretty ephemera is home to a beautiful display of super cute stationery wares, all of the highest quality. You'll find it on the very lovely Mulackstraße.
THE SHIT SHOP
Headed by style queen Bonnie Strange, The Shit Shop is a cool concept store stocking brands like WILDFOX, Jeffrey Campbell, Cheap Monday, NIKE and their own line too. They also have an in-store nail boutique, "Shit Nails".
This shop is straight outta the 60s/70s; a real time warp. And as the name suggests, lots of orange.
Ooh Voo I love you. Beautiful warehouse style interior (as well as a dreamy subway tiled front), stunning clothes and shoes (if a bit/lot out of my price range for the time being) and a chic in-store coffee bar. They also stock a very ravishing range of Lunettes vintage glasses, as well as having really helpful staff.
Berlin Sundays = unparalleled. One of the multiple things j'adore about the German capital is its gentle Sunday vibes. Unlike a bunch of other big cities, shops close, brunch spots open, flea markets spring up. So roll out of bed, stroll to a cute café (see above recommendations) and rummage through the stalls and tables.
Below you'll find a little list of my favourite markets and outside spaces.
The sweetest of Sunday spirits pervade this lovely little market. Happy buskers entertain the masses while you sift through the super selection of industrial style household treasures, photography equipment, jewellery, clothing and bric-a-brac. Some stalls cheap, others not so. Either way, totally worth a trip.
Foodie heaven. This much-loved Kreuzberg venue is known for its Streetfood Thursdays, where you'll be spoilt for choice at the incredible range of food and drink stalls. Also catch their Wochenmarkt on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as the delectable Breakfast Market. Drool.
Huge and at times overwhelmingly crowded, this famed flea market is rapidly increasing in size and (largely tourist) popularity. And it's easy to see why people flock there: diverse stalls of books, fashion, records, bric-a-brac and furniture consume Mauerpark's open space, as well as amazing food stands, reams of music and street performers - watch out for the talented and adorable Alice Phoebe Lou - and of course the über popular Bearpit Karaoke. I dare ya.
Every Tuesday and Friday you'll find this wonderful market on - unsurprisingly - Maybachufer. There's a pretty sizeable Turkish population in Berlin, particularly in the Kreuzberg/Neukölln area where the market is situated, making for an incredible selection of food, clothing and jewellery of Turkish origin. Really lively atmosphere and super cheap fruit/veg stalls. A good place to pick up picnic goodies.
Another dreamy weekend stomping ground, Neue Heimat houses the likes of Village Market, as well as a bunch of cool design and music events. Located in Friedrichshain's RAW Gelände (more on that below), the space is well-thought-out and aesthetically impressive to boot.
Found on Kreuzberg's beautiful Maybachufer, right by the canal, Nowkölln Flowmarkt presents a marvellous miscellany of second hand stuff, art, music and handmade goodies. As it tends to be a bit sporadic it's usually best to check the website to see when the next market is.
Literally translated as "princess gardens", this idyllic leafy retreat is an adorable community garden project. Housed right next to Moritzplatz U-Bahn station and opposite Aufbau Haus, the gardens are open to everybody and even include a cute café and public toilets.
In this vast multi-use compound on Revalerstraße 99 (right near Warschauerstraße S-Bahn station) you'll find one-off bars and cafés, a weekly Flohmarkt, Cassiopeia, music venues, rock climbing and skate boarding areas and lots of cool street art too.
Summer was made for days spent in Berlin's very own slice of paradise, Tempelhofer Feld. The 950 acre former airport, also known as Tempelhofer Freiheit [Tempelhof Freedom] is without doubt one of my favourite public spaces in the city. You've gotta see it to believe it.
Pretty petite compared to its neighbour Mauerpark, but a really fabulous selection of stalls. Probably one of my favourites. Some of the stalls are dead cheap, some standardly priced.
Both contemporary art gallery and outside chill spot, Urban Spree is perched on the corner of Revalerstraße X Warschauerstraße. It often plays host to a number of events too, such as the annual Midsommar Festival.
>> Burgers and Hip Hop.
Probably the best concept ever. It doesn't come around often, but when it does...bun-believable.
>> Yoga bunnies! Head to Jivamukti Yoga. Berlin has a liberal offering of yoga classes (English ones are pretty all-pervasive too), but my personal recommendation would be Jivamukti. I've attended both the Spritual Warrior and Open classes, both of which left me feeling next level amazing. I really couldn't fault the quality of equipment and teaching. An unconventional music selection too, ranging from Nina Simone, to The XX, to live acoustic sets.
They have two locations in Berlin: one in Mitte, the other in Kreuzberg. Mitte has a great healthy canteen, too.
>> May 1st in Berlin - be there. With vibes somewhat reminiscent of LDN's Notting Hill Carnival, May Day in Berlin (namely Kreuzberg ends) is a vibrant, multicultural street fair spectacle. It all gets a bit mad come evening time, with demonstrations kicking off and police all over the place, but wowee it's an amazing day.
>> Karneval der Kulturen. This annual event is the most wonderful celebration of the city's cultural diversity and high-spirited core. Parades, music, crazy costumes, art, vibes.
To be continued...