I first published this guide in Nov 2014 but seeing as it is summer and I am getting so many visitors at the moment, I thought I would re-publish it. This is also a more comprehensive list because I have been here for two years and know a fair deal more about the place and where to go out and get the best of everything. This guide still sets out to answer this question:
“As a Berlin local now, do you have any recommendations for us of things to see and do?”
Disclaimer: This guide is in no way the definitive list of things to do or see – it is more like the highlights package from my time here. I have demarcated sections according to area or kiez of Berlin.
Neukölln is a newly-gentrified Turkish area that is attractive to young tourists because it is cheap and cool. There are many bars, café’s and restaurants here. Stay here if you like to be surrounded by cool kids who dress like hobos. Don’t stay here if you like clean streets and a feeling of safety and tranquility. No matter whether you stay here or not though, you need to go out here. There is quite a bit to do and see.
My Neukölln picks are:
Roamers – for a coffee, a breakfast, or a snack (really great staff, hipster aesthetic, delish coffee & food)
The California Breakfast Slam (Ca.B.Slam) – for breakfast burritos and other yummy breakfast fare (I haven’t actually been here since 2014 so not sure if it’s still a vibe)
Hamy – cheap Vietnamese food, daily meals are 4.90€
Schiller Burger - Burgers and sweet potato fries (locals tip: order via the bar “Schiller Bar”, then you can enjoy the awesome decor and ambiance while eating your burger – but you have to go order the burgers yourself and bring them to your table)
Fräulein Frost – amazeballs ice cream
Industry Standard – My favourite restaurant in Berlin. It hasn’t been open long and already it features on Germany’s best restaurant lists. Small-ish dishes but probably the best food you will get in Berlin and some of the best I’ve ever eaten. It’s my go-to for a treat. The wines and cocktails are also amazing. It’s expensive but so worth it!
Papilles – sweetest cutest French bistro, lovely staff, delicious food.
Cafe Jacques – delicious and well priced food, try the seafood pasta
Wild Things – This is actually Industry Standard’s brand new wine bar but the food is so so good I’m featuring it here as well. Try the popcorn and the rib toastie!
Ban Ban Kitchen – Korean streetfood stand on the outside corner of Templehof. Yum!
Klunkerkranich - It’s the best during the summer months, a rooftop bar on top of a shopping centre overlooking the whole neighbourhood, there is an entrance fee of 3€ and some very long queues to get in but the view once you’re there sure makes up for it!
Tier – Found along the very popular Weserstraße, it is my favourite bar – beautifully decorated, quaint and cool. Take lots of money to spend on the amazing selection of whiskeys and cocktails. Be warned though, you are prohibited from taking photos so no selfies!
Twin Pigs – very “cool”, young crowd and a cosy atmosphere but can get really loud and smoky.
Beuster – very recent addition to Westerstraße, a little bit fancier than your average Neukölln dive bar. They also serve brunch on weekends and snacks in the evenings.
Geist im glas – cosy, dimly lit bar with good cocktails and gorgeous bar ladies. The atmosphere is great and they also do brunch now. Sadly Geist had a fire and is temporarily closed but don’t forget about them, they’ll be back!
Prachtwerk – big live music venue, go on Wednesday nights for their open stage (if you like acoustic music).
There are a few nice little boutique/vintage stores in Neukölln.
The District Six Store – South African design beautifully curated
Templehofer feld – The famous abandoned airport that has been re-appropriated as a common area and recreation park for all of Berlin. It’s obviously best when warm but can be enjoyed all through the year. Amazing for sundowners.
Treptower park and Soviet War Memorial: Beautiful, symmetrical garden + massive statues (biggest understatement but just trust me it’s worth a visit)
Kreuzberg is the centre of all things touristy and the centre of Berlin’s nightlife. Lots of bars, many clubs and tons of drunk tourists, goths, punk rockers, and gypsy squatters! These are my “X-berg” picks:
Food and drinks:
19 Grams – Great coffee (Australian run, enough said).
Miss Saigon – Good, cheap Asian food
Cocolo – great Ramen bar, love the food and the restaurant itself is gorgeous, especially in summer.
White Trash – food, drinks and a big outside area
Markthalle neun – It’s a market, usually very crowded. Go for Streetfood Thursdays or the Sunday Breakfast Market.
Vögelchen – across the road from Markthalle Neun on Eisenbahnstaße is my favourite bar in Kreuzberg. Look out for the tableclothes made of growing grass and take a walk through the magic cupboard.
Madame Claude – affectionately known as “an upside down bar” – you’ll have to go to see why.
Parker Bowles – next to Prince Charles, restaurant and bar.
The Bird – great burgers (American owned), go for lunch on a weekday and get the workman’s special. They have a few restaurants around Berlin but this is my favourite one.
Burgermeister – a very popular burger place under Schlesisches Tor Ubahn. It’s been built inside an old public toilet so service is literally on the street but it’s got a great vibe and they usually pump hip hop music. There are usually very long queues on weekends though so if you’re really hungry try going during a weekday during lunchtime and you will get served within the hour. Oh and they have one at Kottbuser Tor now. The vibe is weird but the burgers are strangely better!
Five Elephant – cakes and coffee. The gold standard for good coffee in Berlin. Also their cheesecake is famous.
Bastard – good for a classic German breakfast.
Bite Club – during summer, every fourtnight there is a food truck night near the Arena. Outdoor drinking and messy streetfoods. Gorgeous views of Berlin at sunset.
Fenster – ultra cool hipster aesthetic coffee shop
California pops - organic, freshly made ice-cream popsicles. Such a win for summer!
Gorlizer park – the main park between Kreuzberg and Neukölln (the two are separated by the canal) where you can find everything from African drug dealers to a petting zoo with goats and miniature horses
The Spree/The canals – there is nothing that is more typically Berlin than buying a beer from a Späti (Spätkauf aka corner shop that stays open later) and sitting alongside the Spree/Canal. Obviously more of a summer tradition though.
Badeschiff – it’s a pool on the river, the Berlin version of the beach. During summer you have to pay 7 euros to get in and there are often long lines.
Viktoria Park – Beautiful park atop a hill overlooking Kreuzberg. Very picturesque.
Liquidrom – A really cool spa/sauna with warm indoor swimming pool. They play music and hold events there too. Definitely worth a visit although expect nakedness.
This is where I live now so I know a bit more about the place. It’s very touristy because there are quite a few hostels here and because a lot of the big clubs are around here. It’s also home to large groups of punks/homeless people so it has quite a rough vibe at times. It’s close to everything though and so it is a convenient location.
Wifi cafes & food:
Silo – Great coffee, pricey but delicious breakfasts (my second home, go there at least once a week)
Shakespeare and Sons - Bagels and books, a good place to read or do some work on your laptop. When I make brunch for my friends, I always buy their bagels.
Milch & Zucker – Nice but noisy
Lemongrass – cheap Asian food (you can order from the Japanese place next door as well)
Soup und Rolls – I always get their Pho but I’m sure all the rest is pretty standard
Lemon Leaf – slightly pricier but worth it I think
Burgeramt – on Boxhagner Platz, always on the top burger lists.
Kreuzburger – standard but good, open late and always pumping.
Santa Maria Eastside – Mexican food. Rough Northern England managers with awesome accents. Lots of Oasis and Arctic Monkeys. They do a special on Tuesdays where you get Tacos and Tequila for 1 euro each. Otherwise get their Mezcal Margherita – delicious and troublesome.
Briefmarken – perfect Italian wine bar. They serve antipasti and a daily pasta too. Just love everything about this place.
Aunt Benny – cute cafe, gluten free options (no wifi unfortunately), used to have a really cute bar attached called the Antlered Bunny which has recently been reopened under a different name.
Burgeramt – comprehensive burger menu, fun vibe
Il Ritrovo – delicious and authentic Italian (not Neapolitan) pizza just mind the horrific service
Berghain – the one and only, big ass techno club, probably the most famous club in the world. Go on a Sunday afternoon.
Kater Blau – outdoor/indoor, on the banks of the river, techno music.
Cassiopeia – I went to the best Hip Hop party there but they do different events every week. Take your ID though, they are super strict at the door.
Urban Spree – Events and parties every weekend, on the same street as Neue Heimat and Cassiopeia (Revelar Str)
Monster Ronson’s Karaoke – This place takes Karaoke very seriously. You can book your own private room and it’s just a really fun night out.
Haubentauchter – New pool bar, as in swimming pool. Also on the same street as most of the other night time spots in Friedrichshain (Revelarstraße) but with a bit of a different vibe. They host events here too.
Jigger Beaker and Glass – Cute, dimly-lit bar that serves crazy, fancy cocktails.
Michelberger Hotel – drinks, food, lots of open space in the outside area, events during summer.
YAAM - Hip Hop/Dance Hall club. Super chilled. Outside areas. Dress down.
Hhv.de – steetwear, sneakers, records, cool vibe.
Victoria met Albert – gorgeous clothes, stationery, and just about everything else.
The famous East Side Gallery
The last remaining slice of the Berlin Wall, which has been transformed into an art space. Grafitti, street art and other more serious pieces stretch along the side of the wall that follows the River Spree. Tourist trap but worth it nonetheless.
Friedrichshain Volkspark - A big park with lots of recreational areas and interesting memorials.
Mitte, which literally means “centre” is in the middle of Berlin. It it is probably one of the most grown up and serious boroughs of Berlin. Well dressed, upwardly mobile global citzens walk the streets along with throngs of ‘bus tour’ tourists. It’s mostly great for its shopping!
Eat and drink:
St Oberholz – good coffee and great people watching, free wifi, coworking, etc.
Soho House – fancy AF bar/club (you need membership or to know someone who is a guest at their hotel)
Dudu – great Asian food
Mein Haus am See - Cute bar, amazing decor, fun fun fun.
Oslo Cafe – Five elephant coffee, wifi, cool vibe.
Buck and Breck – very cool, very secretive cocktail bar. It has a sign that says closed outside and they only let 2 people in at a time because it is so small. You will get amazing cocktails there but it’s not for the faint-hearted.
House of small wonder - Japanese fusion but go for the decor.
Father Carpenter – cute, stylish coffee place (more Australians, they know what they’re doing).
The Barn – small and busy, great coffee (a Berlin go-to), they supply a lot of the other coffee places with beans.
Distrikt Coffee – Decent coffee shop with lovely interior. Their brunch is good too. But it doesn’t come close to Silo.
Tommi’s Burger Joint - delicious burgers, cool vibe. Order the sweetpotato fries and Tommi’s sauce to take it to the next level.
Co-Chu – High-end Vietnamese food. They do the best Rindfleish (Beef) Pho in town, trust me!
Themroc – warm and cosy french restaurant with a take it or leave it menu (they serve a set three course meal each night and you can only choose between the meat or vegetarian option). Cooking style is homely and portions are hearty. Interesting decor.
Transit – asian food, small portions that you order like tapas
Amano Hotel rooftop bar – for a bit of an uptight vibe but highly enjoyable view
Alexanderplatz – all about that touristy mahem. Think London’s Regent/Oxford street.
SOTO: Situated on Torstraße (a long street with lots of shops), grab the High Snobriety Store Guide and you can see that Mitte is really all about shopping. Check out that entire area including Rosenthaler Platz and Hackescher Markt.
Anything near Weinmesterstraße station and along Muzstraße. The whole place is just packed with high street shops and smaller boutiques.
Go to Augustraße for art galleries and smaller wine bars.
Muji: cool stationery, decor and other bits and pieces. Japanese, just cool.
Uniqlo: Japanese department store, great for the basics and for those fold-up down jackets
Other than shopping, Mitte is also the place for sightseeing.
TV Tower - Affectionately known as “the needle”, this tall landmark (similar to the one that shapes the Johannesburg skyline) is open for tourists who want to go to the top – great views if it’s clear.
Museum Island – 5 Museums on an island- that’s a whole lot of museum action!
Brandenburger Gate – Pretty much the most famous landmark, go during the day and night because it’s spectacular when lit up
I haven’t spent much time in P’berg. It is a bit of a ‘hipster has-been’ spot that was one of the first neighbourhoods to go under the gentrification knife. The cool kids have since moved on to grungier, cheaper pastures and all that remains in P’berg is a vast array of boutique coffee shops and yummy mummies with their infants casually draped all over them. In P’berg, a child is your no 1 accessory.
I really like this neighbourhood though, it’s quiet and clean and free from the drunk masses that pollute the streets of X-berg. It’s grownup but still very chic.
Mauerpark – a massive park that gets taken over every Sunday by 1000s of stalls selling anything from Leather jackets to antique crockery
Vintage stores – there are tons of great vintage stores
Sorisi e Morsi – italian wine bar, cosy and fun
Prater – apparently the oldest biergarten in Berlin. Nice outdoor venue.
Deck 5 – Rooftop beachbar vibes. Kinda like Klunkerkranich but less hippie
Go Bento – Bento boxes /Japanese (really cool)
This is what people describe as “the true West of Berlin”. It’s posh, snobby and clean. It’s a little bit like what the rest of Germany is like. I mostly go there to do shopping but there are also cultural activities like sightseeing, opera and a zoo.
KaDeWe – Berlin’s biggest department store, rivaling Harrods, champagne and caviar bar on the rooftop, that kind of thing..
Uniqlo – my number one reason to go to Charlottenburg is Uniqlo – they make the best of everything. Simple, clean and comfortable clothes.
Bikini Berlin – It’s Berlin’s new concept mall – pretty cool, mostly just pop up stores set up in a mall-like arrangement.
Tiergarten – the biggest and most historic park in Berlin, featuring the victory column and a lot of other statues and memorials
Cafe am Neuen See – A biergarten in the middle of Tierpark. You can rent a boat and row on the lake (See).
Neni – restaurant at the top of the 25 hours hotel. Great food, exceptional views.
So that’s basically it in terms of the main areas that I frequent. Of course there are others but you probably won’t find much there. In the summer it is great to take a long train ride to one of the many Lakes surrounding Berlin. And it’s quite interesting to take a train ride to the far corners of the U-bahn or S-bahn lines. I have visited Friedrichshagen before, which is a sweet little suburb/town on the outskirts of Berlin. It’s got a nice big lake and pretty forrest. I also highly recommend going to Potsdam on a day trip. You can read more about my experience at Potsdam here. I recently took a short trip to Görlitz, which is the most eastern German town, on the border of Poland, exceptionally pretty and full of interesting history (like being the location for many hollywood films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel).
While I’m at it, I reckon no city 21st century guide would be complete without a few links for websites and apps that I have found useful while navigating around Berlin and I regularly check the event guides to try and keep up with all that is happening in this busy city. Here are a few I use:
First and foremost, the definitive guide for Expats in Berlin:
For events and culture:
For all manner of free events and activities:
Lastly, here is a list of places that I still haven’t visited but they’re on my To Do List for sure: