Berlin Travel Guide
What to Know Before Traveling to Berlin?
A detailed city guide for those who plan to travel to Berlin. History and hedonism constitute the very heart of Berlin: a city that’s secured its status as one of the world’s hippest among the young and artistically restless. Since ’89, Berlin has undergone a modern renaissance of sorts, lickings the wounds incurred by shifting politics while also nurturing its latent creativity. Twenty years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, we are poignantly reminded of Berlin’s ability to rebound and reinvent. And yet, let’s not forget, that it’s this stormy past that has paved the way for much of the city’s current appeal.
- About From Berlin
History and hedonism constitute the very heart of Berlin: a city that’s secured its status as one of the world’s hippest among the young and artistically restless. Since ’89, Berlin has undergone a modern renaissance of sorts, lickings the wounds incurred by shifting politics while also nurturing its latent creativity. Twenty years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, we are poignantly reminded of Berlin’s ability to rebound and reinvent. And yet, let’s not forget, that it’s this stormy past that has paved the way for much of the city’s current appeal.
Chock full of raw spaces and cheap rents, Berlin has attracted a truly eccentric and visionary crowd in the past decades. The bittersweet truth, however, is that Berlin’s metamorphosis shows no signs of slowing. As its popularity continues to rise, so will its rents. And as its rents rise, so will its elitism. The intense artistic fervor partially due to Berlin’s present affordability will likely not last forever. At the height of the hype, there is no better time to experience Berlin’s sheer abundance. As a serious international contender with a notably edgier and less refined essence, Berlin is a paradox. For those with a penchant for unconventionality, Berlin is the ‘it’ city. if you like history and art. You should start planning a travel to Berlin.
- Where Should I Stay in Berlin
Hopefully sleeping won’t be the top priority during your stay in Berlin, but, as a large international city, rest assured that Berlin has no shortage of sleeping accommodations. Whether it’s the decedent Hotel Adlon or the down right cheap youth hostels that scatter the city, Berlin has everything from the highly elite to the highly affordable. If your visit will exceed a week, renting an apartment for the duration of your stay is also an option to explore. Sometimes, fully furnished apartments even in the posh Mitte district can prove to be reasonably priced. You can review the accommodation prices of hotels on google for your Berlin Travel.
- Eating & Drinking in Berlin
The scope of Berlin’s gastronomy caters to both travelers with deep pockets and tight budgets. From the city’s staples like Döner Kebab and currywurst, to the height of culinary mastery, Berlin is laden with options. Whether you’re in the mood for traditional Teutonic cuisine or craving Asian fusion, you are sure to find it in this city of food lovers. Indian, Italian, Thai, and Turkish restaurants are all easy to come by, though neighborhood generally dictates price. You should try it on your Berlin travel. Kreuzberg, Freidrichshain and Neukölln tend to be the more affordable areas, while eateries in Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte can charge a heftier price for comparable quality.
An authentic Berlin travel wouldn’t quite be complete without partaking in the institution of brunch. It’s not terribly uncommon for Berliners to feast with friends for up to four hours, regaling each other with stories of the previous night’s debauchery. As for the act of imbibing, you’ll find that beer flows like water in Berlin. One beer based drink unique to the city is “Berliner Weiße”, a tart beer that is often drank with raspberry or green woodruff syrup.
- Sights in Berlin
After nursing a hangover, it’s time to tackle some of Berlin’s sites some being the operative word. The breadth of Berlin’s cultural sphere is so impressive that even its natives would be hard pressed to visit every gallery, museum, and monument. Museum Island alone can take a matter of days to cover, so quell the feeling that you need to conquer them all. The glass dome atop the famed Reichstag, the former seat of the Third Reich, gives a sprawling view of the city that can help Berlin’s newcomers grasp its size and scope. Within walking distance is Berlin’s Holocaust Monument, where 2,700 featureless concrete slabs stand to commemorate victims of the war an undoubtedly sobering and impressive spectacle.
The modern architecture of Potsdamer Platz, the futuristic Sony Center, and historical boulevard of Unter den Linden represent some of Berlin’s other main tourist attractions. For a little piece of DDR history, be sure to walk along the East Side Gallery, the longest surviving stretch of the Berlin wall spared from the pervasive post war demolition. Running for 300m just west of Warshauer Straße, the wall is entirely covered with emotive murals chronicling the impact of Berlin’s infamous Iron Curtain.
- Arts & Culture in Berlin
Art is everywhere in Berlin, from the most likely of places to the most unexpected. Getting one’s fill of distinguished art is easy at Alte Nationalgalerie, Bode, Pergamon, and the city’s many other big name institutes, but, fact is, one must never pay a single entrance fee to understand why Berlin is the new artist asylum. Its public art possesses a merit extending well beyond your hackneyed bubble letters, with stenciled images, cut outs, and graffiti of truly inspired nature. With the city’s distressed facades serving as a seemingly endless canvass, the likes of BluBlu, Banksy, and Alias, along with countless no namers, conspicuously display their works for all to enjoy. Travel to Berlin will be very good for lovers of history and art.
The mass exodus of artists from New York alone a city no longer conducive to living on the cheap showed Berlin to be a vital source of artistic inspiration. Since the 90’s, after the fall of the wall, artists have been feverishly scooping up sprawling spaces that lay behind Berlin’s crumbling building fronts, converting them into ready made studios and galleries. Tacheles, on Oranienburgerstraße, is one interesting space that houses a self organized collective of Berlin artists. Spared from demolition and eventually named a historical landmark, the building is pocked and scared, covered in graffiti, and filled with the ultimate avant garde.
- Nightlife in Berlin
Berlin’s nightlife is notorious amongst the most die hard of night hawks, attracting visitors whose sole intention is to carouse the city’s celebrated bars and clubs. As darkness descends, Berlin morphs into a party playground. The crumbling remnants of its 20th century history train tunnels, abandoned subway stations, hospitals, old factories, and breweries fill to the brim with sweaty crowds pulsing in techno reverie.
Berlin is the techno and electro capital, home to the internationally acclaimed clubs of Berghain and KitKat, amongst others. Parties tend to start on the late side, lasting through the night into morning, with the best DJs sometimes beginning their sets at 6am. If a bender isn’t in order, there are plenty of more tranquil spots where you can kick back and converse. Jetting into the river off Schlesisches Tor is Club der Visionäre, which sits on a large deck, equipped with ample lounging accommodations and a relaxed ambience.
- Shopping in Berlin
For those inclined to sift through racks of wildly eccentric clothing in search of sequined, 70’s style slacks, or whatever the coveted item might be, Berlin has probably got them. With Kreuzberg as its essential crux, Berlin’s thrift culture flourishes. Bergmannstraße and Oranienstraße, in particular, have some alternative outlets worth dropping into. In search of something a little more mainstream and the famous fashion promenade, Kurfürstendamm, has you covered. The largest department store on Europe’s continent, KaDeWe, is stocked high with designer goods, along with a gourmet grocery store on its top floor, that serves oysters and champagne. For small, trendy boutiques, traipse over the Hackescher Markt. or Prenzlauber Berg. If you’d prefer to haggle, the Sunday flea markets in Mauer Park and on Boxhagner Platz brim with pure trash, kitsch, and class at flexible prices.
- Attractions in berlin
It’s hard to imagine Berlin having a prominent wellness culture, what with its famous penchant for debauchery. Berlin’s extensive wellness and park culture, however, is actually in keeping with its hedonistic character and, of course, necessary for bender recovery and the long, cold winters. Berlin’s many parks are hangout havens for the city’s resident population in warm weather. Tiergarten, home to a number of historical monuments along with the city’s zoo and aquarium, is the city’s largest park. Friedrichshain’s Volkspark and Treptower Park are large neighborhood parks (for Friedrichshain and Neukölln respectively) complete with volleyball courts, fountains and ample lawns for relaxation. In the summer, Kreuzberg’s Görlitzer Park becomes a hipster paradise, full of fashionable Berliners basking in the sun, drinking, and barbequing. If parks aren’t your thing, the city offers a bevy of other venues for relaxation, from the Badeshiff swimming pools on the River Spree to the classic Turkish bathhouses, Hammans.
- Events & Festivals in Berlin
Berliner’s are great at taking to the streets in the name of fun loving debauchery, but on the same cent, can clean up and do the whole high culture bit flawlessly, as well. Berlin’s events and festivals, from the Love Parade to the Jazz Fest, are as dynamic as Berliners themselves. The Carnival of Cultures, which takes place at the end of May, began as a project to encourage cross cultural understanding and has since morphed into a party of epic proportions. To celebrate Berlin’s inherent multiculturalism, there are dance and music performances, a smorgasbord of ethnic cuisines, and colourful street parades throughout Kreuzberg. For patrons of the arts, the Golden Bear is emblematic of another of Berlin’s anticipated annual events: the Berlinale. Berlin’s International Film Festival, held every February, is amongst the most reputable in the world, providing a platform for the eminent and upcoming to showcase their newest features as Berliners themselves indulge in cinematic bliss.
- Tours & Day Trips of Berlin
When the grit and grim of Berlin starts to take its toll, one doesn’t even have to breach the city limits to find a peaceful retreat. Potsdam, which sits right off the S bahn line a mere 25 kilometers southwest of Berlin’s center, is characterized by its magnificent Prussian castles, estates, and gardens. It offers visitors both the beauty of nature and its rich historical heritage, with Sanssouci Park, where baroque flower gardens and trimmed hedges surround the Schloß Sanssouci palace, representing one of Potsdam’s most notable attractions. The Alexandrowka, the Holländisches Viertel (the Dutch Quarter) and the Weavers’ Quarter are three areas the reveal the city’s longstanding and entrenched European tradition.
Neighborhoods in Berlin
- Mitte (Mitte, Tiergarten, Wedding)
Mitte, which literally translates to ‘center’, is the historic nucleus of the city and the heart of former East Berlin. Many of Berlin’s most important sites are situated in Mitte, including Museum Island, The Brandenburg Gate, and Unter den Linden. Arguably the most stylish of the former East districts, it offers patrons a bevy of posh cafes, restaurants, galleries, and shops.
- Friedrichshain Kreuzberg
Until Germany’s reunification in 1989, the Berlin Wall ran right along the River Spree, with Friedrichshain laying to the East and Kreuzberg to the West. Today, they are joined in areal matrimony and, together, quality as Berlin’s most offbeat and alterative neighborhoods.
Situated in the former East, Friedrichshain served as a bastion of the radical punk, squatter, and grunge subcultures in the post wall 90’s. Since then, the area has softened under the influence of changing demographics but has managed to retain a distinct edginess. Teeming with trendy boutiques, eateries, bars, and cafés situated primarily around Simon Dach Straße and Boxhagener Platz, it’s easy to indulge oneself.
With its affordable rents and distinctly bohemian feel, Kreuzberg has become a sanctuary for the city’s student and artist population. It’s also home to the majority of Berlin’s Turkish population, who infuse the area with their rich and varied culture. While traversing the streets of Kreuzberg, its dynamic energy is palpable. Trendy bars and cafes sit between traditional Turkish bakeries and barbershops. People, however, didn’t always pine for inclusion in this alternative enclave. In fact, Kreuzberg was once one of West Berlin’s poorest and most neglected neighborhoods: a fact that has radically changed.
Located in the Southeast of Berlin, Neukölln houses the city’s largest immigrant population, with the majority coming from Turkey and Arab countries. High unemployment rates and crime have led many to regard the district as a ‘problem zone.’ Rents, however, tend to be affordable, and the area is now seeing a steady surge of students and young families. Many sense that the stigma will dissipate in coming years as Neukölln becomes increasingly gentrified.
- Pankow (Prenzlauer Berg, Weißensee, Pankow)
Prenzlauer Berg is a large and popular neighborhood of the former East, noted for its quality dining, high end boutiques, and cafes. Just after reunification in the 1990s, Prenzlauer Berg constituted the heart of Berlin’s artistic community sporting ample studio space. Today, however, Prenzlauer Berg has transcended from artsy to posh, catering increasingly less to artists and more to young families with money. Boasting the highest birth rate in all of Western Europe, it is now a district best suited for babies and post punk decadence.
- Charlottenburg Wilmersdorf (Charlottenburg, Wilmersdorf, Ku’Damm)
Charlottenburg is the wealthiest and densest commercial area of Berlin. Posh cafes, upscale shopping, and expensive real estate are the neighborhood’s hallmarks. The area is home to a considerably wealthy Russian scene, which has earned it the nickname, ‘Charlottograd.” Wilmersdorf is primarily a residential area, catering to middle upper class family life. A whopping 80% of Berlin’s Jewish population most of which are Russian decedents reside in the district of Charlottenburg Wilmersdorf.
- Ku’Damm (Kurfürstendamm)
Ku’Damm is Berlin’s largest shopping street a veritable bastion of commercial luxury culture. In addition to every shop conceivable, you’ll find a plethora of chic hotels, cafes, and restaurants. While recent times have revealed Friedrichstraße and Hackescher Markt as hot new areas to shop, they have yet to contend with Ku’damm, which has sustained its status as Berlin’s number one place to splurge.
- Tempelhof Schöneberg (Tempelhof, Schöneberg)
Tempelhof is primarily an industrial area, with its residential populace located in the South. The airport Tempelhof, which occupies the majority of the neighborhood’s northern half, was closed down in 2008 but remains intact. Despite catering primarily to young families and middle ages singles, Schöneberg does sport trendy bars and restaurants. It has long served as ground’s for Berlin’s homosexual scene, though this has waned considerably in past years. If your city meanderings bring you to the area, the Winterfeldmarkt, which takes place on Sat. and Wed, is a charming market where the real treasures reside.
Practical Information for Berlin Travel
- Taxi price in Berlin
Taxi ranks can be found all over the city, but there is also the option to call Taxi Fon (0800 8001 1554) for door to door service. When you get into a cab, the meter will always be set to €3.90. Expect to pay €2.00 a kilometre after that. Also, be equipped with a map, as to have a general idea of distance and direction, to ward against the not so joyful ‘joy ride’.
- Public Transportation in Berlin
Berlin is really an incredibly large city with even two city centres. Every district has its own centre. The best option to get around is assuredly with the public transportation system, which has both buses and trams, in addition to underground (U Bahn) and city trains (S Bahn). Night owls take night buses and trams that start their service at 1 a.m, while most of the subways and city trains run all night long. An A to B ticket costs €2.80, so if you plan on an all day excusion, consider the €7 day pass. If you want, you can buy a welcome card from the official website of Berlin.
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