I‘m not sure how it happened, or when, but at some point Berlin, as a word, became synonymous with “cool.” But not just cool. A special kind of cool. Something very Berlin. It’s hard to put your finger on it but Berlin has its very own style. That’s probably universal for most cities, but after reading thousands of articles about Berlin, I’d argue Berlin’s special style and flair has become a popular export.
Berlin has a long tradition of being a creative and capital hub. Many people here like to remind the world that the capital city was once a cultural hotspot and a liberal, free city in the 1920s. That was a long time ago (and a lot has happened since), but Berlin today is the type of Bohemian capital that once made many artists, philosophers and writers famous. I’ve heard Berlin called a playground, a resurgence of NYC in the ’70s, a “mecca of cool.” Berlin is…well, Berlin.
I’ve received some criticism in the past for being unable to explain exactly what it is that makes Berlin so special. And despite countless travel stories about Germany’s largest city, I still struggle with words when trying to explain why I love this city so much. Berlin is simply Berlin. And once you visit the city, you’ll understand just what Berlin means. However, for first-time visitors, it may be difficult to find some of those places and things which are so-very-Berlin, so I’ve collected my favorite Berlin-Berlin places here.
Where to Go in Berlin for That Berlin Style
Gorki Apartments Hotel
I’ll be the first admit that when I first heard about this hotel, I was skeptical. They advertise as an apartment hotel which, if you haven’t noticed, is all the rage at the moment. But the Gorki is so much more than an apartment hotel. (And can we also discuss what an adorable name they’ve got? Though it’s actually named after the nearby Maxim Gorki Theater). The hotel is located in Rosenthaler Platz in Berlin-Mitte, probably the most hip & trendy part of central Berlin. Rooms have been meticulously designed but not so-over-the-top as many design & boutique hotels tend to over do it. The designers even used found objects and vintage photographs from Berlin flea markets to add that local flair in each room. As a local Berliner myself, I can attest to the fact that the hotel looks like actual Berlin apartments with their high ceilings, nameplates and mismatched (but stylish) furniture.
If you’re after the coolest hidden hotel in Berlin, this is it. Room prices from 115€ per night.
Mein Haus am See
Just down the street from the Gorki Hotel is one of my favorite Berlin bars. Mein Haus am See has been around for a while and it’s been getting more and more popular. I used to love the place because it was a casual lounge that felt like my own living room, with flea market furniture and sexy bartenders (just like my own apartment, ha!). These days it’s become much more crowded but with the cool atmosphere, good music and fun crowds, it’s a great place to hang out. Plus it’s open 24-7!
More information: mein-haus-am-see.blogspot.de
Located on Warschauer Strasse near some of Berlin’s best nightlife, the Michelberger Hotel has become a bit of an institution in Berlin. They make their own coconut water, brew their own beer and even now produce handmade Ethiopian sneakers. Their lobby bar and restaurant are popular with not just the countless tourists who pass through, but also locals. The lobby, designed by Berlin local Werner Aisslinger, features walls, tables and chandeliers all made of books. Just be careful where you put your drink!
This concept store located on Kreuzberg’s most famous street, Oranienstrasse, sells great fashion, coffee and random lifestyle products (ie, books, bric-a-brac and other goods). It’s one of the best places to find the most current trends and brands and a popular place for hipster shopping. They’ve also got an online shop so if you’re not in Berlin but you’re looking for that special Berlin look, try there first.
More information: vooberlin.com
It’s maybe not my favorite restaurant (I tend to go for the more underground burger bars) but after visiting during a Berlinagenten tour recently, the restaurant definitely caught my eye. It’s located on another one of Kreuzberg’s trendiest streets, Köpenicker Strasse, and if you didn’t know it existed, you might never find it. And in typical Berlin fashion, Sage isn’t just a restaurant, but also a club and beach bar. The style is simple and raw, not your typical New York super-trendy style.
Something I love about many places in Berlin, especially around Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, is the fact that people aren’t overdressed. Many nightclubs, in fact, are famous for dress-codes that entirely contradict what you’d find in London, Paris or New York. In Berlin, you almost always dress down (or wear black). And while I don’t know what the Sage nightclub is like, the Sage Restaurant atmosphere was that oh-so-Berlin, understated cool.
More information: sage-restaurant.de
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I love these Berlin places not because they’re cool but rather because their style isn’t overstated. They’re cool but only in that way Berlin can be cool. They’re just what they are, without pretension. They’re so…Berlin.
Select photos courtesy of Gorki Apartments, Michelberger Hotel, Voo Store and Sage Restaurant (diephotodesigner.de).