It’s the time of year when lots of people start planning their winter holidays to Berlin. (Sidenote: yes, Berlin is a great winter destination!) So naturally my friends have been emailing me asking for tips on where to stay, which hotels are the trendiest/coolest and what’s going on this winter.

Berlin is very much a neighborhood-oriented city. For those lucky enough to live here, you might go days without ever even leaving your kiez (that’s German for neighborhood; bezirk is German for borough or district). I try not to do that too often, though, because Berlin—being as awesome as it is—is a pretty damn exciting city. And staying holed up in my super-cool Berlin apartment is only fun for so long. Instead I try to make my way to the countless events and meetups happening just about every day.

When I moved to Berlin, it being one of my first homes where I was planning to stay awhile, I had the lucky (or unlucky, depending upon how you look at ti) chance to live in a variety of different areas of Berlin. From Pankow to Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, Neukölln, Lichtenberg, Friedrichshain and even Grünewald — I’ve lived all over this sprawling city. So if you’re looking for a place to stay during your trip, I’ve got all you ever needed to know here. Look for an AirBNB apartment in one of these neighborhoods near my favorite kiez highlights…

Berlin Neighborhoods

Where to Stay in Berlin

Public transportation is never really a problem in Berlin and all these neighborhoods I’m recommending below are well-connected and easy to reach from the airports. The TXL airport is pretty much in the center of Berlin so even taxis are an economical option for getting from the airport to your hotel/holiday apartment. These are the main ‘hoods and what’s going for them….

Kreuzberg

Maybachufer Canal, Kreuzberg, Berlin
Maybachufer Canal, Kreuzberg, Berlin

Affectionally called Xberg, this centrally located Berlin neighborhood is home to the city’s traditional Turkish immigratns, hipsters, Berlin’s best bars and a whole lot of restaurants. It’s the Brooklyn equivalent of something between Williamsburg and Park Slope. Gentrification is in full swing here. In fact, Kreuzberg is just about fully gentrified these days, though some areas less so than others.

Xberg Highlights

  • Markthalle Neun — This market hall is famous for their weekly “Street Food Thursday” events, though there are equally cool food events going on here every other day as well.
  • Landwehr Canal — Berlin has amazing canals and this is one of the most famous. On warm nights, locals (and tourists) like to congregate on the many bridges along the canal. Admiralbrücke is a popular choice and is convenient to some decent restaurants (and gelato).
  • Görltizer Park — It’s the equivalent of San Francisco’s Dolores Park, but with much more drugs. On the streets around Görli (that’s what the locals call it), you’ll find some great bars and fantastic cheap eats. For nearby cocktails bars, I like Locke Müller and John Muir.
  • Mustafa’s Gemuse Kebab — Okay, I’m only putting this here because so many people ask about it. Mustafa’s is Berlin’s most famous döner imbiss (snack) stand, but honestly it’s not my favorite. I just can’t be bothered to wait in line for a döner kebab when you can find much better ones elsewhere in the city. Admittedly, the Mustafa’s experience is fun, though. So if you want to be a proper Berlin tourist, just make a stop here. Plan enough time to wait in line, though.
  • Bergmannstrasse — On the western edge of Kreuzberg, Bergmannstrasse is one of the most beautiful parts of Kreuzberg. The street has some great restaurants (I like the Greek place called Knofi) and there’s also an incredible food and grocery market at one end, plus the occasional flea market. Check out the nearby Another Country English-language bookshop, too, which hosts various English-language events like film and food nights.
  • Compare prices for Kreuzberg hotels here.

Neukölln

neukölln berlin
Trendy bar Ä in Neukölln on the always popular Weserstrasse

The Neukölln neighborhood is slightly less easily connected, but has plenty of great things to offer for Berlin locals and tourists. Despite the neighborhood appearing on just about every “cool things in Berlin” list, the area is still not so popular with weekenders and holiday-makers. Which means if you go there now, you’ll be way more cool than your friends :)

Neukölln is heavy on the dive bars. Here are the words I’d use to describe it: Turkish, real hipsters, cheap bars, fun, weekends, underground clubs, burgers, gay, trendy…

Neukölln Highlights

  • Tempelhofer Feld — Arguably the coolest thing in Berlin, the former Tempelhof Airport has been converted into a massive public park. Imagine going kitesurfing on airport runways, community gardening projects and wine festivals int he former airport hangar.
  • Berlin Burger International — One of my favorite burger joints in Berlin – they’re open late and serve a proper American burger for a decent price.
  • Weserstrasse — This street in Neukölln, near Hermannplatz, is *the* place to be on weekends in Berlin. If you can find an AirBNB apartment near here, you’re golden. Along the street, I like Bullys Bakery for a great afternoon coffee, Sahara Imbiss for late-night Sudanese falafel (and veggie/vegan options) and the bar Ä for foosball and random events.
  • Compare prices for Neukölln hotels here.

airbnb berlin

Use this AirBNB link to get 20€ off your first AirBNB booking!

http://www.airbnb.com

And a bonus: make sure you check out the super-handy AirBNB guide to Berlin, with informative stories to better understand Berlin. Check it out here.

Mitte

hackescher hofe
Hackescher Markt in Berlin

The Mitte neighborhood is essentially the center of Berlin. It’s where you’ll find the TV Tower, Alexanderplatz, Museum Island and most tourists. It’s also great for shopping. Being the center of Berlin, there are approximately one million hotels in Mitte. Though not a lot of local apartments — it’s prime real estate so there’s not a lot of living to be done there.

If you’re short on time and want to be close to Berlin’s top tourist attractions, Mitte is where you’ll want to be. But if you’re after a more unique Berlin experience (0r here for the fun and the nightlife), there are probably better ‘hoods. Still, Mitte’s got a lot going for it…

Mitte Highlights

  • Museum Island — In the center of Berlin, the Museum Island has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to a handful of Berlin’s most popular museums. Check out the controversial Nefertiti bust at the Neues Museum or the panoramic views from the top of the Berliner Dom.
  • Hackescher Markt — It’s heavily touristic but I still love wandering and getting lost in the many alleys and courtyards of Hackescher Markt. Plus there are some truly awesome stores and shops, with the occasional decent coffee shop (try Kaffeemitte if you want to do some Mitte hipster-spotting, or Café Cinema for a more alternative crowd and smoky interior).
  • Rosenthaler Platz — Home to some of my favorite Berlin bars and cafés, Rosenthaler Platz is one of the best spots in Berlin north of the River Spree. Plus there are some great accommodation options in Rosenthaler Platz like Circus Hotel (and its trendy hostel), Hotel Amano (with its great rooftop bar) and the budget-friendly ibis Styles hotel.
  • Compare prices for more Mitte hotels here.

Friedrichshain

Friedrichshain, Berlin
The O2 Arena in Berlin, with a Trabi tour passing by in front…

This Berlin neighborhood, a part of the former East Berlin, is close to everything and also has the fortune to be home to Berlin’s best nightclubs. It’s definitely an “alternative” side to Berlin, but with all the expats and family-friendly parks, it’s just a great place to be located.

Friedrichshain Highlights

  • Boxhagener Platz — Friedrichshain’s coolest square, the platz hosts a farmer’s market every Saturday and one of my favorite flea markets every Sunday. The nearby streets are all home to an enormous amount of bars and restaurants. The nearby Simon-Dach Strasse is pretty touristic, but it’s also convenient and your food options there are decent.
  • RAW & Revaler Strasse — It’s a former train station (or something) that’s covered in street art. It’s also where all the nightclubs are in Friedrichshain but they also do some really great flea markets there on Sunday (Neue Heimat is the newest/trendiest/most gentrified).
  • Volkspark Friedrichshain — I’m almost afraid to recommend this place, but if you want a true Berlin local experience, you’ll want to find a holiday apartment near Volkspark Friedrichshain. With a sandpit volleyball court, the Marchenbrünnen (Fairy Tale Fountain), a small pond, a German restaurant and some great paths, this is easily Berlin’s best public park. The atmosphere is great for singles, couples, barbecues with friends, family outings and, in the summer, film screenings at the open-air cinema.
  • Warschauer Strasse – The U-Bahn and S-Bahn station here is a popular meeting point, nearby to Berlin’s best clubs and late-night venues. (Though the station, in warmer months, also hosts its fair share of underground parties). Consider staying at the Michelberger Hotel (super trendy, very cool design, just a little bit pretentious) or the music-themed nhow (which offers electric guitars for guests when requested!) to be close to all the action. There’s also an overpriced hostel, Plus Berlin, which is more like a hotel.
  • Berghain — Because what Berlin guide could exist without a mention to the world’s best nightclub?!
  • Compare prices for Friedrichshain hotels here.

Prenzlauer Berg

VEB Orange Berlin Flea Market
The VEB Orange shop across the street from Mauer Park sells authentic GDR-themed souvenirs

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Berlin. Seriously. Many people (including many locals) have completely discredited Prenzlauer Berg. Part of the former East, it was the first part of Berlin to be considered “alternative” when the Wall came down; and, then, the first to become fully gentrified. These days it’s home to a lot of families, transplants from elsewhere in Germany, abroad or even the occasional Berliners. Prenzlauer Berg is seen as distinctly “uncool” but that’s just because those people don’t know where to look!

Prenzlauer Berg is also very green, with lots of great parks and outdoor areas. It straddles Volkspark Friedrichshain but also is the Berlin district home to the famous Mauer Park.

Prenzlauer Berg Highlights

  • Bötzowkiez — There’s not really much here for a typical tourist to Berlin, but if you’re looking for a place to stay that’s more local and relatively easy to reach via public transportation, this is a great area to base yourself for some urban exploration. It’s a very residential and pretty part of Prenzlauer Berg, nearby the Volkspark Friedrichshain and with many great restaurants in the kiez.
  • Mauer Park — It’s probably Berlin’s most famous flea market and much of that is thanks to the Sunday Bearpit Karaoke. While the flea market may have been overrun with too-many-tourists (making it nearly impossible to properly shop for a bargain there!), it’s still a great place to hang out on a Sunday afternoon.
  • Berlin Wall Memorial — Not far from the Mauer Park, the Berlin Wall Memorial is probably Berlin’s *best* tourist attraction. No joke. It’s way better than the ESG (East Side Gallery) and way more informative.
  • Kastanienallee — The street that connects Prenzlauer Berg with Mitte (well, the border must be somewhere around there), Kastanienallee has a countless number of fashion shops, trendy restaurants and even cheap eats. The street has even managed to maintain some of the alternative edge that once was characteristic of Prenzlauer Berg at the gay-friendly squat house, Tuntenhaus at Kastanienallee 86. For food and drinks in the area, try: W der Imbiss or Prater Garten. Also check out Oderbergerstrasse which crosses Kastanienallee for some bars, restaurants and even a really cool GDR-style/flea market shop called VEB Orange (a great place to buy some unique souvenirs!).
  • Compare prices for Prenzlauer Berg hotels here.

Schöneberg

Park am Gleisdreick
Park am Gleisdreick — one of Berlin’s coolest parks

Historically, Schöneberg was one of the world’s first gay neighborhoods. Or at least it feels that way. These days, Schöneberg still maintains its gay place in Berlin’s history, but to be honest, the best gay bars aren’t here anymore; they’ve all moved to the up-and-coming (or has it already come?!) Neukölln. Schöneberg, though, is still one of the prettiest parts of Berlin (helped by its name which translates to “pretty mountain/hill”). It’s very residential, though, so you might find yourself further away from Berlin’s best action if you base yourself here.

Schöneberg Highlights

  • Nollendorfplatz — This is the historical gay area of Berlin, though it’s still very gay (for men) and is home to a number of gay-friendly places to stay. Namely: the “hetero-friendly” Axel Hotel and the gay hostel at Tom’s Hotel. There’s a number of gay bars in the area, as well as fetish bars (for those looking for a leather fix) and even some much more seedier-type bars.
  • Winterfeldtplatz — Nearby to Nollendorfplatz, Winterfeldtplatz is one of my favorite parts of Berlin—gay or straight! There’s a fantastic farmer’s market here every Saturday. And the street that runs along the western edge of the plaza, Goltzstraße, has a great selection of local restaurants and bars to choose from.
  • Gleisdreick Park — I’m not actually sure if this is located in Schöneberg because it’s equally close to the western edge of Kreuzberg. But who cares: it’s one of my favorite parks in Berlin! Gleisdreick Park has everything you could ever want in a park and it’s all been done in the most modern way possible. I think it’s a huge success story for Berlin and it’s well worth visiting if you need a place to hang out. Bring your skateboard if you want to board :)
  • Wittenbergplatz — The beginning of Berlin’s famous Kurfurstendamm street, Wittenbergplatz is shopping central. The historical KaDeWe department store is located here (check out their foodstuffs floor!) but you’ll find much better shopping deals at the places along the Kudamm.
  • Compare prices for Schöneberg hotels here.

***

Obviously there’s a lot more to Berlin than the neighborhoods above. Charlottenburg is a good ‘hood, with some cool restaurants (I like Schwarzes Café) and off-the-beaten-path museums. There’s Wedding and Moabit — both touted as up-and-coming, though they’re still pretty boring in my books. Admittedly, Wedding has some good restaurants (like Pierogarnia for Polish pierogies) and some severely underrated nightlife venues. Moabit has the local-favorite Arminusmarkthalle—a food market hall with a great selection of restaurants and food stalls, including my favorite Berlin barbecue joint, Pignut. But generally, I think if you’ve only got a short period of time to hang out and explore in Berlin, stick to the more central neighborhoods.

Travels of Adam - It's a blogLooking for a place to stay? I use HotelsCombined.com where you can easily compare hotel room rates and prices. Please note some posts do make me some money but I never sacrifice my integrity in exchange for a favorable review. Read the full disclosure policy.

46 comments

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  1. Pingback: Gay Berlin: 5 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting

  2. jardden

    very personal comment, from a “gay” traveller,
    where is the best too stay for cruising, gay nightlife,sex shops,
    but either a apartment, any recommendations?

    or a non gay hotel, as will be staying with non gay m8s,
    maybe even places to known to”bareback” and meet up,
    all information, greatly appreciated

    • Richard

      Schoeneberg. Many of the bars/clubs have backrooms. — cruising and fetish.

  3. Donna

    Hi Adam,

    We will be in Berlin next week for 5 nights and this is really helpfull!
    I will be checking this post again when we´re there..

    cheers from Madrid! :)

  4. Gabriel

    Hi Adam! I’m Gabriel from Argentina. Me and my partner will be visiting Berlin one week in January 2016. We were reading a lot about wich neighborhood is better to stay, and now we are a little bit confussed. Some people reccomend Mitte, others Kreuzberg, or Friedichhein,…others Prenzlauer Berg, Newköln…
    Considering that we’ll go in winter … What place do you recommend us to have some nightlife (and gay ambient) after having walked during the day?
    Best regards and vielen dank!
    Gabriel

    • Hi Gabriel – any of those neighborhoods I’ve recommended would be great. Kreuzberg and Mitte are very central, plus convenient and easy to find gay nightlife either in the same area or just a quick u-bhan ride away :) Pberg and Neukölln are a little further on the outskirts – there’s some gay nightlife in Neukölln but for exploring the more touristic sites in Berlin, it’s a little less convenient. But in all honesty – Berlin is very easy to get around on public transportation, so you shouldn’t have much trouble no matter where you end up staying!

      • Gabriel

        Thank you very much Adam! For all the information and for your fast and kind reply! We’re very excited to visit Berlin (instead of winter time ;-)
        Best BEST regards! And Thanks again.
        Gabriel

  5. Martin

    What about West Berlin? Traveling with family (kids 10 &7 yrs) so the latest bars may not be in focus this time. But still want to hang out in bars, cafes, walk around in interesting areas, do some shopping etc.

  6. Abi

    Hi Adam
    I am planning to travel around Europe next year and Berlin will be my second stop. I’ve found a really nice and cheap apartment on Air BnB which is pretty centrally located between Wedding and Moabit which is great for checking out the sights and good proximity to the main train station.
    As I have never been to Germany before my only concern is the safety of the neighbourhood. I am a 26 year old female and will be travelling alone. I’m not going for the nightlife, but for the culture and historical value.
    Is this an ok place or would you suggest elsewhere?
    Thanks ?

    • Hi Abi – Berlin is a relatively safe city. Both Wedding and Moabit are popular places to live so generally speaking, I wouldn’t imagine you’d have to worry.

  7. Olivia Zavala

    This was so helpful, thanks! I’m going with my husband for my birthday in October, and we had no idea where to stay. We had been looking at Mitte, but we love places with a bit more rawness to them, hip hop and street art are thing we really enjoy, so now thinking about Kreuzberg.

    We’ll be there from a Sunday to Wednesday, and I had heard nothing much goes on during Sundays, what would you recommend?

    • Sundays are quiet because most shops are closed, but that doesn’t mean the city sits still. In fact, it’s one of the most interesting days to be in Berlin! Flea markets EVERYWHERE (yes, even in the cooler months!), many museums will be open and it’s usually a great day for wandering/exploring neighborhoods.

  8. Going to Berlin in a few days for the first time. I had a lot of trouble finding any place to stay so I had to go with Mitte, but after reading this it seems like every other place you describe sounds better to me, especially as a photographer. Nice write up and hopefully I can visit those other places while I’m there.

    • No worries Forrest – most accommodation is Mitte, but the translation means “middle” so you’ll literally be in the center of the city, making all the other neighborhoods easily accessible!

  9. Great post, only been to Germany once but Berlin is definitely on my travel list, so might return to your post for advice! Cheers

  10. Frodhika

    Hey Thanks for this. My husband and I will be visiting next month for 3 nights. Looking for economical rooms/ apartments to stay close to the major historical spots and restaurants.

  11. Great guide! :) Being a ‘Friedrichshainer’ I’d also mention the Simon Dach Strasse – filled with cool bars and pubs, there’s always something going on there.

  12. Pingback: Sunday City Guide: What to do in Berlin | Drink Tea and Travel

  13. Katie

    Ace blog and really helpful – thank you!

  14. Ahmed

    Awesome details , really helpful

  15. Ivy Kriste

    Nice blog. Thanks for sharing information

  16. ian

    we are visiting berlin on saturday for 7 days and want to know the best areas for vegans to shop eat and sleep.we would like a good base so we can walk to many of the vegan top spots.and also near local transport to also get around

  17. Christina Karam

    Hi Adam,
    I´m about to go to Berlin and am super in doubt if I stay in Mitte or Nuekolln. I´ll be spending a few days alone, so wanted to check out the night scene, so thought Neukolln may be better. However I´m not much of a hipster, and do plan do do many day bike trips that leave from Mitte. But I´m affraid of staying in Mitte and being bored or alone at night…
    Any suggestions? I´ll be in town for 8 nights, so have quite a lot of time…
    Thnaks for any further tips or suggestions you can give,
    Christina

    • Mitte’s probably not a bad choice if you’re visiting alone and already planning some of the bike tours from there. If you’re in or nearby Rosenthaler Platz, you’ll find plenty of great bars and nightlife right there. I really like the Kaffee Burger bar/club nearer to Rosa-Luxembourg Platz, or there’s a cool bar called 8MM in the Mitte area as well. Really, Mitte’s got quite a bit to offer for things to do at night!

  18. Verónica

    Hi Adam, this info was VERY helpfull, my list of places and experiences in Berlin it turning endless. We are going to be in Berlin this next July for approximately five days! As architecture students what do you suggest is the most convenient location to stay? Which local architecture projects you think we must visit?

    Thanks for the food places, parks, and shopping advices. Very nice blog!

    • Hi Veronica, Great to hear that. I think you’ll find Berlin is very convenient to get around so you shouldn’t have trouble wherever you end up staying. I have a few photo essays of Berlin’s architecture over here on the blog but if you’re interested in Modernism, check out the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You might also be interested in a day trip out to Dessau if you’re interested in Bauhaus architecture!

  19. Marvelous information this! Seriously, I was never aware that Berlin’s neighborhoods are this beautiful. Btw, how to book tickets for Mitte? Any special deals to Schoneberg?

  20. Great share. Very helpful and informative. Berlin is so beautiful, definitely a must visit city.

  21. Teri

    Great post! We hv only a short stopover of 2 days & 2 nites in Berlin. What do you suggest we do? We wanna stay in Mitte but many hotels seem full. Any suggestions? We’ve not looked at Air BnB.

    • Depends what you’re after in Berlin! Mitte and Kreuzberg are likely the most convenient places for a short trip.

  22. Robert

    Thanks so much for this, Adam! I’m probably heading to Berlin later this month & I had no idea where to stay. I’ve never been before & it’s such a sprawling city it’s difficult to work out which neighbourhood would be best. This helped a lot though! :)

    • Glad it’s helpful Robert. Send me and email and I’ll be happy to help with any other Berlin recommendations :)

  23. Lola

    Thanks for this post! Working out where to stay with my husband and new baby in a couple of months, and Neukolln it is! There seem to be a couple of public transport options near the apartment we booked, so hopefully shouldn’t be too tricky to get around. Thanks again!

    • You’ll have a great time, Lola! Enjoy :)

  24. Great resource. Headed there in just a few weeks.

    • Enjoy your holiday!

  25. Laura

    God, I wish I had known about how over priced Plus Berlin is. I stayed there two weeks ago and it’s really nice, but it killed my budget. Also, no kitchen!

    • Hey Laura – yeah the Plus Hostel isn’t my favorite. It’s very nice and definitely more for a luxury backpacker. Hope you still were able to enjoy Berlin though!

  26. This is a good read for my fellow travelers who wants to visit Berlin. I might even go there this year.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this place Adam.

  27. Great post. I love reading it. I learned ideas on how to travel to Berlin especially where to stay. Thumbs up to you, dude.

  28. Berlin has a certain charm that grows on a traveler. Your recommendations are a great guide for a first time visitor. Thanks for sharing!

    • Berlin can be daunting as a first-time visitor, especially because there’s a lot of pressure to see the “cool” side to the city – but sometimes it can be hard to find!

  29. Bought some great boots in Mitte last week! Really nice shopping over there!

    • Glad to hear it Jeanette!! Shopping in Mitte really is best :)

  30. Amazing guide – wish I had read this before I stayed in Berlin this summer. I lucked out and wound up in Neukölln, spending many hours at Tempelhofer and the rooftop bar (Klunkerkranich Project) on top of the Neukölln Arcade. I can’t wait to use this post when I got back this year so continue exploring the city!

    • Woot! Klunkerkranich is a fantastic place – one that really embodies that “Berlin” spirit/atmosphere!

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