It’s undoubtedly Europe’s coolest city. With 24-hour nightlife, a growing culinary scene and affordable living, Berlin has attracted people from all over the world. DJs want to play Berlin’s clubs (some of the best in the world) and artists want their work shown in the hundreds of independent galleries. There is always something interesting happening in Berlin. And thanks to the city’s sprawling size and relative diversity, it’s now one of the world’s most hip cities. Whether visiting for a day, a weekend or a week, you should be able to use the travel guide below to find unique and interesting things to do in the world’s best city :-)
JUNE 2015 UPDATE
Hey! My friends at Slow Travel Berlin are hosting a cool festival from July 23-26. Located at a 19th century fort an hour outside the city (with easy access via the Bahn), expect a long weekend of camping, culture, music, literature and art. It’s the 2nd annual festival and a cool way to meet some locals and experience Berlin’s creative scene. Tickets from 35€.
Get more information on their official website & please mention Travels of Adam!
Bars: Where to Drink
Berlin seems to be fueled by cheap beers (this is Germany, after all) but there are an increasing amount of cool bars and pubs worth visiting. Many have their own unique design, special events or even just serve really good drinks (think craft beers or contemporary cocktails). There are a lot of areas in Berlin great for drinking but the best of the best are going to be in Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Friedrichshain.
Bar crawls aren’t excessively popular in Berlin but if you’re looking for a street full of great bars, check out Weserstraße in Neukölln. The bars here change quite a bit and new ones are popping up all the time, but you can’t really go wrong with a night out on Weserstraße. And while you’re there, keep your eyes out for the giant frogs!
- Lerchen und Eulen – Moscow Mule cocktails and a cozy interior. A friend set her hair on fire in this bar (I’m not kidding) and no one noticed, so, uh, this place is amazzzzzing! It’s a smoking bar so unless the weather’s good and you’re sitting outside, you will come home with a smoky scent.
- Ä – It’s got a simple name (if you can pronounce it with the umlaut) but there’s nothing simple about this laid-back bar in Neukölln. At the corner of Weserstraße and Fuldastraße, Ä has a few rooms (and basement dance floor when they feel like it) and thankfully the smoking section is kept separate.
- Hotel Bar – Kreuzberg hipsters come here after hanging out on the nearby Admiralbrücke. It can be very smoky inside. They’ve also got a bistro — good for lunch!
- Klunkerkranich – Berlin’s best summertime bar! On the rooftop of a shopping center’s parking garage in Neukölln, Klunkerkranich is custom-built each season. Pro tip: skip the entrance fee and hang out at the smaller bar by the entrance. The bar’s only open March through December.
- Mein Haus Am See – This bar at Rosenthaler Platz is open 24/7 and has one of the best views in Berlin: at the top of the stadium style seating, looking down on all the cute hipsters below. They usually have DJs on in the early evenings and it gets loud as the evening progresses.
- Liberacion – It’s a more alternative bar, located in Friedrichshain not far from the super-cool area around Boxhagener Platz. It attracts a lot of students, hippies and queer folks for its random parties & events. Just be careful going to the bathroom here, it feels like you may never return.
- Multilayerladen – A cool hipster place hidden behind the Kaiser’s supermarket at Kottbusser Tor. Once walking through the curtain, you’ll find cheap drinks, good DJs and a cool vibe from the other visitors.
- Locke Müller – They serve some of the best cocktails in Kreuzberg. It’s got the Berlinerische atmosphere with a smoky atmosphere, but the bartenders really know their drinks. €8 for a cocktail can be expensive for Berlin, but worth it here.
- Gastón – In trendy Neukolln on Weserstrasse, this little Spanish tapas bar serves cheap beer and affordable tapas. With outdoor seating on a quiet street corner, you may just think you’re back in Spain.
- O Tannenbaum – This kitschy bar and club near Hermannplatz (in Neukölln) is decorated with fake Christmas trees and lawn furniture. They often have great DJs and it’s always open late.
- 8MM – This bar in Mitte, near Senefelderplatz, is known for its great music and awesome DJs. It’s got a great atmosphere on the inside and might just remind you of Brooklyn. Also worth checking out is Neu! Bar by the same owners.
- Facciola – A new Italian wine bar in Kreuzberg, near Görlitzer Park, the place only opened at the end of 2014 and it’s already hosted a number of cool events. The friendly bartender will hook you up with recommendations on what to drink, or else just nibble on the high quality Italian meats and cheeses.
With Berlin’s growing start-up scene, cafés have become the “it” place for freelancers and self-employed entrepreneurs. Co-working spaces are popular in Berlin and new ones seem to open up every month. But still, with the Berlin café culture, it’s all about the coffee…
- St Oberholz – This cafe at Rosenthaler Platz serves consistently decent coffee, but the real attraction is the free wifi and large workspaces. It’s Berlin’s best co-working café, often full of hipsters with MacBooks.
- Godshot – This friendly cafe in Prenzlauer Berg serves great coffee, has little coffee workshops and even sells Australian Tim-Tams for 1€ each!
- Café CK – It’s a chic and trendy café but with good wifi and conveniently located in Prenzlauer Berg. But the soothing interior design and the top-quality coffee make it a great place to relax. Bonus: it never seems very crowded.
- Bonanaza Coffee Heroes – One of Berlin’s first new wave coffee houses, Bonanza Coffee Heroes is well known among connoisseurs. Located on the beautiful Oderberger Strasse, it’s just steps away from Mauer Park. Be warned that it’s a very small space so often crowded on the weekends.
- Oslo Kaffeebar – I first discovered this place while taking a German language class at a nearby school. With a cozy interior and good coffee, it’s one of my favorite places to chill out in a cool but quiet atmosphere.
Food & Restaurants
Berlin may not be known as a foodie destination, but over the years I’ve lived here, I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in the quality and quantity of good places to eat.
- CoCo Bahn Mi – A great Vietnamese sandwich shop in Rosenthaler Platz. Perfect for an affordable and tasty lunch!
- Maroush – This cheap eatery at Kottbusser Tor probably serve’s the best shawarma in Berlin – no joke! It’s tiny and not really a sit-down place, but if you’re looking for something cheap and delicious to eat, this is it.
- Markthalle Neun – This Kreuzberg market hall is home to Berlin’s best food events, including the always popular Street Food Thursday (you guessed it: every Thursday evening). They do other food markets, sometimes specifically around certain meals such as breakfast or dessert. Be warned that sometimes you have to pay to just enter the hall. Street Food Thursday is an experience, but it’s also very crowded. I tend to prefer the smaller street food market Bite Club.
- Tiergartenquelle – My favorite German restaurant in Berlin, this old-school bar and restaurant sits underneath an S-Bahn station. Portions are huge (and I’m not exaggerating), the beer is cold and the staff is super friendly.
- Dong Xuan Center – This warehouse complex in Lichtenberg (that’s in East Berlin, accessible via tram) sells just about everything. Besides being an import center for random goods from Asia, there’s also a great Vietnamese restaurant.
- Thai Park – Great for the summertime, Berlin’s unofficially titled “Thaipark” is really just a weekend street food market reminiscent of those you’d find in Thailand. Full of Thai families, hipsters and picnicking Berliners, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon (or even an entire day). Many of the vendors sitting on the grass even make homemade cocktails such as mojitos or caipirinhas.
- Berlin Burger International – Another cheap eats in Berlin, this Neukölln restaurant is one of my favorite burger places.
- The Bird – Widely regarded as one of the better burger joints in Berlin, it’s a nice American-style bar that serves great burgers (even if they come on English muffins). There are two locations: in Prenzlauer Berg and now also in Kreuzberg (and even in Hamburg, actually).
- Nollendorfplatz Chinese Noodles – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a big box of €2.50 “Chinese” noodles at the Nollendorf U-Bahn station. The woman who runs the shop is super nice!
A typical Berlin brunch means a buffet-style meal with sliced deli meats, cheeses, soft-boiled eggs and fruits. And sausages – this is Germany, remember? But that doesn’t mean Berlin’s best brunches are tepid affairs. Several cafés and restaurants have found ways to make the Berlin brunch memorable.
- Bateau Ivre – This French bistro located on Kreuzberg’s always popular Oranienstrasse is great to visit morning, noon or night. But their tasty brunches (meat & cheese plates) and rustic interior make it a great place for leisurely brunches.
- California Breakfast Slam – Go here for American-style egg plates, pancakes and the occasional bit of hair in your food (kidding – that only happened to me once!). They’ve also got Huevos Rancheros, though – yumm!
- Café Anna Blume – You’ve probably read about this place in other travel guides, magazines or maybe you’ve just seen it on Instagram…and rightfully so. Anna Blume serves one of Berlin’s most picturesque brunches!
- Datscha – Want to try something a bit different? This Friedrichshain café serves a delicious Russian brunch with blinis and pelmini, plus a whole array of vegetarian options. On Sundays they offer a buffet brunch (typical for Berlin).
- Café Morgenrot – This queer-friendly bar & cafe also serves a vegetarian/vegan brunch every weekend. It’s just next to the K86 squat house (the Tuntenhaus). It’s a queer/gay squat and a lot of the parties & live music at Morgenrot (in the evenings) are free and fun.
Nightclubs: Where to Dance & Party
With more and more people visiting Berlin not for its tourist attractions but for its cutting-edge culture, much of the action in Berlin takes place at the city’s countless nightclubs. Resident Advisor lists what DJs will be where, but I also recommend checking the Open Airs Berlin Facebook page (especially during the summer).
- Any U-Bahn station will do – see this. You’ll find most of the pop-up U-Bahn parties in Kreuzberg, around Schlesisches Tor, Görlitzer Bahnhof and Kottbusser Tor.
- Berghain/Panorama – Of course. The NYTimes has called it the “best club in the world” and its door policy is notorious. Formerly a gay club, it’s really for everyone — especially those that love to dance.
- Chalet – I really love this club. The music is good, the crowds are into it and the beer garden is perfect for chill-out periods. Inside the run-down buildings that make up the club it’s often hot and sweaty—just as it should be.
- Stattbad Wedding – This one-time swimming center has been converted into an art & culture space, and like everything else in Berlin, it’s also a nightclub. If you’ve ever dreamed of dancing in a swimming pool, now’s your chance!
- Cassiopeia – It’s a consistently good club on Revaler Strasse. R&B and hip-hop nights are the most popular and the beer garden courtyard and rock-climbing are perfect in the summertime.
- Astra Kulturhaus – This indie club (also on Revaler Strasse) gets some of Berlin’s best live music and the parties usually continue afterward.
- Brunnen 70 – This underground club on the edge of the Wedding neighborhood hosts a number of different parties, including popular gay nights Rose Kennedy and Meschugge (see below).
- Kaffee Burger – It’s a small indie club in Mitte with performances, DJs or special events just about every night of the week. It’s a bit small and smelly, but the crowd is usually cool.
Gay-friendly cafes and bars can be found throughout the city, though historically the streets around Nollendorfplatz in Schöneberg were the gay-friendly hotspots. Today you’ll find gay bars all over the city, though—even in the places you might least expect. The new gay Berlin has pretty much moved over to Neukölln where you’ll find gay clubs, queer bars and even occasional drag shows.
Popular gay parties include Homopatik at //about: blank and Revolver (and other nights) at the fetish-friendly Kit Kat Club. Though I tend to go for the smaller parties in more indie clubs like below. In Schöneberg you’ll find a lot more fetish clubs, but Hafen, Heile Welt and Tom’s Bar are all relatively tame bars worth checking out in that area. Other than those, spend your time in Kreuzberg, Neukölln or Friedrichshain where even if the bars aren’t labeled gay, you’re still likely to run into queer boys and girls on the dancefloor.
- Tom’s Bar – It’s a bit of an institution for gay Berlin. The bar has 2-for-1 drinks on Monday nights and a certain stench in the air (maybe coming up from the popular darkroom in the basement). Not for the faint-hearted though, the bar shows gay porn on the TV screens. Many tourists from the nearby Gay Hostel show up here.
- Schwuz – One of my favorite clubs in Berlin, Schwuz is gay every night with regular themed parties. My favorite is the first Friday of the month when it’s “London Calling” night with indie Brit-pop and occasionally live music. Also popular is the Madonnamania night (only when there’s a 5th Friday in the month).
- GMF – This is your stereotypical gay party. Think pop music, attractive boys without their shirts and just generally a lot of fun. It’s every Sunday night.
- Möbel Olfe – It’s a gay bar but you might not know it (except for the giant sign out front proclaiming “Homo Bar.” It’s a smoking bar so you won’t come home smelling pretty if that’s what you’re after.
- Silver Future – Located on trendy Weserstrasse in Neukölln, this quirky queer bar is a great place for a meetup or a casual drink.
- The Club – A newer bar on the gay scene in Berlin, The Club is just a casual, neighborhood queer bar. They’ve got discount drink nights and regularly put on events like art shows, RuPaul’s Drag Race screenings and drag shows.
- Rose Kennedy – This student-friendly gay party takes place in one of Berlin’s best club spaces, Brunnen 70, on the last Saturday of each month. It can get a bit dirty, so prepare yourself!
- Meschugge – A monthly gay party that bills itself as Berlin’s decidedly unkosher Jewish night. Locals and tourists alike dance under Israeli flags and to Middle Eastern themed music. It’s always a lot of fun and they usually hold special events during Jewish holidays.
There are also two great Berlin meetups in Berlin for LGBT travelers:
- Queer Couchsurfers Meetup – A monthly meetup at the Suzie Fu bar in Neukolln, depending upon demand.
- Queer Beer Thursdays – An expat group that meets up every Thursday in a gay bar. The group is friendly and they always welcome tourists!
Art Galleries & Museums
Thanks to Berlin’s unique history in the world, the city has long been a hotspot for creative professionals and entrepreneurs. And what the city’s 100+ museums lack in world-class collections, they make up for in attracting new artists and exhibitions.
- Zozoville – It’s a small gallery near Kottbusser Tor with quirky exhibits. If you can’t make it during their awkward opening hours, they also usually have a stand at the Boxhagener Platz Sunday flohmarkt.
- NGBK Gallery – This Kreuzberg gallery usually has cool exhibitions from young and emerging Berlin (and international) artists. It’s hidden behind an equally interesting art bookstore.
- Hamburger Bahnhof – Inside a former train station, the contemporary art museum houses some truly unique and interesting art collections. Check for their special exhibitions, however, as they get a good variety of modern art.
- Museum for Film & TV – This quirky museum (in Potsdamer Platz) has permanent exhibitions about Germany’s film industry
- Museum of Photography – Located just behind Zoologischer Garten, it’s a great photo museum and gallery with permanent exhibits from Helmut Newton.
- Shakespeare & Sons – It’s not an art gallery or museum, but it’s a great bookstore (same owner as the bookstore by the same name in Prague).
I like to say that Berlin doesn’t has much in terms of tourist attractions, but what it lacks in things to see it makes up for in history. Berlin has its iconic buildings of course (Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Cathedral, TV Tower) but they’re mostly just pretty buildings perfect for Instagram, with very little worth seeing or doing on the inside. Still, Berlin is very much a living city, with new and exciting things happening every day. The city is constantly changing and growing, with special thanks to the fact that it was once a divided city and only relatively recently reunited.
- Berlin Wall Memorial – Maybe you’ve heard of the East Side Gallery, but if you’re actually interested in learning a bit of history, this where you’ll actually prefer to visit. There’s a well-done museum and an open-air memorial on the site of the former Berlin Wall.
- East Side Gallery – It’s not as cool as you think it is, but the open-air gallery is probably why you came to Berlin in the first place.
- Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial – Located just a short distance outside of Berlin, Sachsenhausen is free to visit if you’re interested in learning more about the Holocaust.
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – It’s a powerful memorial located just steps away from Brandenburger Tor. Also make sure you walk across the street and visit the oft-forgotten Gay Holocaust Memorial.
- Reichstag dome – Germany’s parliament building is also one of the city’s best tourist attractions. You can go inside, and if it’s summertime, you can even walk around on the roof!
Parks & Platz’s
Berlin has the unique accolade of being one of Europe’s greenest cities. With a massive park in the middle of the city, Tiergarten, there’s no shortage of green space in Berlin. Each neighborhood, or kiez, also seems to have their own public space for street festivals, weekly farmer’s markets, gelato-eating or ping-pong.
- Görlitzer Park – It’s where all the hippies, hipsters and druggies hang. Try not to get stabbed. Also: it’s the equivalent to San Francisco’s Dolores Park if you know what that means.
- Tempelhof – Berlin’s most unique tourist attraction is the former Tempelhof airport. Since the airport’s closing, the huge open land has been converted into a public park. Parts of the park have been converted into everything from organic community gardens to mini-golf courses. Bring a bike with you to get the full experience and try racing the kite-surfers!
- Mauer Park – Visit on a Sunday afternoon to witness something “so Berlin” (read: super cool and unlike anything you’ve probably seen before). Come for the outdoors karaoke but don’t bother to do your shopping in the flohmarkt (flea market).
- Winterfeldtplatz Platz – There’s a great farmer’s market on Saturdays here with good food.
- Boxhagener Platz – Visit on Sundays for the hipster shopping market—everything from fashion t-shirts to used books & records. With antique furniture and other bric-a-brac mixed in for good measure.
- Badeschiff – Not really a park, the Badeschiff (part of Arena Club) is a swimming pool floating in the River Spree. And if you don’t think that’s cool enough, just imagine the place full of sexy hipsters in the summertime. Only 5€ entry, too!
Where to Stay
Most Berlin hotels are within walking distance of Alexanderplatz, but boutique and designer hotels are scattered throughout the other neighborhoods. Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg are easily accessible via public transportation and provide a more local experience for travelers. Neukölln is another great area to stay thanks to a handful of cool hipster hotels. Keep in mind that Berlin is a relatively safe city but, like anywhere else in the world, there can still be problems in some areas more than others.
I recommend using AirBNB.com to find apartment rentals in Berlin. Look for ones in Kreuzberg, Mitte (around Rosenthaler Platz) or Prenzlauer Berg. Also: anywhere along the U1, U2 or U8 U-Bahn lines will likely be especially convenient for visiting the city. You can also read my detailed neighborhood guide here for more tips on where to stay in Berlin.
Recommended Hotels & Hostels
- Gorki Apartments – A meticulously designed property (but not overdone), each room in this well-designed boarding house comes with a kitchen. The building was designed to appear like a typical Berlin apartment building and with many of the interior decorations coming from nearby flea markets, the designers have definitely succeeded. Room prices from 115€ per night.
- Ku’Damm 101 – Located in West Berlin, this stylish design hotel has an amazing breakfast room with a panoramic view over the famous Kurfurstendamm shopping street. The Swiss-designed hotel is reminiscent of Bauhaus designs from the likes of Le Corbusier. The furniture is all well-designed and utilitarian, fitting well within the spacious rooms. Room prices from 66€ per night.
- Michelberger Hotel – One of Berlin’s most popular hotels (book early!), this place just oozes cool. It’s literally dripping from the lobby ceilings with chandeliers made out of books! Room prices from 84€ per night.
- Hüttenpalast – An indoor caravan hotel in Neukölln, the room prices are some of the best for such an unique hotel property. Room prices from 55€ per night.
- Hotel Indigo Alexanderplatz – It’s a small design hotel but the location can’t be beat if you need something convenient. Rooms are simple but cool with small flourishes of design. Just don’t expect a lot of frills. The only downside is the expensive breakfast option. Room prices from 100€ per night.
- Sofitel Kurfürstendamm Hotel – This luxury 5-star hotel on Kurfürstendamm (a popular shopping street in West Berlin) has all the style and elegance of a luxury property without being as stuffy as others. There’s definitely a sense of “cool” in the air here. Room prices from 160€ per night.
- Circus Hotel & Hostel – Located in the coolest area of the Mitte neighborhood, Circus operates both a hotel and hostel in two separate buildings at Rosenthaler Platz. Rooms are very comfortable and the hostel even has a nice design to it. Check out their craft beers in the hotel bar, too! Double room hotel prices from 75€ per night, dorm prices from 19€ per night.
- Wombat’s Hostel – Prices aren’t cheap at this hostel in Mitte but the Wombat’s Hostel is a solid brand with great rooms, a fun bar and a good location. Dorm prices from 12€ per night.
Travel Tips & Local Blogs
For more Berlin travel tips and suggestions, check out some of my favorite blogs and resources:
- Sugarhigh.de – The daily Sugarhigh email newsletter features cool events, club info and restaurant & art gallery openings. Just subscribe before you visit and unsubscribe after to avoid getting too many advertisements.
- AwesomeBerlin.net – A totally independent blog which showcases the best Berlin has to offer with only reviews of the best things to do and see in the world’s best city! Check their event listings for upcoming festivals and other quirky, unusual things to do.
- Uberlin.co.uk – A fun blog featuring beautiful photography from Berlin places, it’s also connected to a co-working space of the same name.
- VisitBerlin.com – The official tourism portal for Berlin, the site is full of helpful tips, suggestions and even a blog with more regular updates! Visit Berlin also sells the Berlin Welcome Card — a useful pass you can buy for anywhere from 2-5 days and includes free public transportation and reduced entry to many museums.
- SlowTravelBerlin.com – A site full of historical and long-form stories about Berlin as a tourist destination. Check the website for tour listings every weekend.
- NordicbyNature.com – I don’t know if you’re like me, but if you are, then you probably have a slight obsession with all things Scandinavian. Whether it’s design or music, Scandinavian culture seems to have become a part of the Berlin story and local group Nordic by Nature does a great job of curating cool events and free things to do. Sign op for their newsletter or check their event listings for more alternative, Scandinavian events.