UPDATED FEBRUARY 2019: Last summer, when I revisited Berlin, I stayed with my friend Eline in Neukölln. So I’ve included a new section with more awesome things to do in Neukölln. Turns out it’s an incredible area, and I should have spent more time there when I lived in Berlin!
I have hardly written ANYTHING about Berlin. Ain’t that weird? I find it difficult to write about places while I’m actually in them. It’s like I need to take some time away to process my feelings. So, Berlin and I are on a break, I guess.
People reading this blog post will have one of two reactions: 1) These places sound great! I can’t wait to visit! 2) Oh look, another newbie Berliner thinking she’s all cool and stuff.
Such is the dangerous territory of writing about a city deep in the throes of gentrification.
One of the things I miss most about my city is the variety. Nights that started out in wine bars often ended in smoke-filled pubs; a day relaxing at the park could turn into a houseboat excursion down the Spree with a stranger named Ted.
I spent most of my time in Prenzlauer Berg (where I lived), Friedrichshain, Mitte, and Kreuzberg. So I’ve divided this post into those neighbourhood sections.
*Note: This list doesn’t include historical sites or things that actually matter.
Since I lived here, I spent the most time here. Prenzlauer Berg is apparently the baby-making capital of Europe. It’s fairly quiet in the evenings, and super family friendly. Walk into any apartment building and you’ll have to wade through the sea of strollers guarding the front door. I absolutely loved living here and would move back to this part of town in a heartbeat.
Wasserturm: Believe it or not, this water-tower-turned-luxury-apartments in the middle of its tree-covered grounds was once a torture site. Now, the secluded grassy area is where people come to chill out in true Berlin fashion. The last time I was here, there was a dog playdate, two girls sitting on a bench drinking wine from plastic cups, and a family game of bocce taking place.
Mauerpark: Mauerpark isn’t the prettiest of parks, but it’s most famous for its Sunday afternoon flea market. If you want local handmade souvenirs or weird DDR-era furniture, this is the place to go. Plus beyond the vendors and stalls, you’ll find drum circles, an outdoor karaoke session (starting at 4 PM), and lots of weird hippie shit. It’s a glorious mess.
Cafe CK: This was my workspace on more than one occasion. There aren’t many tables for working, but the coffee is good and the staff is really lovely.
Godshot: I love this spot, although they kick you off their Internet after about an hour. On my first visit, I ordered a caramel latte, and on my next visit, the barista knew what I wanted.
Wohnzimmer: Translated, this is “living room” bar. It’s covered in floral wallpaper and faded seat cushions. There are 80s-style couches. You can treat this place as a cafe during the daytime, but at 6 PM they’ll ask you to close your laptops. Grab an Augustiner when the mood music transitions into trance.
Saint George’s: An English bookshop where you can return books to receive half your money back. Likely my favourite bookstore in the entire world. Nary a shitty Mary Higgins Clark or Nicolas Sparks book in sight. Genuinely amazed by how often I found the book I was looking for.
Sorsi e Morsi: This is literally my favourite place OF ALL TIME. I have never had a crappy time here. It’s a one-room wine bar that’s usually absurdly crowded, but the clientele is ridiculously fun and I’ve made friends here, every time, without fail. It’s also the only bar I can think of in the area that’s busy every single night of the week (except Sunday). I became such a regular, the owner Johnny would kiss me on the cheek and hug me every time he saw me. Wine comes with small plates of appetizers. I miss it with the burning ache of a million heartbreaks.
Prater Garten: Another absolute favourite of mine, Prater Garten is the oldest beer garden in Berlin. It brews its own beers, and prices are relatively cheap. Long benches and tables means you’ll be bumping shoulders with strangers, and in the summer, the vibe can’t be beat.
Dr. Pong: This is a ridiculous ping-pong bar where people come to play, in tandem. It’s a dinghy hole in the wall with cheap beers. It’s magnificent.
Pfefferbräu: A smaller and swankier beer garden, but a lovely one. You’ll find lots of suits here.
Gingi’s Izakaya: I didn’t eat much sushi in Berlin, cuz, ya know, it’s not by the sea. But I thought this was an excellent sushi spot (albeit pricey). It’s a tiny space, so reservations are recommended.
Zia Maria: This pizza spot was located almost directly across from my apartment, and I didn’t check it out until my last week in town. Woe is me — the pizza is FANTASTIC. Thin crust, true Italian. Order by the slice, or by full pizza.
Konnopke’s Imbiss: Here’s where you go for currywurst, Berlin’s signature food. It’s apparently the best currywurst in town, and I’m onboard with it. Although, to be honest, I don’t love currywurst. Don’t shoot.
Umami: Asian food, in an awesome setting.
This is as close to a “downtown” as it gets in Berlin. Mitte literally means “middle,” and so you’ll also find this part of town the most expensive and touristy area of Berlin. I didn’t spend a lot of time here, and as a general rule I avoided Alexander Platz like the plague. Still, it’s not without charms.
St. Oberholz: Busy cafe spot, with tons of workspace. There’s a co-working spot upstairs as well.
Strandbar: Awesome beach bar to hang out on the Spree. There’s a theatre and another dining area just around the corner, and sometimes free salsa shows.
Gendarmenmarkt: This part of Berlin feels like any ‘ol European city. It’s beautiful, and pristine. And if you don’t mind doling out some cash on an overpriced beer, it’s worth sitting here to take it all in. (Or pick up a beer and sit on a grassy knoll somewhere — you’ll find tons of other Berliners doing the same.)
Weinerei Forum: So, at this place you can “buy” a glass of wine for 2 euros, then keep filling it up as much as you please. When you leave, you pay what you think the experience was worth. (Don’t try getting away with not paying at all, though.)
Mein Haus Am See: A crowded, trendy spot with good cocktails, but still with a fun Berlin vibe. Hang out upstairs, or head to the basement for some sweaty hip-hop grinding.
Neue Odessa: Swanky cocktail bar with a fun clientele every night of the week. Even Monday. Moscow Mules are to die for. (Drinks are expensive, though.)
Muschi Obermaier: The most hipster of hipster bars, I freaking love this place. No kidding.
KitKatClub: A “sex” club, but not really a sex club. The bouncers and staff just prefer if you’re a wee bit naked. Hands down one of the best club experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
Cocolo Ramen: The best ramen in the city? I can’t say for sure, but I did love the hell out of it.
Emma’s: This is kind of like a traditional German food place with some contemporary touches thrown in. The schnitzel is pretty rad.
Mozzarella Bar: The best dang burrata you’ve ever had, ever.
Chen Che: More awesome Asian food. Sit in the garden. Order dumplings.
A lot of people tout this as a touristy part of town as well, thanks to its prolific club and bar scene. It’s also home to Berghain, apparently the most famous club in the world…but I was rejected from Berghain twice, so the club can go f*ck itself.
I did not spend a huge amount of time in this place.
Volkspark Friedrichshain: This was my neighbourhood park. Like every other park in Berlin, it’s a huge green space where people come to sprawl out in the grass with barbecue grills and speakers blaring electronica. But also, tons of families come here with young kids, picnics, and birthday parties. There’s a skatepark, and a playground, and a volleyball court, and even two beer gardens/restaurants. Also, lakes with fountains. I’ve spent many a day here imbibing in cheap beers from the Späti (corner shop), or simply hanging out reading a book in the grass.
YAAM: A “beach” bar (strandbar) not far from the East Side Gallery, where DJs often play and live concerts take place. It stands for “Young African Art Market” and has a distinct Bob Marley feel (and smell) to it.
Boxhagener Platz: A really awesome square that hosts a farmer’s market and flea market every weekend.
Badehaus – Szimpla Musiksalon: Hang out with Berliners and watch awesome live music of all kinds.
Hops & Barley: A rare craft beer pub in Berlin! This is a seriously fun spot to hang out.
Kptn. A. Müller: Dinghy hole in the wall with ridiculously cheap beers. One of my favourite places in Berlin.
Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke: Booth karaoke! Now, I’m a karaoke sceptic. I have to be a special level of fucked up to enjoy such an evening. But in true Berlin fashion, this karaoke bar is gritty and weird. You can enjoy the spectacle on the main stage, or book a room with friends. It’s ridiculously fun.
Burgeramt: I don’t even like burgers but this was SO GOOD.
Santa Maria: Awesome burritos in a fun part of town. Come for Taco Tuesday — 1 Euro tacos and tequila ALL NIGHT LONG. May cause blindness.
This is where all the cool kids hang!
betahaus: A co-working space on steroids, this venue is MASSIVE. If you’re not paying for space upstairs, you can hang out in the cafe area. It’s huge, so even if you buy one or two coffees, you can literally spend all day here and no one will notice. Also a great place for people watching and batting your eyelashes at attractive Berliners.
Görlitzer Park: This place can be mega sketch but tons of people hang out here in the summer. Plus it’s the place to be on May Day.
The Canal: Grab a Club Mate and sit on the edge of the canal. Just do it.
Street art: One of my favourite things to do in this area is just walk around and observe all the epic street art. Alternative Berlin also does street art walking tours.
Barbie Deinhoff’s: A grungy bar with a ton of cheap cocktails.
Prince Charles: A nightclub that’s a little more mainstream than the other Berlin clubs. I went here on New Year’s Eve and they were having a 90s party. The bar is literally in an old converted pool.
Tante Lisbeth: A fun bar with a living room feel, and an old school bowling alley in the basement (but you have to book in advance, and people will yell at you in scary German if you just pop in for a visit).
Facciola: Ridiculously cool wine bar with some awesome Italian bartenders. Come here on May Day, especially.
Filmkunstbar: Quiet video shop by day, random bar with a secret room by night. When I came, there was a stripper pole, and glitter bombs.
Osteria Sippi: An Italian joint with friendly staff; also where I ate some of the best pasta and tiramisu outside of Italy. Actually, probably including Italy.
Santa Maria: Same burrito place as the one in Friedrichshain, but I actually like this location better.
Burgermeister: Some might call it overrated, I call it one of the best damned burgers eva. Especially with the chilli cheese fries. This place is famous for being in an old public toilet.
Markthalle Neun: Every Thursday night, there’s a street food market (sample meatballs shown above). It’s DA BOMB.
Tadim: Berlin is famous for its Turkish kebab shops, and this one near Kotbusser Damm was my favourite. Great staff, too.
Neukölln is still low-key compared to Berlin’s other main neighbourhoods, but it’s slowly changing into a more gentrified area. You’ll find vegan restaurants amongst kebab shops, and small boutiques selling local handicrafts next to Turkish barbershops and wedding shops. Everything feels wonderfully eclectic. I became fast friends with the guy at the Späti next to the Eline’s apartment because he thought my reaction to the Camel Balls candied gums was hilarious. True story. He gave me Camel Balls for free.
Treptower Park: My second favourite park in Berlin (after Volkspark Friedrichshain) Treptower Park is actually in Treptow but is walkable from Neukölln. This one is much larger, with a few beer gardens and food vendors installed along the Spree River.
Tempelhofer Feld: This former airport has been transformed into a MASSIVE public park. It’s where I went to celebrate my birthday, and it was my favourite day of the entire trip. It’s a huge open space and everyone just BBQs and hangs out until the park closes. The sunset is amazing on a clear day!
The “Drinking Bridge”: Eline dubbed the bridge over the canal near her apartment “The Drinking Bridge.” Every evening, young folks gather here to strum their guitars, drink wine, or just chill out and enjoy the view. I don’t think there’s any definite bridge, per se — it’s more like find a bridge, and hang out! The people watching opportunities are worth it. We grabbed two bottles of wine and sat facing the sunset while people around us sang harmoniously.
Der Insel, Treptower Park: In the middle of Treptower Park is Der Insel, an island oasis where you can hang out in the loungers with a cold beer (4 EUR). I ordered Flammkuchen for 9 EUR and stammered my way through ordering a Berliner Pilsner in German, and then sat along the river with my friend Michelle. It was a perfect, peaceful afternoon until a bunch of young kids showed up to jump into the water and I had to yell, “GET OFF MY LAWN!” at them in English.
WOLF Kino: This is a crowdfunded independent cinema that screens a huge variety of movies in two different theatres. But it’s also a busy social space with a full bar and cafe. This kind of place is exactly why I love this city so much.
Klunkerkranich: A grungy rooftop bar on top of a fancy shopping mall. There’s a beach area, and often live music. The wurst and sauerkraut is also pretty rad. Oh, there’s also a garden and sometimes art stalls. I love the view over the city from here!
Dschungel Jungle Bar: I popped into here one night on my way home from dinner. It’s as the name suggests — a small dive bar draped floor to ceiling in fake vines and greenery. It’s dimly lit and everything I want in a Berlin bar, truly. The cocktails are expensive. While I was there, a short bearded unassuming elderly man popped in and started playing unbelievable jazz tunes. Gotta love this city!
Else: This is the bar under the bridge in Treptower Park in Treptow (where this section’s feature photo was taken). I love this spot; there are swings at the bar and you can watch the boats float by on the Spree. On my last visit, I walked right into a busy swing dancing session. What else would you expect?
Ankerklause: A cutesy bar and restaurant right on the Spree. You can sit outside and enjoy the sun (if there’s space). Cheap beer and pretty basic food. (This is kinda on the Kreuzberg border. It’s hard to distinguish these borders. For me at least.)
Nah am Wasser: A lovely hipster cafe with a swing in the middle of the room. Yes, a swing! I ordered a salad with Maultaschen — German dumplings originating from Bavaria. Mine were vegetarian, but they usually come with meat. They also make fresh juices. A filling salad and a fresh juice cost me 13 EUR! Not terrible.
Chicha: My friend Eline loves this Peruvian restaurant so much, she’s on a first name basis with the head chef (Simon). The dishes are higher end, but you can order small plates to share with the table. We ordered just about everything on the menu, and it was spectacular. Definitely favourite dining experience of my last trip to Berlin.
MOM’S: I ended up visiting this restaurant twice because the experience was so good. This is a vegan restaurant serving Vietnamese food, and you’ll get all your daily servings of veggies in one plate. We ate al fresco and ordered fancy cocktails and Vietnamese coffee to wrap things up.
Turkish Market: The Turkish Market is open on Tuesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It’s not just Turkish food and wares though — there are tons of vendors, and I sampled everything from African comfort food to Turkish flaky pastries. The weekend markets are the largest.
There ya go peeps — 2,232 words of Berlin locales hand-picked by locals and curated by yours truly.
Excuse me while I go book a return ticket.