A confident traveller’s guide to Berlin

By Bryan Lee

Where

Berlin, Germany

When

June. Berlin is great any time between spring and autumn, but we suggest visiting at the start of summer when everyone is outside all day and night and the atmosphere is electric. The weather will be hot and sunny with the possibility of sudden summer rain, but always around a comfortable 19°C.

Why

Berlin is a major cultural capital, with talent-rich art and music scenes that make any length of visit worth your while. The city’s reputation as a top destination for party-seekers is well established, but that’s just scraping the surface. Berlin has assumed many different identities over the years, and in many ways it’s still a city in transition, offering visitors a unique variety of experiences.

Spring and summer are the best times to enjoy the unique atmosphere of Berlin.
Spring and summer are the best times to enjoy the unique atmosphere of Berlin.

Pre-Travel Thoughts

Great for:

Pretty much anyone. If you’re travelling solo or with your family; if you’re after old streets, brutalist architecture, or massive parks; if you’re on a budget or living it up; If you want to spend the early morning hours exploring the city’s rich history or just heading home after partying through the night.

Not the best for:

Anyone in search of a typical old European capital.

A typical Saturday

Berlin is a perfect place for foodies looking to try flavours from all over the world.
Berlin is a perfect place for foodies looking to try flavours from all over the world.

Wake up with a flat white and cheesecake at Five Elephant and take a walk along the nearby Landwehrkanal. Browse around the farmer’s market at Markthalle Neun before heading up to Mitte for a wander through the galleries on Auguststraße or the shops around Hackescher Markt. Take a late lunch and lounge in the sun over beers from the Späti (corner shop) in the park – any park will do. Build your evening plans around Weserstraße in Neukölln. Leave room for dinner – which can be had over a white tablecloth or entirely handheld – followed by a stiff cocktail or two at Nathanja & Heinrich. Once 3am rolls around, head to the club to start your night.

Price

€€
Prices in Berlin are not what they used to be, but it’s still one of the most affordable European capitals.

Booking Advice

Historical booking data on KAYAK shows that June and July are popular times to visit, and flight prices reflect that. Prices will typically be higher on the weekend, but you can’t visit Berlin without a proper night out, no matter what your taste in “going out” may be. Nightlife in the middle of summer often extends from Thursday to the following Monday, so we recommend staying for a minimum of 3-5 days.

In the Mood

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the imagery and imagination of Berlin than by watching the movies set here over the past hundred years. This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a useful chronology of movies about Berlin, from the short-lived Weimar Republic days, to the tension of the East-West division, to the heady post-Wall era, leading up to present day.

  • Victoria – 2015
  • A Coffee in Berlin (Oh Boy!) – 2012
  • Berlin Calling – 2008
  • Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt) – 1998
  • Good Bye, Lenin! – 2003
  • Berlin Blues (Herr Lehmann) – 2003
  • The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) – 2006
  • Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin) – 1987
  • Sonnennallee – 1999
  • Metropolis – 1927
Get your playlist on and discover the beats that represent Berlin.
Get your playlist on and discover the beats that represent Berlin.

And once you arrive, here’s a playlist of quintessentially Berlin tunes for a long walk around the city, or for getting ready to go out. From Marlene Dietrich’s love affair with the sensual nights of 1920s Berlin to the modern-day hedonism of the ever-important club scene, music is an integral part of what makes Berlin, Berlin.

On the ground

If you only have a limited amount of time to see the city, you can see all the main landmarks in a single afternoon. Don’t miss the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag building, and Victory Column. For a less worn but still accessible path through the city, our recommendations offer a mix of old and new. There are a few districts and neighbourhoods you’ll want to check out, namely Mitte, Kreuzberg, Neukölln, Friedrichshain, Prenzlauer Berg, and Schöneberg. We’ve got great recommendations for each:

Friedrichshain

The Molecule Man statue represents the union between the districts of Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Treptow
The Molecule Man statue represents the union between the districts of Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Treptow

Like neighbouring Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain was a centre of creative, alternative thinking in Berlin. You’ll still find this ethos in abundance today, although with more tourists. Friedrichshain is the de facto party centre of the city, and though there’s certainly more to it, we’ll focus on the nightlife around Simon-Dach-Straße and the surrounding clubs.

Boxhagener Platz

Here’s where you’ll find all of the neighbourhood’s go-to shops, restaurants, and bars, including the Kino Intimes, a century-old cinema that shows arthouse films.

Berghain

No way we’re making a Berlin guide without at least mentioning one of the most exclusive nightclubs in Berlin (and the world), Berghain. Your best bet for getting in is to check what time it’s opening for the weekend, and get in line then. The door is more lenient, and once you have a stamp, you can return at any time for the rest of the weekend.

Kreuzberg

Görlitzer Park, in Kreuzberg, is one of the many parks in the city
Görlitzer Park, in Kreuzberg, is one of the many parks in the city

The most talked about part of Berlin for more than a decade, Kreuzberg is known for its left-wing, counter-culture and immigrant-friendly origins, and it remains a pillar of recreational and creative life in the city. Whether you’re in SO36, centered around the (in)famous and gritty Kottbusser Tor station and Oranienstraße, or SW 61, centered around the highly gentrified Bergmannkiez, you can spend your whole trip in Kreuzberg and still leave with a complete picture of life in present-day Berlin.

Rent a bike to ride along the canal

Berlin is best experienced by bike, and cycling along the Landwehrkanal through Kreuzberg is the most scenic route you can take when the weather’s good. Rent a bike for anywhere between €8 and €12 per day, or pay by the hour from a mobile app with Lidl Bike.

The river and the canal offer many opportunities for outdoor activities and sports.
The river and the canal offer many opportunities for outdoor activities and sports.

Markthalle Neun

This massive indoor market houses local vendors and restaurants, always good for BBQ, handmade pasta, or a glass of wine. On Thursday nights, Markthalle Neun is the site of a bustling street food market.

Prinzessinnengärten

Serving up fresh veggie dishes daily, Prinzessinnengärten is a community garden with an outdoor seating area, hidden away from the traffic outside at Moritzplatz.

Club der Visionäre, Chalet, IPSE, Hoppetosse

Four clubs on one block make for a convenient night of club hopping. Club der Visionäre is a former boathouse, and it functions more like a waterside bar with DJs. Hoppetosse is up the road, and it’s literally a club on a boat.

Good to know

  • You can drink on the street.
  • You can drink the water out of the tap.
  • Public transportation runs 24 hours.
  • You have to validate your U-Bahn ticket on entry.
  • BVG (the Berlin transit authority) offers free WiFi at every stop.
  • Be prepared to pay with cash – many places don’t accept any card payments.
  • Leave around 10% tip at restaurants.
  • Berlin without German is easy as most people speak English, but there’s no guarantee, so it’s always good to be patient and polite with the language barrier.
  • Many clubs will not let you take pictures inside and will tape over the cameras on your phone.

How to get from the airport

In Berlin you won't have problems to get around using public transport.
In Berlin you won’t have problems to get around using public transport.

From Tegel (TXL)
Tegel is a tiny airport for such a big city. To get to the city from the airport, just hop onto the TXL bus right in front of the Arrivals terminal, which will take you directly to a major station like Hauptbahnhof or Alexanderplatz, or take the X9 bus, which will take you down to several stations where you can transfer to the U-Bahn.

From Schönefeld (SXF)
If you’re flying into Schönefeld, you can either take a Deutsche Bahn train into one of the major train stations like Hauptbahnhof or Alexanderplatz, or take an S-Bahn closer to the city and transfer.

Top 10 Most Instagrammable Places in Berlin

  1. U1 train passing by at Oberbaumbrücke.
  2. Sunday afternoon Flohmarkt and karaoke at Mauerpark.
  3. Waiting room stairwell at House of Small Wonder.
  4. Rooftop structure of the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz.
  5. Sunset over Landwehrkanal from your bike.
  6. “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” mural at East Side Gallery.
  7. Waterfall leading up to the National Monument for the Liberation Wars at Viktoriapark.
  8. Straße des 17. Juni and Tiergarten from the top of the Victory Column.
  9. Wide open former airplane runway at Tempelhofer Feld.
  10. Building-sized murals in the SO36 side of Kreuzberg.
The flea market in Mauerpark is a favourite for both tourists and locals.
The flea market in Mauerpark is a favourite for both tourists and locals.

Local Lingo

Späti – Short for Spätkauf. This is what Berliners call the ubiquitous corner shops that always stock cold beer, Club Mate, and other essentials.
Club Mate – Technically it’s just caffeinated, carbonated maté tea, but it’s the unofficial drink of Berlin clubgoers that mixes nicely with gin, vodka, Jägermeister, or whatever else you like.
Wegbier – Beer on the go. You’ll see people walking around drinking from beer bottles at all hours of the day.
Pfeffi – Short for Pfefferminz Likör. The customary schnapps of choice. Best described as a sweet gulp of mouthwash.
Kiez – Neighbourhood, often situated around a major street.
Entschuldigung – “Excuse me.”
Bitte – ”Please” in one context, and “you’re welcome” in another.
Mitnehmen – “To take with” or “to go,” useful for ordering food for takeout.

Note: These rates are based on the most recent data pulled from KAYAK.co.uk, the cheapest prices are always displayed first, regardless of specific dates mentioned. The prices are quoted in GBP. Flight prices are based on results for a return economy flight search. Hotel prices are for double occupancy, are per night and include taxes and fees. Prices are subject to change, may vary, or no longer be available

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