All words and pictures from photo blogger Kirsten Alana, exclusively for HouseTrip as part of our #housetripping series.
Perhaps no other city in all of Europe has undergone more change or endured more identity issues than Germany’s capital, Berlin. Once a city divided into East and West, now it is a large city [four times the size of Paris] defined by its neighbourhoods. To understand them though, one must understand that their creation predates even the World Wars. In fact, it wasn’t until 1920 that Berlin came to even remotely resemble the city it is today. At that time, it was created by uniting many smaller cities, villages and estates. It’s these which today still form the basis of many of the neighbourhoods that are finally part of a united Berlin.
When you visit Berlin and rent a HouseTrip apartment to get the experience of living like a local, it will be important to choose your neighbourhood based on what you desire to do and how you desire to live during your time in the city.
Kreuzkölln is one of the newest neighbourhoods in Berlin and it has been so named for the way it incorporates the older neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukölln. It is one of the city’s most hip neighbourhoods. One building, situated nearer the Kreuzberg side, which houses many apartments available to rent on HouseTrip, has been engineered by its owners with design elements and furniture gathered from all over the world; they are collectors who have embraced the multi-cultural vibe of the neighbourhood and brought it inside.
This bright and trendy split-level loft apartment is a great-value choice for a group of friends looking to discover Berlin on a city break. Situated on the top floors of the building, there is lift access and stylish décor.
Cooking in such an apartment’s kitchen will give you the further experience of living in Berlin but step outdoors and you’ll have a plethora of cuisines to choose from be it Turkish, French, Indian, or Mexican. Artisan bakeries and ice cream shops also dot the area. It’s an excellent place for those interested in graffiti and street art and the mix of architecture includes buildings both very traditional and those which are quite modern.
On the other hand, Prenzlauer Berg in the borough of Pankow, is more upscale and less diverse due to fairly recent gentrification efforts. At one time it was the home of artists and bohemian youth, now it draws families and young professionals who favour green and organic lifestyles. Higher end galleries and designer boutiques, that set fashion trends, can be seen in place of the bars and clubs that once dotted the neighbourhood. During the day, parks ring with the sound of children’s laughter.
There are numerous apartment options in this area perfect for those looking for a more family-friendly place to stay. This first floor apartment for a family of three is bright and cosy, located in a leafy area near the Friedrichshain Park and really good value.
There are neighbourhoods which are not as diverse and cater to the culture of the residents who live in that area; Wedding is such an area, where a visitor will find mostly Turkish residents and cafes serving food typical of a city like Istanbul and architecture that is more modern than other neighbourhoods.
It’s a great area to stay in, however, if you’re looking for a peaceful base from which to explore the city. Many apartments have outdoor terraces for enjoying a relaxing meal away from the tourist bustle, such as this comfortable and cool converted-stable apartment.
Mitte is equally a somewhat less diverse district perhaps because it is generally considered to be Berlin’s City Center. As such, it’s very German and draws tourists to landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate, culinary icons like currywurst stands and the famous public square, Alexander Platz. It’s also the area where Silvester, one of the largest New Year’s Eve parties in the world, takes place every year in the Tiergarten. Yet there are gems such as the Hackesche Höfe, a stunning art nouveau courtyard complex, which anchor older portions of Mitte and lend to it an upscale atmosphere.
This is just a sampling of the 12 administrative districts and 23 neighbourhoods that form the now-united city of Berlin. To get a flavour of some of them from a local’s perspective it’s a great idea to try a tour during your stay. Resident Berlin expert Penelope Hassmann offers several different themed tours depending on your interests and she’s a fountain of knowledge (http://www.berlinprivatetours.com/). Wherever you choose to stay when you live like a local in Germany’s capital city, you’re sure to find a wonderful holiday in one of the most historically and culturally diverse cities in Europe.