Berlin is often described as a city without a centre, but this certainly doesn’t mean that it lacks heart or a pulse, as both can be found in these five Berlin boroughs.
If Berlin were to have a centre it would be the aptly named Mitte (that means ‘middle’ in German). Home to most of the key historical sights which tell Berlin’s story such as the Brandenburg Gate, The Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie and the boulevards that make up Unter den Linden; Mitte is a must see & explore district of Berlin, though perhaps lacks the charm and character of other areas.
Image © Henning Bulka
Across the river from the Reichstag – Image © Jim
That said, it does include some exciting bars and restaurants, like the Vietnamese budget friendly restaurant De Nhat (each dish is 5 Euros) and Reingold, a popular after-work bar in a refurbished train warehouse. Another favourite spot in the area is Tiergarten, the city’s most famous park, home to a zoo and hectares of much loved green space.
Image © svenwerk
Park between Hackescher Markt and the Spree – Image © Jacobo García López de Araujo
On the Spree – Image © Gertrud K
Image © Sky
Home to Berlin’s hipsters, the former East Berlin areas of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg are actually quite different from one another. Kreuzberg was the first of the former communist boroughs to shake off its shackles, but today embraces its past while also indulging the rising hipster scene of digital media and creative start-ups and students.
Image © Victoria Calligo y Solivella
Across the river, Friedrichshain followed a similar off the beaten path, but with more focus on artfully reclaiming its former working class buildings. It’s now considered Berlin’s Bohemia and is almost as gentrified as neighbouring Prenzlauer-Berg.
Volkspark am Weinberg park – Image © Magnus Franklin
Oberbaum Bridge – Image © Artie
Image © Baptiste Pons
Mauerpark flea market, Berlin – Image © Bjørn Giesenbauer
Both areas have a wealth of funky shops, stylish bars and forward thinking restaurants to while away a few hungry hours. Head to Oranienstraße and Bergmannstraße in Kruezberg and explore Boxhagenerplatz in Frierichshain. Don’t forget to check out the East Side Gallery while you’re there, which showcases the graffiti and street art on both sides of the Berlin Wall, but it’s worth remembering that only the west side was actually illustrated on during the Cold War.
One of the more multicultural boroughs of Berlin, Neukoelln has large Turkish, Arab and Kurdish communities, which have brought with them the salivating scents of Middle-Eastern restaurants and food markets. This area, once the American quarter, used to have a reputation as the poorest suburb of Berlin. However recent years have seen Berlin’s creative scene and students move in, bringing the area some charm and “hipster” factor, particularly in the North.
Image © Artie
Though Karl-Marx Strasse offers all the European high street stalwarts and the German department store (with rooftop restaurant) Karlstadt, the real heart of Neukoelln surrounds the old Passage Kino cinema where nearby café Hopferle will feed you lunch for less than 6 Euros.
Again these two areas are not often referred to in the same sentence as both Schöneberg and Tempelhof have their own personalities. The gay centre of Berlin, Schöneburg mixes quiet and cozy residential streets with lively, liberal bars and boutique shopping. There’s also a famous sight to be found here, with the Schöneburg Rathaus being the place where John F Kennedy delivered his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.
Image © IK’s World Trip
S-Bahn Station in Berlin, in the Schöneberg neighbourhood – Image © Sandro Gianella
Tempelhof by contrast is less pretty but just as interesting. It is home to a number of Berlin’s best yet relatively unknown parks, including a deer park at Krumme Pfuhl – a former 19th century public swimming baths. It will also be intriguing to see what happens to the deserted Tempelhof airport. It used to be the oldest commercial airport in the world, and is now a space regularly used for fairs, trade shows and concerts. Berlin’s track record dictates that it makes good use of disused buildings.
Image © Gertrud K
One of the wealthiest boroughs in Berlin, Charlottenberg is the natural home to the Berlin gentry, though they too have started spreading into the trendier areas of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshafen. The highlight of the area is Schloss Charlottenberg (Charlottenberg Castle), a beautiful palace built in the late 1600s.
Image © James Stewart
Image © raebrune
Charlottenberg is also where Berlin’s first shopping centre was built in 1965 and it remains home to a number of shops as well as museums and art galleries. Perfectly located to the west of Mitte, Charlottenberg also has enough upmarket restaurants and bars to keep hungry visitors satisfied, though a more affordable lunch can be found at Café Einstein Stammhaus where you can sit in its pretty garden in the summer while indulging in traditional Austrian food like schnitzel and goulash – hearty food in one of Berlin’s ‘hearts’.
To book your own break in Berlin, view the range of holiday apartments in Berlin here.