Travel inspiration and insider tips

6 years, 2 months ago

Bohemian, Funky, Artistic and Hipster: HouseTrip’s Guide to Berlin’s Central Areas

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.

Mitte

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

Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

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.

Neukoelln

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.

Tempelhof-Schöneburg

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

Charlottenberg

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. Still unsure where to stay in Berlin? We’ve put together a guide, lifting the lid on our recommended places to stay, based upon whether you’re on holiday with the family, or you’re looking to enjoy some of the city’s famous nightlife!

Where to stay in Berlin

Berlin is a city for everyone. From its modern roots as a city reclaimed by the people for the people to its current honour as one of the best places to live in Europe, visitors will find that people of all backgrounds and cultures live and visit Berlin. While it’s great to experience all the different areas of Berlin – and very doable on public transport or by hiring a bike – there are areas that are better for some special interests and requirements and we hope the following helps you in identifying where you can find your home from home in the brilliant city that is Berlin.

Where to stay in Berlin for families…

Prenzlauer Berg

There’s something poetic about Prenzlauer Berg and how it has grown from the centre of Berlin cool ten or twenty years ago to the natural habitat for yummy mummies nowadays. But I suppose that’s what happens when the hippies, punks and goths grow up and have babies. What this now means is that “Prenzl’berg” is the perfect place for families with child-friendly restaurants and cafes, children’s playgrounds in residential squares and popular green spaces like Volkspark, with its pretty fairy tale fountain and Mauer Park, which is home to a popular flea market on Sunday mornings. One of the biggest play parks for kids is at Kollwitzplatz, which helpfully for Mums and Dads is surrounded by coffee shops and there’s also an organic farmers market on Wednesday and Saturdays. Another benefit of staying in Prenzlauer Berg is the short trip required to get to Mitte where all the key historic sights, museums and landmarks can be found.

Where to stay in Berlin for cultural escape…

Mitte

As the name would suggest, Mitte is Berlin’s most central suburb and with that comes much of the key sights and landmarks from Berlin’s rich history. Stand back to admire Brandenburg Gate, Museuminsel (Museum Island) and the famous Fernsehtur (TV Tower) that will follow you wherever you go in Berlin. Mitte is also home to Checkpoint Charlie, near which you’ll find the very interesting museum of the same name as well as chunks of the Berlin Wall preserved and painted to highlight their poignancy. The tree-lined Unter den Linden is home to the most informative and enlightening museums about Berlin and Germany’s complex history like the DDR Museum and the Deutsche Historisches Museum and Mitte also has art collections that rival the world’s finest art museums in the Pergamon and Deutsche Guggenheim. You can also soak up some contemporary art at the KW Institute.

This all sound a bit stuffy to you? Well, why not swap the traditional for the slightly unconventional as Mitte also has the Ramones Museum, the Currywurst Museum and The Kennedys Museum, a private collection of artifacts dedicated to the most famous family in American politics, which has found its home in Berlin thanks to JFK’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” gaffe.

Where to stay in Berlin for nightlife

Neukolln, Friedrichshain & Kreuzberg

You could stay anywhere in Berlin and find a watering hole or two. If you then looked a little harder you’d likely find a warehouse nightclub or two or failing that a street or house party spilling music, noise and laughter into the air. In other words, all corners of Berlin have nocturnal tendencies. However, to really seek out the über nightlife scene that Berlin is known for you need to place yourself in one of the city’s younger and more up and coming neighbourhoods.

In Kreuzberg – Berlin’s original quarter of cool – most bars stay open until 3am, which means they don’t really get warmed up until 10-11pm. A quick stroll along Orianienstrasse will reveal a difficult dilemma – classy cocktail bar or rough-around-the edges partially refurbished pub? Why not try both. Popular spots include Luzia, Paloma Bar and Würgeengel on Dresdner Str.

A new(ish) neighbourhood is defining a new(ish) nightlife scene in the area where Neukölln meets Kreuzberg, or “Kreuzkölln” to the locals. Defined by the Landwehrkanal that provides grassy banks for sunny summertime drinking you should also head to Hermannplatz or Friedelstrasse in Neukölln to find a cool collection of trendy bars and pubs ready to warm you up for a party or two. Neukölln is also home to a number of relaxed live music venues including Valentin Stüberl.

To the south of Kreuzeberg is Friedrichshain, an area once famous for large scale all-night raves in disused industrial warehouses, while that can still be found and enjoyed (Google “Berghain”) it is now accompanied by strict doormen who can be pedantically picky about who gets in.  Friedrichshain has also allowed a more sophisticated nightlife scene take over its late night bars and venues. Karl-Marx-Allee is one of the streets you need to wander down in north Friedrichshain for cocktails and Michelberger Hotel is a very popular spot to enjoy a hipster crowd.

Where to stay in Berlin for foodies

Charlottenberg

Again, stay in any corner of Berlin and you’re likely to find an array of restaurants dishing up delicacies from around the world in a very convincing manner. There are also food markets taking place across the city like the famous Turkish market in Neukölln or the sweet treats on offer at Naschmarkt at Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg. However, to cover all corners of the globe and all budgets stay in Charlottenberg for a full foodie adventure. From Ashoka, the first Indian restaurant to open in Berlin to the once politically important Schwarzes Café, you can experience both Berlin specialities and international cuisine in Charlottenberg.  Another Berlin rite of passage can be found in Charlottenberg – the food court at the famous department store KaDeWa – and for the best traditional German cakes and tarts in Berlin find Leysieffer on Kurfürstendamm

Where to stay in Berlin for the Christmas Markets

Prenzlauer Berg or Mitte

Once November and December roll around, you’ll be tripping over Christmas markets in Berlin, so no matter where you stay you won’t miss out on the scent of cinnamon rising in the air. That said, you can greatly increase your chances of being filled with festive cheer by staying close to some of the best Christmas Markets the city can unwrap in either Prenzlauer Berg or in Mitte.

The Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt is as much about the twinkling fairy lights and seasonal entertainment as it is about drinking gluehwein and finding quaint Christmas decorations for your tree. It costs 1 Euro to enter but that’s a small price to pay for an overdose of yuletide glee. Mitte is also home to the Nostalgia Christmas Market at Opernpalais on Unter den Linden. Prenzlauer Berg is the queen of smaller-scale Christmas Markets from the eco-themed market at Kollwitzplatz to the Scandinavian themed huts of the Lucia Christmas Market at Kulturbrauerei.

For a very romantic Christmas Market head to the one held in the grounds of the grand Schloss Charlottenberg, the castle in Charlottenberg where a carousel, Christmas carol concerts and even a ferris wheel make the a journey west worth it.

Where to stay in Berlin for New Year’s Eve

Anywhere!

If we haven’t already proved to you that every corner of Berlin has something to offer someone, and this includes your expectations for celebrating New Year’s Eve in the city. Of course the most famous celebrations and fireworks will be at Brandenburg Gate so staying in Mitte is handy for that, but across the city bars, clubs and restaurants will be opening their doors, just do what you can to book your entry or table in advance. House parties and gatherings in parks and town squares will also keep the atmosphere lively across Berlin, just be warned that this does bring with it the impromptu setting off of fireworks from windows and street corners. So if a quiet night is what you’re after for “Silvester”, it may be advisable to bring ear plugs and stay in one of Berlin’s more calm neighbourhoods like Tempelhof-Schonenberg or out in the suburbs of Postdam or Spandau.

Have a great trip, and don’t forget to share your own travel tips in the comments below.

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Comments

  • jacomi says:

    good information and great pictures. however, you got some errors in there: before the wall came down, Kreuzberg was a west berlin district while Friedrichshain did belong to east berlin. the wall separated both where now parts are left with the east side gallery. It is also sweet how you changed some names round: it is actually Schöneberg and Charlottenburg. and it’s Friedrichshain not Friedrichshafen. but nevertheless, this is a valueable website for people planning a trip to berlin. this is only advice for editting, you don’t need to publish this comment (or you could take out the advice bits).

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