Thursday, January 15, 2015

Living like a local in Berlin

I'm thrilled to have Adam of Travels of Adam with us today to share some of the best spots to visit in Berlin. Adam's a fellow Bostonian-who-transplanted-to-Europe, and has been living in Berlin since 2011. He's already written a pretty rad guide to the city, which you can find here, but you can get a quick hit of some of his favourite Berlin hangouts right here!

It’s undoubtedly Europe’s coolest city. With 24-hour nightlife, a growing culinary scene and affordable living, Berlin has attracted people from all over the world. DJs want to play Berlin’s clubs (some of the best in the world) and artists want their work shown in the hundreds of independent galleries. There is always something interesting happening in Berlin. And thanks to the city’s sprawling size and relative diversity, it’s now one of the world’s trendiest cities. Whether visiting for a day, a weekend or a week, it's easy to visit the city just like a local — thanks in part to the culture of relative kindness in Berlin.

Know Where To Stay

I've written a lengthy guide to Berlin's best neighborhoods but here's the gist….

Kreuzberg and Neukolln are very trendy at the moment and there are countless bars, restaurants and cafés in the area. Prenzlauer Berg is kind of the area famous for young families and it’s a bit more quiet and much more gentrified than Xberg or Neukölln. It's one of the prettiest areas of Berlin. Friedrichshian is also very hip/cool and where most of the nightlife is, so if that's your goal for your trip, then you should base yourself there. Tourists are all over Berlin, in Kreuzberg, Neukolln, Prenzlauerberg, Friedrichshain, Mitte…

Park am Gleisdreick in Schoneberg

Charlottenburg is in the west and you’ll find some hotels there, but it’s less “cool” and more “American.” I’ve called it “Charlottenboring” in the past, though the west is starting to have a bit of a resurgence. Moabit and Wedding are often called up-and-coming Berlin neighborhoods but that’s just because they’re kind of boring and a handful of cool venues have opened there recently… but it’s not my favorite area. In Mitte is where many of the hotels are, plus some great shopping around Hackescher Markt. A lot of the locals, though, tend to stick to the area around Rosenthaler Platz where there are also some decent hostels and budget hotels located.

Food & Drink

Berlin may not be known as a foodie destination, but over the years I’ve lived here, I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in the quality and quantity of good places to eat. A lot of locals go to the weekly Street Food Thursday event. It's a decent way to sample a lot of the food trucks and pop-up restaurants in Berlin, but make sure you go early or otherwise there might not be any food left! The newer Sunday market at Neue Heimat also features a lot of the same street food vendors, or check for the Bite Club event which occurs irregularly.

Currywurst is one of Berlin's local food specialities, but I suggest you skip it unless you have some sort of passion for curry-flavored ketchup. Instead: go for the döner kebab. They're available everywhere (literally: EVERYWHERE) and every Berliner has their own favorite spot. I like the ones from Meraba in Greifswalder Strasse but many people swear by Mustafa's which has locations in Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. You can also get vegetarian options at many of these döner imbiss (fast food) stands — try the halloumi!

Berlin has a very large coffee culture and there are countless coffee shops — sometimes new ones opening up every month! Many locals hang out St Oberholz not for the coffee (it's okay, but not the *best*) but for the free wifi and ample space to work on your computer. For real coffee shops, check out my list here.

Bars & Nightlife

Much of the action in Berlin takes place at the city’s countless nightclubs. To find the best club events and DJs, anyone planning to visit Berlin should check Resident Advisor for the list of what DJs will be where. I also recommend checking the Open Airs Berlin Facebook page (especially during the summer). Because of Berlin's excellent summer weather and the fact the city is so green with many parks, lakes and open spaces, Berlin has a lot of great open air clubs and events. That Facebook page lists the best events.

A lot of the best Berlin bars are located in Kreuzberg and Neukolln. Bar crawls aren’t very popular in Berlin but if you’re looking for a street full of great bars, check out Weserstraße in Neukölln. The bars here change quite a bit and new ones are popping up all the time, but you can’t really go wrong with a night out on Weserstraße. And while you’re there, keep your eyes out for the giant frog sculptures!

Images from Travels of Adam, reproduced with permission of Adam Groffman.

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