The year 2009 saw Berlin labelled the “coolest city in Europe”, and it has successfully sustained that reputation since. Berlin is not only the capital of Germany but the hub of techno music, avant-garde art and gourmet street food. It is a place for the creative soul, fashioning both a relaxed and energetic vibe. It’s a diverse metropolis, with an ingrained taste for change. With its youthful and tolerant mentality, Berlin leads the way in innovative design.
Amidst its artistic flair, Berlin is together, industrial and charming. Although not quintessentially known for being beautiful, its tree-lined canals and peaceful Tiergarten district, crafts a calm and comfortable feel amongst Berliners, continuously deceiving tourists of its hidden splendour.
As David Bowie once said “Berlin: the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine”, and he couldn’t be more right. Its creative synergies, free-spirited climate and cheap rent have turned the German capital into a major magnet for artists from around the globe. Here we offer our pick of the must-sees and dos:
Berlin has a collaborative ethos, with freelancers travelling to work there daily. The co-working spaces in Berlin are stereotypically affordable, offering a wealth of diversity. Small businesses and solo entrepreneurs come together in a singular environment, forming a professional, casual and contemporary feel to each office space.
Located in the hassle-free Tiergarten district, Fritz46 flaunts a distinctive design, within a 70’s-industrial building. It presents a series of amenities any good co-working space should have, including meeting rooms, flexibility, a coffee machine, and a professional work atmosphere. Fritz46, unfortunately, doesn’t offer day passes, but it does offer 10-days at €99 or monthly options at €159.
Another workspace, which particularly speaks out to freelancers wishing to socialise with other like-minded people, is Sankt Oberholz – underpinning the notion that space and place are essential in equal measures. Taking the old and infusing it with the new to create places that house co-working spaces and team rooms, Sankt Oberholz’s vibe is particularly easy going. Membership provides 24-hour access to both locations, private rooms, use of microwaves and shower facilities, among other essential amenities. They have packages for night owls and virtual offices in addition to their standard co-working membership, with desks costing €159 a month and day tickets priced at €15.
Undoubtedly one of the larger co-working spaces in Berlin, Betahaus offers over 5,000 square metres over five levels. There are co-working spaces, a community area, team rooms and meeting rooms in various sizes. It also offers a hardware lab, a wood workshop, and a café, so you will always find a place that suits your needs and style. Whether it is to network and collaborate, or to have a productive day; to develop skills, push innovation, or exchange ideas and get inspired. No membership is needed to use the social space, and the Wi-Fi is obviously enabled, its memberships are pretty flexible and start at €15 per day or €89 for a monthly contract.
Mindspace is placed in the heart of cosmopolitan Berlin, amongst tech giants and fashion houses. In the midst of Berlin’s thriving startup ecosystem, Mindspaces’ co-working set-up is bursting with originality and creativity. With spaces in both the sophisticated Mitte district and in hip Kreuzberg, it includes super-fast Wi-Fi, soda machines, a coffee bar and meeting rooms equipped with large LCD screens and Apple TVs. The space is also fully furnished with stylish wooden fittings. Memberships start from €50, open spaces at €250 a month and private offices at €420 per desk.
The agency scene
A city as dynamic as Berlin attracts a whole host of creativity. Whether it's interior design, architecture or music, Berlin holds some of the world’s most innovative agencies appealing to a range of clients.
The leading design agencies in Berlin consist of VerbalVisual, die Taikonauten, Hort, Colours and the Kids, State, BASICS09 and Ufomammoot. These studio’s projects lay at the intersection of media and communications, offering services in branding, interactive design and development, print and exhibitions.
Best bars & coffee houses
Berlin is fuelled by cheap beer and a substantial amount of both contemporary and retro coffee houses. Although it's not a necessity to indulge in alcohol, this is where Berlin truly holds its own. Berlin has a sweeping array of edgy scenes and its growing underground nightlife is something which needs to be explored.
If you’re a fan of anything remotely cool and vintage then Madame Claude is the place for you. Once a former brothel, it has been re-vamped and designed to create a Beatnik appeal – popular with all of the Kreuzberg district' hipsters and Bohemians. From furniture stuck to the ceiling to a late-night disco vibe with cocktails and draft beer of your choice, evenings here at Madame Claude exude an eccentric yet cool atmosphere.
Legendary Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino is a cult icon across the world and here in Berlin, that opinion is no different. Tarantino’s Bar is almost a shrine to the gritty filmmaker. Expect every detail to be flavoured with Tarantino during the day, whether it’s his globally acclaimed Pulp Fiction playlist or re-runs of Reservoir Dogs playing in the background.
Late nights, like most places in Berlin, result in the music’s volume increased and a livelier atmosphere brought in. Creating a new age appeal to Tarantino’s Bar, the nighttime attracts a wider range of people rather than just his devout following, creating a more diverse feel. The legend is that both Brad Pitt and Tarantino have visited the bar while visiting Europe’s coolest city. Who knows, maybe you’ll bump into him next time you’re there?
Who doesn’t love a good rooftop bar to soak in a city from above? The beautiful city of Berlin can be glorified by a hidden gem called Klunkerkranich, located on the parking deck of the Neukölln Arcaden Mall, up an elevator and through a maze of concrete. Scattered wooden slates and chairs focus around an urban garden project centre piece, bringing colour and light to its surrounding. There isn’t a greater place to admire Berlin from above while enjoying a cold Krombacher and listening to its live jazz or outdoor concerts.
After countless late-night raves, all you need is a nice cup of coffee to sort you out. The Barn, despite only being open since 2010, holds some of Berlin’s best. Taking pride in its devotion to the art of coffee making has resulted in The Barn becoming the internationally known ambassadors of Berlin coffee enthusiasts. Hosting a clear and simplistic Scandinavian design throughout the café, it attracts the artistic community of Berlin by its looks alone.
Trying not to be cliché, Berlin isn’t your stereotypical German city full of Bratwurst and Sauerkraut. A lot like its drinking scene, dining in Berlin has dramatically evolved over the last couple of years.
No longer is a slack, unenthusiastic sandwich or a sausage smothered in Ketchup the pinnacle of Berlin’s culinary skills. It is, in fact, a very multicultural place, with a wide diversity of mouth-watering cuisines for its many different tourists to stumble upon.
Berlin’s Western and American influence is huge. The likes of David Bowie and Iggy Pop moved into Berlin’s American quarter and JFK gave his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech at the Schoneberg Town Hall, so it’s safe to say there is more than enough American influence within the city. In particular, its cuisine shadows American favourites – particularly at The Bird, located in the popular hipster/student district of Am Falkplatz.
This New York-style bar and steak house takes you straight out of the streets of Berlin and throws you into the hustle and bustle of New York City. Focusing primarily on high-quality steak and burgers on a budget, The Bird claims undoubtedly to have Berlin’s best steaks. Find yourself amongst fellow travellers and Berlin locals who love to immerse themselves in both great food, ambience and music, with rustic American-themed signs and movie posters dotted across its exposed brick walls, The Bird creates the full US of A experience.
Berlin boasts a vibrant, pop-up gourmet food scene. And although the infamous Doner Kebab was created in Berlin, and has become a favourite with most Berliners – and Brits – alike, the city still offers Michelin starred quality cuisine.
Les Solistes is the creation of renowned French chef Pierre Gagnaire who has his own fair share of Michelin stars. Les Solistes menu is simply put – expensive. A four course meal is not for those on a budget trip, roughly equating to around €115. However, including French classics and the chef’s signature showstopper ‘grand’ dessert course, Les Solistes quire literally pulls out all the stops.
You can’t travel all the way to Berlin and not try their signature dish. Yes, I'm talking about Sausages. Currywurst, Bockwurst and Bratwursts can be found on almost every street corner and are favourites of both the locals and the tourists who pass through the city. Hearty gut busting, artery clogging sausages are a staple of German cuisine, and some of the best can be found at Curry 36.
Top five touristy things you must do
Berlin is a city steeped in dark history. Since the end of the Second World War and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the city has seen a progressive cultural uprising, particularly within its art scene. The positivity and individualism eventually changed the popular opinion of Berlin, bringing social freedom and equality to all who live there. It is now a tourist’s haven, holding an extensive range of sights and attractions for all kinds of people.
Created in a bleak time in Berlin’s history, the Berlin Wall served to segregate the communist East Berliners from the West. The East Side Gallery takes a contemporary approach to history, combining it with modern art. With more than one hundred paintings located on over 1.3 kilometres of stone segments, the East Side Gallery serves as a voice for many artists, showcasing their political opinions.
Over 118 artists from 21 countries participated in showcasing their graffiti across the wall, including iconic murals of a Trabant breaking through the wall and Honecker and Brezhnev in a brotherly socialist kiss. The East Side Gallery takes a section of the Berlin Wall and makes it the longest open-air gallery in the world, alongside one of the most individualistic pieces of contemporary art. It's something far more symbolic than just a wall.
Notable for its four-horse chariot and six large columns on each side, nothing says "Berlin" quite like the Brandenburg Gate. Arguably the city's most defining monument and Germany’s personal answer to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the 26-metre-high sandstone structure is a must-see – the ideal opportunity for you to use your selfie stick.
Berlin holds some of the world’s most unique and independent galleries. The C/O Gallery focuses on Berlin’s photography scene; supporting young, up-and-coming artists as well as attracting some of the biggest names in the business including the likes of Robert Mappelthorpe, Peter Lindbergh and Annie Leibovitz. Located in the notorious Amerik Haus, a place once bombarded with eggs and Molotov cocktails and protected with barbed wire – thankfully these days it’s no longer like this - it welcomes visitors to a relaxed simplistic atmosphere.
Alongside The C/O Gallery is Berlin’s ‘favourite’ gallery. Often topping opinion polls, the Berlinische Galerie is an artist’s top pick. Renovated from a former glass warehouse, Berlinische Galerie has a calm and contemplative aura, with plenty of light, white walls, white floors and cleverly designed, criss-crossing staircases. It offers a steady flow of new exhibitions, including shows from fashion anti-hero Nan Goldin and a retrospective of the Berlin-born Arno Fische.
Attracting over one million people a year and soaring 368 metres into Berlin’s skyline, the Fernsehturm is the city’s most visible landmark. The tower on Alexanderplatz is not just literally a must-see sight, it is also the highest building in Europe open to the general public. From the dizzying height of its viewing platform, you have spectacular 360-degree panoramic views out across the entire city.
All images courtesy of Adobe Stock