Waking up in Berlin on a Friday morning, I was surprised to find the streets quiet and the sites relatively tourist-free. We had arrived at the airport late at night and from the taxi window the city had looked much the same as any other European capital.
Friends and family had promised me I would love Berlin – since the demolition of the dividing wall between East and West the city has united in many ways, and creativity has blossomed in every aspect of city life.
Visually I was shocked at the lack of picturesque details and yet when you furrow further it is easy to understand why Berlin has such a hip and cool reputation, an influential and radical art scene, forward-thinking fashion and vintage shops and plenty of good food outlets. But the thrill is really found behind closed doors… Berlin has a thrilling nightlife: crazy clubs, innovative cocktails and mad music, all housed in unlikely establishments. The cabaret, theatre and drag scene is still very evident and can be found in quirkier venues. In Berlin anything goes, as I discovered on my weekend trip there.
Sofitel – a centrally located luxurious haven, the perfect place to stay on an indulgent weekend break.
Movenpick – this psychedelic hotel mixes fun and comfort. Numerous rooms and facilities provide for the guest’s every need.
Tim Raue – This inspiring Michelin star restaurant offers beautiful and innovative cuisine in a hip and quirky venue.
The Bird – The best burgers in town apparently, and I’m not arguing, these sublimely sloppy soft baps have delicious ground beef with various exciting toppings. We tried the insanely good bacon and cheese variety which arrived with a mound of moreish chips.
Anna Blume – this darling brunch café pairs up as a pretty flower shop. Sit outside amongst the blooms and enjoy the sunshine and relaxed vibe while tucking into a giant slab of carrot cake and coffee.
Barbie Deinhoffs – A legendary bar run by celebrity drag queen Lena Braun. This bright pink Barbie-themed boozer attracts all kinds and is one of Berlin’s top spots for an amusing and debauchery-filled evening. Be warned though cocktails are expensive, best to get a cheap German beer.
Zum Schmutzigen Hobby – Nina Queer’s glamorous cult bar gets crowded, stays open late and has seen various celebrities through its doors for Barbarella Parties, the Glamourquiz, Schlagerbox’s popular German music nights, and a host of cool guest DJs. Nearby you will find retro Photomat machines where you can pay 2 Euros for a strip of four vintage black and white snaps.
John Muir – a new and sophisticated cocktail bar serves up genius concoctions at reasonable prices. Super stylish, slick and chic, but not at all girly, this is the perfect lounge for all cocktail lovers.
Berghain – known to many as ‘the best club in Europe’ this magical and mythical club can be impossibly picky on the door. Visitors go through a random selection process, how they pick no one knows. But for the lucky clubbers allowed in, a night of magnificent music and excitement awaits.
White Trash Fast Food –WTFF entertains guests as an all-in-one burger joint, tattoo parlour, tiki shack and smoking cinema – a hangout for rock’n'rollers seeking 50s retro, rockabilly, surf, garage and punk sounds. Book ahead for a dinner table, and then head down to the basement bar to dance away the night. Prepare to dress up.
Don’t bother asking for directions from a local – I found them to be rude and unhelpful and certainly not tourist friendly. If you can bear the spontaneity, let yourself wander aimlessly and you will stumble across some hidden gems.
Frau Tonis – a pristine shop filled with subtle scents, all bottled beautifully in glass beakers and bottles. Buy a Berlin inspired fragrance like Unter der Linden or use the pure liquids to concoct and design your very own bespoke perfume.
Sabrina Dehoff – my favourite jewellery designer in Berlin, a wonderful and wacky collection of bright crystal adorned bracelets and necklaces and delicate gold plated accessories.
The Happy Shop – the name says it all… an outlet which stocks a variety of fabulous and flirty garments from designers like Christopher Kane and Sonia Rykiel. I grabbed a great sale piece and loved the diverse assortment of unusual accessories.
Bob is Pop – I loved this unique shop selling handcrafted Berlin bits and bobs. I bought a super jazzy neon print that despite the struggle back on the Easyjet flight was worth it!
Made in Berlin – one of the biggest and most colourful vintage shops in town, though there are plenty to choose from. Made in Berlin offers reasonable and hip clothing for men and women, rummage around and you’re sure to find a one off bargain.
Holocaust Memorial – this poignant memorial was constructed in 2005 as a dedication to those lost. Walk through the towering blocks and then go downstairs to see the facts, figures and pictures in more detail.
Berlin Wall – it took us a while to find this substantial chunk of wall, a reminder of the painful divide between East and West Germany this graffitied relic is a must see. You may notice other suggestions of the wall’s presence in the ground around the city.
Checkpoint Charlie – a popular tourist spot marking the entry point, definitely worth a peek.
Friedrichstadt Palast – Experience a sensational show in the biggest theatre in Berlin with over 100 artists on stage, lots of fabulous fun and frolics.
Flohmarkt am Mauerpark – the only place to be on a Sunday. This huge flea market offers everything and anything you could imagine. After delving through the vintage clothes grab a CurryWurst hotdog and venture out to the field where a popular Karaoke afternoon of performances is held every week.
As with many trendy modern cities, the best places are those little venues you stumble across at the end of a long tiring day trekking about with a crumbled map. Berlin is littered with hip hang outs and hopefully this selection will get you off to a good start.