Berlin Travel Guide
Trying to sum up a city as diverse as Berlin in one paragraph seems like an effort in futility. Not many places have gone through such a turbulent period of history as Berlin has done in the past century, reminders of which can still be seen today in the bullet hole-ridden façades of Mitte or the remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. When the sun goes down, the laidback character of the city gives way to a hedonistic, non-stop nightlife that is second to none. Hearing a call for last orders is rare, and it’s one of few places where you could conceivably enter a club on a Friday night and re-emerge Monday morning. Perhaps what makes Berlin so fascinating to explore though is that each district is like a town in itself, all of which exhibit their own style and quirks. Although forming stark contrasts, these idiosyncrasies complement each other and combine to form one of the most vibrant, exciting cities in the world. Wondering what to do in Berlin? Mr Hudson has got you covered.
The best hotels in Berlin
Tucked away in the trendy district of Prenzlauer Berg is a hotel of two halves, Ackselhaus & Blue Home. Ackselhaus is the more eclectic of the two, featuring thirteen creatively-themed rooms that range from the bold colours of ‘Picasso’ to the reserved elegance of ‘Cairo’. Its sibling next door, Blue Home, is a more typical boutique hotel, but one that evokes a sense of tranquillity by virtue of its soothing colour palettes and carefully selected furnishings.
At the other end of the stylistic spectrum, you have the exuberant Hotel Zoo Berlin, which was flush with film stars and celebrities during the fifties. Its most recent renovation encapsulates the glitz and glamour of this decadent past, combining it with animal motifs—a nod to nearby Berlin Zoo. Each of the 131 rooms and 14 suites is unique in design and layout, with many boasting alluring features such as freestanding bathtubs and floor-to-ceiling windows.
The Mandala Hotel is a 5-star hotel that exudes luxury. Centrally located at Potsdamer Platz, it puts you within walking distance of sights such as the Brandenburg Gate. Here you can expect rooms that are both opulent and spacious (and even the smallest rooms, at 40m2, have suite-like qualities). The indulgent experience of this elegant establishment is rounded off with the sensuous ONO Spa and the fine dining of restaurant FACIL. Boasting two Michelin stars, it’s one of Germany’s best restaurants. Not only does it serve exquisite food, but the interior is equally stunning, with glass walls that overlook a bamboo garden and a glass roof that retracts during summer.
Positioned on the edge of Berlin’s biggest and arguably most beautiful park, Tiergarten, the 5-star Das Stue offers stylish accommodation in a gorgeous building that was once the Royal Danish Embassy. It features interiors designed by the world-renowned Patricia Urquiola and provides Michelin-starred cuisine courtesy of Cinco restaurant.
Berlin is full of vibrant flea markets that take place each weekend
Things to do in Berlin
Berlin is full of vibrant flohmärkte (flea markets) that take place each weekend. The most well known is the flea market at Mauerpark, and although there’s a lot of junk, those with a keen eye can find some real gems. Adjacent to the market, the hugely popular Bearpit Karaoke takes place. Members of the public perform songs (some superbly, others appallingly) in front of huge crowds, providing great entertainment and the perfect reprieve from navigating the many stalls.
Nowkölln is another excellent flea market, which takes place every other Sunday next to the Landwehr Canal (except in winter). The preferred choice of Berlin’s hipsters, here you can expect to find all manner of objects, ranging from vintage clothing to vinyl. For something more refined, explore the market outside the Bode Museum, or the one on Straße des 17 Juni, which are more geared towards antiques and artwork.
The vibrant district of Schöneberg was once home to David Bowie, and it’s not hard to see why. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, and there are tons of cosy cafés, great restaurants, and lively bars to explore. Berlin is known for being a gay-friendly destination, and although this is true throughout the city, it’s Nollendorfplatz (and the surrounding area) in Schöneberg that has been the centre of Berlin’s gay scene since the early 20th century.
Neukölln is an area of Berlin that barely gets a mention in most guidebooks, but its shabby-chic establishments are ideal for the intrepid traveller seeking a less conventional experience. Take a stroll along Weserstraße and its surrounding streets and you’ll find a variety of tasty cheap eats like Sahara Imbiss and Hamy Cafe, as well as great bars. For something cosy and intimate you could try Kachellounge 54, or for a more lively place try Silver Future—a divey, flamboyant gay bar “for kings, queens, and criminal queers” that stays packed long into the night.
Things to see in Berlin
When looking to get your culture fix, Museum Island is a good place to start. Here you’ll find five internationally-acclaimed museums, including the Alte Nationalgalerie and Pergamon Museum. For something off the tourist trail, you’ll want to check out Sammlung Boros. This private modern art collection is housed within the imposing confines of a former World War II bunker and features works from the likes of Ai Weiwei and Klara Lidén. The only way to see it is by booking a tour (and the waiting list is often weeks-long) but it’s certainly worth the effort.
Berlinische Galerie is an exceptional museum which focuses on modern art, photography, and architecture. The lower floor has outstanding exhibitions that change every few months, and upstairs you’ll find the wonderful permanent exhibition ‘Art in Berlin’, which features artworks from 1880 to 1980.
Those who appreciate photography are well catered for. C/O Berlin delivers first-rate exhibitions from well-known names and upcoming photographers alike, and the Museum of Photography is particularly enjoyable if you appreciate fashion, as it houses a permanent collection of Helmut Newton’s work.
If you fancy a day trip, try nearby Potsdam. A charming city steeped in history, this former Prussian royal seat is adorned with spectacular gardens and breathtaking palaces, earning it a place on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Be sure to drop by one of Berlin’s many third wave coffee establishments
Where to eat in Berlin
Berlin has an abundance of great restaurants producing cuisine from around the world, reflecting the multikulti character of the city. One of the hidden gems of the city is Le Saint Amour. This cosy French bistro is so tucked away that even if you happened to pass by you might not notice it. Step inside, however, and you’re rewarded with delicious, authentic Lyonnaise cuisine paired with fantastic wines.
For northern Italian cuisine, try Cecconi’s, which you’ll find on the ground floor of Soho House Berlin. The restaurant itself is gorgeous (sumptuous red leather seating, an open plan kitchen, and Art Deco-inspired chandeliers are among its chief highlights), providing a delightful setting in which to enjoy the excellent food.
A few British-style gastropubs have come and gone in the city of Berlin, but one that certainly looks here to stay is St Bartholomew. The menu is wonderfully executed—offering British staples such as scotch eggs and sausages rolls alongside German classics like Himmel und Erde.
After a long night enjoying Berlin’s nightlife you need a great breakfast or brunch, and Roamers is the place to get it. The rustic, California-style interior looks like it’s lifted straight from your Instagram feed and the food is superb. The only downside is the wait for a table; it’s wildly popular among the locals.
Alternatively, you could opt for a German-style brunch at Engelberg. Hot dishes such as scrambled eggs or the Bavarian classic of weißwurst are on the menu, but for a true German experience, it’s worth grabbing a bread basket and sampling the excellent choice of high-quality cheeses and meats.
Be sure to drop by one of Berlin’s many third wave coffee establishments. Many places roast their own beans for the freshest brew, such as Five Elephant, which is also widely regarded as having the best cheesecake in Berlin. Companion Coffee (who also produce a great range of teas) is perhaps the best in the city. They have a small café inside the aforementioned Voo Store and a larger establishment on Weserstraße. Concierge Coffee is a tiny coffee shop located on the Landwehr Canal, making it ideal for grabbing a coffee zum mitnehmen (to go) and enjoying a stroll along the waterway. If you find yourself in Neukölln, the minimal and airy Dots is an excellent choice, as is CAMON. For a more traditional experience, visit the Viennese-style coffeehouse Café Einstein on Kurfürstenstraße. It’s a great place to have brunch, and if you’re here you simply have to try the apfelstrudel, an Austrian speciality.
Shopping in Berlin
The long avenues of Kurfürstendamm and Torstraße are ideal for those seeking upmarket shops and well-known designer brands, but Berlin also has plenty of unique, independent stores to explore. Harry Lehmann, for example, is a veritable Berlin institution. Operating since 1926, they sell around fifty perfumes ranging from modern scents to classics that have been a staple of the shop since the thirties.
It’s a great city if you’re looking for some new threads. Menswear stores such as SOTO provide a wide range of high-quality clothing from American, European, and Asian designers, and there are also plenty of vintage clothing stores such as Paul’s Boutique. If you’re looking to compliment your wardrobe with a pair of snazzy shades, be sure to pay a visit to MYKITA. Not only are they based in Berlin, but it’s also here that they hand-assemble their innovative eyewear from start to finish.
One of the gems of Neukölln is Amore Store, a shop that specialises in Italian goods ranging from pasta and coffee to beautiful espresso cups and funky umbrellas. Every colourful product is beautifully packaged and designed, which comes as no surprise once you learn that the owner, Kerstin Finger, is a former graphic artist.
The concept stores of Berlin provide the perfect opportunity for discerning gentlemen to browse and shop curated collections of the most refined objects. Notable establishments include the chic Voo Store, ultra-stylish The Store, and beautifully minimal Andreas Murkudis, where you can find carefully-selected articles ranging from designer fashion to stationery.
When it comes to exploring the city’s nightlife, you’ll find there’s an almost overwhelming choice of bars and clubs. Berlin is a far cry from the clichéd lederhosen and dirndl look that you see during Oktoberfest, but if it’s a quintessential beer garden you’re after, Prater fits the bill and is perfect for those hot summer months. Germany is, of course, well known for its excellent beer, but go beyond the standard fare of pilsner and weissbier by exploring the city’s burgeoning craft beer scene with a visit to Hopfenreich.
If you’re more partial to a cocktail, try one of the many bars practising the fine art of mixology. Speakeasies like Green Door and Becketts Kopf can be a little tricky to find and have limited seating, but once you sample their incredible libations the extra effort to get inside is soon forgotten. If you happen to be in Mitte, you could drop in on Mr Susan—a cocktail bar with great drinks and a funky interior that puts most of the touristy bars nearby to shame.
For a party that goes long into the night, try Horse Meat Disco. It started in London nearly two decades ago, yet nowadays they have events taking place across the world, including one every few months in Berlin. As well as being a great queer event in general, the focus on disco music offers a refreshing alternative to Berlin’s mostly-techno clubbing scene.
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Bearpit Karaoke | Photo: James Fancourt
Ai Weiwei at Sammlung Boros | Photo: NOSHE
Ackselhaus | Photo: James Fancourt
Landwehr Canal | Photo: James Fancourt
St Bartholomew | Photo James Fancourt
Amore Store | Photo: James Fancourt
Voo Store | Photo: James Fancourt
La Saint Amour | Photo: James Fancourt