My last visit to Berlin was a while ago – 2004 and 2009. But as friends will travel to Europe at the end of this month and as they want to visit Berlin, it is a good reason to share my pictures and experiences here.
I am sure that the vibrant city Berlin still offers a wonderful combination of history, night life, architecture and culture as I got to know during my stay.
Besides the main attractions there are quiet a few hidden places to explore. Some of them I visited myself and are described in this article. A lot more you will find in the guide “Berlin Hidden Places“.
It is the heart of Germany, with a stoic beat that echoes through grand public buildings, glorious museums and theatres, urbane restaurants, bustling pubs and raucous nightclubs. Most of the usual good places to go are in the center of Berlin (Mitte), but the eastern part of the city has all the nightlife.
The Berliners are often friendly and extremely helpful, although you may also encounter the famous “Berliner Schnauze,” a certain brusqueness that can seem rude.
Berlin may be one of the greenest cities in Europe: over 60% of its surface area is either a park or a river… it even has more bridges than Venice!
And it has an amazing number of sights, although it is not as centralized or small as other European cities. Sometimes the best thing to do: simply strolling along one of hundreds of charming streets passing nice cafes is pleasurable enough.
A famous Berlin Antique Market awaits you at Bahnhof Friedrichstraße. Over 40 dealers present antiques, rarities and many curios from times gone by in 13 converted municipal railway arches every day: (except Tuesdays) from 11 am until 6 pm.
Here you are guaranteed to find just the right souvenir or the collector’s piece you have been looking for. Then you can spoil into the Restaurant “Zur Nolle” with select dishes and fine cake creations.
Address: Berlin Mitte
Bahnhof Friedrichstraße / Corner Georgenstraße
The painstakingly restored Hackesche Höfe are no doubt one of the most popular destinations for tourists at the present time.
The Hackesche Höfe consists of a net of eight courtyards for living and working, which together forms the largest of its kind in Germany. Like many Berlin courtyards, this complex of buildings, which arose around the turn of the last century, was a mixture of offices, workshops, multi-story factories (particularly in the front courtyards) and apartments. This concept was also adopted and successfully applied during the modernization of the courtyards, which were in serious need of renovation. Hof I (Endellscher Hof), which was designed by the Jugendstil artist and architect August Endell, houses the “Chamäleon” cabaret theatre, a film theatre, and several bars and restaurants; in Hof II (Theaterhof) there is the Hackesche Hof Theatre and a series of architects’ offices; the remaining courtyards are occupied by numerous smaller shops and galleries. The area around the Höfe is also thriving: with countless bars, restaurants and clubs; it is one of Berlin nightlife’s most talked-about districts.
In the area around Hackesche Höfe (Alte Schönhauser Allee / Weinmeisterstr.) you will find many little nice shops with fashion for everybody.
Address: Hackescher Markt, Berlin-Mitte
Directions: S-Bahn: Hackescher Markt
This surprise fairytale tearoom is the most unusual cafe in Berlin and one of my favourite place. It was a present from the government of Tajikistan to the GDR. The whole interior is hand-made and was initially exported to Leipzig as part of an exhibition in 1974. Then in 1976 it was relocated to the Palais am Festungsgraben (which is close to “Unter den Linden”), a former seat of the Prussian Ministry of Finance.
The tearoom serves accordingly authentic teas and light snacks from Tajikistan, while guests sit on nice cushions at low-level tables. Every Monday at 6pm (in winter season) they present a storyteller, who tells traditional fairytales in German to its audience. Reservation recommended (+49 30 204 1112) as it is a very popular place.
Old Address: Palais am Festungsgraben, Am Festungsgraben
UPDATE – the tea house moved – please check their website for updated information: http://www.tadshikische-teestube.de
Municipal Market Halls
A little-known but remarkable feature in Berlin’s architectural history consists of the municipal market halls dating from the end of the 19th century, four of which are preserved in their original condition or are being restored.
The market halls were an improvement: for the residents next to the old weekly markets they eliminated a source of smell and noise, and the customers and traders could now conduct their business out of the weather and in a more structured fashion.
Market hall VI in Ackerstrasse is the only one of the four old halls which still have the original exterior. Like all the halls it has two entrances, but whereas they were usually at the ends, here they are in the corners. Most market halls were built in a block residential context so that only two narrow facades had to be financed. Small shops were established next to the entrances, and dwellings for the shop owners were created on the first floor.
All halls were built to a uniform pattern: a high central aisle lit by side windows leads into traverse side aisles with skylights. The roof is supported by cast-iron girders and steel trusses.
Lively market activity can still be seen in the Arminiushalle in Moabit which, unusually, occupies an entire block. However, the facade facing Arminiusstrasse has been altered, and the same applies to the market halls in Kreuzberg on Eisenbahnstrasse and Marheinekeplatz.
Shopping in Kreuzberg
Kreuzberg is a paradise when you are looking for junk items, second-hand books, second-hand clothes, hardware and software. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it in one of the many shops on Bergmannstrasse or at the famous flea market (Bergmannstr./Marheineckeplatz, Sat & Sun 10am till 4pm). On the markets you can test your bargain skills or just visit the famous button shop from Paul Knopf (Zossenstr. 10, Berlin Kreuzberg).
And if you get hungry you will have no problem to find something on Bergmannstrasse which suits your taste either.
Oranienstrasse in Kreuzberg is like Bergmannstrasse a street full of shops, cafes and restaurants.
This residential area in former East Berlin has only a few minor sights and museums to explore. But I like the atmosphere in the streets especially in summer, when you can sit outside in a nice cafe and watching the hip crowds go by.
At the end of the Eberswalter Str. was once a piece of the Berlin wall. Today you’ll find here the Mauerpark, where nice outdoor events are taking place in summer.
And then there is the Kulturbrauerei (literally the “cultural brewery”) between Schönhauser Allee and Knaackstrasse. It is an old beer brewery, huge and made of red brick. Here you will find quiet a good amount of bars and clubs, events, restaurants and a cinema.
Also located in the Kulturbrauerei is Berlin on Bike, which do awesome biketours – day and night – around the cities most interesting places.
Treptow Crematorium, Am Flutgaben & Badeschiff
Treptow Crematorium (yes! Sounds strange, but…) has become an object of study for enthusiastic friends and students of contemporary architecture from all over the world.
We went there one day on our shorttrip and I must say it is really worth a visit if you are interested in architecture – although it takes some time to get there by train and bus.
Bus, Tube, Tram: S 6, S 8, S 9, S 10, S 45, S 46 Baumschulenweg; Bus 166
Hours: Mon-Fri 9.00-15.00
But you can combine it with a visit at Treptower Park, the sculpture “Molecule Man” at the river Spree and a coffee stop at the Flutgraben (Restaurant “Freischwimmer” and the “Club der Visionäre“), which is an awesome place to relax in summer.
Restaurant “Freischwimmer” is a former boat rental company and boat repair-workshop, builds approx. 1932. During the wall time allotment gardens were resident here.
Since 1998 it is directly on the shore of the flood ditch exactly on the former border area between Treptow and Kreuzberg opposite site of the “Club der Visionäre”.
The access to the water restaurant is directly beside the oldest Berlin gas station (Aral).
And around the corner from here you will also find the Arena Badeschiff Berlin, which in summer is an open swimming pool on the river Spree and has a sandy beach along the pier. In Winter they open the boat aswell and it is a real island to recover from the bustling city – two finish saunas, pool and panoramic view. I definitely have to try this when I go back to visit.
And then there is more…
I hope this article gives you a little overview about some neighborhoods and places where the locals go or which I could discover during my visits. Of course there is much more to see and you should not miss to see some of the major sights, such as BRANDENBURGER GATE, THE HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL, ALEXANDERPLATZ, POTSDAMER PLATZ, CHECKPOINT CHARLIE and many more. But I am sure that your guidebook will help with that.
cover picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/luxtonnerre/ picture Tadschikische Teestube: http://www.flickr.com/photos/profex/ other pictures by hundertmorgen, 2004