Berlin is by far one of my favorites cities in Europe. Culture, art, history, amazing vintage stores, indie labels, great food, fantastic beer, and reasonable prices make me visit it over and over again.
In Berlin, in every quartier there are places reminding that the town used to be a home for two sick ideologies: Nazism and Communism. Even if you are not planning a history focused trip, I believe that visiting Berlin Wall, Brandenburg gate and the Holocaust Memorial in order to pay the tribute to the victims of regimes is a must
Until 1989 the wall has been separating democratic and totalitarian word. People risked their lifes to crossover. Some have succeed, the less fortunate ones have been shoot by the guards. Today the leftovers of the wall are decorated with works of over 100 graffiti artists. The idea behind the East Side Gallery was to make a creative celebration of freedom. Unfortunately, these days it is rather heartbreaking to look at it, as most of the pieces are almost completely destroyed by vandals.
I believe, that for many young people, especially the ones born like me on the wrong side of the border (luckily too late to remember and experience the totalitarian system), the town is a great reminder of how lucky we are to be born and raised in the free world. For me during this trip, that feeling got stronger, as recently French news report every day the new crimes of ISIS, and the Polish ones follow every single step of Putin.
Art in Berlin
Berlin is a heaven for those who love to discover, independent artists. After the wall fall down, artist and creative people started to settle down in the eastern part of the town, tempted by much lower rents. And so, today the most interesting hoods are on the East. Kreuzberg is one the nicest parts of the Berlin, filled with coffee shops, vintage stores, and restaurants. I could easily spend here a week or more, checking out local ateliers, indie labels and shopping spots.
I would also recommend Museum Island, as Berlin Welcome Card includes the tickets. However it is also quite time consuming, and visiting all 5 museums in one day may be too much.
Restaurants and bars
German cuisine is not my favorite one, but anyway Berlin is a perfect destination for gourmand people, as many immigrants open restaurants serving authentic food from all continents. Also, I have never tasted bad German beer. I guess that they just do not exist. Finally, coffee in Berlin is half cheaper and way better then café in Paris.
Here are our favorite food spots in Berlin .
Meister Burger : The place is under the train truck so, if you are not used to the cold weather I recommend the visit during summertime. It is designed more for the meat eaters, as there is only one veggie friendly option (not everyone likes tofu!). But they do have the excellent sauces, I recommend trying the mango one!
Locals and tourist wait everyday on the line for the excellent Mustafa Kebab. The menu is extremely short: Meat and non-meat version. Most of the fast food places in Berlin offer quite tasteful and fresh food, but it was worth anyway to line up for 15 minutes for delicious sandwich. During lunchtime the line is much longer, I am assuming that in “pick hours” the waiting time is around 40 minutes or more.
Weinerei, Berlin classic. This bar operates in the very unique way. For entrance each guest pays 2€ for an empty vine glass and then refilling is unlimited. At the end of the night we regulate the bill, by putting, money to the big jar. There are not set prices and the client decides the amount that should be paid. I have had only positive experience over there, but many people described their experience as terrible: they pointed mainly unfriendly service and bad vine quality. I could agree with the second part, Weinerei is worth to visit mainly for the atmosphere and definitively not for the vine tasting, as their vines are not the best.
Sahara Bistro. It has been the first time that I have tried the Sudanese cuisine and I have fallen in love. And I am not the only one, as this cozy place is extremely packed during lunchtime. The place offers great selection of vegetarian and meet dishes. It’s a must go.
Il Casolare. Berlin based, Italian made. Pizzeria run by Italian guys offers not only great selection of pizza, but also mind-blowing desserts. The best pizza I have ever had. But I have never been to Italy.
Berlin Coffee shops
To make long story short: coffee in Berlin is way better than in Paris. The cafés in Berlin have one thing in common: excellent service, high quality coffee and the space. Qualities not that common in cafés parisiens! This time during our trip it was constantly raining, so we have spent quite a time in the coffee shops.
These three are our favorites.
Chapter One. Considering the Berlin standards the place is tiny. Located in Kreuzeberg, it’s a perfect spot to slow down and read your favorite magazine sipping perfectly brewed cup.
Silo. For me this place is 100% Berlin: unpretentious clean design, very friendly stuff, excellent coffee and organic, vegetarian friendly menu. It’s perfect for brunch, lunch or dinner.
Nothaft Seidel Café at Prenzlauerat Prenzlauer Berg.
I have fallen in love with this place. This coffee shop on the contrary is enormous. In the each part of the place, we may have different experience. We could sit outside and enjoy the sunshine, sipping our favorite cup. Inside we can chose between wide open space, perfect for brunch with friends and the smaller cozy room that offers more privacy. I also love the décor. Everything there is unfinished and rough. And when I say rough, I literally mean that, because it’s not one of those expensive spots trying to look shabby. It is literally unfinished, so ugly that it feels beautiful. If I were local that would be my perfect place to work.
Shopping in Berlin
Berlin is a heaven for all vintage-shopping lovers. Vintage shops selection is extraordinary: From huge “department style” stores where every piece costs only few euros to the chic boutiques offering only selected designer stuff.
Humana has been strongly recommended by Guardian, and honestly I have no idea why. Even though the place is huge and pieces are very well organized, there is really nothing special over there. I doubt that it is possible to find in this place a piece that wouldn’t be possible to find in the second hand store in any other European city. I think that this place is great for locals, as the prices are indeed tempting, but it requires a lot of luck and patience. In my opinion it’s a waste of time for travelers.
Pony Hütchen is much more interesting, budget friendly place at Kreuzberg. This little charming boutique offers not bad selection of accessories, gadgets and clothes. Prices are a bit higher than in Humana, but the place is way less overwhelming. The interior is also very nice.
Finally my favorite one: Sommerladen. This boutique is chic, the service is excellent and the selection varies from Prada to Topshop. They say that the owner, former stylist receive the pieces directly from the celebrities. I don’t know if this is a true, but she definitely does a great job on selecting pieces.
We will always have Berlin!
Berlin for sure has a lot to offer. You could easily go there on historical, arty, shopping or gourmand trip. I stop I the town every now and then on, my way to my hometown Poznan so I will be updating the list of must go addresses.