Berlin is the charismatic, graffiti-covered capital city of Germany. Like your favorite old pair of jeans, it is well-worn and comfortable; and just like your comfy old denim, you never know what curiosities you might find nestled deep in the pockets. The nooks and crannies of this strange and kooky yet simultaneously grandiose place abound with eccentric delights; super-cheap exotic fruit stalls, oddly delicious kebabs, bizarre, red-lit nightclubs, impromptu late-night street parties, wonderful unknown beers and a chronically underperforming soccer team make Berlin a peculiar and wonderfully unlikely place to be the center of power of one of the planet’s most mighty nations.
Artists and creatives of all types flock to Berlin for its laidback, lax atmosphere. The city knows how to have a good time, never takes itself too seriously (apart from the door policy of Berghain!) and always has a great vibe.
To make your stay in Berlin as über-awesome as possible, have a look at our recommendations for what to do while you’re there and take note of your faves in your BUCKiTDREAM planner.
Check out the East Side Gallery on the Berlin Wall The Berlin Wall is one of the most iconic structures ever built and its dismantling was a momentous moment for western civilization. The news footage will be replayed forever and ever. Parts of the wall still exist and a trip to see and touch history first-hand is a must. The East Side Gallery is a 1.3 km section of the wall that has been decorated with 105 amazing, hopeful, happy and subversive pieces of graffiti art. A fascinating walk and a must see.
Land Ahoy! It’s Museum Island! Five world famous museums sit on an island on the River Spree in the heart of Berlin. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and another Berlin attraction that you won’t find the like of anywhere else in the world. Spend a day (or two) exploring the five museums that make this island surely the most concentrated pile of fascinating ancient stuff on Earth! Highlights include the bust of Nefertiti and the Pergamon Altar.
Purchase Some Oddities at Mauerpark Flea Market Every Sunday in Prenzlauer Berg the Mauerpark Flea Market attracts tourists and Berliners alike with its cool vintage clothes, weird jewelry, rare shoes, old bikes, ancient trumpets, kitsch paintings, vinyl, toy cars, naked Barbies and, of course, lampshades. There is an amphitheater that hosts karaoke where you can sing your favorite song in front of a genuinely huge crowd – something most aspiring musicians never get to do! You can munch your way through the many delicious food stalls in the area too. A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Experience Life in East Berlin During the Soviet Era at the DDR Museum This fascinating collection of strange old Soviet-era objects offers a chance to see and feel up close what life behind the Iron Curtain was like (minus the starvation, lack of electricity, and spies). This museum is highly interactive and you really get to immerse yourself in the collection, using and experiencing the pieces with your own hands.
Walk Through the Holocaust Memorial The Holocaust Memorial in central Berlin is a beautifully stark and poignant collection of concrete slabs arranged in a grid formation on a sloping field. The installation is a memorial to the Jews who died in the Holocaust and this iconic setting is somber and serious and yet it emanates hope and a steely determination that peace will prevail. A visit to the Holocaust Memorial is a sobering and stirring experience.
Cycle Berlin Berlin, unsurprisingly, is a very cyclist-friendly city. Bike lanes traverse the city and you can grab a bike from any of the numerous official hire stations. The city’s wide boulevards, old alleys and crumbling graffitied squares are great to explore on two wheels.
Visit the Jewish Museum This interesting museum sheds light on the lives of German Jews throughout history. Lots of interactive collections and rare objects make an afternoon perusing the Jewish Museum a very enjoyable experience.
Explore Partly-Dilapidated, Partly-Rejuvenated, Fully-Trendy Kreuzberg Kreuzberg is one of the trendiest districts in Berlin and a major cultural center. It has some of the coolest street art in the city and lots of great bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. If you stay in Berlin for any length of time, you will probably find yourself coming back here again and again.
High-end Das Stue Hotel is one of the strangest and most original hotels you will ever see. It has the appearance of a luxury mansion from a David Lynch movie. Stuffed animals, opulent but kitsch decor, free-standing steel baths and fantastical artwork make staying at Das Stue a memorable experience (meaning you’ll be having nightmares for years, er, in a good way).
Medium Another very interesting hotel, The Circus Hotel is located in the Mitte district in downtown Berlin, near Hackescher Markt and Museum Island. Brightly colored, individually decorated rooms and studio apartments make this yet another very original hotel experience in Berlin.
Budget Grand Hostel Berlin has the most luxurious dorms we’ve ever seen. Each one is like a plush hotel room, but with 4 or 8 beds in it. Low prices and very high quality are guaranteed.
Meat-heavy street food is the order of the day in Berlin. The city is world-renowned for its delicious sausages, kebabs and burgers.
The doner kebabs in Berlin are by far the best we’ve ever tasted; fresh, clean, tasty and a million miles from the soggy mess that often passes for a kebab in London or New York. Tadim in Kreuzberg is a great place to sample a proper kebab, while Burgermeister is a burger kiosk beneath the U-Bahn tracks in Kreuzberg that serves the world’s tastiest burgers (possibly).
For fine dining in Berlin, try Hugos. This classy restaurant serves classic haute cuisine with a modern German twist and takes up the entire top floor of the InterContinental Hotel.
Grill Royal is an achingly hip restaurant, much-loved by trendy Berliners. It’s walls are adorned with unusual art, featuring bare-breasted women and strange stone sculptures in the corners, while fridges line the walls showcasing the restaurant’s fine selection of raw meats. Of course, this place looks strange; but perhaps given that it is in Berlin, it would be strange if it didn’t look strange. The food is delicious and a reservation is essential.
Drinks and Nightlife
Berlin loves its beer! The craft beer scene is second to none. It is legal to drink on the streets so grabbing bottle from a kiosk and sipping your beer (and cheers-ing the locals, “Prost!”) as you stroll around town on a warm summer evening will make for a glorious experience.
Berlin’s nightlife is wild, eclectic and its nightclubs really only kick off when most other cities are closing up for the night. The city is full of friendly old-school bars, hip music venues, trendy wine bars and raucous discotheques.
For top quality live jazz check out A-Trane. It’s a super-cool jazz bar that attracts top international acts; essentially, it’s Berlin’s answer to Ronnie Scotts.
Berlin is a Mecca for electronic music and the most exclusive nightclub in town is the epic Berghain, which specializes in Techno. Deeply cool and with a notoriously picky door policy, Berghain is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings until very late and during Sunday daytime. Dress well and don’t go in a big crowd.
Tips and Culture
Getting around Berlin is super-easy. The U-Bahn is the city’s subway and it operates over ten lines, covering pretty much the entire city. It’s distinctive yellow trains are very frequent, clean, safe and cheap. The S-Bahn is a network of overground trains operating throughout the city. Tickets are valid on S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses and trams.
A standard 10% tip for decent service is the norm in Berlin restaurants.
Enjoy the Panoramic View From the Top of the Reichstag The Reichstag is Germany’s center of political power. It is a grandiose and beautiful old building with an enormous glass and steel dome on the roof that offers a wonderful view of the surrounding city. The mix of old and modern architecture will take your breath away. Admission to the dome is free, but advance registration is required. Not to be missed!
Berlin is one of the world’s coolest and craziest capitals and certainly a destination worthy of any bucket list. So while you rifle through the strange and wonderful tat at Mauerpark flea market, or munch a juicy and delicious döner kebab in the dome of the Reichstag (er, actually this might not be allowed), why not inspire your friends by sharing your dream Berlin experiences on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?