Berlin, the first city I moved to. I was 19 and everything was exciting. Berlin has so much to offer, particularly when it comes to history. But, where do you go? What do you eat? And where do you go out? All the Berlin boroughs are completely different, moving across the city it is as if you are moving between cities. Everyone has an alternative in Berlin, and Berlin is for everyone. Here follows all you need to know to visit Berlin.
Berlin’s Historical sights
Berlins modern history is turbulent. From World War two to GDR and finally the reconciliation of Germany. This has left scars on Berlin, in the East you can still see bullet holes in the house facades. You can even see them in the gate of Brandenburger Tor. Which ones are the musts? and why?
The Stasi Museum
Have you ever heard of the Stasi? The GDR version of KGB or Gestapo, this is the east German secret police. People who entered the GDR can find their files still at the headquarters and the east Germans can find their files there too. This has caused a lot of emotions for the former east germans, because for many who looked in their files has a horrific realisation that their loved ones may have been spies.
Nowadays, the headquarter is firstly a museum to remember the hardships. Interestingly, the building is very difficult to find, it is ‘hidden’ it takes up a complete block in the city but you have to know where to go in order to find it. If you do find it, you can learn how the secret police spied on its citizens and the office of arguably the most powerful man in the GDR, Erich Mielke. They even had a small inventory, to collect the scent of their citizens, a bizarre totalitarian attribute. Fancy visiting? You can learn more here.
The Berlin Wall Memorial – The Real Wall
Many of you have seen pictures of East Side Gallery, the famous art on the old Berlin wall. However, doodles and art on the east side of the wall was unthinkable at the time. The gallery suggest that the wall was merely a huge concrete block, it wasn’t. By the end, there was two concrete walls with bob-wire, two paths with guards and dogs, more bob-wire and a mine field, don’t forget about the guard towers. The wall was about 5m broad and there was no chance to cross it.
It is very intriguing to see what the wall actually looked liked. East side gallery is a must, but to get the experience and the real feel, the real wall is a must. This memorial can be found between Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, these are two terrific boroughs. Do you feel like you want to know more? You can find all you need to know here.
This is one of the worst parts of humanity all in one place. Sachsenhausen is the Berlin concentration camp, just a bit outside the city. You ride the S-bahn until one of the end stations and then a short bus ride, then you reach this odd and sad place. The camp has been kept in a diligent state, they’ve kept some barracks and to see them on the inside is a surreal experience. The gas-chambers have been torn down and are now only a ruin, but they have saved photos so you can get a vivid image of what it must have looked like.
To visit a concentration camp is uniquely weird experience and there is nothing to compare with. The institutional and efficient mass murder is an oddity in humanity, although there have been countless genocides in the world, the pure efficiency of this one makes it uncanny. If you feel like this is a place worth visiting, which I have to insist it truely is, you can find out more here.
Eating in Berlin
Berlin is fairly cheap, particularly alcohol and food, so you can find great meals for a good amount. It is also a hub for many international flavours, the Turkish influence is well known, but did you know that Berlin has an astonishing amount of Vietnamese food too. Here I will list some of Berlins best foods.
Alright, this one had to be mentioned. It is the best fries I have ever had and the burgers are definitely no disappointment either. The chili-cheese fries are beyond delicious, and I never had anything like it since. The ‘venue’ is quite unique too, it is in an old public toilet underneath the U-bahn, right by Schlesisches Tor. So do your tastebuds a favour and visit Burgermeister.
This is one of Berlins best Vietnamese restaurants. Madami not only has a great and cozy venue but they also have really, really tasty food. The area is also great, it is in the southern parts of Prenzlauer Berg. Perhaps a bit ironically, but there are many Vietnamese restaurants in this area and honestly they are all really good.
This may be a bit of a curve ball, but the Weihenstephaner is traditional German food. The venue is more than 200 years old and is therefore one of the oldest buildings in Berlin. The name Weihenstephaner may strike a cord for you, that’s not strange, the Weihenstephaner is a famous brewery making traditional German beer. So if you wanna try something ‘authentical’ old German, this restaurant is for you.
This restaurant serve is a must, Malakeh has amazing food. It is recognises as such too, it was voted 1 of top 5 new restaurants in Berlin by Vogue. The interior is fresh and cozy, which definitely contributes to a lovely dinner. This is a real touch to Syria and sitting in the restaurant you can almost forget that you are in Berlin. You will get an urge to travel to Syria for a foodfest, but Malakeh is a good start.
Nights in Berlin
Berlin has one of Europes busiest nightlife, living in several other cities after my Berlin debut taught me this. There is no match for the nightlife, it is full on all the time. But where you go and what to do is tricker. If it’s summer, I recommend you try and find a ‘open air’. They are everywhere and they are without any doubt the best experience. Besides that here follows some bars and clubs which will make your Berlin visit.
Süß war gestern
Sweet was yesterday, indeed it was. This club or rather bar with a dance floor is where the locals go. The venue has a funky 60’s vibe perpetuated by the ‘oh-so-60s’ tapestry covering the walls. If you are looking for a big night out, this is a good place to start your evening. This bar/club can be found in Friedrichhein (F-hein).
Berghein is for the tourists, the locals go to Sisyphos. In true Berlin spirit, the club throws parties from Fridays until Mondays, and of course it’s not closed in between.
The vibe is intense and calm, as Berlin is probably the only place in the world where that combination is possible. This is the sort of places where the bouncer will scan you head-to-feet and question whether you can handle the club. Play it cool, at least pretend that you can, once you are in, you are left fending for yourself.
This bar and club, Hoppetosse, is quite spectacular for one reason. It is on a boat. If you are a bit tipsy, this is a funny fact. The club itself is like many Berlin clubs, but it’s on a boat so it does get some props for that fact. It is also in a great location, in Kreuzberg, nearby other really cool Berlin clubs like, Watergate and Wilde Renate. These two are much like Hoppetosse (and like most Berlin clubs) the beat is always techno and the crowd is cool and casual.
This is not your typical bar, well they serve beer and everything so don’t worry. The atypical nature of this bar comes from the furniture. There is a 70’s feel all throughout the bar but what is even more remarkable is that the furniture is in the ceiling. Have you ever seen a TV upside down? Probably not, but this certainly causes some giggles.
Other things to see in Berlin
A must is Alexanderplatz and the world clock. The giant Karl Marx street testifies to the communist roots of East Berlin. To walk in Tiergarten on a sunny day is magnificent. How about eating a great brunch on one of the many breakfast places in Prenzlauer Berg? There is so much to do, and Berlin is easy to get lost in, walking through the boroughs and seeing each one of their unique history. Berlin truly is one of a kind.