A Beginner's Guide To Berlin | Essential Ibiza
Published by essentialibiza.com, July 2015
If you've never been to Berlin then potentially the first things that come to mind when you think of the city are techno, and the colour black. Lots and lots of black. But there's so much more to Germany's bustling capital than that. It's a vibrant city with swathes of green space. It's a place where you'll find bars in unimaginable locations. It's somewhere that condones drinking beer, whatever the time of day. And it's a place that opens its arms and welcomes you with a warming embrace, a soft, squishy currywurst and a mandatory dollop of grit, all at the same time. And of course, it's famous for its partying. In Berlin, staying up all night is a way of life – these guys are the epitome of stamina – so it's worth remembering to man up before you visit, otherwise you'll be going home with your tail between your legs and tears in your eyes. That, and an inconceivably bad hangover. Anyway, we're sure you can handle it, so here are some tips on what to do when you're there.
Neukölln has been certified as Berlin's Next Big Thing. For years it was essentially a no-go zone, but the brush of gentrification is hard to evade and so even this neighbourhood has gone from unappealing borough to hip hangout, seemingly overnight. Now it's home to countless cafés, an array of easy-going, smoke-filled bars and more Turkish take-outs than there is sunshine in summer. Head to Schiller Burger (schillerburger.com) to fuel up for the night ahead; check out Engels (Herrfurthstraße 21, Tel: +49 30 64499067) for hot chocolate to warm your cockles on a cold day; and for a thumping rum sour that'll put hairs on your chest, hit up Geist im Glas (facebook.com/geistimglas). In Neukölln, take the time to do your own exploring because new places spring up overnight.
Otherwise known as hipster central, Kreuzberg is where Berlin's artsy locals join forces to emanate too-cool-for-school bohemian vibes, making it a veritable hotspot for vintage shopping, coffee drinking and of course, some of the city's best nightlife. Start the day with caffeine and cake from Five Elephant (fiveelephant.com), before embarking on a cultural tour that takes in the East Side Gallery (eastsidegallery-berlin.de) – a memorial to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Jewish Museum (jmberlin.de). If you can find it (and all good bars are worth searching for), head to Marquès (Graefestraße 92, Tel: +49 30 61625906), a refined, darkly-lit cellar bar that specialises in packed-full-of-flavour cocktails – the Tom Collins is a must – before bidding adieu to the day at the Prince Charles (princecharlesberlin.com) where techno and house rule the roost and in summer the courtyard becomes a party playground.
Berlin's historic centre, Mitte oozes with stylish cool and is home to some of the city's most well-known sights – Brandenburg Gate, The Reichstag and the Berlin TV Tower (which dominates the city skyline) are all found within its borders. It's also a shopping fanatic's dream – its streets are peppered with high-end designer stores, high street shops, and small, independent boutiques – making it easy to lose an entire day going from door to door in a haze-induced, spending frenzy. While you're in the area you may as well go upmarket for dinner too, so try Bandol Sur Mer (bandolsurmer.de). Yes it's French, so not strictly speaking traditional, but the steak is out of this world and Brad Pitt ate there, which will do for us.
Let's be honest, the main reason you're here is because you've come to experience a night of Berlin-based debauchery in all its dark, depraved glory. So at the top of your list should be the notoriously-hard-to-get-in-to, Berghain (berghain.de). Yes, you'll be consumed with fear while you queue, and yes, the door policy is controversial (see: Felix da Housecat Twitter rant), but good grief, it's worth it once you're in. And as techno titan Re.You says, 'everyone should see Panorama Bar on a Sunday at least once' – and who are we to ignore the wise words of a local? The next big hitters on your list should be WaterGate (water-gate.de) – it has epic floor to ceiling windows allowing light to stream in mesmerisingly come morning; Stattbad (stattbad.net) – housed in an old swimming pool complex; Sisyphos (sisyphos-berlin.net) – an open-air, after party mecca; and if you want to party with the locals, Ritter Butzke (ritterbutzke.com). Of course, there are far too many incredible venues to mention, but these should keep you busy till the cracks start to show.
Berlin is home to countless parks and areas of natural greenery. Is this to ensure people leave their houses rather than sit at home rocking after a particularly heavy session? Probably. One place that's guaranteed to help ease your weary mind (and body) is Tempelhof (thf-berlin.de). It used to be the city's main airport but, having closed in 2008, it's now a prime example of urban renewal. On any day of the week you'll find locals using the disused runways for rollerblading, kite-surfing and bike riding, and you'll be stunned by the sense of ethereal calm that descends when you're in the middle of such a large, expansive space. If you're feeling a bit more sociable then Mauerpark (mauerpark.info) is your best bet. On Sundays it's a hive of activity where you can peruse market stalls, sample local delicacies from the food market and in summer, watch people excel (or crash and burn) at public karaoke. And lo, your soul will be mended.