Fodor's Germany - Fodor's (2016)
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Top Reasons to Go | Getting Oriented | What’s Where | Planning
Updated by Adam Groffman
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, no other city in Europe has seen more change than Berlin, the German capital. The two Berlins that had been physically separated for almost 30 years have become one, and the reunited city has become a cutting-edge destination for architecture, culture, entertainment, nightlife, and shopping.
After successfully uniting its own East and West, Berlin now plays a pivotal role in the European Union. But even as the capital thinks and moves forward, history is always tugging at its sleeve. Between the wealth of neoclassical and 21st-century buildings there are constant reminders, both subtle and stark, of the events of the 20th century.
Berlin is quite young by European standards, beginning as two separate entities in 1237 on two islands in the Spree River: Cölln and Berlin. By the 1300s, Berlin was prospering, thanks to its location at the intersection of important trade routes, and rose to power as the seat of the Hohenzollern dynasty. The Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm, in the nearly 50 years of his reign (1640-88), touched off a cultural renaissance. Later, Frederick the Great (1712-86) made Berlin and Potsdam glorious centers of his enlightened yet autocratic Prussian monarchy.
In 1871, Prussia, ruled by the “Iron Chancellor” Count Otto von Bismarck, unified the many independent German states into the German Empire. Berlin maintained its status as capital for the duration of that Second Reich (1871-1918), through the post-World War I Weimar Republic (1919-33), and also through Hitler’s so-called Third Reich (1933-45). The city’s golden years were the Roaring Twenties, when Berlin evolved as the energetic center for the era’s cultural avant-garde. World-famous writers, painters, and artists met here while the impoverished bulk of its 4 million inhabitants lived in heavily overpopulated quarters. This “dance on the volcano,” as those years of political and economic upheaval have been called, came to a grisly and bloody end after January 1933, when Adolf Hitler became chancellor. The Nazis made Berlin their capital but ultimately failed to remake the city into a monument to their power, as they had planned. By World War II’s end, 70% of the city lay in ruins, with more rubble than in all other German cities combined.
Along with the division of Germany after World War II, Berlin was partitioned into American, British, and French zones in the West and a Soviet zone in the East. The three western-occupied zones became West Berlin, while the Soviets, who controlled not only Berlin’s eastern zone but also all of the east German land surrounding it tried to blockade West Berlin out of existence. (They failed thanks to the year-long Berlin Airlift [1948-49], during which American airplanes known in German as “raisin bombers,” dropped supplies until the blockade lifted.) In 1949 the Soviet Union established East Berlin as the capital of its new satellite state, the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The division of the city was cruelly finalized in concrete in August 1961, when the GDR erected the Berlin Wall, the only border fortification in history built to keep people from leaving rather than to protect them.
For nearly 30 years, the two Berlins served as competing visions of the new world order: Capitalist on one side, Communist on the other. West Berlin, an island of democracy in the Eastern bloc, was surrounded by guards and checkpoints. Nonetheless, thanks in part to being heavily subsidized by Western powers, the city became a haven for artists and freethinkers. Today, with the Wall long relegated to history (most of it was recycled as street gravel), visitors can appreciate the whole city and the anything-goes atmosphere that still pervades.
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, no other city in Europe has seen more change than Berlin, the German capital. The two Berlins that had been separated for almost 30 years have become one, and in the scar of barren borderland between them, cutting-edge architecture, culture, entertainment, nightlife, and shopping make Berlin one of the world’s hippest destinations. The new Berlin embraces a culturally promising but financially uncertain future. “Poor, but sexy,” a line coined in 2004 by Klaus Wowereit, the flamboyant mayor, is still the city’s state of mind. While unresolved social and financial problems linger, the city embraces its future as an international center for avant-garde fashion, culture, art, and media with a zeal rarely found in better-off cities.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Affordability: Of the European capitals, Berlin is the best bargain. It’s a city of high culture and low prices—tickets for the opera, theater, and museums tend to hover around €10.
Long, creative nights: The only European city without official closing hours, Berlin’s young artists put on installations, performance events, and parties to keep you up all night.
Museum Island (Museuminsel): The architectural monuments and art treasures here will take you from an ancient Greek altar to Egyptian busts and a Roman market town to 18th-century Berlin and back.
The Reichstag’s cupola: Reserve a coveted spot on a tour of Berlin’s seat of parliament to admire the spectacular glass cupola, and to enjoy great views of Berlin.
Trace history’s path: The division of Berlin was a major historical event and an anomaly in urban history. Follow the cobblestone markers of the Wall’s path.
In eastern Germany, almost halfway between Paris and Moscow, Berlin is Germany’s largest city. When the city-state of Berlin was incorporated in 1920, it swallowed towns and villages far beyond what had been the downtown area around the two main rivers, the Spree and the Havel. After World War II, Berlin was divided among the conquering powers, and in 1961 the East German government built a wall through the middle of the city, more or less overnight. For the next decades, the city was divided. In November 1989, the wall fell, and a peaceful revolution put an end to the Communist East German regime. In 1999, Berlin became the capital of a reunified Germany, once again.
Mitte. It means “center” or “middle” in German, and it’s at the center of the city. Once home to the city’s Jewish quarters, after the war Mitte was part of East Berlin. Today, it’s the center of the city once again, packed with monuments, museums, and shops.
Tiergarten. The Tiergarten neighborhood extends around the Tiergarten (“animal garden”), which is Berlin’s version of New York’s Central Park.
Potsdamer Platz. One of the busiest squares in prewar Europe, Potsdamer Platz is still the center of commercial action.
Friedrichshain. In the former East, Friedrichshain’s offbeat bars, restaurants, and clubs attract creative types.
Kreuzberg. When Berlin was divided, West Berlin’s Kreuzberg was right alongside the wall. The neighborhood drew punks, artists, and anarchists, as well as a large Turkish population. It’s still edgy and artsy.
Schöneberg. Historically Berlin’s gay neighborhood, Schöneberg mixes the alternative vibe of Kreuzberg with the residential feel of West Berlin.
Prenzlauer Berg. Once a working-class neighborhood, it’s now one of the city’s most gentrified areas, perfect for strolling leafy streets, past sidewalk cafés.
Wedding. A working-class neighborhood in the former West, this is where Berlin’s artists are heading, as rents rise elsewhere.
Neukölln. Neukölln has gone from bleak to chic. Abandoned storefronts have turned into DIY art galleries, homemade fashion shops, and funky wine bars.
Charlottenburg. Lovely Charlottenburg is as elegant as Berlin gets. This beautifully sedate West Berlin neighborhood hasn’t changed as much as much of the rest of the city.
Wannsee and Oranienburg. The concentration camp in Oranienburg is a somber excursion; Wannsee also has a dark past but there are also parks and lakes to explore.
WHEN TO GO
Berlin tends to be gray and cold; it can be warm and beautiful in summer but there’s no guarantee, so it’s best to always pack a jacket. The best time to visit is from May to early September, though late July and early August can get hot—in which case, everyone heads to one of the city’s many lakes. Many open-air events are staged in summer, when the exceedingly green city is at its most beautiful. October and November can be overcast and rainy, though the city occasionally sees crisp blue autumn skies. If you want to get a real feel for Berlin, come during the long winter months, when a host of indoor cultural events combat perpetually gray skies, but bring a heavy winter coat to combat the sleet, icy rain, strong winds, and freezing temperatures.
DISCOUNTS AND DEALS
The Berlin WelcomeCard (www.visitberlin.de) entitles one adult and three children up to age six to unlimited travel in Berlin and includes discounted admission at museums and theaters (it does not include state museums); if you’re using public transportation to get to or from the airport and also plan to go to Potsdam, get the card for Zones A, B, and C (€21.50, €28.70, or €39.50 for two, three, or five days; less for just Zones A and B). Similarly, the CityTourCard (www.citytourcard.com) good for two, three, or five days of unlimited travel in the A and B zones, costs €17.40, €24.50, and €31.90, respectively, and includes many entertainment discounts; up to three children under age six can accompany an adult. The cost is slightly higher to include Zone C. The difference between the two types of cards are the attractions that are discounted so it’s worth doing some research.
Many of the 17 Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (state museums of Berlin) offer several ticket options (children up to 18 are welcomed free of charge). A single ticket ranges €8-€12. A three-day pass (Tageskarte or SchauLust Museen Ticket) to all state museums costs €24. This ticket allows entrance to all state museums plus many others for three consecutive days.
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
Tegel Airport is 6 km (4 miles) from the downtown area. The express X9 airport bus runs at 10-minute intervals between Tegel and Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten (Zoo Station), the center of west Berlin. From here you can connect to bus, train, or subway. The trip takes about 20 minutes; the fare is €2.70. The express bus TXL runs at 10-minute intervals between Tegel and Alexanderplatz via Hauptbahnhof and takes about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can take Bus No. 128 to Kurt Schumacher Platz or Bus No. 109 to Jakob-Kaiser-Platz and change to the U-bahn, where your bus ticket is also valid. Expect to pay between €30 or €30 for a taxi from the airport to most destinations in central Berlin. If you rent a car at the airport, follow the signs for the Stadtautobahn into Berlin. The exit to Kurfürstendamm is clearly marked.
At Schönefeld, which is quite a bit farther out, buy an Einzelfahrschein or single ride ticket (€3.30) for the ABC zone from the DB (Deutsche Bahn) office or from an S-bahn platform vending machine (no credit cards) to get you into town. This ticket is good for both the S-bahn and the Airport Express train, which runs about every half hour from a track that has no vending machine. To take the Airport Express, look for a small dark-blue sign at the foot of the stairs leading to its platform. Bus 171 also leaves Schönefeld every 20 minutes for the Rudow U-bahn station. A taxi ride from Schönefeld Airport takes about 40 minutes and will cost around €35. By car, follow the signs for Stadtzentrum Berlin.
Major airlines will continue to serve western Berlin’s Tegel Airport (TXL), usually after a stop at a major European hub (such as Frankfurt or London), until eastern Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport, about 24 km (15 miles) outside the center, has been expanded into BBI “Berlin-Brandenburg International,” otherwise known as “Willy Brandt”—the international airport is expected to open in late 2017. Until then, Schönefeld is mostly used by charter and low-budget airlines.
Berlin is a great city for biking. Particularly in summer, you can get just about anywhere you want by bike. An extensive network of bike paths are generally marked by red pavement or white markings on the sidewalks (when you’re walking, try to avoid walking on bike paths if you don’t want to have cyclists ring their bells at you). Many stores that rent or sell bikes carry the Berlin biker’s atlas, and several places offer terrific bike tours of the city.
Fahrradstation. | Dorotheenstr. 30, Mitte | 0180/510-8000 | www.fahrradstation.de.
Rush hour is relatively mild in Berlin, but the public transit system is so efficient here that it’s best to leave your car at the hotel altogether (or refrain from renting one in the first place). All cars entering downtown Berlin inside the S-bahn ring need to have an environmental certificate. All major rental cars will have these—if in doubt, ask the rental-car agent, as without one you can be fined €40. Daily parking fees at hotels can run up to €18 per day. Vending machines in the city center dispense timed tickets to display on your dashboard. Thirty minutes costs €0.50.
The city has an efficient public-transportation system, a smoothly integrated network of subway (U-bahn) and suburban (S-bahn) train lines, buses, and trams (almost exclusively in eastern Berlin). Get a map from any information booth. TIP Don’t be afraid to try buses and trams—in addition to being well marked, they often cut the most direct path to your destination.
From Sunday through Thursday, U-bahn trains stop around 12:45 am and S-bahn trains stop by 1:30 am. All-night bus and tram service operates seven nights a week (indicated by the letter N next to bus route numbers). On Friday and Saturday nights some S-bahn and all U-bahn lines except U4 run all night. Buses and trams marked with an M for Metro mostly serve destinations without an S-bahn or U-bahn link.
Most visitor destinations are in the broad reach of the fare zones A and B. The €2.70 ticket (fare zones A and B) and the €3 ticket (fare zones A, B, and C) allow you to make a one-way trip with an unlimited number of changes between trains, buses, and trams. Buy a Kurzstreckentarif ticket (€1.60) for short rides of up to six bus or tram stops or three U-bahn or S-bahn stops. The best deal if you plan to travel around the city extensively is the Tageskarte (day card for Zones A and B), for €6.90, good on all transportation until 3 am (added cost for A, B, and C zones). A 7-Tage-Karte (seven-day ticket) costs €29.50, and allows unlimited travel for fare zones A and B (added cost for A, B, and C zones).
Tickets are available from vending machines at U-bahn and S-bahn stations. After you purchase a ticket, you are responsible for validating it when you board the train or bus. Both Einzelfahrt and Kurzstreckentarif tickets are good for 120 minutes after validation. If you’re caught without a ticket or with an unvalidated one, the fine is €40.
TIP The BVG website (www.bvg.de) makes planning any trip on public transportation easier. Enter your origin and destination point into their “Journey Planner” to see a list of your best routes, and a schedule of the next three departure times. If you’re not sure which station is your closest, simply type in your current address and the system will tell you (along with the time it takes to walk there).
Most major S-bahn and U-bahn stations have elevators, and most buses have hydraulic lifts. Check the public transportation maps or call the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe. The Deutscher Service-Ring-Berlin e.V. runs a special bus service for travelers with physical disabilities, and is a good information source on all travel necessities, that is, wheelchair rental and other issues.
Public Transit Information
Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG). | 030/19449 | www.bvg.de.
S-Bahn Berlin GmbH. | 030/2974-3333 | www.s-bahn-berlin.de.
The base rate is €3.90, after which prices vary according to a complex tariff system. Figure on paying around €8-€10 for a ride the length of the Ku’damm. TIP If you’ve hailed a cab on the street and are taking a short ride of up to 2 km (1 mile), ask the driver as soon as you start off for a special fare (€5) called “Kurzstreckentarif.” You can also get cabs at taxi stands or order one by calling; there’s no additional fee if you call a cab by phone. U-bahn employees will call a taxi for passengers after 8 pm.
BikeTaxi, rickshawlike bicycle taxis, pedal along Kurfürstendamm, Friedrichstrasse, Unter den Linden, and in Tiergarten. Just hail a cab on the street along the boulevards mentioned. The fare is €5 for up to 1 km (½ mile) and €3 for each additional kilometer, and €22.50 to €30 for longer tours. Velotaxis operate April-October, daily noon-7. TIP Despite these fixed prices, make sure to negotiate the fare before starting the tour.
Taxis. | 030/210-101, 030/443-322, 030/261-026.
All long-distance trains stop at the huge and modern central station, Hauptbahnhof, which lies at the northern edge of the government district in central Berlin. Regional trains also stop at the two former “main” stations of the past years: Bahnhof Zoo (in the West) and Ostbahnhof (in the East), as well as at the central eastern stations Friedrichstrasse and Alexanderplatz.
The main information office of Berlin Tourismus Marketing is in the Neues Kranzler Eck, a short walk from Zoo Station. There are branches in the south wing of the Brandenburg Gate, at Hauptbahnhof (Level 0), and in a pavilion opposite the Reichstag that are open daily 10-6. The tourist-information centers have longer hours April-October. The tourist office and Berlin’s larger transportation offices (BVG) sell the Berlin WelcomeCard. Some Staatliche (state) museums are closed Monday. A free audio guide is included at all state museums.
Visit Berlin (Berlin Tourist Info). | Berlin | 030/250-025 | www.visitberlin.de.
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. | Charlottenburg | 030/2664-24242 operator | www.smb.museum.
Tourist-Information Center in Prenzlauer Berg. | Kulturbrauerei, Schönhauser Allee 36, Prenzlauer Berg | Other entrances on Knaackstr. or Sredzkistr. | 030/4435-2170 | www.tic-berlin.de.
Tours of central Berlin’s Spree and the canals give you up-close views of sights such as Museum Island, Charlottenburg Palace, the Reichstag, and the Berliner Dom. Tours usually depart twice a day from several bridges and piers in Berlin, such as Schlossbrücke in Charlottenburg; Hansabrücke and Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Tiergarten; Friedrichstrasse, Museum Island, and Nikolaiviertel in Mitte; and near the Jannowitzbrücke S-bahn and U-bahn station. Drinks, snacks, and wurst are available during the narrated trips.
General city tours and specialized options, like architectural tours, are offered from March to November by this company. | Berlin | www.bwsg-berlin.de | From €12.
One-hour city tours along the Spree take visitors past key city sights, including Museuminsel. | Berlin | 030/6796-1470 | www.reederei-riedel.de | From €12.
Several companies, including Berliner Bären Stadtrundfahrten and BEX, offer city tours that run every 15 or 30 minutes, depending on the season. The full circuit takes two hours, as does the recorded narration listened to through headphones. For €20 you can jump on and off at between 13 and 20 stops, depending on the company. The bus driver sells tickets. Most companies have tours to Potsdam.
BBS Berliner Bären Stadtrundfahrt (BBS).
These bright yellow hop-on, hop-off buses tour the city, past the major sights. It’s a great way to get an overview if you have limited time. They also include trips to the East Side Gallery and trendier parts of town. | Berlin | 030/3519-5270 | www.bbsberlin.de | From €15.
Hop-on, hop-off tours, as well as themed excursions, are offered by this company. | Mannheimer Str. 33/34, Wilmersdorf | 030/880-4190 | www.bex.de | From €20.
Walking and Bike Tours
Getting oriented through a walking tour is a great way to start a Berlin visit. In addition to daily city highlight tours, companies have themed tours such as Third Reich Berlin, Potsdam, and pub crawls. Printable discount coupons may be available on the tour operators’ websites; some companies grant discounts to WelcomeCard and CityCard holders.
For a truly memorable experience, check out Berliner Unterwelten, which translates as “Berlin Underworlds.” The company offers access to several of Berlin’s best-preserved WWII bunkers that are normally closed to the public on intriguing yet eerie tours that take you literally underground. | Berlin | berliner-unterwelten.de | From €11.
Brewer’s Berlin Tours.
Brit Terry Brewer’s firsthand accounts of divided and reunified Berlin are a highlight of the all-day “Brewer’s Best of Berlin” tour. | Berlin | 0177/388-1537 | www.brewersberlintours.com | From €15.
Fat Tire Bike Tours.
Fat Tire Bike Tours rides through Berlin daily early March-November and has a Berlin Wall tour; the 4½-hour city tour includes the bike rental. | Panoramastr. 1a, base of TV tower, Mitte | 030/2404-7991 | www.fattirebiketoursberlin.com | From €24.
Insider Tours has a “Cold War” Berlin tour about the Soviet era and a bike tour as well as a Cruise’n’Walk tour, a combination of boating and walking. | Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten, outside McDonalds,Charlottenburg | 030/692-3149 | www.insidertour.com | From €12.
Original Berlin Walks.
Themed walks including a Monday “Jewish Life” tour, a Potsdam tour on Thursday and Sunday, and visits to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, are just a few of the offerings on the roster here. | Berlin | 030/301-9194 | www.berlinwalks.com | From €12.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
With so much to see, a good place to start your visit is in Mitte. You can walk around the Scheunenviertel, which used to be the city’s Jewish quarter and is now a center for art galleries and upscale shops, punctuated by memorials to the Holocaust.
For culture buffs, great antique, medieval, Renaissance, and modern art can be found at the Kulturforum in the Tiergarten, and on Museum Island in Mitte—both cultural centers are a must, and either will occupy at least a half day. On your way to the Tiergarten, visit the emotionally moving Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (referred to by many as simply the Holocaust Memorial), the Brandenburg Gate, and the Reichstag with its astonishing cupola. Most of the historic sights of German and Prussian history line the city’s other grand boulevard, Unter den Linden, in Mitte. Unter den Linden can be strolled in a leisurely two hours, with stops. Other spots not to miss are Potsdamer Platz and the Kulturforum in Tiergarten, and the hip and edgy neighborhoods of Wedding and Neukölln. Walk along the East Side Gallery in Freidrichshain, then head to Simon-DachStrasse or cross the bridge over the Spree to Kreuzberg for something to eat. Head over to Charlottenburg for an elegant, old-fashioned afternoon of coffee and cake.
The nearby town of Potsdam has the fabulous palace, Schloss Sanssouci, as well as extensive parks and lakes. To the north, in Oranienburg, is the Gedenkstätte und Museum Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
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Mitte | Tiergarten | Potsdamer Platz | Friedrichshain | Kreuzberg | Schöneberg | Prenzlauer Berg | Wedding | Neukölln | Charlottenburg | Wannsee | Oranienburg
After the fall of the wall, Mitte, which had been in East Germany, once again became the geographic center of Berlin. The area comprises several minidistricts, each with its own distinctive history and flair. Alexanderplatz, home of the iconic TV Tower, was the center of East Berlin. With its Communist architecture, you can still get a feel for the GDR aesthetic here. The nearby Nikolaiviertel is part of the medieval heart of Berlin. The Scheunenviertel, part of the Spandauer Vorstadt, was home to many of the city’s Jewish citizens. Today, the narrow streets that saw so much tragedy house art galleries, increasingly excellent restaurants, and upscale shops popular with tourists. Treasures once split between East and West Berlin museums are reunited on Museuminsel, the stunning Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bordering Tiergarten and the government district are the meticulously restored Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), the unofficial symbol of the city, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, whose design and scope engendered many debates.
The historic boulevard Unter den Linden proudly rolls out Prussian architecture and world-class museums—now the site of increased construction related to the extension of U-bahn U5 line, slated for completion in 2019. Its major cross street is Friedrichstrasse, revitalized in the mid-1990s with car showrooms (including Bentley, Bugatti, and Volkswagen) and upscale malls.
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Altes Museum (Old Museum).
This red-marble, neoclassical building abutting the green Lustgarten was Prussia’s first structure purpose-built to serve as a museum. Designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, it was completed in 1830. The permanent collection consists of everyday utensils from ancient Greece as well as vases and sculptures from the 6th to 4th century BC. Etruscan art is the highlight here, and there are also a few examples of Roman art. Antique sculptures, clay figurines, and bronze art of the Antikensammlung (Antiquities Collection) are also here (the other part of the collection is in the Pergamonmuseum). | Museuminsel, Am Lustgarten, Mitte | 30/2664-24242 | www.smb.museum | €10 (combined ticket for all Museumsinsel €18) | Tues., Wed., and Fri.-Sun. 10-6, Thurs. 10-8 | Station: Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery).
The permanent exhibit here is home to an outstanding collection of 18th-, 19th-, and early-20th-century paintings and sculpture, by the likes of Cézanne, Rodin, Degas, and one of Germany’s most famous portrait artists, Max Liebermann. Its Galerie der Romantik (Gallery of Romanticism) collection has masterpieces from such 19th-century German painters as Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Caspar David Friedrich, the leading members of the German Romantic school. | Museumsinsel, Bodestrasse 1-3, Mitte | 30/2664-24242 | www.smb.museum | €10 (combined ticket for all Museumsinsel €18) | Tues., Wed., and Fri.-Sun. 10-6, Thurs. 10-8. | Station: Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
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After he became ruler in 1740, Frederick the Great personally planned the buildings surrounding this square (which has a huge parking garage cleverly hidden beneath the pavement). The area received the nickname “Forum Fridericianum,” or Frederick’s Forum. On May 10, 1933, Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister for propaganda and “public enlightenment,” organized one of the nationwide book burnings here. The books, thrown on a pyre by Nazi officials and students, included works by Jews, pacifists, and Communists. In the center of Bebelplatz, a modern and subtle memorial (built underground but viewable through a window in the cobblestone pavement) marks where 20,000 books went up in flames. The Staatsoper Unter den Linden (State Opera) is on the east side of the square. St. Hedwigskathedrale is on the south side of the square. The Humboldt-Universität is to the west. | Mitte | Station: Französische Strasse (U-bahn), Bhf Hausvogteiplatz (U-bahn).
Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral).
A church has stood here since 1536, but this enormous version dates from 1905, making it the largest 20th-century Protestant church in Germany. The royal Hohenzollerns worshipped here until 1918, when Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and left Berlin for Holland. The massive dome wasn’t restored from World War II damage until 1982; the interior was completed in 1993. The climb to the dome’s outer balcony is made easier by a wide stairwell, plenty of landings with historic photos and models, and even a couple of chairs. The 94 sarcophagi of Prussian royals in the crypt are significant, but to less-trained eyes can seem uniformly dull. Sunday services include communion. | Am Lustgarten 1, Mitte | 030/2026-9136 | www.berlinerdom.de | €7, audio guide €3 | Mon.-Sat. 9-8, Sun. noon-8 | Station: Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
Berliner Fernsehturm (TV Tower).
Finding Alexanderplatz is no problem: just head toward the 1,207-foot-high tower piercing the sky. Built in 1969 as a signal to the West (clearly visible over the Wall, no less) that the East German economy was thriving, it is deliberately higher than both western Berlin’s broadcasting tower and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. You can get the best view of Berlin from within the tower’s disco ball-like observation level; on a clear day you can see for 40 km (25 miles). One floor above, the city’s highest restaurant rotates for your panoramic pleasure. During the summer season, order VIP tickets online to avoid a long wait. | Panoramastr. 1a, Mitte | 030/247-5750 for restaurant | www.tv-turm.de | €13 | Nov.-Feb., daily 10 am-midnight; Mar.-Oct., daily 9 am-midnight; last admission ½ hr before closing | Station: Alexanderplatz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
At the northern tip of Museum Island is this somber-looking gray edifice graced with elegant columns. The museum is home to the state museums’ stunning collection of German and Italian sculptures since the Middle Ages, as well as the Museum of Byzantine Art, and a huge coin collection. | Museuminsel, Am Kupfergraben, Mitte | 030/2664-24242 | www.smb.museum | €10 (combined ticket for all Museumsinsel €18) | Tues., Wed., and Fri.-Sun. 10-6, Thurs. 10-8 | Station: Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate).
Once the pride of Prussian Berlin and the city’s premier landmark, the Brandenburger Tor was left in a desolate no-man’s-land when the Wall was built. Since the Wall’s dismantling, the sandstone gateway has become the scene of the city’s Unification Day and New Year’s Eve parties. This is the sole remaining gate of 14 built by Carl Langhans in 1788-91, designed as a triumphal arch for King Frederick Wilhelm II. Its virile classical style pays tribute to Athens’s Acropolis. The quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses and driven by the Goddess of Victory, was added in 1794. Troops paraded through the gate after successful campaigns—the last time in 1945, when victorious Red Army troops took Berlin. The upper part of the gate, together with its chariot and Goddess of Victory, was destroyed in the war. In 1957 the original molds were discovered in West Berlin, and a new quadriga was cast in copper and presented as a gift to the people of East Berlin. A tourist information center is in the south part of the gate.
The gate faces one of Europe’s most famous historic squares, Pariser Platz, with bank headquarters, the ultramodern French embassy, and the offices of the federal parliament. On the southern side, Berlin’s sleek Academy of Arts, integrating the ruins of its historic predecessor, and the DZ Bank, designed by star architect Frank Gehry, stand next to the new American embassy, rebuilt on its prewar location and reopened on July 4, 2008. The legendary Hotel Adlon (now the Adlon Kempinski) looks on from its historic home at the southeast edge of the square. | Pariser Pl., Mitte | Station: Unter den Linden (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | DDR Museum.
Half museum, half theme park, the DDR Museum is an interactive and highly entertaining exhibit about life during socialism. It’s difficult to say just how much the museum benefits from its prime location beside the Spree, right across from the Berliner Dom, but it’s always packed, filled with tourists, families, and student groups trying to get a hands-on feel for what the East German experience was really like. Exhibitions include a re-creation of an East German kitchen, all mustard yellows and bilious greens; a simulated drive in a Trabi, the only car the average East German was allowed to own; and a walk inside a very narrow, very claustrophobic interrogation cell. | Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1, at the Spree opposite the Berliner Dom, Mitte | 030/8471-23731 | www.ddr-museum.de | €7 | Sun.-Fri. 10-8, Sat. 10-10 | Station:Alexanderplatz (U-bahn and S-bahn), Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Denkmal für die Ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe).
An expansive and unusual memorial dedicated to the 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust, the monument was designed by American architect Peter Eisenman. The stunning place of remembrance consists of a grid of more than 2,700 concrete stelae, planted into undulating ground. The abstract memorial can be entered from all sides and offers no prescribed path. An information center that goes into specifics about the Holocaust lies underground at the southeast corner. Just across Eberstrasse, inside the Tiergarten, is the Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under the National Socialist Regime: a large concrete block with a window through which visitors can see a short film depicting a kiss. | Cora-Berliner-Str. 1, Mitte | 030/2639-4336 | www.stiftung-denkmal.de | Free | Daily 24 hrs; information center: Oct.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-7; Apr.-Sept., Tues.-Sun. 10-8 (last admission 45 mins before closing) | Station: Unter den Linden (S-bahn).
Deutsches Historisches Museum (German History Museum).
The museum is composed of two buildings. The magnificent pink, baroque Prussian arsenal (Zeughaus) was constructed between 1695 and 1730, and is the oldest building on Unter den Linden. It also houses a theater, the Zeughaus Kino, which regularly presents a variety of films, both German and international, historic and modern. The new permanent exhibits, reopened after much debate in mid-2006, offer a modern and fascinating view of German history since the early Middle Ages. Behind the arsenal, the granite-and-glass Pei-Bau building by I. M. Pei holds often stunning and politically controversial changing exhibits, such as 2010’s unprecedented blockbuster “Hitler und die Deutschen” (“Hitler and the Germans”), which explored the methods of propaganda used by Hitler and the Nazis to gain power, and 2013’s “Zerstörte Vielfalt” or “destroyed diversity,” which documents the multifaceted societal, ethnic, and political ruination of Berlin in the years leading up to WWII. The museum’s Café im Zueghaus is a great place to stop and restore your energy. | Unter den Linden 2, Mitte | 030/203-040 | www.dhm.de | €8 | Daily 10-6 | Station: Französische Strasse (U-bahn), Friedrichstrasse (S-bahn and U-bahn), Hackesher Markt (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Ehemalige Jüdische Mädchenschule.
This boxy brick building in central Berlin, which formerly served as a Jewish girls’ school and then a military hospital during WWII, sat neglected until recently. Now it is one of the city’s newest star attractions: a renovated multiplex with art galleries, restaurants, and a bar. The former gymnasium is now the restaurant Pauly Saal; upstairs, art galleries share space with the newly relocated Kennedys museum. Berlin’s now-thriving Jewish community still owns the building and leases it out to the current management. Both Jewish and non-Jewish visitors will rejoice at the inclusion of Mogg & Melzer, a deli dedicated to Jewish delicacies like matzo ball soup, pastrami, and shakshuka. | Auguststr. 11-13, Mitte | www.maedchenschule.org/ | Hrs vary by business | Station: Oranienburger Strasse (S-bahn).
The once-bustling street of cafés and theaters of prewar Berlin has risen from the rubble of war and Communist neglect to reclaim the crowds with shopping emporiums. Heading south from the Friedrichstrasse train station, you’ll pass hotels and various stores (including the sprawling, comprehensive bookstore Dussmann and its large but cozy new English-language bookshop around the corner). After crossing Unter den Linden, you’ll come upon the Berlin outpost of the Parisian department store Galeries Lafayette on your left. North of the train station you will see the rejuvenated heart of the entertainment center of Berlin’s Roaring Twenties, including the Admiralspalast and the somewhat kitschy Friedrichstadt Palast. | Berlin | Station: Französische Strasse (U-bahn), Friedrichstrasse (S-bahn and U-bahn).
This is without a doubt the most elegant square in former East Berlin. Anchored by the beautifully reconstructed 1818 Konzerthaus and the Deutscher Dom and Französischer Dom (German and French cathedrals) and lined with some of the city’s best restaurants, it also hosts one of Berlin’s classiest annual Christmas markets. | Berlin | Station: Stadtmitte (U-bahn), Hausvogteiplatz (U-bahn).
Hackesche Höfe (Hacke Courtyards).
Built in 1905-07, this series of eight connected courtyards is the finest example of art nouveau industrial architecture in Berlin. Most buildings are covered with glazed white tiles, and additional Moorish mosaic designs decorate the main courtyard off Rosenthaler Strasse. Shops (including one dedicated to Berlin’s beloved street-crossing signal, the “Ampelmann”), restaurants, the variety theater Chamäleon Varieté, and a movie theater populate the spaces once occupied by ballrooms, a poets’ society, and a Jewish girls’ club. | Rosenthaler Str. 40-41, and Sophienstr. 6, Mitte | 030/2809-8010 | www.hackesche-hoefe.com | Station: Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
Inside the Französischer Dom (French Cathedral), built by Kaiser Friedrich II for the Protestant Huguenots who fled France and settled in Berlin, is the Hugenottenmuseum, with exhibits charting their history and art. The Huguenots were expelled from France at the end of the 17th century by King Louis XIV. Their energy and commercial expertise contributed much to Berlin. | Französischer Dom, Gendarmenmarkt 5, Mitte | Entrance is along Markgrafenstr., on the side of the cathedral | 030/229-1760 | €3.50 | Tues.-Sun. noon-5 | Station: Stadtmitte (U-bahn), Hausvogteiplatz (U-bahn).
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: The Kennedys.
In West Berlin in 1963, John F. Kennedy surveyed the recently erected Berlin Wall, and said “Ich bin ein Berliner”—I am one with the people of Berlin. And with that, he secured his fame throughout Germany. He’s honored in this small but intriguing museum, which used to reside opposite the American embassy on Pariser Platz, but has since found a new home in the Ehemalige Jüdische Mädchenschule. With photographs, personal memorabilia, documents, and films, the collection traces the fascination JFK and the Kennedy clan evoked in Berlin and elsewhere. | Auguststr. 11-13, in the Ehemalige Jüdische Mädchenschule, Mitte | 030/2065-3570 | www.thekennedys.de | €5 | Tues.-Sun. 11-7 | Station: Oranienburger Strasse (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Museumsinsel (Museum Island).
On the site of one of Berlin’s two original settlements, this unique complex of five state museums is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-visit in Berlin. The museums are the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Altes Museum (Old Museum), the Bode-Museum, the Pergamonmuseum, and the the Neues Museum (New Museum). If you get tired of antiques and paintings, drop by any of the museums’ cafés. | Museumsinsel, Mitte | 030/2664-24242 | www.smb.museum | €18 combined ticket to all Museum Island museums | Station: Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
Neue Synagoge (New Synagogue).
This meticulously restored landmark, built between 1859 and 1866, is an exotic amalgam of styles, the whole faintly Middle Eastern. Its bulbous, gilded cupola stands out in the skyline. When its doors opened, it was the largest synagogue in Europe, with 3,200 seats. The synagogue was damaged on November 9, 1938 (Kristallnacht—Night of the Broken Glass), when Nazi looters rampaged across Germany, burning synagogues and smashing the few Jewish shops and homes left in the country. It was destroyed by Allied bombing in 1943, and it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the East German government restored it. The effective exhibit on the history of the building and its congregants includes fragments of the original architecture and furnishings. Sabbath services are held in a modern addition. | Oranienburger Str. 28-30,Mitte | 030/8802-8300 | www.centrumjudaicum.de | €5; English/Hebrew audio guides €3 | Apr.-Sept., weekdays 10-6, Sun. 10-7; Oct.-Mar., Sun.-Thurs. 10-6, Fri. 10-3 | Station: Oranienburger Tor (U-bahn), Oranienburger Strasse (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Neues Museum (New Museum).
Originally designed by Friedrich August Stüler in 1843-55, the building housing the Neues Museum was badly damaged in World War II and was only in the last decade been elaborately redeveloped by British star architect David Chipperfield, who has been overseeing the complete restoration of Museum Island. Instead of completely restoring the Neues Museum, the architect decided to integrate modern elements into the historic landmark, while leaving many of its heavily bombed and dilapidated areas untouched. The result is a stunning experience, considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest museums. Home to the Egyptian Museum, including the famous bust of Nefertiti (who, after some 70 years, has returned to her first museum location in Berlin), it also features the Papyrus Collection and the Museum of Prehistory and Early History. | Museumsinsel, Bodestrasse 1-3, Mitte | 030/2664-24242 | www.smb.museum | €12 (combined ticket for all Museumsinsel €18) | Fri.-Wed. 10-6, Thurs. 10-8 | Station:Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
Nikolaiviertel (Nicholas Quarter).
Renovated in the 1980s and a tad concrete-heavy as a result, this tiny quarter grew up around Berlin’s oldest parish church, the medieval, twin-spire St. Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas’s Church), now a museum, dating from 1230. The adjacent Fischerinsel (Fisherman’s Island) area was the heart of Berlin almost 800 years ago, and retains a bit of its medieval character. At Breite Strasse you’ll find two of Berlin’s oldest buildings: No. 35 is the Ribbeckhaus, the city’s only surviving Renaissance structure, dating from 1624, and No. 36 is the early-baroque Marstall, built by Michael Matthais between 1666 and 1669. The area feels rather artificial, but draws tourists to its gift stores, cafés, and restaurants. | Church: Nikolaikirchpl., Mitte | 030/2400-2162 | www.stadtmuseum.de | Station: Alexanderplatz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Pergamonmuseum.
The Pergamonmuseum is one of the world’s greatest museums and its name is derived from its principal display, the Pergamon Altar, a monumental Greek temple discovered in what is now Turkey and dating from 180 BC. The altar was shipped to Berlin in the late 19th century. Equally impressive are the gateway to the Roman town of Miletus, the Ishtar Gate, and the Babylonian processional way. At the end of 2014, the hall with the Pergamon Altar closed for refurbishment and is not expected to reopen until 2019. The rest of the Pergamonmuseum continues to be open to the public, though, and it still very much worth a visit. | Museumsinsel, Bodestrasse 1-3, Mitte | 030/2664-24242 | www.smb.museum | €12 (combined ticket for all Museumsinsel €18) | Fri.-Wed. 10-6, Thurs. 10-8 | Station: Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Reichstag (Parliament Building).
After last meeting here in 1933, the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, returned to its traditional seat in the spring of 1999. British architect Sir Norman Foster lightened up the gray monolith with a glass dome, which quickly became one of the city’s main attractions: you can circle up a gently rising ramp while taking in the rooftops of Berlin and the parliamentary chamber below. At the base of the dome is an exhibit on the Reichstag’s history, in German and English. Completed in 1894, the Reichstag housed the imperial German parliament and later served a similar function during the ill-fated Weimar Republic. On the night of February 27, 1933, the Reichstag burned down in an act of arson, a pivotal event in Third Reich history. The fire led to state protection laws that gave the Nazis a pretext to arrest their political opponents. The Reichstag was rebuilt but again badly damaged in 1945. The graffiti of the victorious Russian soldiers can still be seen on some of the walls in the hallways. After terrorism warnings at the end of 2010, the Reichstag tightened its door policy, asking all visitors to register their names and birthdates in advance and reserve a place on a guided tour. Since then, the crowds that used to snake around the outside of the building have subsided, and a visit is worth the planning. As always, a reservation at the pricey rooftop Käfer restaurant (030/2262-9933) will also get you in. Those with reservations can use the doorway to the right of the Reichstag’s main staircase. The building is surrounded by ultramodern federal government offices, such as the boxy, concrete Bundeskanzleramt (Federal Chancellery), which also has a nickname, of course: the “Washing Machine.” Built by Axel Schultes, it’s one of the few new buildings in the government district by a Berlin architect. Participating in a guided tour of the Chancellery is possible if you apply in writing several weeks prior to a visit. A riverwalk with great views of the government buildings begins behind the Reichstag. | Pl. der Republik 1, Mitte | 030/2273-2152 Reichstag, 030/2273-0027Reichstag, 030/4000-1881 Bundeskanzleramt | www.bundestag.de | Free with prior registration online | Daily 8 am-midnight | Station: Unter den Linden (S-bahn), Bundestag (U-bahn).
Unter den Linden.
The name of this historic Berlin thoroughfare, between the Brandenburg Gate and Schlossplatz, means “under the linden trees,” and it was indeed lined with fragrant and beloved lindens until the 1930s. Imagine Berliners’ shock when Hitler decided to fell the trees in order to make the street more parade-friendly. The grand boulevard began as a riding path that the royals used to get from their palace to their hunting grounds (now the central Berlin park called Tiergarten). It is once again lined with linden trees planted after World War II. | Mitte.
This bleak square, bordered by the train station, the Galeria Kaufhof department store, and the 37-story Park Inn Berlin-Alexanderplatz hotel, once formed the hub of East Berlin and was originally named in 1805 for Czar Alexander I. German writer Alfred Döblin dubbed it the “heart of a world metropolis” (a quote from his 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz is written on a building at the northeastern end of the square). Today it’s a basic center of commerce and the occasional festival. The unattractive modern buildings are a reminder not just of the results of Allied bombing but also of the ruthlessness practiced by East Germans when they demolished what remained. A famous meeting point in the south corner is the World Time Clock (1969), which even keeps tabs on Tijuana. | Mitte.
Berliner Rathaus (Berlin Town Hall).
Nicknamed the “Rotes Rathaus” (Red Town Hall) for its redbrick design, the town hall was completed in 1869. Its most distinguishing features are its neo-Renaissance clock tower and frieze that depicts Berlin’s history up to 1879 in 36 terra-cotta plaques, each 20 feet long. Climb the grand stairwell to view the coat-of-arms hall and a few exhibits. The Rathaus has a very inexpensive, cafeteria-style canteen offering budget lunches. The entrance is inside the inner courtyard. | Rathausstr. 15, Mitte | 030/90260 | Free | Weekdays 9-6 | Station: Alexanderplatz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
The Deutscher Dom holds an extensive exhibition on the emergence of the democratic parliamentary system in Germany since the late 1800s, including the 1848 revolution. The free museum is sponsored by the German parliament. Leadership and opposition in East Germany are also documented. An English-language audio guide covers a portion of the exhibits on the first three floors. Floors four and five have temporary exhibitions with no English text or audio. | Gendarmenmarkt 1, Mitte | 030/2273-0431 | Free | Oct.-Apr., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; May-Sept., Tues.-Sun. 10-7 | Station: Hausvogteiplatz (U-bahn), Stadtmitte (U-bahn).
Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart (Museum of Contemporary Art).
This light-filled, remodeled train station is home to a rich survey of post-1960 Western art. The permanent collection includes installations by German artists Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer, as well as paintings by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, and Robert Morris. An annex presents the hotly debated Friedrich Christian Flick Collection, the largest and most valuable collection of the latest in the world’s contemporary art. The 2,000 works rotate, but you’re bound to see some by Bruce Naumann, Rodney Graham, and Pipilotti Rist. | Invalidenstr. 50-51, Mitte | 030/3978-3411 | www.smb.museum | €14 | Tues., Wed., and Fri. 10-6, Thurs. 10-8, weekends 11-6 | Station: Naturkundemuseum (U-bahn), Hauptbahnhof (S-bahn).
Märkisches Museum (Brandenburg Museum).
This redbrick museum includes exhibits on the city’s theatrical past, its guilds, and its newspapers. A permanent exhibit, “Here is Berlin!,” tells the story of Berlin’s history through its different neighorhoods. Paintings capture the look of the city before it crumbled during World War II. On Sunday at 3 pm, fascinating mechanical musical instruments from the collection are played. | Am Köllnischen Park 5, Mitte | 030/2400-2162 | www.stadtmuseum.de | €5 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 | Station: Märkisches Museum (U-bahn).
Siegessäule (Victory Column).
The 227-foot granite, sandstone, and bronze column is topped by a winged, golden goddess and has a splendid view of Berlin. It was erected in front of the Reichstag in 1873 to commemorate Prussia’s military successes and then moved to the Tiergarten in 1938-39. You have to climb 270 steps up through the column to reach the observation platform, but the view is rewarding. The gold-tipped cannons surrounding the column are those the Prussians captured from the French in the Franco-Prussian War. | Str. des 17. Juni/Am Grossen Stern, Mitte | 030/391-2961 | €3 | Nov.-Mar., daily 9:30-5:30; Apr.-Oct., weekdays 9:30-6:30, weekends 9:30-7; last admission ½ hr before closing | Station: Tiergarten (S-bahn), Bellevue (S-bahn).
Staatsoper Unter den Linden (State Opera).
Frederick the Great was a music lover and he made the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, on the east side of Bebelplatz, his first priority. The lavish opera house was completed in 1743 by the same architect who built Sanssouci in Potsdam, Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff. The house is currently undergoing a complete makeover, expected to be completed in 2017, when the historic interior will be replaced with a modern design. The show goes on at the Schiller Theater across town, where maestro Daniel Barenboim continues to oversee a diverse repertoire. | Unter den Linden 7, Mitte | 030/2035-4555 | www.staatsoper-berlin.de | Box office Mon.-Sat. 10-8, Sun. noon-8 | Station: Französische Strasse (U-bahn).
The Tiergarten, a bucolic 630-acre park with lakes, meadows, and wide paths, is the “green heart” of Berlin. In the 17th century it served as the hunting grounds of the Great Elector (its name translates into “animal garden”). Now it’s the Berliners’ backyard for sunbathing and summer strolls.
The government district, Potsdamer Platz, and the embassy district ring the park from its eastern to southern edges. A leisurely walk from Zoo Station through the Tiergarten to the Brandenburger Tor and the Reichstag takes about 90 minutes.
Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Tiergarten (Soviet Memorial).
Built immediately after World War II, this monument stands as a reminder of the Soviet victory over the shattered German army in Berlin in May 1945. The Battle of Berlin was one of the deadliest on the European front. A hulking bronze statue of a soldier stands atop a marble plinth taken from Hitler’s former Reichkanzlei (headquarters). The memorial is flanked by what are said to be the first two T-34 tanks to have fought their way into the city. | Str. des 17. Juni, Tiergarten | Station: Unter den Linden (S-bahn).
Tiergarten (Animal Garden).
The quiet greenery of the 520-acre Tiergarten is a beloved oasis, with some 23 km (14 miles) of footpaths, meadows, and two beer gardens, making it the third-largest green space in Germany. The inner park’s 6½ acres of lakes and ponds were landscaped by garden architect Peter Joseph Lenné in the mid-1800s. | Tiergarten | Station: Zoologischer Garten (S-bahn and U-bhan), Bellevue (S-bahn), Hansaplatz (U-bahn), Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn).
The once-divided Berlin is rejoined at Potsdamer Platz, which now links Kreuzberg with the former East once again. Potsdamer Platz was Berlin’s inner-city center and Europe’s busiest plaza before World War II. Bombings and the Wall left this area a sprawling, desolate lot, where tourists in West Berlin could climb a wooden platform to peek into East Berlin’s death strip. After the Wall fell, various international companies made a rush to build their German headquarters on this prime real estate. In the mid-1990s, Potsdamer Platz became Europe’s largest construction site. Today’s modern complexes of red sandstone, terra-cotta tiles, steel, and glass have made it a city within a city.
A few narrow streets cut between the hulking modern architecture, which includes two high-rise office towers owned by Daimler, one of which was designed by star architect Renzo Piano. The round atrium of the Sony Center comes closest to a traditional square used as a public meeting point. Farther down Potsdamer Strasse are the state museums and cultural institutes of the Kulturforum.
Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery).
The Kulturforum’s Gemäldegalerie reunites formerly separated collections from East and West Berlin. It’s one of Germany’s finest art galleries, and has an extensive selection of European paintings from the 13th to 18th century. Seven rooms are reserved for paintings by German masters, among them Dürer, Cranach the Elder, and Holbein. A special collection has works of the Italian masters—Botticelli, Titian, Giotto, Lippi, and Raphael—as well as paintings by Dutch and Flemish masters of the 15th and 16th centuries: Van Eyck, Bosch, Bruegel the Elder, and van der Weyden. The museum also holds the world’s second-largest Rembrandt collection. | Kulturforum, Matthäikirchpl., Potsdamer Platz | 030/2664-24242 | www.smb.museum | €10 | Tues., Wed., and Fri. 10-6, Thurs. 10-8, weekends 11-6 | Station: Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Kulturforum (Cultural Forum).
This unique ensemble of museums, galleries, and the Philharmonic Hall was long in the making. The first designs were submitted in the 1960s and the last building completed in 1998. Now it forms a welcome modern counterpoint to the thoroughly restored Prussian splendor of Museum Island, although Berliners and tourists alike hold drastically differing opinions on the area’s architectural aesthetics. Whatever your opinion, Kulturforum’s artistic holdings are unparalleled and worth at least a day of your time, if not more. The Kulturforum includes the Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery), the Kunstbibliothek (Art Library), the Kupferstichkabinett (Print Cabinet), the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts), the Philharmonie, the Musikinstrumenten-Museum (Musical Instruments Museum), and the Staatsbibliothek (National Library). | Potsdamer Platz | Station: Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Kunstbibliothek (Art Library).
With more than 400,000 volumes on the history of European art, the Kunstbibliothek (art library), in the Kulturforum, is one of Germany’s most important institutions on the subject. It contains art posters and advertisements, examples of graphic design and book design, ornamental engravings, prints and drawings, and a costume library. Visitors can view items in the reading rooms, but many samples from the collections are also shown in rotating special exhibitions. | Kulturforum, Matthäikirchpl., Potsdamer Platz | 030/2664-24242 | www.smb.museum | Varies according to exhibition | Tues.-Fri. 10-6, weekends 11-6; reading room weekdays 9-8 | Station: Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts).
Inside the Kulturforum’s recently renovated Kunstgewerbemuseum are European arts and crafts from the Middle Ages to the present. Among the notable exhibits are the Welfenschatz (Welfen Treasure), a collection of 16th-century gold and silver plates from Nürnberg; a floor dedicated to design and furniture; and extensive holdings of ceramics and porcelain.Though there is a free English-language audio guide, the mazelike museum is difficult to navigate and most signage is in German. | Kulturforum, Herbert-von-Karajan-Str. 10, Potsdamer Platz | 030/266-2902 | www.smb.museum | €8 | Tues.-Fri. 10-6, weekends 11-6 | Station: Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Kupferstichkabinett (Drawings and Prints Collection).
One of the Kulturforum’s smaller museums, Kupferstichkabinett has occasional exhibits, which include European woodcuts, engravings, and illustrated books from the 15th century to the present (highlights of its holdings are pen-and-ink drawings by Dürer and drawings by Rembrandt). You can request to see one or two drawings in the study room. Another building displays paintings dating from the late Middle Ages to 1800. | Kulturforum, Matthäikirchpl. 4, Potsdamer Platz | 030/2664-24242 | www.smb.museum | €6 | Tues.-Fri. 10-6, weekends 11-6 | Station: Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Musikinstrumenten-Museum (Musical Instruments Museum).
Across the parking lot from the Philharmonie, the Kulturforum’s Musikinstrumenten-Museum has a fascinating collection of keyboard, string, wind, and percussion instruments. These are demonstrated during a noon tour on Saturday, which closes with a 35-minute Wurlitzer organ concert for an extra €3. | Kulturforum, Ben-Gurion-Str. 1, Potsdamer Platz | 030/2548-1178 | www.sim.spk-berlin.de | €6 | Tues., Wed., and Fri. 9-5, Thurs. 9-8, weekends 10-5 | Station: Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery).
Bauhaus member Mies van der Rohe originally designed this glass-box structure for Bacardi Rum in Cuba, but Berlin became the site of its realization in 1968. The main exhibits are below ground. Highlights of the collection of 20th-century paintings, sculptures, and drawings include works by expressionists Otto Dix, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Georg Grosz. Special exhibits often take precedence over the permanent collection, though the entire museum is closed during the next several years for renovations. | Potsdamer Str. 50, Potsdamer Platz | 030/2664-24242 | www.smb.museum | Varies according to exhibition | Tues., Wed., and Fri. 10-6, Thurs. 10-8, weekends 11-6 | Station: Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Located 300 feet above Potsdamer Platz at the top of one of its tallest towers, the new Panoramapunkt (Panoramic Viewing Point) not only features the world’s highest-standing original piece of the Berlin wall, but also a fascinating, multimedia exhibit about the dramatic history of Berlin’s former urban center. A café and a sun terrace facing west make this open-air viewing platform one of the city’s most romantic. | Potsdamer Pl. 1, Potsdamer Platz | 030/2593-7080 | www.panoramapunkt.de | €6.50 | Summer, daily 10-8; winter, daily 10-5; last entrance 30 mins before closing | Station: Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Spy Museum.
Some 25 years after the end of the Cold War, a new museum dedicated to the world of espionage opened in September 2015. The museum features interactive exhibits from the time of the Bible to the present day, covering topics that include military interrogation techniques and the world of secret services. The museum even touches on celebrated fictional spies, James Bond among them. An exhibit on the Enigma machine and the history of code breaking is one of the museum’s most buzzed-about draws. | Leipziger Pl. 9, Potsdamer Platz | 030/206-2019 | www.spymuseumberlin.com | €18 | Daily 10-8 | Station:Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
This glass-and-steel construction wraps around a spectacular circular forum. Topping it off is a tentlike structure meant to emulate Mt. Fuji. The architectural jewel, designed by German-American architect Helmut Jahn, is one of the most stunning public spaces of Berlin’s new center, filled with restaurants, cafés, movie theaters, and apartments. A faint reminder of glorious days gone by is the old Kaisersaal (Emperor’s Hall), held within a very modern glass enclosure, and today a pricey restaurant. The hall originally stood 75 yards away in the Grand Hotel Esplanade (built in 1907) but was moved here lock, stock, and barrel. Red-carpet glamour returns every February with the Berlinale Film Festival, which has screenings at the commercial cinema within the center. | Potsdamer Platz | Station: Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Staatsbibliothek (National Library).
The Kulturforum’s Staatsbibliothek is one of the largest libraries in Europe, and was one of the Berlin settings in Wim Wenders’s 1987 film Wings of Desire. | Kulturforum, Potsdamer Str. 33, Potsdamer Platz | 030/2664-32333 | staatsbibliothek-berlin.de | Weekdays 9-9, Sat. 10-7 | Station: Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Berlin Wall Walk
The East German government, in an attempt to keep its beleaguered citizens from fleeing, built the Berlin Wall practically overnight in August 1961. On November 9, 1989, it was torn down, signaling the dawning of a new era. Most of the Wall has been demolished but you can still walk the trail where it used to stand and visualize the 12-foot-tall border that once divided the city.
Follow the Cobblestones
These days, it’s hard to believe that Potsdamer Platz used to be a no-man’s-land. But in front of the gleaming skyscrapers, next to the S-bahn station, a tiny stretch of the Berlin Wall stands as a reminder of the place’s history. Just over on Erna-Berger-Strasse is the last of the hundreds of watchtowers that stood along the Wall.
Today, you can follow the rows of cobblestones on the ground that mark where the Wall used to stand. The path illuminates the effects the Wall had on the city, cutting through streets, neighborhoods, and even through buildings, which were then abandoned.
Walk south along Stresemanstrasse from Potsdamer Platz, then head east along Niederkirchnerstrasse two blocks to Checkpoint Charlie, a border crossing that foreign nationals used to cross between the American and Soviet zones. Niederkirchnerstrasse turns into Zimmerstrasse. Continue east along that to the modest column engraved “He only wanted freedom,” in German, at Zimmerstrasse 15, commemorating Peter Fechter, an 18-year-old who was shot and killed while trying to escape to the West. Follow Zimmerstrasse and turn left on Axel-Springer-Strasse, then right, onto Kommandantenstrasse. Keep walking past Sebastian and Waldemar streets and you’ll reach Engelbecken Pond. This is a good place to rest or have lunch at one of the cafés in Kreuzberg.
A Different Wall Walk
Potsdamer Platz, Checkpoint Charlie, and the surrounding areas are not the only places to see remnants of the Wall. For another glimpse into the past, head to the border between Mitte and Wedding, just north of Nordbahnhof train station. Starting there, you can follow Bernauer Strasse to the Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer), in the former “death strip,” where a church was once blown up by the East because it was a possible hiding place for those trying to flee.
Follow Bernauer Strasse until you reach the corner of Schwedter Strasse, then take the path that cuts through Mauer Park. The park is now home to one of the city’s hippest flea markets but it used to be the dangerous no-man’s land between East and West Berlin. At its northern end, Schwedter Strasse turns into the Schwedter Steg, a footbridge over an impressive chasm of connecting train tracks and S-bahn lines. Turn around for a spectacular view of the TV tower, then descend the steps on your left and continue along Norwegerstrasse. When the path goes under an imposing brick bridge, take the steps that lead up the bridge instead. This is the famous Bornholmer Brücke, where East Berliners overwhelmed the Wall checkpoint and became the first to push through to West Berlin.
The cobblestone streets of Friedrichshain, bustling with bars, cafés, and shops, give it a Greenwich Village feel. There’s plenty to see here, including Karl-Marx-Allee, a long, monumental boulevard lined by grand Stalinist apartment buildings (conceived of as “palaces for the people” that would show the superiority of the Communist system over the capitalist one); the area’s funky parks; the East Side Gallery; and lively Simon-Dach-Strasse. It’s cool, it’s hip, it’s historical. If you’re into street art, this is a good place to wander.
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Fodor’s Choice | East Side Gallery.
This 1-km (½-mi) stretch of concrete went from guarded border to open-air gallery within three months. East Berliners breached the Wall on November 9, 1989, and between February and June of 1990, 118 artists from around the globe created unique works of art on its longest remaining section. Restoration in 2010 renewed the old images with a fresh coat of paint, but while the colors of the artworks now look like new, the gallery has lost a bit of its charm. One of the best-known works, by Russian artist Dmitri Vrubel, depicts Brezhnev and Honecker (the former East German leader) kissing, with the caption “My God. Help me survive this deadly love.” The stretch along the Spree Canal runs between the Warschauer Strasse S- and U-bahn station and Ostbahnhof. The redbrick Oberbaumbrücke (an 1896 bridge) at Warschauer Strasse makes that end more scenic. | Mühlenstr., Friedrichshain | Station: Warschauer Strasse (U-bahn and S-bahn), Ostbahnhof (S-bahn).
Hip Kreuzberg, stretching from the West Berlin side of the border crossing at Checkpoint Charlie all the way to the banks of the Spree next to Friedrichshain, is home base for much of Berlin’s famed nightclub scene and a great place to get a feel for young Berlin. A large Turkish population shares the residential streets with a variegated assortment of political radicals and bohemians of all nationalities. In the minds of most Berliners, it is split into two even smaller sections: Kreuzberg 61 is a little more upscale, and contains a variety of small and elegant shops and restaurants, while Kreuzberg 36 has stayed grittier, as exemplified by the garbage-strewn, drug-infested, but much-beloved Görlitzer Park. Oranienstrasse, the spine of life in the Kreuzberg 36 district, has mellowed from hard core to funky since reunification. When Kreuzberg literally had its back against the Wall, West German social outcasts, punks, and the radical left made this old working-class street their territory. Since the 1970s the population has also been largely Turkish, and many of yesterday’s outsiders have turned into successful owners of shops and cafés. The most vibrant stretch is between Skalitzer Strasse and Oranienplatz. Use Bus M29 or the Görlitzer Bahnhof or Kottbusser Tor U-bahn stations to reach it.
Fodor’s Choice | Mauermuseum-Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie.
Just steps from the famous crossing point between the two Berlins, the Wall Museum-House at Checkpoint Charlie presents visitors with the story of the Wall and, even more riveting, the stories of those who escaped through, under, and over it. An infamous hot spot during the Cold War, this border crossing for non-Germans was manned by the Soviet military in East Berlin’s Mitte district and, several yards south, by the U.S. military in West Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. Tension between the superpowers in October 1961 led to an uneasy standoff between Soviet and American tanks. Today the touristy intersection consists of a replica of an American guardhouse and signage, plus cobblestones that mark the old border.
The homespun museum reviews the events leading up to the Wall’s construction and, with original tools and devices, plus recordings and photographs, shows how East Germans escaped to the West (one of the most ingenious contraptions was a miniature submarine). Exhibits about human rights and paintings interpreting the Wall round out the experience. Come early or late in the day to avoid the multitudes dropped off by tour buses. Monday can be particularly crowded because the state museums are closed on Mondays. | Friedrichstr. 43-45, Kreuzberg | 030/253-7250 | www.mauermuseum.com | €12.50 | Daily 9 am-10 pm | Station: Kochstrasse (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror).
Before 2010, Topographie des Terrors was an open-air exhibit, fully exposed to the elements. Now, in a stunning new indoor exhibition center at the same location, you can view photos and documents explaining the secret state police and intelligence organizations that planned and executed Nazi crimes against humanity. The fates of both victims and perpetrators are given equal attention here. The cellar remains of the Nazis’ Reich Security Main Office (composed of the SS, SD, and Gestapo), where the main exhibit used to be, are still open to the public and now contain other exhibitions, which typically run from April to October as the remains are outdoors. | Niederkirchnerstr. 8, Kreuzberg | 030/2545-0950 | www.topographie.de | Free | Daily 10-8.
Talk about site-specific art: all the modern art, photography, and architecture models and plans here, created between 1870 and the present, were made in Berlin (or in the case of architecture competition models, intended for the city). Russians, secessionists, Dadaists, and expressionists all had their day in Berlin, and individual works by Otto Dix, George Grosz, and Georg Baselitz, as well as artists’ archives such as the Dadaist Hannah Höch’s, are highlights. There’s a set price for the permanent collection, but rates vary for special exhibitions, which are usually well attended and quite worthwhile. Bus M29 to Waldeckpark/Oranienstrasse is the closest transportation stop. | Alte Jakobstr. 124-128, Kreuzberg | 030/7890-2600 | www.berlinischegalerie.de | €8 | Wed.-Mon. 10-6 | Station: Kochstrasse (U-bahn).
Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology).
A must if you’re traveling with children, this musem will enchant anyone who’s interested in technology or fascinated with trains, planes, and automobiles. Set in the remains of Anhalter Bahnhof’s industrial yard and enhanced with a newer, glass-enclosed wing, the museum has several floors of machinery, including two airplane rooms on the upper floors crowned with a “Rosinenbomber,” one of the beloved airplanes that delivered supplies to Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift of 1948. Don’t miss the train sheds, which are like three-dimensional, walkable timelines of trains throughout history, and the historical brewery, which has a great rooftop view of today’s trains, U-bahn lines U1 and U2, converging at the neighboring Gleisdreieck station. Berlin’s quirky Sugar Museum, which relates the history of this ubiquitous and profoundly important commodity, is slated to have relocated by the end of 2015. | Trebbiner Str. 9, Kreuzberg | 030/902-540 | www.sdtb.de/Home.623.0.html | €8 | Tues.-Fri. 9-5:30, weekends 10-6 | Station: Gleisdreieck (U-bahn), Anhalter Bahnhof (S-bahn).
$ | GERMAN | This beloved local watering hole has taken up space in Viktoriapark since 1928. Open all day long and late into the night, it’s the perfect place to while away the hours with a cup of coffee during the day, or sip a cocktail or beer during the evening, when a DJ is spinning. It’s also a reliable lunch spot, with salads, grilled meats, and the “German pizzas” known as Flammkuchen on the menu. | Average main: €6 | Dudenstr. 40-64, in Viktoriapark, closest entrance at Katzbachstr., Kreuzberg | 030/785-2453 | www.golgatha-berlin.de | No credit cards | Apr.-Oct., 9 am-late | Station: Yorckstrasse (S-bahn and U-bahn).
Jüdisches Museum Berlin (Jewish Museum).
The history of Germany’s Jews from the Middle Ages through today is chronicled here, from prominent historical figures to the evolution of laws regarding Jews’ participation in civil society. A few of the exhibits document the Holocaust itself, but this museum celebrates Jewish life and history far more than it focuses on the atrocities committed during WWII. An attraction in itself is the highly conceptual building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, where various physical “voids” in the oddly constructed and intensely personal modern wing of the building represent the idea that some things can and should never be exhibited when it comes to the Holocaust. Libeskind also directed the construction of the recently opened “Akademie” of the museum just across the street, which offers a library and temporary exhibitions, as well as space for workshops and lectures. Reserve at least three hours for the museum and devote more time to the second floor if you’re already familiar with basic aspects of Judaica, which are the focus of the third floor. | Lindenstr. 9-14, Kreuzberg | 030/2599-3300 | www.jmberlin.de | €7 | Mon. 10-10, Tues.-Sun. 10-8 | Station: Hallesches Tor (U-bahn).
This magnificent palazzo-like exhibition hall first opened in 1881, and once housed Berlin’s Arts and Crafts Museum. Its architect, Martin Gropius, was the great-uncle of Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus architect who also worked in Berlin. The international, changing exhibits on art and culture have recently included Aztec sculptures, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographs, an expansive Frida Kahlo retrospective, and works from Anish Kapoor and Meret Oppenheim. | Niederkirchnerstr. 7, Kreuzberg | 030/254-860 | www.gropiusbau.de | Varies with exhibit | Wed.-Mon. 10-7 | Station: Kochstrasse (U-bahn), Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Long known as Berlin’s gay neighborhood, these days Schöneberg is yet another burgeoning hipster area, attracting artists and creative types and young families. You’ll find many stylish shops and cafés in and around Nollendorfplatz, steps away from Winterfeldtplatz, where a weekly food and flea market takes place Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Once a spot for edgy art spaces, squats, and all manner of alternative lifestyles, Prenzlauer Berg has morphed into an oasis of artisanal bakeries, cute kids’ clothing stores (where the prices could knock your socks off), and genteel couples with baby strollers. That said, it’s a beautiful area, with gorgeous, perfectly renovated buildings shaded by giant plantain and chestnut trees. If you’re in the mood for an upscale, locally made snack and a nice stroll, this is the place to be. You’ll find a denser concentration of locals and long-settled expats in Prenzlauer Berg than in other parts of the city like the Scheunenviertel.
Jüdischer Friedhof Weissensee (Jewish Cemetery).
More than 150,000 graves make up Europe’s largest Jewish cemetery, in Berlin’s Weissensee district, near Prenzlauer Berg. The grounds and tombstones are in excellent condition—a seeming impossibility, given its location in the heart of the Third Reich—and wandering through them is like taking an extremely moving trip back in time through the history of Jewish Berlin. To reach the cemetery, take the M4 tram from Hackescher Markt to Albertinenstrasse and head south on Herbert-Baum-Strasse. At the gate you can get a map from the attendant. The guidebook is in German only. | Herbert-Baum-Str. 45, Prenzlauer Berg | 030/925-3330 | Summer, Sun.-Thurs. 8-5, Fri. 8-2:30; winter, Sun.-Thurs. 8-4, Fri. 8-2:30. Last entry 30 mins before closing.
Jewish Berlin Today
As Berlin continues to grapple with the past, important steps toward celebrating Jewish history and welcoming a new generation of Jews to Berlin are in the making.
Somber monuments have been built in memory of victims of the Holocaust and National Socialism. An especially poignant but soft-spoken tribute is the collection of Stolpersteine (stumbling blocks) found all over Berlin, imbedded into sidewalks in front of the pre-Holocaust homes of Berlin Jews, commemorating former residents simply with names and dates. German artist Gunter Demnig has personally installed these tiny memorials in big cities and small towns across Germany and Austria, and continues to do so as requests come in from communities across Europe.
The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation has gone a step further. Along with Lauder Yeshurun, Berlin’s Jewish communities have been further strengthened by building housing for Jews in the city center, founding a Yeshiva, a rabbinical school, and offering special services for returning Jews.
It’s difficult to say how many Jews live in Berlin today, but an official estimate puts the number at 22,000-27,000. About 12,000 members of the Jewish community are practicing Jews, mostly from the former Soviet Union, who belong to one of several synagogues. Berlin is also gaining in popularity among young Israelis, and today, some estimates say there may be as many as 20,000 Israelis who call Berlin home. These numbers don’t include the secular and religious Jews who wish to remain anonymous in the German capital.
The government supports Jewish businesses and organizations with funding, keeps close ties with important members of the community, and, perhaps most visibly, provides 24-hour police protection in front of any Jewish establishment that requests it. Two recent events proved that Jewish Berlin is thriving once again. On November 4, 2010, three young rabbis were ordained at the Pestalozzi Strasse synagogue, the first ceremony of its kind to occur in Berlin since before the Holocaust. Also in 2010, Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor and the president of the German Jewish Council at the time, showed the ultimate faith in Germany’s recovery and reparation efforts by declaring the country “once again a homeland for Jews.”
Kulturbrauerei (Culture Brewery).
The redbrick buildings of the old Schultheiss brewery are typical of late-19th-century industrial architecture. Parts of the brewery were built in 1842, and at the turn of the 20th century the complex expanded to include the main brewery of Berlin’s famous Schultheiss beer, then the world’s largest brewery. Today, the multiplex cinema, pubs, clubs, and a concert venue that occupy it make up an arts and entertainment nexus (sadly, without a brewery). Pick up information at the Prenzlauer Berg tourist office here, and come Christmastime, visit the Scandinavian-themed market, which includes children’s rides. | Schönhauser Allee 36, entry at Sredzkistr. 1 and Knaackstr. 97, Prenzlauer Berg | www.kulturbrauerei.de | Station: Eberswalder Strasse (U-bahn).
While much of Berlin has gentrified rapidly in recent years, Wedding, north of Mitte, is still an old-fashioned, working-class district. Because rents are still relatively low, it will probably be the next hot spot for artists and other creative types looking for cheap studios and work places. If you want to be on the cutting edge, ferret out an underground show or two in this ethnically diverse neighborhood.
For a historical perspective on the years of Berlin’s division, head to the excellent Berlin Wall Memorial Site. This illuminating museum (some of which is open-air) is located along one of the few remaining stretches of the wall, and chronicles the sorrows of the era.
Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial Site).
This site combines memorials and a museum and research center on the Berlin Wall. The division of Berlin was particularly heart-wrenching on Bernauer Strasse, where neighbors and families on opposite sides of the street were separated overnight. The Reconciliation Chapel, completed in 2000, replaced the community church dynamited by the Communists in 1985. The church had been walled into the “death strip,” and was seen as a hindrance to patrolling it. A portion of the Wall remains on Bernauer Strasse, along with an installation meant to serve as a memorial, which can be viewed 24/7. | Bernauer Str. 111, Wedding | 030/4679-86666 | www.berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de | Free, tours €3 | Visitor center: Tues.-Sun. 10-6 | Station: Bernauer Strasse (U-bahn), Nordbahnhof (S-bahn).
If you missed Prenzlauer Berg’s heyday, you can still get a good feel for its raw charm and creative flair if you head to ultrahip Neukölln. Just southeast of Kreuzberg below the Landwehrkanal, Neukölln was an impoverished, gritty West Berlin neighborhood until the hip crowd discovered it a few years ago. It’s since been almost completely transformed. Makeshift bars-galleries brighten up semi-abandoned storefronts, and vintage café or breakfast spots put a new twist on old concepts. Everything has a salvaged feel, and the crowds are young and savvy. If you’re looking for nightlife, there are bars galore.
Fodor’s Choice | Tempelhofer Park.
Of all Berlin’s many transformations, this one—from airport to park—might be the quickest. The iconic airport (it was the site of the 1948-49 Berlin airlift) had its last flight in 2008. Only two years later, it opened as a park, complete with untouched runways. It has quickly become one of the city’s most beloved and impressive outdoor spots, where bikers, skaters, kite flyers, urban gardeners, picnickers, and grillers all gather. Although the Nazi-era airport buildings are not open for wandering, you can explore them on a two-hour tour (book online at berlinkompakt.net). | Bordered by Columbiadamm and Tempelhoferdamm, Neukölln | 030/2000-37400 | www.thf-berlin.de | Daily sunrise-sunset | Station: Tempelhof (S-bahn and U-bahn).
An important part of former West Berlin but now a western district of the united city, Charlottenburg has retained its old-world charm. Elegance is the keyword here. Whether you’re strolling and shopping around Savignyplatz or pausing for a refreshment at the LiteraturHaus, you’ll be impressed with the dignity of both the neighborhood’s architecture and its inhabitants. Kurfürstendamm (or Ku’damm, as the locals call it) is the central shopping mile, where you’ll find an international clientele browsing brand-name designers, or drinking coffee at sidewalk cafés.
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Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church).
A dramatic reminder of World War II’s destruction, the ruined bell tower is all that remains of this once massive church, which was completed in 1895 and dedicated to the emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm I. The Hohenzollern dynasty is depicted inside in a gilded mosaic whose damage, like that of the building, will not be repaired. The exhibition revisits World War II’s devastation throughout Europe. On the hour, the tower chimes out a melody composed by the last emperor’s great-grandson, the late Prince Louis Ferdinand von Hohenzollern. In stark contrast to the old bell tower (dubbed the “Hollow Tooth”), which is in sore need of restoration now, are the adjoining Memorial Church and Tower, designed by the noted German architect Egon Eiermann and finished in 1961. These ultramodern octagonal structures, with their myriad honeycomb windows, have nicknames as well: the “Lipstick” and the “Powder Box.” Brilliant, blue stained glass designed by Gabriel Loire of Chartres, France, dominates the interiors. Church music and organ concerts are presented in the church regularly, which is slated for restoration in the near future. | Breitscheidpl., Charlottenburg | www.gedaechtniskirche-berlin.de | Free | Memorial church daily 9-7 | Station:Zoologischer Garten (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Right next door to the Literaturhaus, this small but lovingly curated museum in a formerly private home pays homage to one of Berlin’s favorite artists, the female sculptor, printmaker, and painter Käthe Kollwitz. Perhaps best known for her harrowing sculpture of a mother mourning a dead child inside the Neue Wache on Unter den Linden, she also lent her name to one of the city’s most beautiful squares, the posh, leafy Kollwitzplatz, which contains a sculpture of her. | Fasanenstr. 24, Charlottenburg | 030/882-5210 | www.kaethe-kollwitz.de | €6 | Daily 10-6 | Station: Uhlandstrasse (U-bahn).
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This busy thoroughfare began as a riding path in the 16th century. The elector Joachim II of Brandenburg used it to travel between his palace on the Spree River and his hunting lodge in the Grunewald. The Kurfürstendamm (Elector’s Causeway) was transformed into a major route in the late 19th century, thanks to the initiative of Bismarck, Prussia’s Iron Chancellor.
Even in the 1920s, the Ku’damm was still relatively new and by no means elegant; it was fairly far removed from the old heart of the city, Unter den Linden in Mitte. The Ku’damm’s prewar fame was due mainly to its rowdy bars and dance halls, as well as the cafés where the cultural avant-garde of Europe gathered. Almost half of its 245 late-19th-century buildings were completely destroyed in the 1940s, and the remaining buildings were damaged to varying degrees. As in most of western Berlin, what you see today is either restored or newly constructed. Many of the 1950s buildings have been replaced by high-rises, in particular at the corner of Joachimstaler Strasse. Although Ku’damm is still known as the best shopping street in Berlin, its establishments have declined in elegance and prestige over the years. Nowadays you’ll want to visit just to check it off your list, but few of the many down-market chain stores will impress you with their luxury. | Charlottenburg | Station: Kurfürstendamm (U-bahn).
This grand, 19th-century villa on one of West Berlin’s prettiest streets, is best known for its café, which approximates a Viennese coffeehouse in both food and atmosphere. It also serves as an intellectual meeting place for high-minded and well-to-do Berliners. The house hosts readings, literary symposia, exhibitions, and writing workshops year-round, and has a cozy and comprehensive bookstore (one of the city’s best) on the lower level. | Fasanenstr. 23, Charlottenburg | 030/887-2860 | www.literaturhaus-berlin.de/ | Bookshop weekdays 10:30-7:30, Sat. 10:30-6; café daily 9-midnight | Station: Uhlandstrasse (U-bahn).
This small modern-art museum holds works by Matisse, Klee, Giacometti, and Picasso, who is particularly well represented with more than 100 works. Heinz Berggruen (1914-2007), a businessman who left Berlin in the 1930s, collected the excellent paintings. He narrates portions of the free audio guide, sharing anecdotes about how he came to acquire pieces directly from the artists, as well as his opinions of the women portrayed in Picasso’s portraits. | Schlossstr. 1, Charlottenburg | 030/2664-24242 | www.smb.museum | €10 | Tues.-Fri. 10-6, weekends 11-6 | Station: Sophie-Charlotte-Platz (U-bahn), Richard-Wagner-Platz (U-bahn).
Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace).
A grand reminder of imperial days, this showplace served as a city residence for the Prussian rulers. The gorgeous palace started as a modest royal summer residence in 1695, built on the orders of King Friedrich I for his wife, Sophie-Charlotte. In the 18th century Frederick the Great made a number of additions, such as the dome and several wings designed in the rococo style. By 1790 the complex had evolved into a massive royal domain that could take a whole day to explore. Behind heavy iron gates, the Court of Honor—the front courtyard—is dominated by a baroque statue of the Great Elector on horseback. Buildings can be visited separately for different admission prices, or altogether as part of a €19 Tageskarte (day card).
The Altes Schloss is the main building of the Schloss Charlottenburg complex, with the ground-floor suites of Friedrich I and Sophie-Charlotte. Paintings include royal portraits by Antoine Pesne, a noted court painter of the 18th century. A guided tour visits the Oak Gallery, the early-18th-century palace chapel, and the suites of Friedrich Wilhelm II and Friedrich Wilhelm III, furnished in the Biedermeier style. Tours leave hourly from 9 to 5. The upper floor has the apartments of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, a silver treasury, and Berlin and Meissen porcelain and can be seen on its own.
The Neuer Flügel (New Building), where Frederick the Great once lived, was designed by Knobbelsdorff, who also built Sanssouci. The 138-foot-long Goldene Galerie (Golden Gallery) was the palace’s ballroom. West of the staircase are Frederick’s rooms, in which parts of his extravagant collection of works by Watteau, Chardin, and Pesne are displayed. An audio guide is included in the separate €6 admission fee.
The Schlosspark Charlottenburg behind the palace was laid out in the French baroque style beginning in 1697, and was transformed into an English garden in the early 19th century. In it are the Neuer Pavillon by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Carl Langhan’s Belvedere Pavillon (€3, Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; winter hrs vary) which overlooks the lake and the Spree River and holds a collection of Berlin porcelain. | Spandauer Damm 20-24, Charlottenburg | 030/3319-694200 | www.spsg.de | €19 Tageskarte (day card) for all buildings, excluding tour of Altes Schloss baroque apartments | Palaces closed Mon., except New Palace and Charlottenburg Palace New Wing, which are closed Tues. | Station: Richard-Wagner-Platz (U-bahn).
Zoologischer Garten (Zoological Gardens).
Even though Knut, the polar bear cub who captured the heart of the city, is sadly no longer with us, there are 14,000 other animals to see here, many of whom may be happy to have their time in the spotlight once again. There are 1,500 different species (more than any other zoo in Europe), including those rare and endangered, which the zoo has been successful at breeding. New arrivals in the past years include a baby rhinoceros. The animals’ enclosures are designed to resemble their natural habitats, though some structures are ornate, such as the 1910 Arabian-style Zebra House. Pythons, frogs, turtles, invertebrates, Komodo dragons, and an amazing array of strange and colorful fish are part of the three-floor aquarium. Check the feeding times posted to watch creatures such as seals, apes, hippos, penguins, and pelicans during their favorite time of day. | Hardenbergpl. 8 and Budapester Str. 32, Tiergarten | 030/254-010 | www.zoo-berlin.de | Zoo or aquarium €13, combined ticket €20 | Zoo: mid-Mar.-Oct., daily 9-6:30; Nov.-mid-Mar., daily 9-5; Aquarium: daily 9-6 | Station: Zoologischer Garten (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Museum für Fotografie-Helmut Newton Stiftung.
Native son Helmut Newton (1920-2004) pledged this collection of 1,000 photographs to Berlin months before his unexpected death. The man who defined fashion photography in the 1960s through the 1980s was an apprentice to Yva, a Jewish fashion photographer in Berlin in the 1930s. Newton fled Berlin with his family in 1938, and his mentor was killed in a concentration camp. The photographs, now part of the state museum collection, are shown on a rotating basis in the huge Wilhelmine building behind the train station Zoologischer Garten. You’ll see anything from racy portraits of models to serene landscapes. | Jebensstr. 2, Charlottenburg | 030/6642-4242 | www.helmutnewton.com | €10 | Tues.-Fri. 10-6 (Thurs. until 8), weekends 11-6 | Station: Zoologischer Garten (U-bahn and S-bahn).
The Story of Berlin.
You can’t miss this multimedia museum—just look for the airplane wing exhibited in front. It was once part of a “Raisin bomber,” a U.S. Air Force DC-3 that supplied Berlin during the Berlin Airlift in 1948 and 1949. Eight hundred years of the city’s history, from the first settlers casting their fishing lines to Berliners heaving sledgehammers at the Wall, are conveyed through hands-on exhibits, film footage, and multimedia devices in this unusual venue. The sound of footsteps over broken glass follows your path through the exhibit on the Kristallnacht pogrom, and to pass through the section on the Nazis’ book-burning on Bebelplatz, you must walk over book bindings. Many original artifacts are on display, such as the stretch Volvo that served as Erich Honecker’s state carriage in East Germany. The eeriest relic is the 1974 nuclear shelter, which you can visit by guided tour on the hour. Museum placards are also in English. | Ku’damm Karree, Kurfürstendamm 207-208, Charlottenburg | 030/8872-0100 | www.story-of-berlin.de | €12 | Daily 10-8; last entry at 6 | Station: Uhlandstrasse (U-bahn).
Most tourists come to leafy, upscale Wannsee to see the House of the Wannsee Conference, where the Third Reich’s top officials met to plan the “final solution.” Beyond this dark historical site, however, there are parks, lakes, and islands to explore. Leave a day for a trip here, especially in warm weather: the Wannsee lake is a favorite spot for a summer dip.
Gedenkstätte Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz (Wannsee Conference Memorial Site).
The lovely lakeside setting of this Berlin villa belies the unimaginable Holocaust atrocities planned here. This elegant edifice hosted the fateful conference held on January 20, 1942, at which Nazi leaders and German bureaucrats, under SS leader Reinhard Heydrich, planned the systematic deportation and mass extinction of Europe’s Jewish population. Today this so-called “Endlösung der Judenfrage” (“final solution of the Jewish question”) is illustrated with a chilling exhibition that documents the conference and, more extensively, the escalation of persecution against Jews and the Holocaust itself. A reference library offers source materials in English. | Am Grossen Wannsee 56-58, from the Wannsee S-bahn station, take Bus 114, Wannsee | 030/805-0010 | www.ghwk.de | Free, tour €3 | Daily 10-6; library weekdays 10-6 | Station: Wannsee (S-bahn).
In this little village a short drive north of Berlin, the Nazis built one of the first concentration camps (neighbors claimed not to notice what was happening there). After the war, the Soviets continued to use it. Only later did the GDR regime turn it into a memorial site. If you feel like you’ve covered all the main sites in Berlin, this is worth a day trip.
Gedenkstätte und Museum Sachsenhausen (Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum).
This concentration camp was established in 1936 and held 200,000 prisoners from every nation in Europe, including British officers and Joseph Stalin’s son. It is estimated that tens of thousands died here, among them more than 12,000 Soviet prisoners of war.
Between 1945 and 1950 the Soviets used the site as a prison, and malnutrition and disease claimed the lives of 20% of the inmates. The East German government made the site a concentration camp memorial in April 1961. Many original facilities remain; the barracks and other buildings now hold exhibits.
To reach Sachsenhausen, take the S-bahn 1 to Oranienburg, the last stop. The ride from the Friedrichstrasse Station will take 50 minutes. Alternatively, take the Regional 5 train, direction north, from one of Berlin’s main stations. From the Oranienburg Station it’s a 25-minute walk (follow signs), or you can take a taxi or Bus 804 (a seven-minute ride, but with infrequent service) in the direction of Malz. An ABC zone ticket will suffice for any type of train travel and bus transfer. Allow three hours at the memorial, whose exhibits and sites are spread apart. Oranienburg is 35 km (22 miles) north of Berlin’s center. | Str. der Nationen 22 | Oranienburg | 03301/200-200 | www.stiftung-bg.de | Free, audio guide €3 | Visitor center and grounds: Mid-Mar.-mid-Oct., daily 8:30-6; mid-Oct.-mid-Mar., daily 8:30-4:30; last admission ½ hr before closing. Museum closed Mon., all other days same hrs as above | Station: Oranienburg (S-bahn).
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Mitte | Tiergarten | Kreuzberg | Schöneberg | Prenzlauer Berg | Wedding | Neukölln | Charlottenburg
Berlin has plenty of unassuming neighborhood restaurants serving old-fashioned German food; but happily, the dining scene in this thriving city has expanded to incorporate all sorts of international cuisine. Italian food is abundant, from relatively mundane “red sauce” pizza and pasta establishments to restaurants offering specific regional Italian delicacies. Asian food, in particular, has made a big entrance, with Charlottenburg’s Kantstrasse leading the way as Berlin’s unofficial “Asiatown.” Turkish food continues to be popular, too, especially döner kebab shops that sell pressed lamb or chicken in flatbread pockets with a variety of sauces and salads, which are great for a quick meal. Wurst, especially currywurst—pork sausage served with a mildly curried ketchup—is also popular if you’re looking for a quick meal on the go.
And as in other big cities around the world, eating local is more and more the rage in Berlin. Restaurants are beginning to understand that although they could import ingredients from other European countries, fresh farm resources are closer to home. Surrounding the city is the rural state of Brandenburg, whose name often comes before Ente (duck) on a menu. In spring, Spargel, white asparagus from Beelitz, is all the rage, showing up in soups and side dishes.
It’s worth noting that Berlin is known for curt or slow service, except at high-end restaurants. And keep in mind that many of the top restaurants are closed Sunday.
If you want to experience that old-fashioned German cuisine, Berlin’s most traditional four-part meal is Eisbein (pork knuckle), always served with sauerkraut, pureed peas, and boiled potatoes. Other old-fashioned Berlin dishes include Rouladen (rolled stuffed beef), Spanferkel (suckling pig), Berliner Schüsselsülze (potted meat in aspic), and Hackepeter (ground beef).
$ | GERMAN | By day, this is a quiet café reminiscent of a classic Viennese coffeehouse (the name means “Old Europe”), with shabby but trendy decor, and fashionable Mitte-ites chatting and intellectuals paging through newspapers and magazines. At night, it turns into a comfortable but bustling neighborhood pub, just crowded enough to look like a scene, but never too packed. The daily menu includes six or seven tasty dishes like classic German Knödel (dumplings) baked with mushrooms and spinach or Tafelspitz (boiled beef) with potatoes. The food is inventively prepared and served in record time (for notoriously slow Berlin). | Average main: €8 | Gipsstr. 11, Mitte | 030/2809-3840 | www.alteseuropa.com | No credit cards | Station: Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
Bandol sur Mer.
$$$$ | FRENCH | This tiny, 20-seat eatery serves inspired French cuisine in rotating five-course (or more) menus celebrating what’s regional and seasonal—you can order à la carte but the menus are better value, and more fun. The entrecôte is a standout, if it’s available. Wine pairings are well chosen. This is a magnet for the hip and fashionable so it’s worth dressing up a bit. If you can’t get a reservation here, try the sister restaurant next door: the larger and slightly more casual 3 Minutes Sur Mer, which is also open for lunch. | Average main: €32 | Torstr. 167, Mitte | 030/6730-2051 | www.bandolsurmer.de | Closed Sun. No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: Rosenthaler Platz (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Cocolo.
$ | JAPANESE | The most surprising thing about this very authentic-seeming ramen joint is the fact that the owner and chef is German, not Japanese. When it comes to the narrow, blink-and-you-miss-it Cocolo, Oliver Prestele has obviously got it right; the noodle kitchen is packed almost every night of the week and has gained a devoted following. Soups come with a variety of pork-based broths, like creamy tonkotsu, salty shio, or soy-based shoyu, along with flavorful toppings like tender pork or chicken, vegetables, bonito flakes, and an egg. The ramen is served in nubby clay bowls made by Prestele himself in his Wedding workshop. If you can’t get a table at this tiny original location, there’s a newer and larger outpost in Kreuzberg, at Paul-Linke-Ufer 39/40, which is also open for lunch. | Average main: €9 | Gipsstr. 3, Mitte | 0172/304-7584 | www.oliverprestele.de | No credit cards | Reservations not accepted | Station: Rosenthaler Platz, Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
$ | CAFÉ | If you think the döner kebab is the pinnacle of Turkish food in Berlin, a visit to this exquisite sweets boutique will make you rethink your priorities. The gleaming, all-white interior mimics the nearby art galleries, and all the better to show off jewel-like offerings: multicolor and multiflavored marzipan and lokum (Turkish delight), made with the highest quality ingredients. Dine in on the homemade cakes and pastries, best accompanied with a samovar of tea or a tiny cup of Turkish coffee—and get a beautifully wrapped and beribboned box of treats to go. | Average main: €3 | Linienstr. 113, Mitte | 030/6092-5957 | www.confiserie-orientale-berlin.com | No credit cards | Station: Oranienburger Tor (U-bahn), Oranienburger Strasse (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Cookies Cream.
$$ | VEGETARIAN | The name might have you thinking something different, but this is actually a vegetarian fine-dining restaurant that serves some of the best food in Berlin (it’s above what used to be a club called Cookies, owned by a nightlife mogul by the same moniker). The entrance, too, is misleading: the only access is via a dingy alley between the Westin Grand Hotel and the Komische Oper next door, which seems designed to deter would-be visitors, but once you’re through the door the service is friendly and casual, and the vibe not at all intimidating. The chef steers away from “easy” vegetarian dishes like pasta and stir-fries and instead focuses on innovative preparations like kohlrabi turned into ravioli-esque pockets filled with lentils, or celery that’s wrapped cannelloni-style around potato puree and chanterelle mushrooms. | Average main: €18 | Behrenstr. 55, Mitte | 030/2749-2940 | www.cookiescream.com | No credit cards | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: Friedrichstrasse (S-bahn and U-bahn), Französische Strasse (U-bahn), Brandenburger Tor (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Das Lokal.
$$ | GERMAN | This popular restaurant, located on the corner of one of Berlin’s prettiest streets, serves locally sourced dishes like Brandenburg wild boar, lake trout, or venison on stylish long wooden tables to an equally stylish crowd. The unfussy German standards have become fast favorites with local gallerists and shop owners, and on warm weekend nights the place opens up to the street, beckoning passersby with the cozy sound of clinking glasses and the low hum of conversation. This is a neighborhood eatery of the highest order. | Average main: €18 | Linienstr. 160, Mitte | 030/2844-9500 | www.lokal-berlinmitte.de | No credit cards | No lunch Sat.-Mon. | Station: Oranienburger Tor (U-bahn), Oranienburger Strasse (S-bahn).
$$ | GERMAN | This beautiful, wood-paneled restaurant is spacious but almost always crowded, and usually smoke-filled as well, but it’s right in the middle of the action at bustling Hackesche Höfe, and one of the best places to eat German food while doing some excellent people-watching. Opt for regional country dishes like Brandenburg wild boar if it’s available. The clientele is a fun mix of tourists and local artists and intellectuals, which gives the place a vibrant, lively atmosphere. When the weather is good there are tables outside in the courtyard, too. | Average main: €16 | Rosenthalerstr. 40-41, inside Hackesche Höfe,Mitte | 030/283-5293 | www.hackescher-hof.de | Station: Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Katz Orange.
$$$ | CONTEMPORARY | This lovely restaurant, hidden in a courtyard off a quiet, residential street, is both elegant enough for a special occasion and homey enough to be a favorite local haunt. Local ingredients are used whenever possible on the inventive menu; perhaps artichoke stuffed with quinoa, watercress, and smoked pepper, or a halibut ceviche. The restaurant is known, however, for its slow-cooked meats for two: choose pork, short ribs, or lamb shoulder, along with fresh side dishes like grilled eggplant, creamy polenta, or asparagus ragout. The desserts are excellent. | Average main: €23 | Bergstr. 22, Mitte | 030/9832-08430 | www.katzorange.com | No credit cards | Closed Sun. | Station: Nordbahnhof (S-bahn).
Lutter & Wegner.
$$$ | GERMAN | The dark-wood-panel walls, parquet floor, and multiple rooms of this bustling restaurant across from Gendarmenmarkt have an air of 19th-century Vienna, and the food, too, is mostly German and Austrian, with superb game dishes in winter and, of course, the classic Wiener schnitzel with potato and cucumber salad. The Sauerbraten (marinated pot roast) with red cabbage is a national prizewinner. In the Weinhandlung, a cozy room lined with wine shelves, meat and cheese plates are served until 1 am. There are several other locations around Berlin but this one is widely considered the best. | Average main: €23 | Charlottenstr. 56, Mitte | 030/2029-5415 | www.l-w-berlin.de | Station: Französische Strasse (U-bahn), Stadtmitte (U-bahn).
Mogg & Melzer.
$ | CAFÉ | In the renovated Ehemalige Jüdische Mädchenschule (Old Jewish Girls’ School), this deli-style café serves delicious versions of Jewish deli standards like matzo-ball soup, pastrami on rye, a Reuben sandwich, and New York cheesecake. Breakfast dishes include an excellent version of the Israeli dish shakshuka (tomato stew with eggs). The space, with wood floors and tables, blue walls, and low, deep purple banquettes is trendier than any traditional deli. | Average main: €10 | Ehemalige Jüdische Mädchenschule, Auguststr. 11-13, Mitte | 030/3300-60770 | www.moggandmelzer.com | No credit cards | Station:Tucholskystrasse (S-bahn).
$ | VIETNAMESE | This hip Vietnamese eatery is a convenient place to meet before hitting Mitte’s galleries or clubs, or for a light lunch after browsing the area’s popular boutiques. The atmosphere is always lively, and the clientele is an entertaining mix of tech geeks on their lunch breaks from the area’s many start-ups, fashionistas with multiple shopping bags, tourists lured in by the crowd, and students from the nearby Goethe Institut, Germany’s most prestigious language school. There are only five items and two specials to choose from, but the delicious goi bo (spicy beef salad) and pho ga (chicken noodle soup) keep the regulars coming back. The teas and shakes are also excellent. | Average main: €7 | Alte Schönhauserstr. 46, Mitte | 030/9929-6924 | www.monsieurvuong.de | Reservations not accepted | Station:Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Nobelhart und Schmutzig.
$$$$ | GERMAN | The locavore obsession is taken seriously at this trendy spot that uses only the most local ingredients in the simple but sublime preparations that come from the open kitchen. One menu is served each evening (dietary restrictions can usually be accommodated) and everything from the bread and butter through several vegetable, meat, and fish courses is gorgeously presented and delicious. Unusual herbs and plants like rapeseed blossom or lovage might make you want to head straight to Berlin’s outskirts for foraging. The careful attention of renowned sommelier Billy Wagner guarantees that each simple but stunning dish finds its ideal partner in wine or beer. | Average main: €80 | Friedrichstr. 218, Mitte | 030/2594-0610 | www.nobelhartundschmutzig.com | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Reservations essential | Station: Kochstrasse (U-bahn).
$$$$ | GERMAN | With an airy, high-windowed space in what used to be the school gym of the converted Ehemalige Jüdische Mädchenschule (Old Jewish Girls’ School), and outdoor tables taking over the building’s expansive courtyard, the setting here alone is a draw, but the food is also some of the most exquisite in this part of Mitte. The menu focuses on artful presentation and local ingredients, like meat from Brandenburg, prawns from Pomerania, and cheese from Bad Tölz. The lunch prix fixe is a great way to sample the restaurant’s best dishes. Quirky artworks, excellent service, and an extensive wine list all add to the experience. | Average main: €34 | Ehemalige Jüdische Mädchenschule, Auguststr. 11-13, Mitte | 030/3300-6070 | www.paulysaal.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Tucholskystrasse (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Restaurant Reinstoff.
$$$$ | CONTEMPORARY GERMAN | The perfectly crafted and creative haute cuisine at the Michelin-starred Reinstoff, prepared by renowned chef Daniel Achilles, focuses on both rare and traditional German ingredients but gives them an avant-garde twist and often playful presentations. Diners choose either five-, six-, seven-, eight-, or nine-course menus (à la carte is only by special request), either with or without wine pairings, and the relaxed but professional service and quietly refined atmosphere make this one of the most enjoyable dining experiences in the city. It’s expensive but worth it. The wine selection is heavy on European wines. | Average main: €50 | Schlegelstr. 26c, in Edison Höfe, Mitte | 030/3088-1214 | www.reinstoff.eu | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Reservations essential | Station: Nordbahnhof (S-bahn).
Rosenthaler Grill und Schlemmerbuffet.
$ | TURKISH | Döner kebab aficionados love this bright, casual spot for the delicious food—the fact that it’s in the middle of the city and open 24 hours a day is an added bonus. The friendly staff expertly carve paper-thin slices of perfectly cooked meat from the enormous, revolving spit. If you like things spicy, ask for the red sauce. The rotisserie chicken is also good, but most people come for the döner, either as a meal with salad and fries, or as a sandwich. | Average main: €5 | Torstr. 125, Mitte | 030/283-2153 | No credit cards | Station: Rosenthaler Platz (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Rutz Restaurant and Weinbar.
$$$$ | GERMAN | The narrow, unassuming facade of this Michelin-starred restaurant, tucked away on a sleepy stretch of Chausseestrasse, belies the the elegant interior and stellar food you’ll find inside. “Inspiration” tasting menus of 4, 6, 8, or 10 courses (here called “experiences” and starting at €98) make the most of ingredients like goose liver and Wagyu beef and combine unusual items like black radishes and mushrooms, or asparagus and wild violets. For a more casual affair, and more à la carte choices, head to the separate Weinbar downstairs. | Average main: €60 | Chausseestr. 8, Mitte | 030/2462-8760 | www.weinbar-rutz.de | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Station: Oranienburger Tor (S-bahn).
$$$$ | GERMAN | Exemplary and innovative food served in a refined atmosphere defines the experience at VAU. Much-lauded chef Kolja Kleeberg is a stalwart on the Berlin dining scene, and his Michelin-starred pan-European menu might include duck with red cabbage, quince, and sweet chestnuts, or turbot with veal sweetbread and shallots in red wine. The four- to eight-course dinner menus are €120 to €160; some dishes can be ordered à la carte. Lunch might be the best time to visit, when entrées are a bargain at €18. The cool interior was designed by Meinhard von Gerkan, one of Germany’s leading industrial architects. | Average main: €40 | Jägerstr. 54/55, Mitte | 030/202-9730 | www.vau-berlin.de | Closed Sun. | Reservations essential | Station: Französische Strasse (U-bahn), Stadmitte (U-bahn).
Zur Letzten Instanz.
$ | GERMAN | Berlin’s oldest restaurant (established in 1621) is half hidden in a maze of medieval streets, though it’s welcomed some illustrious diners over the centuries: Napoléon is said to have sat by the tile stove, Mikhail Gorbachev sipped a beer here in 1989, and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder treated French president Jacques Chirac to a meal here in 2003. The small, well-priced menu focuses on some of Berlin’s most traditional specialties, including Eisbein (pork knuckle), and takes its whimsical dish titles from classic legal jargon—the national courthouse is around the corner, and the restaurant’s name is a rough equivalent of the term “at the 11th hour.” Inside, the restaurant is cozy and casual, and while the service is always friendly it can sometimes feel a bit erratic. | Average main: €11 | Waisenstr. 14-16, Mitte | 030/242-5528 | www.zurletzteninstanz.de | Closed Sun. | Reservations essential | Station: Klosterstrasse (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | 5 - Cinco by Paco Pérez.
$$$$ | SPANISH | It was only a matter of time before someone connected to Spain’s legendary el Bulli came to Berlin. Enter Catalan chef Paco Pérez, offering an “experience” menu of 25 to 30 courses that unfolds over a leisurely two and a half to three hours. Dishes are what you’d expect from a disciple of Ferran Adrià—i.e., expect the unexpected. The food is colorful and playful, highlighting the maximum flavor of each ingredient, and containing some fun surprises. It truly is an experience. The contemporary interior stands in stark contrast to Berlin’s vintage-obsessed establishments: walls mix slick tile with dark wood, and the ceiling is hung with a jumble of bronze pots, pans, and jugs. You can also order à la carte. Note that Casual by Paco Pérez, next door, offers a less expensive sampling of Pérez’s food; it’s open for all three meals. | Average main: €40 | Drakestr. 1, Das Stue hotel, Tiergarten | 030/311-7220 | www.5-cinco.com | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Reservations essential | Station: Zoologischer Garten (S-bahn and U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Facil.
$$$$ | ECLECTIC | One of Germany’s top restaurants, Facil is also one of the more relaxed of its class. The elegant, minimalist setting—it’s in the fifth-floor courtyard of the Mandala Hotel, with exquisite wall panels and a glass roof that opens in summer—and impeccable service make this feel like something of an oasis in the busy city. Diners can count on a careful combination of German classics and Asian inspiration; you can choose from the four- to eight-course set meals, or order à la carte. Seasonal dishes include goose liver with celery and hazelnuts, char with an elderflower emulsion sauce, or roasted regional squab. The wine list is extensive but the staff can provide helpful advice. | Average main: €40 | The Mandala Hotel, Potsdamer Str. 3, Tiergarten | 030/5900-51234 | www.facil.de | Closed weekends | Station:Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
$$$ | ECLECTIC | If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind dining experience, head to this half-timber house that stands dwarfed by a government complex and the hotels and office buildings around Hauptbahnhof. The restaurant Paris-Moskau was built more than 100 years ago as a pub and guesthouse along the Paris-Moscow railway. Today, it serves dishes so intricately prepared they look like works of art, with unique flavor combinations such as smoked eel with pork belly, or guinea hen with beetroots and dates. In addition to the à la carte menu, there are a variety of set menus in the evening—you can choose four, five, or six courses. The well-chosen wine list and attentive service make this restaurant a standout. | Average main: €25 | Alt-Moabit 141, Tiergarten | 030/394-2081 | www.paris-moskau.de | No lunch weekends | Reservations essential | Station: Berlin Hbf (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Curry 36.
$ | FAST FOOD | This currywurst stand in Kreuzberg has a cult following and just about any time of day or night you’ll find yourself amid a crowd of cab drivers, students, and lawyers munching on currywurst mit Darm (with skin) or ohne Darm (without skin). Go local and order your sausage with a big pile of crispy fries served rot-weiss (red and white)—with curry ketchup and mayonnaise. Curry 36 stays open until 5 in the morning. | Average main: €3 | Mehringdamm 36, Kreuzberg | 030/251-7368 | No credit cards | Station: Mehringdamm (U-bahn).
$ | TURKISH | In a city full of Turkish restaurants, Defne stands out for its exquisitely prepared food, friendly service, and pleasant setting. Beyond simple kebabs, the fresh and healthy menu here includes a selection of hard-to-find fish dishes from the Bosphorus, such as acili ahtapot (spicy octopus served with mushrooms and olives in a white-wine-and-tomato sauce), as well as delicious mezes and typical Turkish dishes like “the Imam Fainted,” one of many eggplant preparations. All the vegetable dishes are popular. Defne is by the Maybachufer, on the bank of the Landwehrkanal, near the Turkish market. | Average main: €11 | Planufer 92c, Kreuzberg | 030/8179-7111 | www.defne-restaurant.de | No credit cards | No lunch | Station: Kottbusser Tor (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Die Henne.
$ | GERMAN | This 100-plus-year-old Kreuzberg stalwart has survived a lot. After two world wars, it found itself quite literally with its back against the wall: the Berlin Wall was built right next to the front door, forcing it to close its front-yard beer garden. But Die Henne (it means “the hen”) has managed to stick around thanks in part to its most famous dish, which is still just about all it serves: a crispy, half fried chicken. The rest of the menu is short: coleslaw, potato salad, a few boulette (meat patty) options, and several beers on tap. For “dessert,” look to the impressive selection of locally sourced brandies and fruit schnapps. The small front-yard beer garden, reopened after the wall came down in 1989, is once again a lovely and lively place to sit in summer. Make reservations a few of days in advance. | Average main: €8 | Leuschnerdamm 25, Kreuzberg | 030/614-7730 | www.henne-berlin.de | No credit cards | Closed Mon. | Station: Moritzplatz (U-bahn), Kottbusser Tor (U-bahn).
$$ | AUSTRIAN | The front bar area and a cozy dining room are usually filled with chattering locals and the occasional dog peeking out from under the table (pets are allowed in unexpected places in Berlin, including many restaurants). The house specialties include Viennese classics like Wiener schnitzel and apple strudel, but look for surprises, too, on the seasonal daily menu, which is full of interesting ingredients and unusual combinations like grilled octopus with saffron sorbet in spring, or a trio of duck, including silky foie gras, in fall. In late April and May, during “Spargelzeit,” the white asparagus season, there is a special menu featuring the delicacy. | Average main: €15 | Muskauerstr. 1, Kreuzberg | 030/612-3581 | www.jolesch.de | Station: Görlitzer Bahnhof (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Markthalle Neun.
$ | INTERNATIONAL | Thanks to the efforts of local activists, this century-old market hall (sometimes spelled Markthalle IX) was saved from becoming a chain supermarket and instead turned into a center for local food vendors, chefs, wine dealers, and brewers. Tuesday to Saturday, popular Big Stuff Smoked BBQ sells scrumptious meat samplers and pulled pork sandwiches next to Glut & Späne, where you can find smoked fish platters and ceviche. The Italian bakery is open every day except Sunday and sells wonderful foccacias, huge loaves of bread, and pastries. In one ocorner is the craft beer producer Heidenpeters, which brews unusual beers like Thirsty Lady and Spiced Ale in the basement. The space also hosts a dazzling array of rotating events like the popular Street Food Thursday or the bimonthly, sweets-only Naschmarkt, so it’s best to check what’s on before heading there. | Average main: €8 | Eisenbahnstr. 42/43, Kreuzberg | 030/5770-94661 | www.markthalleneun.de | No credit cards | Closed Sun. | Station:Görlitzer Bahnhof (U-bahn).
Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab.
$ | MEDITERRANEAN | For a twist on the traditional döner kebab, head to to Mustafa’s for mouthwateringly delicious vegetable kebabs (it’s also available with chicken for those who can’t resist a bit of protein, but the vegetarian is what people rave about). The specialty is toasted pita bread stuffed full of roasted veggies—carrots, potatoes, zucchini—along with fresh tomato, lettuce, cucumber, and cabbage. The sandwich is topped with sauce, a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and sprinkling of feta cheese. The line can sometimes stretch down the block, but it’s well worth the wait. This is a traditional street stand, so no seating. | Average main: €3 | Mehringdamm 32, Kreuzberg | 283/2153 | www.mustafas.de | No credit cards | Station: Mehringdamm (U-bahn).
$ | ITALIAN | On a small winding street in an area between Kreuzberg and Schöneberg known as Rote Insel or “red island” because of its location between two S-bahn tracks and its socialist, working-class history, this neighborhood institution was an early advocate of the Slow Food movement. The food is Italian and focuses on high quality, locally sourced ingredients and everything, whether it’s an innovative prepartion of artichokes or beef fillet with green peppercorns, is delicious. Brunch is extremely popular: pile your plate high with Italian delicacies like stuffed mushrooms, meatballs in homemade tomato sauce, and bean salads, but leave room for the fluffy tiramisu, which, of course, they’ll bring out the moment you declare yourself stuffed. | Average main: €13 | Hochkirchstr. 8, Schöneberg | 030/782-5821 | www.cafe-aroma.de | No lunch weekdays | Station: Yorckstrasse (S-bahn and U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Café Einstein Stammhaus.
$$ | AUSTRIAN | In the historic grand villa of silent movie star Henny Porten, the Einstein is one of the leading coffeehouses in town and it charmingly recalls the elegant days of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, complete with slightly snobbish waiters gliding across the parquet floors. Order Austrian delicacies such as goulash or schnitzel (the half order is plenty large), coffee, and, of course, some cake: the fresh strawberry cake is outstanding—and best enjoyed in summer, in the shady garden behind the villa. Up one flight of stairs is the cocktail bar Lebensstern, from the same owners, which also has a sumptuous, old-world feel. | Average main: €18 | Kurfürstenstr. 58, Schöneberg | 030/2639-1918 | www.cafeeinstein.com | Station: Kurfürstenstrasse (U-bahn), Nollendorfplatz (U-bahn).
$ | TURKISH | The lines here are often long, but they move fast and the combination of seasoned, salty meat with crunchy salad and warm bread is unbeatable. Most people come here for a quick döner kebab, line up outside on the sidewalk, and order from the window. If you prefer a more leisurely sit-down meal, head into the more upscale, adjoining Turkish restaurant for the Dönerteller (döner plate), heaped with succulent meat, rice, potatoes, and salad; there is also an extensive list of other Turkish specialties. | Average main: €3 | Yorckstr. 49, Schöneberg | 030/216-5125 | No credit cards | Station: Yorckstrasse (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Renger-Patzsch.
$$ | GERMAN | Black-and-white photographs by the German landscape photographer Albert Renger-Patzsch, the restaurant’s namesake, decorate the darkwood-paneled dining room at this beloved local gathering place where chef Hannes Behrmann focuses on top-notch ingredients, respecting the classics while also reinventing them. The menu changes daily but might feature blood sausage with lentils or perhaps venison with choucroute. Lighter bites like a selection of Flammkuchen (Alsatian flatbread pizzas) are perfect for sharing. The attentive and good-humored service makes this a relaxing dining experience, even on the busiest nights. | Average main: €16 | Wartburgstr. 54, Schöneberg | 030/784-2059 | www.renger-patzsch.com | No credit cards | Station: U Eisenacher Str. (U-bahn).
$ | ECLECTIC | Although far from Alsatian France and the Mosel and Saar regions of Germany’s southwest that inspire the hearty fare here, a visit to this busy but homey Kollwitzplatz restaurant will leave you pleasantly surprised at the authenticity of the food—and deliciously full. The raclette for two and the “pate de canard” (Alsation duck paté) are the best you’re likely to get this side of the Rhine, and classic choucroute comes with Blutwurst (blood sausage) provided by an award-winning Berlin butcher. The vegetarian Tarte Flambée, a crispy crust topped with cheese and grilled vegetables, holds its own on the meat-centric menu. | Average main: €14 | Knaackstr. 37, Prenzlauer Berg | 030/442-9229 | www.gugelhof.de | No credit cards | No lunch weekdays | Reservations essential | Station: Senefelder Platz (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Konnopke’s Imbiss.
$ | GERMAN | Under the tracks of the elevated U2 subway line is Berlin’s most beloved sausage stand. Konnopke’s is a family business that’s been around for more than 70 years and though there are several options on the menu, this place is famous for its currywurst, which is served on a paper tray with a plastic prong that can be used to spear the sauce-covered sausage slices. With french fries and a pilsner, this is one of the quintessential Berlin meals. The location, in the center of one of Berlin’s trendiest neighborhoods, is extremely convenient. | Average main: €5 | Schönhauser Allee 44b, Prenzlauer Berg | 030/442-7765 | www.konnopke-imbiss.de | No credit cards | Station: Eberswalderstrasse (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | La Soupe Populaire.
$$ | GERMAN | Berliners love glamorous ruins, and Bötzow Brauerei, the old brewery complex that houses this restaurant, is one of the most evocative settings around. Local chef Tim Raue serves reinterpreted Berlin classics in the soaring industrial space, where culinary art and fine art come together—the ground floor houses a gallery of work by rotating artists-in-residence. Upstairs in the airy open restaurant, decorated with vintage furniture, highlights on the menu include the Königsberger Klöpse—meatballs served with potato mash, which Raue served President Barack Obama on his visit to the German capital. Finish with the Bienenstich (literally “bee sting”) cake, a classic German dessert with a crisp honey-almond topping. Here, it comes with a little chocolate bee perched on the plate. | Average main: €17 | Prenzlauer Allee 242, in Bötzow Brauerei, Prenzlauer Berg | 030/4431-9680 | www.lasoupepopulaire.de | No credit cards | Closed Sun.-Wed. | Reservations essential | Station: Senefelderplatz (U-bahn).
$ | RUSSIAN | Russian treats such as dumplings, borscht, deviled eggs topped with salmon roe, blini with sour cream and dill, pierogi, and much more are the mainstays at this casually refined restaurant with a lovely outdoor terrace for when the weather is nice. Lunch and dinner are popular, and there are several set menus available, but if you come for the weekend brunch buffet, you can try just about all of the delicous dishes, as well as dessert. | Average main: €13 | Knaackstr. 22/24, Prenzlauer Berg | 030/441-3399 | www.restaurant-pasternak.de | No credit cards | Station: Senefelder Platz (U-bahn).
$ | GERMAN ITALIAN | There are plenty of places in Wedding for a quick falafel or döner but if you’re looking for something different, head to Café Pförtner, at the entrance to the Uferhallen on the Panke canal. The squat, brick café space may be small, but Pförtner makes good use of what there is, adding long tables out front in good weather and, in a nod to the Uferhallen’s previous incarnation as a BVG garage, turning a brightly painted bus into a dining area next door. Order at the counter from choices that include several vegetarian and meat dishes at lunch, and an expanded dinner menu that includes fresh, house-made pasta. | Average main: €9 | Uferstr. 8-11, Wedding | 030/5036-9854 | www.pfoertner.co | No credit cards | Closed Sun. | Station: Pankstrasse (U-bahn).
$$$$ | ITALIAN | Hidden away in a courtyard off a busy Neukölln street, in a space that used to contain an old laundrette (hence the name, which means “old laundrette” in Italian) Lavanderia Vecchia offers a prix-fixe-only menu that includes at least 10 appetizers, a pasta “primo,” a meat or fish “secondo,” and dessert, followed by coffee and a digestif. The open kitchen allows diners to watch as the chef makes classics like Insalata di Polpo (octopus and potato salad) or homemade tagliatelle with eggplant. The white-painted industrial space is decorated with vintage kerchiefs strung along old wash lines. In the front of the building, the more casual sister café Lava serves an à la carte menu of antipasti and panini at lunch and dinner, as well as a good selection of Italian wines. | Average main: €45 | Flughafenstr. 46, Neukölln | 030/6272-2152 | www.lavanderiavecchia.de | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Reservations essential | Station: Boddinstrasse (U-bahn), Rathaus Neukölln (U-bahn).
$$ | GERMAN | The beer coasters are trading cards of the Wittelsbach dynasty at this relaxed, seemingly always busy restaurant that focuses on food from Bavaria and the Alps. Excellent renditions of classics like Wiener schnitzel and grilled saddle steak use organic meats and vegetables, and the selection of beer—by the bottle and on tap—is small but includes a range of varieties and regions. The corner location facing a park on Lake Lietzensee makes this a particularly lovely spot for open-air dining in the summer; in the winter, the interior feels festive and cozy. | Average main: €17 | Witzlebenstr. 31, Charlottenburg | 030/615-2810 | www.engelbecken.de | No lunch Mon.-Sat. | Station: Sophie-Charlotte-Platz (U-bahn).
$$ | GERMAN | The handwritten menu is just one page, but everything on it is fresh and delicious at this popular restaurant in the heart of the buzzing nightlife scene around Savignyplatz. Steinbeisser, a white, flaky fish, might be served with a salsa of rhubarb, chili, coriander, and ginger, or you can opt for some Franconian comfort cuisine such as Kirchweihbraten (marinated pork with baked apples and plums) or their legendary Nürnberger Rostbratwurst (small pork sausages) served as late-night snacks. The kitchen is open until midnight, and smaller dishes are available until 1 am. | Average main: €18 | Grolmanstr. 52, Charlottenburg | 030/313-9184 | www.restaurant-florian.de | No lunch | Reservations essential | Station: Savignyplatz (S-bahn).
$$$ | ITALIAN | This upscale restaurant on the far western end of Kurfürstendamm is one of the best-kept Italian secrets in Berlin. You won’t find many tourists here, but the posh neighborhood’s residents pack the cheerful, rustic dining room. The high-quality, straightforward cooking means incredibly fresh salads and appetizers (the bruschetta is excellent), as well as homemade bread and exquisite pasta dishes. More-refined Tuscan and Umbrian creations might include meat options like wild boar and there is usually a Mediterranean fish dish on the menu as well, such as grilled loup de mer or dorade. In warm weather there are tables on the sidewalk. | Average main: €24 | Kurfürstendamm 90, at Lehniner Pl., Charlottenburg | 030/323-3318 | www.francucci.de | Station: Adenauerplatz (U-bahn).
$ | CHINESE | In a city that’s unfortunately full of mediocre pseudo-Asian restaurants that serve bland, tasteless versions of curries, noodles, and rice dishes, Hot Spot stands out for its daring and authenticity. The menu features recipes from the provinces of Sichuan, Jiangsu, and Shanghai, and the freshest ingredients are guaranteed—with no MSG. Mala (numbing and spicy) dishes are a specialty here, and the mostly cold appetizers, like the beef in chili sauce, can’t be found anywhere else in Berlin. The selection of German wines goes well with the spicy food. In summer, try to reserve one of the tables on the sidewalk. | Average main: €14 | Eisenzahnstr. 66, Charlottenburg | 030/8900-6878 | www.restaurant-hotspot.de | Station: Adenauerplatz (U-bahn).
$ | GERMAN | One of the few traditional, artsy restaurants left in bohemian Charlottenburg, the Lubitsch—named after the famous Berlin film director Ernst Lubitsch—exudes an air of faded elegance and serves hearty local fare (and lighter international options) that’s hard to find these days. Dishes like Königsberger Klopse (cooked dumplings in a creamy caper sauce) and Kassler Nacken mit Sauerkraut (salted, boiled pork knuckle) are examples of the home-style German cooking. The local clientele don’t mind the dingy seating or good-humored, but sometimes cheeky service. In summer the outdoor tables are perfect for people-watching on one of Berlin’s most beautiful streets. The three-course lunch is a great bargain at €10. | Average main: €13 | Bleibtreustr. 47, Charlottenburg | 030/882-3756 | www.restaurant-lubitsch.de | No lunch Sun. | Station: Savignyplatz (S-bahn).
$$ | AUSTRIAN | This intimate restaurant with white tablecloths is owned by Austrians from the small village of Ottenthal, and serves as an homage to their hometown—the wines, pumpkinseed oil, and organic ingredients on the menu all come from there. Interesting and delicious combinations might include pike perch with lobster sauce and pepper-pine-nut risotto, or venison medallions with vegetable-potato strudel, red cabbage, and rowanberry sauce. The huge Wiener schnitzel extends past the plate’s rim, and the pastas and strudel are homemade. Ottenthal opens at 5 pm, which makes it a good option for a leisurely meal before catching a show at Theater des Westens around the corner. This is also a good choice on Sunday evening, when many of Berlin’s fine restaurants are closed. | Average main: €16 | Kantstr. 153,Charlottenburg | 030/313-3162 | www.ottenthal.com | No lunch | Station: Zoologischer Garten (U-bahn and S-bahn).
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Mitte | Friedrichshain | Kreuzberg | Schöneberg | Prenzlauer Berg | Charlottenburg
Tourism is on the upswing in Berlin. Though prices in midrange to luxury hotels have increased, Berlin’s first-class hotels still tend to be cheaper than their counterparts in Paris, London, or Rome. Many are housed in beautiful historic buildings and, compared to other European cities, most hotel rooms in Berlin are large, though many are part of chains that allow for less individual character.
Hotels listed here as $$$$ often come down to a $$ level on weekdays or when there is low demand. You often have the option to decline the inclusion of breakfast, which can save you anywhere from €8 to €30 per person per day.
Arte Luise Kunsthotel.
$ | HOTEL | The Luise is one of Berlin’s most original boutique hotels, with each fantastically creative room in the 1825 building or 2003 built-on wing—facing the Reichstag—styled by a different artist. The location, at the border between East and West Berlin, and just a short walk from the Reichstag, is great, although rooms can be noisy when the windows are open. Memorable furnishings range from a suspended bed and airplane seats to a gigantic sleigh bed and a freestanding, podlike shower with multiple nozzles. A breakfast buffet in the neighboring restaurant costs €11. Pros: central location; historic flair; individually designed rooms. Cons: simple rooms with limited amenities and hotel facilities; can be noisy because of the nearby rail station. | Rooms from: €80 | Luisenstr. 19, Mitte | 030/284-480 | www.luise-berlin.com | 54 rooms, 36 with bath | No meals | Station: Friedrichstrasse (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Grand Hyatt Berlin.
$$$ | HOTEL | Stylish guests feel at home at Europe’s first Grand Hyatt, which has a feng shui-approved design that combines inspirations from tropical decor, thought-provoking modern art, and the city’s history with Bauhaus photographs. The large rooms (they start at 409 square feet) have cherrywood furniture and luxurious bathrooms. There are wonderful views of Potsdamer Platz from the top-floor pool. The restaurant and bar, Vox, whets guests’ appetites for its international and Asian cuisine with an open kitchen; there are also regular live jazz shows. Pros: large rooms; excellent service; stylish spa; large pool area. Cons: hotel can be very busy, particularly in February; location is very touristy and crowded; in-room Wi-Fi is only free for the first 30 minutes. | Rooms from: €216 | Marlene-Dietrich-Pl. 2, Mitte | 030/2553-1234 | www.berlin.grand.hyatt.de | 326 rooms, 16 suites | Breakfast | Station: Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Honigmond Hotel and Garden Hotel.
$$ | HOTEL | These two hotels are charming, quaint oases only a few steps away from the buzzing neighborhoods of Mitte. The former tenement houses, typical of late-19th-century Berlin, have been meticulously restored, with wooden floor planks and hand-selected, historic furniture. A small restaurant in the main hotel hearkens back to its proud history as a meeting point for political opponents of the East German regime, serving a variety of German standards to a younger, international clientele. The Garden Hotel (set in a house that dates to 1845) is grouped around a surprisingly green courtyard, and it offers a quiet getaway. Pros: individually designed rooms; warm, welcoming service; quiet courtyard rooms. Cons: front rooms can be noisy due to busy street; restaurant is expensive relative to the area’s budget choices. | Rooms from: €159 | Tieckstr. 12 and Invalidenstr. 122, Mitte | 030/284-4550 | www.honigmond.de | 50 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Nordbahnhof (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin.
$$$$ | HOTEL | The first Adlon was considered Europe’s ultimate luxury resort until it was destroyed in World War II. The new version, built in 1997, has a nostalgic aesthetic, and the elegant rooms are furnished with turn-of-the-century photos of the original hotel, along with cherrywood trim, mahogany furnishings, and brocade silk bedspreads. With its prime setting on Pariser Platz, this is the government’s unofficial guesthouse. Book a suite for a Brandenburger Tor view. Sipping coffee in the lobby of creamy marble and limestone makes for good people-watching. The Adlon Spa by Resense made a huge splash in the city, as did fine restaurants like the Michelin-starred Lorenz Adlon and the new Sra Bua by Tim Raue, which features modern Asian-inspired cuisine. Pros: top-notch luxury hotel; surprisingly large rooms; excellent in-house restaurants. Cons: sometimes stiff service with an attitude; rooms off Linden are noisy with the windows open; inviting lobby often crowded. | Rooms from: €280 | Unter den Linden 77, Mitte | 030/22610 | www.kempinski.com/adlon | 304 rooms, 78 suites | No meals | Station: Brandenburger Tor (U-bahn and S-bahn).
$$ | HOTEL | Built as a “budget design hotel,” the basic rooms of the Amano are fairly small, and there is no real restaurant or room service, but stay here and you’ll be in the center of the action. The excellent downstairs cocktail bar hosts frequent parties for the creative set, and come summer, there are barbecues open to all on its roof deck and in its courtyard garden. Some apartments on the fifth floor have small balconies, and there are also several large, beautifully designed but minimalistic apartments available in their adjoining, renovated “Altbau” (old building). Pros: excellent location; happening bar scene; popular, hip roof deck and garden. Cons: no room service; too trendy for some. | Rooms from: €150 | Auguststr. 43, Mitte | 030/809-4150 | www.hotel-amano.com | 71 rooms, 46 apartments | Breakfast | Station:Rosenthaler Platz (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel de Rome.
$$$$ | HOTEL | Discreet service and a subdued but boutiquey atmosphere make the Hotel de Rome a major draw for the Hollywood jet set. The general feel is traditional, but eccentric design details like oversize furniture and bright-color accents add an undercurrent of excitement. Rooms run the gamut from classic to ultramodern and sleek, though all share fantastic views of Berlin landmarks around Unter den Linden. In a 19th-century former bank, the hotel offers a unique spa experience in the old bank vault, with the relaxation room hidden behind original safe doors. Pros: great location; large rooms. Cons: design may be over the top for some guests; expensive even for five-star hotel; can be dark during the day due to low lighting. | Rooms from: €350 | Behrenstr. 37, Mitte | 030/460-6090 | www.hotelderome.com | 109 rooms, 37 suites | No meals | Station: Französische Strasse (U-bahn).
Hotel Hackescher Markt.
$ | HOTEL | Amid the nightlife around Hackescher Markt, this hotel provides discreet and inexpensive top service. Unlike those of many older hotels in eastern Berlin, rooms here are spacious and light-filled and furnished with wicker chairs and floral patterns in an English cottage style. In winter you’ll appreciate the under-floor heating in your bathroom, and in summer you can enjoy a coffee or breakfast in the small courtyard. The staff is friendly and attentive. Pros: great location for shops, restaurants, and nightlife; large rooms. Cons: some rooms may be noisy due to tram stop; rooms in need of an update. | Rooms from: €84 | Grosse Präsidentenstr. 8, Mitte | 030/280-030 | www.hotel-hackescher-markt.com | 27 rooms, 5 suites | No meals | Station: Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
$$ | HOTEL | This designer apartment hotel is coveted for its discreet service and great minimalist design. All apartments come with a fully equipped kitchenette, satellite TV with DVD players, and there’s even a laundry room with washers and dryers. Rooms seem as if they were designed for a Miami Beach hotel, decorated either in off-white or subdued browns with pops of neon pinks and purples. A restaurant and bar, stylish fashion store, and a coffee bar are also on the premises. Pros: great location in northern Mitte; extremely stylish yet comfortable rooms; friendly, knowledgeable service. Cons: immediate neighborhood may be noisy; not a good choice for families. | Rooms from: €119 | Rosa-Luxemburg-Str. 9-13, Mitte | 030/936-2800 | www.lux-eleven.com | 72 rooms, 1 suite | No meals | Station: Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn).
Radisson Blu Berlin.
$$ | HOTEL | This hotel has an ideal location in the heart of Berlin near the Berlin Cathedral, Nikolai Church, and Unter den Linden, but you may prefer a view into the courtyard, where the world’s largest cylindrical aquarium is located. Despite the aquatic theme, this is a full-service business hotel, with trouser presses in the comfortable rooms and a shoe-shine machine on each floor. Request plush robes, which are free of charge, but unfortunately can’t go home with you. The spa area includes a gym, two saunas, and a pool, plus beauty treatments and massages. Pros: central location; discounted entry to the adjacent Sea Life Berlin. Cons: location can be very busy; hotel is fairly big and lacks atmosphere. | Rooms from: €168 | Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 3, Mitte | 030/238-280 | www.radissonblu.com/hotel-berlin | 403 rooms, 24 suites | Breakfast | Station: Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
The Regent Berlin.
$$$$ | HOTEL | One of Berlin’s most esteemed hotels, the Regent pairs the opulence of gilt furniture, thick carpets, marble floors, tasseled settees, and crystal chandeliers with such modern conveniences as flat-screen TVs. First-time guests are escorted to their spacious room filled with such amenities as satellite TV, a DVD player, and two phone lines with personal answering machines. Twice-daily housekeeping, overnight dry cleaning, and valet parking are other services. The intimate feel of the property is a sign of its exclusiveness, and the privacy of the often famous Hollywood guests is well guarded. Pros: Berlin’s most hushed five-star hotel; unobtrusive service; very large rooms and top location off Gendarmenmarkt. Cons: some public areas and rooms in need of update; the primary hotel restaurant specializes in fish only; cleaning service can be spotty at times. | Rooms from: €234 | Charlottenstr. 49, Mitte | 030/20338 | www.regenthotels.com | 156 rooms, 39 suites | No meals.
The Ritz-Carlton Berlin.
$$$$ | HOTEL | Judging from the outside of this gray, high-rise hotel that soars above Potsdamer Platz, you would never guess that inside it’s all luxurious, 19th-century grandeur. The lobby has glitzy gold leaf and heavy marble columns, while the Curtain Club has the subdued look of a gentleman’s cigar lounge. Rooms are nicely appointed with exquisite furniture, marble bathrooms, and great views of bustling Potsdamer Platz and the Tiergarten. The hotel’s spa is exceptional and the historic French Brassierie Desbrosses (brought here from southern France lock, stock, and barrel) serves great steak frites and seafood. Pros: stylish and luxurious interior design; great views; elegant setting yet informal service. Cons: rooms surprisingly small for a luxury hotel; not family-friendly (business-oriented atmosphere). | Rooms from: €226 | Potsdamer Pl. 3, Mitte | 030/337-777 | www.ritzcarlton.com | 264 rooms, 39 suites | Breakfast | Station: Potsdamer Platz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Sofitel Berlin Gendarmenmarkt.
$$$ | HOTEL | This luxurious place to stay has maximized the minimalist look of East Berlin architecture. In the formerly austere conference room the designers added an illuminated glass floor that made it a masterpiece. The spa tucked under the mansard roof is suffused with light, thanks to the new, angled windows. With an abundant use of white, rooms feel clean, bright, and airy. Request a room facing Gendarmenmarkt, one of the city’s most impressive squares. Pros: great location off one of the city’s most beautiful squares; sumptuous breakfast buffet; great Austrian restaurant, Aigner. Cons: limited facilities for a luxury hotel; smallish rooms. | Rooms from: €200 | Charlottenstr. 50-52, Mitte | 030/203-750 | www.sofitel.com | 70 rooms, 22 suites | No meals | Station: Französische Strasse (U-bahn).
$ | B&B/INN | The Spree River is one of Berlin’s best assets, and this unique hotel is moored right next to a stretch of the Berlin Wall called the East Side Gallery, which you’ll get to enjoy aboard the two three-level ships that make up Eastern Comfort. Most cabins have a private bath, and views are either of the river or the Kreuzberg historic warehouses and some clubs on the other side of the river. Within sight of the wraparound deck is the turreted Oberbaum bridge, a great setting for watching the sunset and close to plenty of nightlife. The crew minds the reception desk 24 hours. The lounge/bar area hosts a “world language” party on Wednesday followed by live music. Recent eco-updates include solar panels and solar-heated water. Pros: unique accommodation on a boat; friendly staff; perfect location for nightclubbing in Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. Cons: insects may be a bother in summer; smallish rooms not pleasant in rainy or stormy weather; can be fairly noisy due to partying groups. | Rooms from: €62 | Mühlenstr. 73-77, Friedrichshain | 030/6676-3806 | www.eastern-comfort.com | 26 cabins | No meals | Station: Warschauer Strasse (U-bahn and S-bahn).
$ | HOTEL | One of the best things about the Hotel Klassik is its central location, walking distance to Friedrichshain’s countless eating, drinking, and shopping hot spots. The building may look a bit generic from the outside, but inside, the decor is stylish and modern with its dark wood and white furniture. Rooms are well appointed with comfortable beds, flat-screen TVs, writing desks, Wi-Fi, minibar, and large sliding glass windows. The in-house restaurant serves an impressive full breakfast as well as Mediterranean-inspired fare. Guests may also wine and dine in the charming terrace garden in warm weather. Pros: excellent location for neighborhood vibe and access to transportation; plentiful, fresh breakfast buffet; knowledgable and helpful staff. Cons: located on a loud and busy corner; neigborhood can be unsafe at night; location is far from most tourist sights. | Rooms from: €89 | Revaler Str. 6, Friedrichshain | 030/319-8860 | www.hotelklassik-berlin.com | 57 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast | Station: Warschauer Strasse (U-bahn and S-bahn).
$ | HOTEL | Started by a group of young Berliners who dreamed of a uniquely designed, artsy space, the Michelberger Hotel is part budget hotel, part clubhouse, and part bar and restaurant. The style is eclectic flea market, befitting its location in an old factory space, and the vibe is casual and fun. Rooms have playful names such as “Band” for four to five people and “Luxus” for suites. The bright, street-side restaurant space offers breakfast and weekend brunch to hotel guests and anyone dropping by, as well as DJ sets during dinner Friday and Saturday. Pros: located at the epicenter of eastern Berlin nightlife; great design and fun atmosphere; affordable prices. Cons: busy thoroughfare and transit hub, so front rooms can be noisy; small rooms; no phone in rooms. | Rooms from: €84 | Warschauer Str. 39-40, Friedrichshain | 030/2977-8590 | www.michelbergerhotel.com | 113 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Warschauer Strasse (S-bahn and U-bahn).
ÏMA Loft Apartments.
$ | RENTAL | A comfortable cross between apartment rental and hotel, ÏMA’s aim is to throw its guests into the fray of Kreuzberg’s hectic, artistic, multicultural scene. The loft apartments take up only one corner of this old brick factory complex; the rest of the buildings in the courtyard are live-work spaces for local and international artists—everyone from dancers and photographers to painters and graphic designers. Rooms are fairly basic in design, but large and light-filled, ranging from the small “standard lofts,” with beds up a narrow flight of stairs, to large “loft suites,” with full kitchens and separate living and sleeping areas. The café on the ground floor serves vegetarian dishes like the Middle Eastern tomato stew shakshuka. Pros: maximum privacy (a separate entrance means you never have to interact with hotel staff and other guests unless you want to); great central location. Cons: minimal amenities and services; level of noise in courtyard can be bothersome. | Rooms from: €79 | Ritterstr. 12-14, Kreuzberg | 030/6162-8913 | www.imalofts.com | 20 apartments | No meals | Station: Moritzplatz (U-bahn).
$$ | HOTEL | The appeal of this late-19th-century apartment house with a leafy courtyard is its location in a lively neighborhood. The richly decorated facade hints that 100 years ago the aristocratic officers of Germany’s imperial army lived here. Rooms have low-lying beds and are spartanly modern and quiet, but with the added touches of tea- and coffeemakers as well as iPod docks. Downstairs is a light-filled lounge and restaurant. In less than five minutes you can reach the subway that speeds you to Mitte and the Friedrichstrasse train station. Pros: good location for exploring Kreuzberg; typical Berlin, high-ceiling, historic rooms; great on-site restaurant, E.T.A. Hoffmann. Cons: street-side rooms are noisy; breakfast is nothing special. | Rooms from: €135 | Yorckstr. 83, Kreuzberg | 030/7809-8800 | www.hotel-riehmers-hofgarten.de | 22 rooms, 1 suite | No meals | Station: Mehringdamm (U-bahn).
Town Apartments Checkpoint Charlie.
$$ | RENTAL | This apartment-only hotel is right around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie, thus combining a typical (but quiet) Kreuzberg ambience with a perfect location for visiting the historic sights and museums in Mitte. Pros: large and quiet apartments; offers a distintive Kreuzberg feeling, yet close to all historic sights in Mitte. Cons: no meals or room service; location can be very busy and seem touristy at times. | Rooms from: €120 | Kochstr. 16-25, Kreuzberg | 030/6449-5000 | www.town-apartments.com | 25 apartments | No meals | Station: Kochstrasse (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Ellington Hotel Berlin.
$$ | HOTEL | Tucked away behind the beautiful, historic facade of a grand Bauhaus-style office building, this sleek, modern hotel has small but stylish rooms, accentuated with modern art. Views are either of the street or of a pretty courtyard. The location is great, too: just around the corner from KaDeWe and Kurfürstendamm. The quiet courtyard and the restaurant and bar, with an open kitchen, offer a welcome respite from sightseeing in the area. Pros: stylish interior design with alluring 1920s touches; perfect location off Tauentzienstrasse and great for shopping sprees; nice bar; great, green courtyard. Cons: small rooms; no spa. | Rooms from: €124 | Nürnbergerstr. 50-55, Schöneberg | 030/683-150 | www.ellington-hotel.com | 285 rooms | Some meals | Station: Wittenbergplatz (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Soho House.
$$$ | HOTEL | The Berlin branch of this luxury hotel-club brings the chic atmosphere of London and New York’s Soho to the German capital. Inside the grand, restored Bauhaus building, the rooms are quite large, designed in an eclectic style, with all the amenities of a luxury hotel for a moderate price. The main draws, however, are the communal spaces (open only to hotel guests and club members)—the library and lounge, and the city’s only hotel rooftop pool, which has a magnificent view of Berlin’s skyline. Pros: great staff; perfect location for club- and bar-hopping; rooftop pool. Cons: may seem too clubby; club areas can be crowded on weekends; hotel is on a very busy and noisy street corner. | Rooms from: €180 | Torstr. 1, Prenzlauer Berg | 030/405-0440 | www.sohohouseberlin.com | 89 rooms | Breakfast | Station:Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (U-bahn).
$$ | HOTEL | Opened in 2014, this stylish hotel is currently the symbol of West Berlin’s dynamic revitalization. Pros: great central location; trendy on-site restaurant and bar; rooms facing the zoo are very quiet. Cons: rooms fairly small by Berlin standards; ambience might be too lively and clubby for some guests; rooms facing city can be noisy if windows are opened. | Rooms from: €150 | Budapester Str. 40,Charlottenburg | 030/1202-21255 | www.25hours-hotels.com | 149 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Zoologischer Garten (U-bahn and S-bahn).
ART Hotel Charlottenburger Hof.
$ | HOTEL | No-fuss travelers will find great value in this low-key hotel. The rooms are all brightened by sunlight and primary-color schemes with prints by Kandinsky, Miró, and Mondrian. All have computers with free Internet access as well as Wi-Fi if you’ve brought your own, and amenities include hair dryers; try to avoid the three tiny “king-size” rooms, which are rented as doubles or singles. The restaurant, which serves traditional German dishes, draws locals. The Ku’damm is a 10-minute walk, and the bus to and from Tegel Airport stops on the next block. Pros: budget hotel in great location; solid restaurant; quiet setting. Cons: rooms in need of update; few amenities; immediate neighborhood may seem seedy and is not suitable for children. | Rooms from: €90 | Stuttgarter Pl. 14, Charlottenburg | 030/329-070 | www.charlottenburger-hof.de | 46 rooms | No meals | Station: Charlottenburg (S-bahn).
$ | HOTEL | Opened in 1995, Berlin’s first design hotel is relatively unassuming, with simple and serene rooms decorated with untreated oak, polished stone, and neutral shades. The eye candy lies in the terracotta-tiled courtyard, where you can sip drinks and enjoy sushi and Asian fusion cuisine served by the trendy in-house restaurant, Dudu, at a 23-foot-long table, which is covered in shiny blue ceramic shards and rests on a bed of glass pebbles. A tall chestnut tree lends shade. To reinvigorate after shopping at the nearby Ku’damm boutiques, help yourself to the free items in your mini-refrigerator or slip into the herbal steam bath inside the wellness center. Pros: warm, welcoming service; top location on one of Ku’damm’s most beautiful side streets; international clientele. Cons: design somewhat dated; rooms not overly comfortable for price; few amenities. | Rooms from: €86 | Bleibtreustr. 31, Charlottenburg | 030/884-740 | www.bleibtreu.com | 60 rooms | No meals | Station: Uhlandstrasse (U-bahn).
Brandenburger Hof - Dormero Hotel.
$$$ | HOTEL | On a quiet residential street this turn-of-the-20th-century mansion feels like a hideaway even though Ku’damm is a short walk away. Luxurious minimalism reigns once you get inside. You can breakfast and sip afternoon tea at the sun-soaked tables in the atrium courtyard or, in the evening, sit and listen to piano music. Between courses of New Nordic cuisine in the restaurant Quadriga, diners lean back in cherrywood chairs by Frank Lloyd Wright. Guest-room furnishings include pieces by Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. Complementing the timeless Bauhaus style are ikebana floral arrangements. Pros: great mansion; quiet location only steps away from the Ku’damm; large rooms. Cons: stuffy atmosphere; extras are expensive; no pool or fitness club on-site. | Rooms from: €215 | Eislebenerstr. 14,Charlottenburg | 030/214-050 | www.brandenburger-hof.com | 58 rooms, 14 suites | No meals | Station: Augsburger Strasse (U-bahn).
Hotel Art Nouveau.
$$ | B&B/INN | The English-speaking owners’ discerning taste in antiques, color combinations, and even televisions (a few designed by Philippe Starck) makes this B&B-like pension a great place to stay. Each room has a prize piece, such as a hand-carved 18th-century Chinese dresser or a chandelier from the Komische Oper’s set of Don Carlos. Several rooms are hung with a large black-and-white photo by Sabine Kacunko. The apartment building shows its age only in the antique wood elevator, high stucco ceilings, and an occasionally creaky floor. You can serve yourself tea or coffee in the breakfast room throughout the day and mix your own drinks at the honor bar. Pros: stylish ambience; friendly and personal service; great B&B feeling despite being a hotel. Cons: front rooms can be noisy due to heavy traffic on Leibnizstrasse; few amenities for a hotel of this price category; downtown location, yet longer walks to all major sights in the area. | Rooms from: €126 | Leibnizstr. 59, Charlottenburg | 030/327-7440 | www.hotelartnouveau.de | 16 rooms, 6 suites | Breakfast | Station: Adenauerplatz (U-bahn).
$$ | HOTEL | This is one of the only non-chain first-class hotels in the heart of western downtown, and although it may not look like much from the outside, inside, the friendly staff and spacious rooms make it a popular choice. The First Floor restaurant, with views over the nearby zoo’s greenery, is a destination in its own right. The exercise room has state-of-the-art equipment and natural light, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows that look onto the city’s skyline. The extensive spa includes an ice grotto and Finnish sauna. Pros: large rooms; central location close to Kurfürstendamm; impeccable service. Cons: interior design outdated in some areas; nearby area of Europa-Center and Breitscheidplatz a little seedy. | Rooms from: €128 | Europa-Center, Budapesterstr. 45, Charlottenburg | 030/25020 | www.palace.de | 238 rooms, 40 suites | Breakfast | Station: Zoologischer Garten (U-bahn and S-bahn).
$$ | HOTEL | The Q! has received several international design awards, and it’s easy to see how the gently sloping, sweeping interior of the hotel could charm any judge. The rooms feel like larger-than-life artscapes: they’re excruciatingly modern, with clean lines and a modular, innovative use of space (some even have a bathtub right next to the bed). In-room distractions include Nintendo Wii and iPod docks; the spa has a sauna, steam room, and Japanese wellness area. Pros: beautiful design; affordable rates; great location for exploring western downtown. Cons: not for families; nightlife makes hotel noisy at times. | Rooms from: €110 | Knesebeckstr. 67, Charlottenburg | 030/810-0660 | www.hotel-q.com | 73 rooms, 4 suites | No meals | Station: Uhlandstrasse (U-bahn), Savignyplatz (S-bahn).
$$ | HOTEL | Tucked inside one of the city’s oldest grand hotels, this recently remodeled hotel is an eclectic clash of New York City design meets Berlin tradition with bare redbrick walls and a cutting-edge interior design employing objets d’art and oversize mirrors and lamps. Pros: excellent service; quiet rooms despite central location right on Ku’damm; great design and trendy location. Cons: attitude of some guests and staff might be an issue for some visitors; design might be over the top for some; rooms are fairly small by Berlin standards. | Rooms from: €170 | Kurfürstendamm 25, Charlottenburg | 30/884-370 | www.hotelzoo.de | 131 rooms, 14 suites | Breakfast | Station: Kurfürstendamm (U-bahn).
Motel One Ku’damm.
$ | HOTEL | This stylish budget hotel is in a prime location off the bustling shopping boulevard; breakfast is served in the lounge-like lobby, where guests also enjoy free Wi-Fi. All rooms have comfortable beds, flat-screen TV sets, air-conditioning, and a rainforest shower. Other Berlin locations include Alexanderplatz, Tiergarten, Schöneberg, and Hauptbahnhof. Pros: stylish accommodation at budget prices; central location near to Zoologischer Bahnhof and Theater des Westens; good for families. Cons: noise from nearby railway station can be felt and heard; immediate surroundings may appear seedy to some travelers; no real restaurant on-site. | Rooms from: €72 | Kantstr. 7-11a, Charlottenburg | 030/3151-7360 | www.motel-one.de | 409 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Zoologischer Garten (S-bahn and U-bahn).
Propeller Island City Lodge.
$$ | B&B/INN | At this wildly eccentric accommodation, you can choose from 27 Wonderlands, each with one-of-a-kind design by multi-talented artist Lars Stroschen. Theatrical settings such as the Upside Down and Flying Bed rooms predominate, but there are tamer abodes, like the monastic Orange and Temple rooms. This creative getaway serves breakfast (€7), but is not service-oriented; reception is open 8 am-noon only. The location is near the far western end of Ku’damm, but the subway station is only a short walk away. Pros: individually designed rooms; personal and friendly atmosphere; quiet location on Ku’damm side street. Cons: designer art rooms can be overwhelming; few amenities; slow service. | Rooms from: €130 | Albrecht-Achilles-Str. 58, Charlottenburg | 030/891-9016 | www.propeller-island.de | 25 rooms, 20 with bath; 2 suites | Station: Adenauerplatz (U-bahn).
$$ | HOTEL | At the bustling corner of Ku’damm and Joachimsthaler Strasse, this hotel excels with its reputable Swiss hospitality—from accompanying guests to their floor after check-in to equipping each room with an iron, an umbrella, and a Nespresso coffee machine that preheats the cups. Beds are specially designed to avoid allergens and provide maximum comfort. You can store and recharge your laptop in the room safe (the safe also charges cell phones). The unusual, rounded building has a sleek interior with original artwork by Markus Lüpertz and a Michelin-starred restaurant. Your room’s soundproof windows give you a fantastic view of the area. Pros: large rooms; unobtrusive service; great location. Cons: the lobby is on the third floor, with shops on the lower levels; mostly for business travelers. | Rooms from: €135 | Augsburger Str. 44, Charlottenburg | 030/220-100 | www.swissotel.com | 296 rooms, 20 suites | No meals | Station: Kurfürstendamm (U-bahn).
Waldorf Astoria Berlin.
$$$$ | HOTEL | This impressive skyscraper, a nod to the Waldorf’s original New York location, has a chic art deco look and unparalleled service. The interior is suitably glamorous, with marble staircases and gold detailing; rooms are spacious, with velour furniture, the Waldorf’s signature bed, and Salvatore Ferragamo bath products. Acclaimed French chef Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant, Les Solistes, is on the first floor, and the 15th-floor café offers a small menu, a large, up-to-date selection of books to peruse, and impressive views of West Berlin. Pros: ideal location near Ku’damm; large, luxurious rooms and bathrooms; breathtaking views of the Memorial Church and West Berlin. Cons: limited amenities for the price; nearby construction may bother some travelers. | Rooms from: €230 | Hardenbergst. 28, Charlottenburg | 030/814-0000 | www.waldorfastoriaberlin.com | 152 rooms, 50 suites | No meals | Station: Zoologischer Garten (U-bahn and S-bahn).
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Nightlife | Performing Arts
Clubs often switch the music they play from night to night, so crowds and popularity can vary widely.
Clubs and bars in Charlottenburg and in Mitte tend to be dressier and more conservative; the scene in Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, the Scheunenviertel, and Friedrichshain is laid-back and alternative. For the latest information on Berlin’s house, electro, and hip-hop club scene, pick up (030), a free weekly. Dance clubs don’t get going until about 12:30 am, but parties labeled “after-work” start as early as 8 pm for professionals looking to socialize during the week.
Note that Berlin’s nightspots are open to the wee hours of the morning, but if you stay out after 12:45 Sunday-Thursday, you’ll have to find a night bus (designated by “N” before the number, which often corresponds to the subway line it is replacing) or catch the last S-bahn home. On Friday and Saturday nights all subway lines (except U-bahn Line No. 4) run every 15 to 20 minutes throughout the night.
Bars and Lounges
Just off the luxurious Hotel de Rome’s main reception area, this sumptuous bar and lounge, one of the city’s most upscale evening spots, has deep leather sofas, high ceilings, and an impressive collection of spirits. Cocktails range from the classic to the inventive, with ingredients like arugula, oregano, balsamic vinegar, and rose syrup. Prices are high for Berlin but worth every penny. In warm weather, the bar opens up on the hotel’s roof terrace, which offers one of the few great city views you can enjoy without waiting in line or paying admission. | Behrenstr. 37, Mitte | 030/460-6090 | www.roccofortehotels.com.
Neue Odessa Bar.
Many patrons of this cocktail bar come to see and be seen; there are also a number of first-time visitors who stumble in from nearby Rosenthaler Platz, a central party destination in Mitte. Given this crowd, it’s easy to forget just how good the drinks are here. While other cocktail bars in Berlin are content to regenerate the classics, Neue Odessa takes it a step further, with delicious, original concoctions using ingredients like lavender, lychee, and ginger. | Torstr. 89, Mitte | www.neueodessabar.de/.
This posh bar in Mitte has been around for ages. Helmut Newton’s larger-than-life photos of nude women decorate the walls. | Charlottenstr. 57, Mitte | 030/2029-5421 | www.newton-bar.de.
Run by a California native, this simple, solid cocktail bar serves near-perfect concoctions that belie the bare wood surroundings. If loud crowds and smoky rooms aren’t your thing, this is the place for you—the cocktails are excellent and you’ll be able to carry on a conversation in a normal voice. The menu is helpfully arranged according to “dry” or “sweet and sour” but if you’re still unsure whether to go for a Dark and Stormy or a Blood and Sand, ask the friendly young bartenders—everyone speaks English here. | Bergstr. 25, Mitte | 030/7024-8813 | www.redwoodbar.de | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Station: Nordbahhof (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Clärchen’s Ballhaus.
A night out at Clärchen’s Ballhaus (Little Clara’s Ballroom) is like a trip back in time. Opened in 1913, the club is an impressive sight on Mitte’s now-upscale Auguststrasse. On summer nights, lines often stretch out the door, while the front courtyard comes alive with patrons dining alfresco on brick-oven pizzas (lunch and dinner are served daily). The main ballroom features a different style of music every night and there are often dance lessons before the party starts. One of the best things about this place, though, is the variety of people of different ages, nationalities, and social backgrounds. The upstairs Spiegelsaal (“mirror hall”) has intimate, salon-type concerts on Sunday. | Auguststr. 24, Mitte | 030/282-9295 | www.ballhaus.de.
The over-the-top Felix greatly benefits from its location behind the famous Adlon Kempinski Hotel—Hollywood stars drop by when they’re in town, or during the frenzied weeks of the Berlinale. The door policy can be tough, but dress in your finest and hope for the best. | Behrenstr. 72, Mitte | 030/3011-17152 | www.felix-clubrestaurant.de/.
More of a neighborhood clubhouse than a bar, there’s always something going on at Kaffee Burger. The original home of writer Wladimir Kaminer’s popular Russendisko (“Russian disco”) nights, this spot has a cozy dance floor and a separate smoking room. On any given night, you might encounter electro, rock, funk, swing, or Balkan beats; live bands play frequently. | Torstr. 58/60, Mitte | 030/2804-6495 | www.kaffeeburger.de.
Affiliated with nearby Sage Restaurant, this eclectic club is open only on Thursdays. Different floors play different music, from rock to electro, so expect to see diverse crowds depending on the vibe (check the program on the website). | Köpenicker Str. 76, Mitte | 030/278-9830 | www.sage-club.de.
Young German artists perform most nights at b-flat. The club has some of the best sight lines in town, as well as a magnificent floor-to-ceiling front window that captures the attention of passersby. The well-known and well-attended Wednesday jam sessions focus on free and experimental jazz, and once a month on Thursday the Berlin Big Band takes over the small stage with up to 17 players. Snacks are available. | Rosenthalerstr. 13, Mitte | 030/283-3123 | www.b-flat-berlin.de.
Schlot hosts Berlin jazz scenesters, aspiring musicians playing Monday-night free jazz sessions, and local heavy-hitters. It’s a bit hard to find—it’s in the cellar of the Edison Höfe—but enter the courtyard via Schlegelstrasse and follow the music. | Invalidenstr. 117, entrance at Schlegelstr. 26, Mitte | 030/448-2160 | Station: Nordbahnhof (S-bahn), Naturkundemuseum (U-bahn).
Gay and Lesbian Bars
Fodor’s Choice | Berghain.
In an imposing power station in a barren stretch of land between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain (the name borrows from both neighborhoods), Berghain has achieved international fame as the hedonistic heart of techno music—it was originally a ‘90s techno club called Ostgut. Although it’s also a well-respected center of gay nightlife, the club welcomes all. It’s only open as a club on weekends (for 48-plus hours straight, from midnight on Friday to early Monday), though many international music acts pass through for concert performances during the week. It’s become something of a local tradition to arrive on Sunday morning or afternoon and dance until closing. Upstairs, the slightly smaller (but by no means intimate) Panorama Bar opens on Friday at midnight and offers different beats before the main club opens at midnight on Saturday. | Am Wriezener Bahnhof, Friedrichshain | Exit north from Ostbahnhof and follow Str. der Pariser Kommune, then make a right on badly marked Am Wriezener Bahnhof and look for the line of clubbers | 030/2936-0210 | www.berghain.de | Station: Ostbahnhof (S-bahn).
The candle-lit, rough wood tables, water-stained walls, and frequent appearances by local musicians just dropping by for a few tunes gives this cozy cocktail bar an artsty old-world feel. Lovingly nicknamed “the gramophone bar” for the old gramophone that sits in its window, Bellmann is a place to linger and chat over a glass of wine or a whiskey from the outstanding collection. | Reichenbergerstr. 103, Kreuzberg.
When it’s warm out, the canal-side deck chairs at Freischwimmer are the perfect place to be, though heat lamps and an enclosed area make this a cozy setting for cool nights, too. To get here, walk five minutes east of the elevated Schlesisches Tor U-bahn station and turn left down a path after the 1920s Aral gas station, the oldest in Berlin. | Vor dem Schlesischen Tor 2a, Kreuzberg | 030/6107-4309 | www.freischwimmer-berlin.com.
Named after a 1962 surrealist film by Luis Buñuel (known as The Exterminating Angel in English), this classy joint has offered an elaborate cocktail menu in a well-designed space off Kottbusser Tor since 1992—long before this part of Kreuzberg was hip, or even safe. Today, the bar’s loyal fans spill out onto the streets on busy nights, and an evening tapas menu comes from the neighboring restaurant Gorgonzola Club. The team behind the restaurant Renger-Patzsch run Würgeengel and the Gorgonzola Club. | Dresdenerstr. 122, Kreuzberg | Dresdener Str. is reachable through passageway under buildings at Kottbusser Tor, next to Adalbertstr. | 030/615-5560 | www.wuergeengel.de.
The elegant Watergate is a club for people who usually don’t like clubbing. It sits languidly at the base of the Oberbaumbrücke, on the Kreuzberg side, and has two dance floors with bars. The terrace extending over the River Spree is one of the city’s best chill-out spaces. In addition to hosting internationally renowned DJs, the club is the beautiful and intimate setting for infrequent but popular classical music nights. | Falckensteinstr. 49, Kreuzberg | 030/6128-0396 | www.water-gate.de | Station: Schlesisches Tor (U-bahn), Warschauer Strasse (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Gay and Lesbian Bars
If you don’t find any eye candy at tiny Roses there are always the furry red walls and kitschy paraphernalia to admire. It opens at 10 pm and keeps going until very late. | Oranienstr. 187, Kreuzberg | 030/615-6570.
A grown-up crowd focused on conversation and appreciating outstanding cocktails heads to Green Door, a Schöneberg classic. The decor is 1960s retro style, with gingham walls and stand-alone lamps. Although the expertly crafted drinks are not cheap by Berlin standards, the Green Door has long offered wallet-friendly happy hour deals. | Winterfeldstr. 50, Schöneberg | 030/215-2515 | www.greendoor.de.
Berlin’s multiculti crowd frequents the Havanna Club, where you can dance to soul, R&B, or hip-hop on four different dance floors. The week’s highlights are the wild salsa and merengue nights (Wednesday at 9 pm, Friday and Saturday at 10 pm). If your Latin steps are weak, come an hour early for a lesson. Friday and Saturday are “ladies free” nights until 11. | Hauptstr. 30, Schöneberg | 030/784-8565 | www.havanna-berlin.de.
Gay and Lesbian Bars
Just south of Wittenbergplatz, the dance club Connection is known for heavy house music and lots of dark corners. | Fuggerstr. 33, Schöneberg | 030/218-1432 | www.connection-berlin.de.
The stylish decor and the energetic crowd at Hafen make it a popular singles hangout. The first Monday of every month there’s an English-language quiz night popular with locals, expats, and tourists. | Motzstr. 19, Schöneberg | 030/211-4118 | www.hafen-berlin.de.
Fodor’s Choice | Club der Visionaere.
It may not be much more than a series of wooden rafts and a few shoddily constructed shacks, but this club is one of the most beloved outdoor venues in town. The place is packed at all hours, either with clubbers on their last stop of the evening, or with students soaking up the sunshine on a Sunday morning. Since it shares a narrow canal with Freischwimmer, which hosts a massive brunch on Sunday, an easy hop across the water (by bridge, of course) will get you coffee and breakfast at dawn. | Am Flutgraben 1, Treptow | Follow Schlesische Str. east from the U-bahn station until you cross two small canals. After the second bridge, look left | www.clubdervisionaere.com | Station: Schlesisches Tor (U-bahn).
On the rooftop of the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, this often-packed watering hole affords scenic views over Tiergarten Park and an impressive range of well-crafted cocktails. Expect a crowd at the ground-floor entrance (no matter what day of the week)—this place is worth the wait. | Budapester Str. 40, Charlottenburg | 030/1202-21210 | www.25hours-hotels.com.
A-Trane in West Berlin has hosted countless greats throughout the years, including Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis. Weekly free jam nights on Saturday in winter and numerous other free events make it a good place to see jazz on a budget. | Bleibtreustr. 1, Charlottenburg | 030/313-2550 | www.a-trane.de | Station: Savignyplatz (S-bahn).
To get to Quasimodo, the most established and popular jazz venue in the city, you’ll need to descend a small staircase to the basement of the Theater des Westens. Despite its college-town pub feel, the club has hosted many Berlin and international greats. Seats are few, but there’s plenty of standing room in the front. | Kantstr. 12a, Charlottenburg | 030/3180-4560 | www.quasimodo.de.
Detailed information about events is covered in the Berlin Programm, a monthly tourist guide to Berlin arts, museums, and theaters. The magazines Tip and Zitty, which appear every two weeks, provide full arts listings (in German), although the free weekly (030) is the best source for club and music events. For listings in English, consult the monthly Ex-Berliner, or their website (www.exberliner.com), which is updated regularly.
The Hekticket offices offer discounted and last-minute tickets, including half-price, same-day tickets daily at 2 pm. | Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 13, off Alexanderpl., Mitte | 030/230-9930 | www.hekticket.de.
Showtime Konzert und Theaterkassen.
If your hotel can’t book a seat for you or you can’t make it to a box office directly, go to a ticket agency. Surcharges are 10%-18% of the ticket price. Showtime Konzert und Theaterkassen has offices within the major department stores, including KaDeWe. | KaDeWe, Tauentzienstr. 21, Charlottenburg | 030/8060-2929 | www.showtimetickets.de.
The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the world’s best and their resident venue is the Philharmonie, comprising the Grosser Saal, or large main hall, and the smaller Kammermusiksaal, dedicated to chamber music. Tickets sell out in advance for the nights when star maestros conduct, but other orchestras and artists appear here as well. Tuesday’s free Lunchtime Concerts fill the foyer with eager listeners of all ages at 1 pm. Show up early as these concerts can get very crowded. Daily guided tours (€5) also take place at 1:30 pm. | Herbert-von-Karajan-Str. 1, Tiergarten | 030/2548-8134 | www.berliner-philharmoniker.de.
The beautifully restored hall at Konzerthaus Berlin is a prime venue for classical music concerts. The box office is open from noon to curtain time. | Gendarmenmarkt, Mitte | 030/2030-92101 | www.konzerthaus.de.
DANCE, MUSICALS, AND OPERA
Berlin’s three opera houses also host guest productions and companies from around the world. Vladimir Malakhov, a principal guest dancer with New York’s American Ballet Theatre, is a principal in the Staatsballett Berlin as well as its director. The company performs its classic and modern productions at the Deutsche Oper and the Schiller Theater while the famed Staatsoper on Unter den Linden undergoes renovations.
Deutsche Oper Berlin.
Of the many composers represented in the repertoire of Deutsche Oper Berlin, Verdi and Wagner are the most frequently presented. | Bismarckstr. 35, Charlottenburg | 030/343-8401 | www.deutscheoperberlin.de.
The operas performed here are sung in their original language (often with English subtitles), but the lavish and at times over-the-top and kitschy staging and costumes make for a fun night even if you don’t speak the language. | Behrenstr. 55-57, Mitte | 030/4799-7400 | www.komische-oper-berlin.de.
The small and alternative Neuköllner Oper puts on fun, showy performances of long-forgotten operas as well as humorous musical productions. It also is more likely than other Berlin opera houses to stage productions offering modern social commentary and individual takes on the immigrant experience—which is fitting for this international neighborhood. | Karl-Marx-Str. 131-133, Neukölln | 030/6889-0777 | www.neukoellneroper.de.
Currently serving as interim stage for the Staatsoper, until renovations are finished in 2017, the Schiller Theater is also known for light musical and theater fare. | Bismarckstr. 110, Charlottenburg | 030/2035-4555.
The Tanzfabrik is Berlin’s best venue to see young dance talent and the latest from Europe’s avant-garde. Additionally, contemporary artists come to learn and practice here in dance classes and workshops. | Studio, Möckernstr. 68, Kreuzberg | 030/786-5861 | www.tanzfabrik-berlin.de.
This annual Berlin festival, held from late August through September or early October, unites all the major performance halls (especially the Haus der Berliner Festspiele and the Martin-Gropius-Bau) as well as some smaller venues for concerts, opera, ballet, theater, and art exhibitions. It also sponsors some smaller-scale events throughout the year. | Ticket office, Schaperstr. 24 | 030/2548-9100 | www.berlinerfestspiele.de.
International and German movies are shown in the big theaters on Potsdamer Platz and around the Ku’damm. If a film isn’t marked “OF” or “OV” (Originalfassung, or “original version”) or “OmU” (“original with subtitles”), it’s dubbed. Many Berlin theaters let customers reserve seats in advance when purchasing tickets, so buy them early to nab those coveted center spots. TIP Previews and commercials often run for 25 minutes, so don’t worry if you walk in late.
When warm weather hits the city and Berliners come out of hibernation, they often head to the Freiluftkinos (open-air cinemas). These outdoor viewing areas are in just about every park in town, offer food and drinks, and screen a good balance of German and international films, many of them new releases. Check the website for schedules from three of the city’s best, in Volkspark Friedrichshain, Mariannenplatz Kreuzberg, and Volkspark Rehberge in Wedding. | Berlin | www.freiluftkino-berlin.de | €7.
Hackesche Höfe Kino.
Documentary films, international films in their original language, and German art-house films are shown at the Hackesche Höfe Kino, or cinema. There’s no elevator to this top-floor movie house, but you can recover on the wide banquettes in the lounge. | Rosenthaler Str. 40-41, Mitte | 030/283-5293 | www.hoefekino.de.
VARIETY SHOWS, COMEDY, AND CABARET
Berlin’s variety shows can include magicians, circus performers, musicians, and classic cabaret stand-ups. Be aware that in order to understand and enjoy traditional cabaret, which involves a lot of political humor, your German has to be up to snuff.
The completely restored 1920s entertainment emporium Admiralspalast draws on its glitzy Jazz Age glamour, and houses several stages and a restaurant. The main theater features everything from large-scale shows to theater, comedy, and concerts. | Friedrichstr. 101, Mitte | 030/4799-7499 | www.admiralspalast.de.
Bar Jeder Vernunft.
The intimate Bar Jeder Vernunft is inside a glamorous tent and usually showcases intriguing solo entertainers as well as concerts and comedy shows. Note that the venue is set back from the street and is hard to find. Just to the left of Haus der Berliner Festspiele, look for a lighted path next to a parking lot and follow it until you reach the tent. | Schaperstr. 24, Wilmersdorf | 030/883-1582 | www.bar-jeder-vernunft.de.
BKA-Berliner Kabarett Anstalt.
Social and political satire has a long tradition in cabaret theaters and the BKA-Berliner Kabarett Anstalt is known for performances by Germany’s leading young comedy talents as well as chanson vocalists. | Mehringdamm 34, Kreuzberg | 030/202-2007 | www.bka-theater.de.
Within the Hackesche Höfe, the Chamäleon Varieté is the most affordable and offbeat variety venue in town. German isn’t required to enjoy most of the productions. | Rosenthaler Str. 40-41, Mitte | 030/400-0590 | www.chamaeleonberlin.com.
This is one of Berlin’s hippest venues for live music, cabaret, dancing, and drinks. The programs change almost daily. | Freie Volksbühne, Rosa-Luxemburg-Pl., side door of the Volksbühne, Mitte | 030/2859-8936 | www.gruener-salon.de.
Tipi am Kanzleramt (Tipi am Kanzleramt).
Tipi is a tent venue between the Kanzleramt (Chancellor’s Office) and Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Artists featured are well suited for an international audience, and you can opt to dine here before the show. Even the back-row seats are good. | Grosse Querallee, Tiergarten | 030/3906-6550 | www.tipi-am-kanzleramt.de.
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Mitte | Potsdamer Platz | Friedrichshain | Kreuzberg | Prenzlauer Berg | Neukölln | Charlottenburg
What’s fashionable in Berlin is creative, bohemian style, so designer labels have less appeal here than in Hamburg, Düsseldorf, or Munich. For the young and trendy, it is bad form to be seen wearing clothes that appear to have cost much more than a Brötchen (bread roll), so most step out in vintage and secondhand threads.
The finest shops in historic Berlin are along Friedrichstrasse, including the French department store Galeries Lafayette and the international luxury department store Departmentstore Quartier 206. Nearby, Unter den Linden offers a few souvenir shops and a Meissen ceramic showroom, while the area surrounding the picturesque Gendarmenmarkt is home to top fashion designers and many international brands.
The charming side streets of Mitte’s Scheunenviertel area have turned into a true destination for serious fashion aficionados. The area between Hackescher Markt, Weinmeister Strasse, and Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz alternate pricey independent designers with groovy secondhand shops, and a string of ultrahip flagship stores by the big sports and fashion designer brands. Neue Schönhauser Strasse meets up with Rosenthaler Strasse on one end and curves into Alte Schönhauser Strasse on the other. All three streets are full of stylish and original casual wear. Galleries along Gipsstrasse and Sophienstrasse round out the mix.
Designer Luisa Hecking opened this accessories boutique in 2007 as a showcase for her timeless collection of HeckingHandermann bags, sunglasses, and jewelry. It’s one of the best places for scarves in the city, with a wide selection of designs, at a variety of price points. | Gormannstr. 8-9, entrance Mulackstr., Mitte | 030/2804-7528 | www.hecking-shop.com | Closed Tues. and Sun. | Station: Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Do You Read Me? Whether you’re looking for something to read on the plane or a special present, this charming bookstore is guaranteed to have something to pique your literary interests. The wide selection of magazines and literature—many of the titles are in English—comes from around the world and spans fashion, photography, architecture, interior design, and cultural topics. | Auguststr. 28,Mitte | 030/6954-9695 | www.doyoureadme.de | Closed Sun. | Station: Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (U-bahn).
Opened in early 2015, this branch of the Munich bookstore started by Isabell Hummel and Sebastian Steinacker gives the many mainstream and DIY magazines and books carried here plenty of room to breathe. Hummel and Steinacker’s goal for their spaces is to offer “curious publications for curious people.” Here you’ll find plenty of both. | Weinbergsweg 1, Mitte | 030/4373-3700 | www.sodabooks.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Rosenthaler Platz (U-bahn).
Inside a beautiful old building in the heart of Mitte’s Hackescher Markt shopping district, 14 oz. sells high-end denim (Denham the Jeanmaker, Momotaro Jeans, Edwin), along with sneakers, accessories, knitwear, and outerwear. For true VIP treatment, a private shopping area is available on the second floor. Shoppers on a budget will also love 14 oz.’s outlet store, also in Mitte on Memhardstrasse. | Neue Schönhauserstr. 13, Mitte | 030/2804-0514 | www.14oz-berlin.com/berlin | Closed Sun. | Station: Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
This tiny shop on Torstrasse is the flagship outlet for designer Wibke Deertz, who uses fabrics and inspirations from her travels around the world to create a collection of handmade, limited-edition pieces, including pants, shirts, jackets, and accessories. | Torstr. 106, Mitte | 030/9120-6630 | www.addeertz.com/ | Closed Sun. | Station: Rosenthaler Platz (U-bahn).
Don’t be deterred when you arrive at this seemingly empty storefront: the real treasure lies at the bottom of the black spiral staircase. On the basement level you’ll find one of Berlin’s favorite shops for local designs and wardrobe staples for both men and women. Think distressed tops, shoes, leather jackets, and skinny jeans. | Memhardstr. 8, Mitte | 030/2804-2251 | www.apartmentberlin.de | Closed Sun. | Station: Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Alexanderplatz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Baerck.
Baerck artfully displays its mix of European and Berlin men’s and women’s wear on wheeled structures, allowing them to be rearranged in the store whenever necessary. Along with designers like Stine Goya, Henrik Vibskov, and Hope, you’ll find the store’s eponymous accessories line of handbags and scarves, as well as their clothing label NIA for blouses and trousers, and their product line llot llov—a play on the German word “toll” meaning great or cool. A changing display of lifestyle and interior decor items like lamps, mirrors, and handmade furniture invite you in, while the basement level always has great sale pieces. | Mulackstr. 12, Mitte | 030/2404-8994 | www.baerck.net | Closed Sun. | Station: Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn).
One of Berlin’s top avant-garde designers, Claudia Skoda’s creations are mostly for women, but there’s also a selection of men’s knitwear. | Mulackstr. 8, Mitte | 030/4004-1884 | www.claudiaskoda.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (U-bahn).
The Corner Berlin.
In the heart of the stunning Gendarmenmarkt, this luxury concept store sells a contemporary collection of new and vintage clothing from high-end designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Chloé, as well as cosmetics, home furnishings, and art books. The shop is also a popular venue for exclusive fashion events and is home to a gallery and café. | Französischestr. 40, Mitte | 030/2067-0940 | www.thecornerberlin.de | Closed Sun. | Station: Französische Strasse (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Das Neue Schwarz.
Whether you want a new little black dress or a cool vintage bag to carry around this season, a peek into Das Neue Schwarz (The New Black) is guaranteed to result in some special finds. In the midst of Mitte’s fashionista neighborhood of avant-garde designers and exclusive boutiques, this shop holds its own with a collection of secondhand items, many never worn, from big name designers including Vivienne Westwood, Helmut Lang, and Yves Saint Laurent. | Mulackstr. 38, Mitte | 030/2787-4467 | www.dasneueschwarz.de | Closed Sun. | Station: Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (U-bahn).
An avant-garde pioneer with a penchant for black, Esther Perbant’s buzzed-about runway shows during Berlin Fashion Week are as adventurous as the designs sold in her shop. Expect androgynous silhouettes for men and women including tailored trousers, blazers, wrap dresses with generous, draping fabric and her signature, military-inspired hats. A visit here is a must to get a sense of how real Berliners dress. | Almstadtstr. 3, Mitte | 030/8853-6791 | estherperbandt.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Alexanderplatz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Since 2003, this Mitte hot spot has nurtured Berlin independent designers who are as visionary in their aesthetics as they are in their production mode: most items are handmade and sustainably sourced. Look for local favorite NCA for hats, and elegant gold earrings and rings by Savoir Joaillerie. | Kleine Hamburger Str. 15, Mitte | 030/2809-7839 | www.konk-berlin.de | Closed Sun. | Station: Oranienburger Strasse (S-bahn), Rosenthaler Platz (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Lala Berlin.
Originally from Tehran, former MTV editor Lelya Piedayesh is one of Berlin’s top design talents. Her popular boutique relocated and expanded in 2014 to make room for even more of her high-quality fabric scarves, sweaters, and accessories that use the reinterpreted Palestinian keffiyeh pattern she’s become known for. | Alte Schonhauser Str. 3, Mitte | 030/2576-2924 | www.lalaberlin.com | Closed Sun. | Station:Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (U-bahn).
Made in Berlin.
One of the more established secondhand shops in Berlin, this outpost is always crowded with trendsetting locals and discerning visitors looking for hidden gems. The selection is more curated-thrift look than high-end designs, and includes an extensive range of 1980s wear as well as a broad selection of shoes. Make sure to pop in for the shop’s happy hour, where you’ll get 20% off on purchases (Tuesday noon-3). | Neue Schönhauser Str. 19, Mitte | 030/2123-0601 | Closed Sun. | Station: Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
This demure boutique originally began as a fund-raising project during Berlin’s Fashion Week in response to the 2011 Japanese tsunami. Along with two floors of avant-garde Japanese and international designs for men and women (expect to find plenty in black and white, and a lot of angular silhouettes), lifestyle products, and interior decor, the space is also home to Avan, an in-house teahouse serving a variety of Asian-fusion dishes like banh mi sandwiches, dumplings, and curries. | Kronenstr. 71, Mitte | 030/2062-6700 | www.oukan.de/ | Closed Sun. | Station: Stadtmitte (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | SOTO.
SOTO is the name of the hip, fashion-forward area of Mitte, south of Torstrasse, filled with charming side streets and numerous fashion boutiques. So, it’s appropriate that it’s also the name of this boutique where you’ll find a mix of timeless and trendsetting menswear including the house label, Le Berlinois, along with brands like Band of Outsiders, Norse Projects, and Our Legacy, grooming products, and accessories ranging from cameras to lanyards. | Torstr. 72, Mitte | 030/2576-2070 | www.sotostore.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (U-bahn).
From the back of her Linienstrasse atelier, Ettina Berrios-Negron creates some of the most elegant dresses and silk blouses seen in the city. Her intimate shop also accommodates made-to-measure services, and bridal fittings are available by appointment. | Linienstr. 71, Mitte | 030/5316-1116 | www.thonenegron.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Rosenthaler Platz (U-bahn).
Wood Wood Annex.
The avant-garde street-wear brand out of Copenhagen stocks its Berlin annex with its eponymous line of bags, shoes, and clothing for men and women. Also in-store are contemporary labels like Comme des Garçons, Opening Ceremony, and Kenzo. | Rochstr. 3, Mitte | 030/2759-59770 | www.woodwood.dk | Closed Sun. | Station: Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Alexanderplatz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | DepartmentStore Quartier 206.
The smallest, and often considered the most luxurious, department store in town, DepartmentStore Quartier 206 has a wide range of women’s and men’s international designers from the likes of Prada, Givenchy, and Tom Ford. Much of the store’s inventory is hand-picked by founder Anne Maria Jagdfeld on travels around the world, and the store also carries a variety of cosmetics, perfumes, home accessories, art, and books. | Friedrichstr. 71, Mitte | 030/2094-6500 | www.dsq206.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Französische Strasse (U-bahn), Stadtmitte (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Galeries Lafayette.
At the corner of Französische Strasse (it means “French Street” and is named for the nearby French Huguenot cathedral) is the French department store Galeries Lafayette. French architect Jean Nouvel included an impressive steel-and-glass funnel at the center of the building, and it’s surrounded by four floors of expensive clothing and luxuries as well as an excellent food department with counters offering French cuisine, and a market with some of the best produce in the area. Intimate and elegant, Galeries Lafayette carries almost exclusively French products. | Friedrichstr. 76-78, Mitte | 030/209-480 | www.galerieslafayette.de | Closed Sun. | Station: Französische Strasse (U-bahn).
Tucked behind the tourist-heavy streets of Hackesche Markt, this labyrinth of small galleries, boutiques, and shops offers a wide range of fashion. The outdoor shopping mall links Rosenthaler and Sophienstrasse with big brands like H&M and Mac Cosmetics, as well as independent boutiques and small gift shops. | Rosenthaler Str. 40-41, Mitte | 030/2809-8010 | www.hackesche-hoefe.com | Station: Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
This gallery shop opened in the mall-like Hackesche Höfe shopping area in 2001, promoting the red and green Ampelmännchen, the charming symbol used on the former East traffic lights. The brand now operates six shops in Berlin, and you can find the logo on everything from T-shirts and umbrellas to ice cube trays and candy. TIP It’s a perfect stop for souvenirs. | Hackesche Höfe, Hof 5, Rosenthalerstr. 40-41, Mitte | 030/4472-6438 | ampelmann.de/ | Station: Weinmeisterstrasse (U-bahn), Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
This shop near Alexanderplatz provides a wide range of Berlin memories, all designed and manufactured in the city. There is everything from Berlin-themed emergency candy bars and tote bags with city landmark designs to Berlin-produced liquors. | Karl-Liebknechtstr. 9, Mitte | 030/9700-5640 | www.ausberlin.de | Station: Alexanderplatz (U-bahn and S-bahn).
More than 5,000 different books, maps, and souvenirs about the city of Berlin can be found at this shop, which is, unlike many, open on Sunday. The company also runs a translation and publishing house and a small museum, as well as a web shop for those still looking for souvenirs after the trip is over. | Unter den Linden 40, Mitte | 030/2045-3842 | www.berlinstory.de | Station: Brandenburger Tor (S-bahn), Französische Strasse (U-bahn).
Tucked into a small courtyard near the New Synagogue, this charming candy store has been making and selling handmade sweets for the past 100 years. The brightly colored sugar bonbons are pressed on vintage molds into leaf, raspberry, and diamond shapes, and more than 30 different varieties are available. For a real insider’s peek at candy production, join one of the store’s twice-daily tours, which walk customers step-by-step through the candy production. | Oranienburgerstr. 32, Mitte | 030/4405-5243 | www.bonbonmacherei.de | Closed July and Aug., and Sun.-Tues. | Station: Oranienburger Strasse (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Sabrina Dehoff.
The flagship store of German jewelry designer Sabrina Dehoff balances bling and minimalism—bright crystals are paired with chunky metals. | Torstr. 175, Mitte | 030/9362-4680 | www.sabrinadehoff.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Rosenthaler Strasse (U-bahn).
On the border between the city’s former east and west regions, this touristy area is popular thanks to the towering Sony Center, which offers an English-language movie theater as well as restaurants and bars. The main shopping arcade here, also named Potsdamer Platz, offers a wide selection of chain shops, but you’ll find a few original shops tucked on the side streets.
Fodor’s Choice | Andreas Murkudis.
Andreas Murkudis moved his successful concept shop from Mitte to the former Taggespiegel newspaper office space near Potsdamer Platz in 2011. Inside the stark white room you’ll find hand-picked mens, women’s, and children’s clothing, including designs by brother Kostas Murkudis, Dries van Noten, and Christian Haas, as well as accessories, and contemporary home ware. | Potsdamer Str. 81e, Potsdamer Platz | 030/6807-98306 | www.andreasmurkudis.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Kurfürstenstrasse (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Frau Tonis Parfum.
This elegant perfumery will help you create a completely personal scent; choose from vials filled with perfumes like acacia, linden tree blossoms, cedarwood, or pink peppercorns. All the perfumes are produced locally in Berlin, creating a really one-of-a kind gift. | Zimmerstr. 13, Potsdamer Platz | 030/2021-5310 | www.frau-tonis-parfum.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Kochstrasse/Checkpoint Charlie (U-bahn).
The cobblestone streets and densely packed neighborhoods of cafés, shops, and boutiques make the area between Frankfurter Allee and Warschauer Strasse an ideal shopping stretch. Both Boxhagener Platz and Simon-Dach Strasse are home to fashionable shops, and the neighborhood holds shopping nights on select Saturdays.
Near Boxhagener Platz, this is great shop to find a piece of Berlin’s young, colorful style. Prachtmädchen specializes in trendy T-shirts, coats, sustainable pieces from Scandinavian and Japanese brands, and accessories from their own line. There is also a small inventory of menswear. | Wühlischst. 28, Friedrichshain | 030/9700-2780 | www.prachtmaedchen.de/ | Closed Sun. | Station: Warschauer Strasse (U-bahn and S-bahn).
This Friedrichshain boutique looks like a trendy concept shop at first glance, but inside you’ll find a selection of stylish secondhand pieces. Among their advertised “1,000 pieces paired with rationality,” expect to find jeans from Paige and J brand, bags from Chanel, and pieces from COS, Comptoir des Cotonniers, and Zoe Karssen. | Grünberger Str. 90, Friedrichshain | 030/2935-2075 | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Station:Samariterstrasse (U-bahn).
This showroom puts Berlin’s music culture front and center, with fashion inspired by the DJ and club scene. Selling a range of shoes, bags, accessories, clothing, and vinyl, the store is as high energy as one of the city’s late-night parties: you may be offered a vodka shot to round out your shopping experience. | Kopernikusstr. 12, Friedrichshain | 030/8411-8358 | www.workaholicfashion.net | Closed Sun. | Station:Warschauer Strasse (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Victoria Met Albert.
You could easily spend hours in this charming household, gift, and clothing concept shop in the heart of the bustling Boxhagener Platz. They’ve stocked their large Friedrichshain emporium with a huge range of decorative lifestyle items from furniture paint to welcome mats and light fixtures. In their second, smaller Prenzlauer Berg shop, you’ll find similar, enviable items. | Krossener Str. 9-10, Friedrichshain | 030/2977-4366 | www.victoriametalbert.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Samariterstrasse (U-bahn), Warschauer Strasse (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Locals love Kreuzberg for its grittier landscape, and the fashion style here is more urban as well. The lively Bergmannstrasse is home to several worthy destinations, as is Mehringdamm. This, along with neighboring Neukölln, is the place to score a unique Berlin find.
Berlin-based Michael Sontag’s new, architecturally striking boutique is a welcome neighbor in an increasingly lively part of Kreuzberg. Often celebrated by the German fashion press, Sontag thinks in terms of timeless garments rather than seasonally, so you’ll see a lot of versatile silk shirts and draping dresses to be worn year-round. | Muskauerstr. 41, Kreuzberg | 0179/971-5932 | www.michaelsontag.com | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Station: Görlitzer Bahnhof (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Voo.
This “super boutique” in a former locksmith’s workshop is a Berlin favorite for women’s and men’s separates, shoes, accessories, and outerwear, often from rare collections around the world. It’s also home to Companion Coffee, for when you need a shopping pick-me-up. | Oranienstr. 24, Kreuzberg | 030/6165-1119 | www.vooberlin.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Kottbusser Tor (U-bahn).
This iconic record store is run by music veteran Mark Ernestus, who hand-picks all the vinyl and CDs with a heavy focus on techno, electronic, and dubstep. On the third floor of a heavily graffitied building, it’s the true essence of Berlin grunge and totally worth a visit for music lovers. | Paul-Lincke-Ufer 44a, Kreuzberg | 030/6113-0111 | www.hardwax.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Kottbusser Tor (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Süper Store.
Located in the charming neighborhood of Kreuzberg known as the Graefekiez, this cute little shop supplies a variety of lovely odds and ends, sourced from all over the world, including Turkey, Italy, and Switzerland, as well as locally produced items. Inside you’ll find linens, housewares, pantry items, and jewelry. | Dieffenbachstr. 12, Kreuzberg | 030/9832-7944 | www.sueper-store.de/ | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Station: Schönleinstrasse (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Hallesches Haus.
Part playfully curated general store, part café, and soon-to-be outdoor cinema, Hallesches Haus is the brainchild of three ex-Fab and Monoqi staffers. Shop terrariums, artfully designed gardening tools, Pendelton blankets, housewares, and gifts with a sense of humor like matches to “scent your beard like the wilderness,” and gum that “erases past mistakes.” | Tempelhofer Ufer 1, Kreuzberg | 176/8413-8777 | www.hallescheshaus.com/ | Closed Sun. | Station: Hallesches Tor (U-bahn).
Stretching east of Mitte’s Rosenthaler Platz, the fashionable boutiques continue into Prenzlauer Berg. This area is well-known for its own collection of designer boutiques, secondhand shops, and original designs. The busy Kastanienallee is packed with shops and boutiques, as is the more quiet area around Hemholzpatz.
A secondhand shop for men is an anomaly in Berlin. Yet this laid-back storefront, on one of Prenzlauer Berg’s most charming streets, more than makes up for that fact. You’ll find stylish labels like Acne and Nike for him, and there’s also a small women’s selection of shoes and wardrobe staples. | Stargarder Str. 9, Prenzlauer Berg | 030/4908-1169 | Closed Sun. | Station: Schönhauser Allee (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Garments.
This chic store offers Prenzlauer Berg’s fashion lovers an excellent selection of vintage and secondhand clothing, costume jewelry, and accessories. There is also a branch in Mitte, at Linienstrasse 204-205. | Stargarderstr. 12 A, Prenzlauer Berg | 030/7477-9919 | www.garments-vintage.de | Closed Sun. | Station: Schönhauser Allee (U-bahn and S-bahn).
Friendly staffers aren’t always a given in Germany’s capital, so the extra attention you’ll get at Isobel Gowdie is a welcome treat while you’re browsing the vintage, second-season, and new garments by Dries van Noten, Chloé, and more. There’s a second location on Alte Schönhauser Strasse in Mitte. | Kastanienallee 40, Prenzlauer Berg | www.isobelgowdie-berlin.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Senefelderplatz (U-bahn).
Kauf Dich Glücklich.
With an odd assortment of retro furnishings, this ice-cream café and waffle shop takes over the entire corner of a Prenzlauer Berg sidewalk, especially on sunny days. Head to the second story and you’ll find a shop that captures young Berliner style, with vintage pieces, bold prints, and skinny fits, as well as shoes and jewelry. The collection focuses on women’s wear, although there is also a small offering of men’s clothing. The newly opened Mitte outpost on Rosenthaler Strasse boasts even more menswear options as well as home accessories, and there’s also an outlet shop in Wedding. | Kastanien Allee 54, Prenzlauer Berg | 030/4172-5651 | www.kaufdichgluecklich-shop.de/ | Station: Rosenthaler Platz (U-bahn).
This minimal showroom is offset by a playfully curated selection of Polish art, fashion, and design items. The store’s name hints at irony, and indeed, no vodka can be found here, but rather covetable contemporary products that reinterpret the meaning of “made in Poland.”|Pappelallee 10, Prenzlauer Berg | 030/4862-3086 | nowodka.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Eberswalder Strasse (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Dr. Kochan Schapskultur.
This small shop embodies traditional German liquor culture; there are schnapps and fruit brandies from family farms and independent distilleries for sale, among other items to pique a tippler’s interest. | Immanuelkirchstr. 4, Prenzlauer Berg | 030/3462-4076 | www.schnapskultur.de | Closed Sun. | Station: Senefelderplatz (U-bahn).
Markt am Kollwitzplatz.
One of the city’s best farmers’ markets sits on the pretty Kollwitzplatz square in Prenzlauer Berg. During its smaller Thursday and bustling Saturday markets, you’ll not only find a superb selection of organic produce, meats, cheeses, and pantry items, but also an array of prepared foods and sellers offering handmade home goods and gifts. | Kollwitzplatz, Prenzlauer Berg | Closed Mon.-Wed., Fri., and Sun. | Station:Senefelderplatz (U-bahn).
Just over the canal from Kreuzberg, the neighborhood of Neukölln is home to a large Turkish population, and brims with Turkish shops, cafés, and restaurants, as well as a lovely weekly market. More and more of the city’s young creatives are moving into this area, and it caters to their bohemian lifestyle with a number of secondhand and vintage shops.
Let Them Eat Cake.
A favorite of the vintage shoppers in Neukölln, this delightful shop offers a mixture of handmade pieces and high-quality secondhand clothing for him and her. | Weserstr. 164, Neukölln | 030/6096-5095 | letthemeatcake-berlin.tumblr.com/ | Closed Sun. | Station: Rathaus Neukölln (U-bahn).
This shop not only stocks a variety of redesigned secondhand and vintage wear, as well as new-label sustainable lines, but also offers dressmaking and alteration services, and encourages customers to bring in their own pieces for trendy modifications. | Weichselstr. 59, Neukölln | shiostore.com/ | Closed Sun. | Station: Rathaus Neukölln (U-bahn).
This Kreuzkölln shop, located on the border between Kreuzberg and Neukölln, has become popular for its carefully edited collection of vintage finds, dating back to the 1960s and ‘70s. The shop also holds a monthly flea market, as well as occasional movie nights, and is home to a popular café, where a menu of homemade cakes and weekend vegan brunch is served on mismatched vintage china. | Sanderstr. 11,Neukölln | 030/5484-5051 | Station: Schönleinstrasse (U-bahn).
Imagine bringing the midcentury European look home with a walk through this shop, which features a collection of Scandinavian furniture and lamps. The shop also has a limited selection of clothing, bags, and accessories, as well as small housewares like teapots and ceramics, which should all fit more comfortably inside a suitcase. | Sanderstr. 12, Neukölln | 030/6396-3338 | www.vintagegalore.de/ | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Station: Schönleinstrasse (U-bahn).
Although Ku’damm is still touted as the shopping mile of Berlin, many shops are ho-hum retailers. The best stretch for exclusive fashions, such as Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Jil Sander, are the three blocks between Leibnizstrasse and Bleibtreustrasse. For home furnishings, gift items, and unusual clothing boutiques, follow this route off Ku’damm: Leibnizstrasse to Mommsenstrasse to Bleibtreustrasse, then on to the ring around Savignyplatz. Fasanenstrasse, Knesebeckstrasse, Schlüterstrasse, and Uhlandstrasse are also fun places to browse.
Ku’damm ends at Breitscheidplatz, but the door-to-door shopping continues along Tauentzienstrasse, which, in addition to international retail stores, offers continental Europe’s largest department store, the upscale Kaufhaus des Westens, or KaDeWe.
Fodor’s Choice | Bucherbogen.
Peek under the rails of Charlottenburg’s Savignyplatz and you’ll find this much-loved bookstore. The large selection of books, many of them special editions or out of print, include numerous titles on art, design, and architecture, and the international offerings are extensive. | Stadtbahnbogen 593, Charlottenburg | 303/186-9511 | www.buecherbogen.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Savignyplatz (S-bahn).
For wardrobe staples with a twist, this Swedish chain has something for everyone, from accessories, shoes, clothing, and even a section for the little ones. Their Charlottenburg location is just one of their many stores in Berlin. | Kurfürstendamm 217, Charlottenburg | 030/8800-1987 | www.cosstores.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Uhlandstrasse (U-bahn).
The flagship store of German designer Jil Sander carries the newest collections from this iconic, understated brand, including fashions for men. | Kurfürstendamm 185, Charlottenburg | 030/886-7020 | www.jilsander.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Adenauerplatz (U-bahn), Savignyplatz (S-bahn).
Potsdam’s hometown hero, fashion designer Wolfgang Joop, brings his vibrant designs to Berlin at this Charlottenburg atelier. | Kurfürstendamm 46, Charlottenburg | 030/2804-1817 | wunderkind.com/ | Closed Sun. | Station: Savignyplatz (S-bahn), Uhlandstrasse (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe).
The largest department store in continental Europe, classy Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) has a grand selection of goods, spread over seven floors, as well as food and deli counters, champagne bars, beer bars, a beautiful art deco-style atrium café, and for men, a newly opened “sneaker hall”—a 2,000-square-foot space offering the latest in urban footwear. The wealth of services offered here includes luxury gift basket arrangements, exclusive travel guides, and an international box office. | Tauentzienstr. 21-24, Charlottenburg | 030/21210 | www.kadewe.de | Closed Sun. | Station: Wittenbergplatz (U-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Paper & Tea.
Enter this serene shop just off Kantstrasse and you’ll be stepping into a world of high-quality loose-leaf teas. Rather than bulk up on inventory, the stylish store has a restrained selection of 70 teas, all displayed in museumlike cases, where you can smell the wares. There are two tasting areas, where expert attendants brew and explain the teas. There is also a newly opened Mitte shop on Alte Schönhauser Strasse. | Bleibtreust. 4, Charlottenburg | 030/9561-5468 | www.paperandtea.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Savignyplatz (S-bahn).
Fodor’s Choice | Wald Königsberger Marzipan.
This third-generation artisan shop offers a taste of the old-world treat marzipan, using a family recipe that dates back to the turn of the 20th century. The vintage-style shop features candy-striped wall paper, vintage tools, and rows of handmade marzipan, all wrapped in delicate packaging. | Pestalozzistr. 54a, Charlottenburg | 030/323-8254 | www.wald-koenigsberger-marzipan.de | Closed Sun. | Station: Sophie-Charlotte-Platz (U-bahn).
GIFTS AND SOUVENIRS
If you want a taste—or rather, a smell—of old Berlin, head to Harry Lehmann on Kantstrasse in Charlottenburg. The shopkeeper will greet you in a white lab coat, helpfully explaining the origin and inspiration of the expertly mixed perfumes, which fill large apothecary jars along a mirrored wall. This is definitely old-school—the shop was opened in 1926. Scents are fresh, simple, and clean, and a 30 ml bottle (€15.50) makes for a reasonably priced gift or souvenir. | Kantstr. 106, Charlottenburg | 030/324-3582 | www.parfum-individual.de | Closed Sun. | Station: Wilmersdorfer Strasse (U-bahn), Berlin-Charlottenburg (S-bahn).
Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur.
Fine porcelain is still produced by Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur, the former Royal Porcelain Manufactory for the Prussians, also called KPM. You can buy this delicate handmade, hand-painted china at KPM’s manufactory, where you can learn about the brand’s rich history, as well as purchase products directly, with the option to find seconds at reduced prices. | Wegelystr. 1, Tiergarten | 030/3900-9215 | de-de.kpm-berlin.com/ | Closed Sun. | Station: Tiergarten (S-bahn).
At this experimental “concept mall,” which opened in 2014, you can shop well-known international brands or browse through the rotating roster of young labels in the center’s pop-up “boxes.” The building used to have an open-air middle floor separating the top and ground levels, giving the appearance of a bikini, hence the name. | Budapester Str. 38-50, Charlottenburg | 030/5549-6454 | www.bikiniberlin.de | Closed Sun. | Station: Zoologischer Garten (S-bahn and U-bahn).
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Exploring | Where to Eat
Updated by Katherine Sacks
A trip to Berlin wouldn’t be complete without paying a visit to Potsdam and its park, which surrounds the important Prussian palaces Neues Palais and Sanssouci. This separate city, the state capital of Brandenburg (the state surrounding Berlin), can be reached within a half hour from Berlin’s Zoo Station and most major Berlin S-bahn stations.
Potsdam still retains the imperial character it earned during the many years it served as a royal residence and garrison quarters. The Alter Markt and Neuer Markt show off stately Prussian architecture, and both are easily reached from the main train station by any tram heading into the town center.
Getting Here and Around
Potsdam is 20 km (12 miles) southwest of Berlin’s center and a half-hour journey by car or bus. From Zoo Station to Potsdam’s main train station, the regional train RE-1 takes 17 minutes, and the S-bahn Line No. 7 takes about 30 minutes; use an ABC zone ticket for either service. City traffic is heavy, so a train journey is recommended. Several Berlin tour operators have Potsdam trips.
There are several tours that include Potsdam (most are two or six hours). They leave from the landing across from Berlin’s Wannsee S-bahn station between late March and early October. Depending on the various tours on offer, a round-trip ticket costs €7.50-€23.
Potsdam Tourist Office. | Touristenzentrum Potsdam, Brandenburgerstr. 3, at Brandenburger Tor Potsdam | 0331/275-580 | www.potsdamtourismus.de.
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Most visitors to Potsdam come for the castles, but the town itself is picturesque, elegant, and compact enough to be explored in an hour or two. It contains both Alter Markt (Old Market) and Neuer Markt (New Market) squares, which show off stately Prussian architecture, while the Holländisches Viertel (Dutch Quarter) is home to a collection of redbrick, gable-roofed buildings, many of which now house popular restaurants, boutiques, and cafés. Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse, the town’s main thoroughfare, is full of coffee shops and restaurants, and Brandenburger Strasse, the pedestrian walking street, often has outdoor café seating and street musicians. Leafy Hegelallee, to the north, with its tree-lined central pedestrian strip, is where you will find Potsdam’s historic gates. Potsdam’s city center is easily reached by foot or tram from the main train station.
Alter Markt (Old Market Square).
The “Old Market” square is the hub of Potsdam’s historical center and was home to the city’s baroque palace for three centuries. The area was heavily damaged by Allied bombing in World War II and then further destroyed by the East German regime in 1960. After reunification, Potsdam decided to rebuild its palace, and the re-created structure, with a combination of modern and historic elements, has housed the state parliament since 2013. Thanks to private donors, a magnificent replica of the Fortunaportal, or Fortune’s Gate, now stands proudly at the center of the square.
A gilded figure of Atlas tops the tower of the Altes Rathaus (Old City Hall), built in 1755 in the model of an Italian palazzo, its dome meant to mimic the Pantheon’s in Rome. A modern structure joins the Altes Rathaus with a neighboring building designed by Sanssouci architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, simply referred to as the Knobelsdorffhaus. Together, the one new and two old structures house the Potsdam Museum, with its large collection of paintings, photographs, and historical objects, and the Potsdam Forum, a cultural center.
Karl Friedrich Schinkel designed the Alter Markt’s domed Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church), which was also heavily damaged in the war and only reopened in 1981 after extensive renovations. In front of it stands an Egyptian obelisk also erected by von Knobelsdorff. | Alter Markt.
The center of the small Holländisches Viertel—the Dutch Quarter—is an easy walk north along Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse to Mittelstrasse. Friedrich Wilhelm I built the settlement in the 1730s to entice Dutch artisans who would be able to support the city’s rapid growth. The 134 gabled, mansard-roof brick houses make up the largest Dutch housing development outside of the Netherlands today. Antiques shops, boutiques, and restaurants fill the buildings now, and the area is one of Potsdam’s most visited. | Potsdam.
Neuer Markt (New Market Square).
Neuer Markt (New Market) square has baroque-style architecture similar to that of the Alter Markt square and a handful of the city’s best-preserved buildings, some of which date back to the 18th century. In the former royal stables at the west side of the square, the Haus der Brandenburg-Preussischen Geschichte (House of Brandenburg-Prussian History), is both a museum and a cultural center, with exhibitions that delve into the past and present of both the city and the region (€4.50, Tues.-Thurs. 10-5, Fri.-Sun. 10-6; 0331/620-8550; www.hbpg.de). At the center of the square is a squat, pink structure built on the site of a grain weighing station in the 18th century: the newer incarnation was built in the 19th century, and today houses a restaurant, fittingly named Waage or “Scales.”|Am Neuen Markt 9 |.
QUICK BITES: Wiener Restaurant.
Fine coffee blends and rich cakes are available at Wiener Restaurant, an old-style European coffeehouse on Luisenplatz, steps from the Grünes Gitter entrance to Sanssouci. | Luisenpl. 4 | 0331/6014-9904 | www.wiener-potsdam.de.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Alexandrowka.
If you take Tram 92 to Neuer Garten, you’ll pass by an unusual sight: a cluster of intricately carved wooden houses that look like something out of Dr. Zhivago. This is the so-called “Russian Colony,” built by Frederick Wilhelm III to commemorate the death of his close friend, Czar Alexander I and to house Russian singers who were sent over to be part of the First Prussian Regiment of the Guards. It was modeled after St. Petersburg’s Glasovo artist village, and today is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park, which consists of 13 wooden houses laid out along a diagonal cross, was designed by Peter Joseph Lenné, who is also responsible for some of the most beautiful landscaped parks in and around Berlin. There is also a small museum that tells the history of the settlement. Stop in at Alexandrowka on your way to, or from, Neuer Garten. | Russische Kolonie 2 | 49/331 8170203 | Museum €3.50 | Museum Mar.-Dec., Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
The main attraction for Potsdam visitors, the sprawling Sanssouci Park has been a World Heritage Site since 1990. The former summer residence of the Prussian royals, the park is home to numerous palaces, landscaped gardens, and eye-catching architecture. Your best bet is to hop on Bus 695, which stops right outside the train station and will get you to the park in 10 minutes. Otherwise it’s about a half-hour walk.
Neues Palais (New Palace).
The Neues Palais, a larger and grander palace than Sanssouci, stands at the end of the long avenue that runs through Sanssouci Park. It was built after the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), when Frederick loosened his purse strings. It is said he wanted to demonstrate that the state coffers hadn’t been depleted too severely by the long conflict. Impressive interiors include the Grotto Hall with walls and columns set with shells, coral, and other aquatic decorations. The royals’ upper apartments have paintings by 17th-century Italian masters. You can tour the palace yourself, with an audio guide, from April through October; the rest of the year you must be accompanied by a tour guide; the cost is €8 for either option.
If you reach the Neues Palais by foot from Sanssouci, you’ll pass some other ornate structures on the way: The Chinesisches Teehaus (Chinese Teahouse, €2) was erected in 1754 in a Chinese style that was all the rage at the time. It houses porcelain from Meissen and Asia. The curious Drachenhaus or “Dragonhouse” was modeled in 1770 after the Pagoda at London’s Kew Gardens and named for the gargoyles ornamenting the roof corners. It now houses a popular restaurant and café. The two-story Belvedere on Klausberg (€2) is impressively situated at the top of a hill, at the end of a tree-lined boulevard which starts at the Orangerie near Sanssouci and then juts northwest. There’s not much to see inside but the lookout over the park is lovely. | Sanssouci Park | 0331/969-4200 | www.spsg.de.
After Frederick the Great died in 1786, the ambitious Sanssouci building program ground to a halt, and the park fell into neglect. It was 50 years before another Prussian king, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, restored Sanssouci’s earlier glory, engaging the great Berlin architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel to build the small Schloss Charlottenhof for the crown prince. Schinkel’s demure interiors are preserved, and the most fanciful room is the bedroom, decorated like a Roman tent, with walls and ceiling draped in striped canvas.
Friedrich Wilhelm IV also commissioned the Römische Bäder (Roman Baths), about a five-minute walk north of Schloss Charlottenhof. It was also designed by Schinkel, and built between 1829 and 1840. Like many other structures in Potsdam, this one is more romantic than authentic. Half Italian villa, half Greek temple, it is nevertheless a charming addition to the park. | Geschwister-Scholl-Str. 34a | 0331/969-4228 | Schloss Charlottenhof €4 with guided tour; Roman Baths €5; combination ticket €8.
Fodor’s Choice | Schloss Sanssouci.
Prussia’s most famous king, Friedrich II—Frederick the Great—spent more time at his summer residence, Schloss Sanssouci, than in the capital of Berlin. Its name means “without a care” in French, the language Frederick cultivated in his own private circle and within the court. Some experts believe that Frederick actually named the palace “Sans, Souci,” which they translate as “with and without a care,” a more apt name, since its construction caused him a lot of trouble and expense, and sparked furious rows with his master builder, Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff. His creation nevertheless became one of Germany’s greatest tourist attractions.
Executed according to Frederick’s impeccable French-influenced taste, the palace, which lies on the northeastern edge of Sanssouci Park, was built between 1745 and 1747. It is extravagantly rococo, with scarcely a patch of wall left unadorned. Be advised that during peak tourist months, timed tickets for Schloss Sanssouci tours (€12) can sell out before noon. Combined tickets for all park sights cost €19 and can be booked in advance online.
Just east of the palace sits the Bildergalerie or “Picture Gallery” (€6), which displays Frederick II’s collection of 17th-century Italian and Dutch paintings, including works by Caravaggio, Rubens, and Van Dyck. The main cupola contains expensive marble from Siena. To the west of the palace are the Neue Kammern or “New Chambers,” which began as a greenhouse and then hosted guests of the king’s family (€4 with guided tour only).
Farther west, the Orangerie was completed in 1864; its two massive towers linked by a colonnade evoke an Italian Renaissance palace. Today it houses more than 50 copies of paintings by Raphael, (€4 with guided tour, €2 tower only).
From Schloss Sanssouci, you can wander down the extravagant terraced gardens, filled with climbing grapevines, trellises, and fountains to reach the Italianate Friedenskirche or “Peace Church,” which was completed in 1854, and houses a 13th-century Byzantine mosaic taken from an island near Venice. | Park Sanssouci | 0331/969-4200 | www.spsg.de.
Just north of the city center, the Neuer Garten (New Garden) is along the west shore of the Heiliger See (Holy Lake), with beautiful views. The park is home to the Marmorpalais (Marble Palace) and Schloss Cecilienhof, the last palace built by the Prussian Hohenzollern family. To get here from the Potsdam train station, take Tram 92 and then walk 10 to 15 minutes; another option is to take a taxi.
Belvedere auf dem Pfingstberg.
Commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, the Belvedere on Pfingstberg was built in the Italian Renaissance style with grand staircases, colonnades, and perfect symmetry. It served as a pleasure palace and lofty observation platform for the royals, and the towers still offer one of the best views of Potsdam. Nearby is the Pomona Temple, the first work of the soon-to-be-famous architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who built it at the tender age of 19. | Am Pfingstberg | 0331/2005-7930 | www.pfingstberg.de | €4 | Belvedere towers Apr., May, Sept., and Oct., daily 10-6; June-Aug., daily 10-8; Mar. and Nov., weekends 10-4.
Schloss Cecilienhof (Cecilienhof Palace).
Resembling a rambling Tudor manor house, Schloss Cecilienhof was built for Crown Prince Wilhelm in 1913, on what was then the newly laid-out stretch of park called the Neuer Garten. It was here, in the last palace built by the Hohenzollerns, that the leaders of the allied forces—Stalin, Truman, and Churchill (later Attlee)—hammered out the fate of postwar Germany at the 1945 Potsdam Conference. From Potsdam’s main train station, take Tram 92 to Reiterweg/Alleestrasse, then transfer to Bus 603 to Schloss Cecilienhof, or walk 15 minutes. | Im Neuen Garten 11 | 0331/969-4244, 0331/969-4200 | www.spsg.de | €6 with tour (Nov.-Mar. tour is mandatory), €4 tour of royal couple’s private apartments | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-5. Tours of the private apartments at 10, noon, 2, 4.
WHERE TO EAT
$$ | GERMAN | Potsdam is surrounded by lakes and rivers so the fish served here is almost always local—try the rainbow trout or the eel, fresh from the Havel River; the house beer is brewed in Potsdam. It’s just a block from the busy pedestrian shopping area, and has a casual, friendly atmosphere that makes this an excellent spot for a light meal. | Average main: €17 | Gutenbergstr. 25 | 0331/200-6066 | www.der-butt.de | No credit cards.
$$ | FRENCH | Potsdam is proud of its past French influences, and the highly praised French food at this intimate restaurant on the edge of the Dutch Quarter is served in a lovely space, with brick walls and a fireplace. The menu offers small portions of dishes such as rack of lamb, quail with roasted chanterelles, and a starter plate of seasonal foie-gras preparations. The wine list of 120 French vintages is unique for the Berlin area. Chef Ralph Junick has cornered the market in Potsdam, with four other French restaurants, including a creperie and a café. | Average main: €20 | Jägerstr. 39 | 0331/270-1791 | www.restaurant-juliette.de | Closed Tues.
$$$ | GERMAN | This restored Tudor-style cottage is a 10-minute walk from the town center, and well worth a visit for its charming historic architecture and relaxing, farmhouse-style dining room. The menu is unfailingly local, emphasizing produce like white asparagus in spring and pumpkin in fall. Daily dishes include house-made pastas, local game, and German specialties. The three-course lunch for €18 is a great deal. There are also three spacious guest rooms, each of which accommodates up to four people, decorated in a simple, country-home style. | Average main: €25 | Jägerallee 13 | 0331/280-4311 | www.speckers.de.