Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Insider's Guide to Berlin

Prenzlauerberg (P'berg): a wonderful neighborhood just to the east of the Mitte, comprised of breathtaking turn-of-the-century buildings, great choice of restaurants, charming little cafes, and one-of-a-kind boutiques
  • Kollwitz Platz (Husemannstrasse) – Named after the famous German painter, printmaker and sculptor Käthe Kollwitz, it is one of the loveliest and liveliest squares in Berlin. 
  • Farmer's Market at Kollwitz Square – has a great selection of meats, cheeses and organic food, as well as wine ... and oh, fresh oysters! Also, there are playgrounds nearby, which is perfect if you have a little one.
  • Kulturbrauerei – a cool local hangout that has a good venue of entertainment including a charming theater
  • Schonhauser Allee and Kastanienallee – filled with one of a kind local designer shops, charming cafes and restaurants
  • Recommended Hotels: GLS Guesthouse (Kastanienallee), Ibis Mitte (Prezlauer Allee)
  • Recommended Restaurants: Kauf Dich Glucklich – a café that oozes charm and serves up tasty waffles and desserts; Sowohl als Auch – offers a great selection of pastries as well as a good choice of brunch and in the summer, the outdoor seating area is pact with locals; Trattoria-Bar La Famiglia – one of the best Italian restaurants outside of Italy
Friedrichshain: an area east of P'berg that is less developed and a bit grittier
  • Volkspark Friedrichshain (entrance at Greifswalder Str/Friedrichshain) – tranquil park filled with retro-chic cafes
  • Karl-Marx Allee – filled with architecture that symbolizes the grandeur of the Soviet era
  • East Side Gallery – where the last remaining part of ‘the Berlin Mauer’ still stands
  • Ost Strand – an ideal place to chill out with the locals in the summer
  • Simon-Dach-Str/Grunberger Str – filled with quaint cafes and a relatively decent selection of restaurants. 
  • Friedrichshain (Boxhagener Platz) Flöhmarkt (Flea Market) – This flea market is held every Sunday through even the most horrible winter Sundays, and is one of the more offbeat and kitschy fleamarkets in Germany. You can find a great array of antiquities like typewriters and gramophones, as well as retro items like vinyl techno records and ubiquitous 1960s plastic east German furniture.  Also, it's a great place for people watching.
  • Recommended Clubs: Café Moskau (Karl-Marx-Allee 34), Matrix (Warschauer Platz 18)
  • Recommended Restaurant: Umspannwerk Ost (030 42 80 9497) – wonderful restaurant that serves up great local specialties
Kreuzberg: a charming neighborhood that offers a lot of diversity, in people as well as restaurants, cafes and shops
  • Bergmann Str: a great street for strolling filled with charming restaurants, cafes and shops selling one-of-a-kind items
  • Jüdisches Museum (Lindenstr. 9-14) – a masterpiece in architecture, as well as one of the most poignant museums I’ve ever visited
  • Museum für Fotografie, Helmut Newton Stiftung
  • Neue Nationalgalerie (Potsdamer Str. 50)
  • Turkish Market at Maybachufer – Every Tuesday and Friday between 12-6:30pm is the Turkish Market, where you can get an array of fresh vegetables, olives and any Turkish delectable you can imagine.
  • Recommended Restaurants: Barcomi's Deli, Sumo
Mitte: literally ‘the center’ of Berlin filled with enough museums, landmarks and attractions to fill up your itinerary for weeks
  • the Museum Island – filled with some of the top notched museums in the world, especially worth checking out the Pergamon Museum & the Historisches Museum
  • Gendarmenmarkt – a beautiful square that symbolizes the Franco-Germanic friendship, that is before the two World Wars
  • Reichstag
  • Stiftung Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas
  • a great walk along the Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Tor and on Friedrichstr. south of Unter den Linden up to Check Point Charlie
  • Galeries Lafayette – not just a department store but a foodie heaven
  • The Corner – I remember seeing Comme des Garçons in their window display and knew immediately that this was the store for me.  It's definitely a store that sets the tone for German fashion. 
  • Potsdamer Platz – south of Unter den Linden, filled with an impressive array of contemporary architecture, not to be missed Deutsche Kinemathek, Museum für Film und Fernsehen
  • Recommended hotels: Adina Hotel Check Point Charlie, Holiday Inn Express Berlin City Centre, NH Potsdamer Platz
Hackesche Höfe & Oranienburger Str:
  • Tacheles – a legendary artist space … or is it a mall now?!?
  • Hackesche Höfe Theatre – a beautiful theatre with wonderful ambiance, a great place to catch a movie or just to hang out
  • Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt next to the Hackesche Höfe Theatre is dedicated to telling this story of Otto Weidt, a man who during the Third Reich employed and in turn protected blind and deaf Jews against persecution and from being deported to the concentration camps. Also, some the most interesting and eclectic galleries are located in this area around Hackeschermarkt, and on Thursday evenings, there are quite a few opening shows.
  • Recommended Restaurants: Barcomi’s Deli (Sophienhof) – a charming café that serves up a great selection of desserts, brunch, and homemade bagels befitting for any/all for homesick New York expats; Monseiur Vuong (Alte Schonhauser Str. 46) – has a simple menu but nevertheless delicious Vietnamese/SE Asian specialties; Yam Yam – not quite like the food that umma used to make nevertheless good meal and great atmosphere 
  • Recommended hotel: Adina Hotel Hackescher Markt  
Beyond central area:
The best way to see and explore Berlin is by public transportation. Especially the double-decker buses no. 100 & 200 offer excellent views of the German capital’s top sights. Bus 100 runs from Zoologischer Garten in West Berlin to Alexanderplatz, the former heart of East Berlin, and bus 200 covers the same distance but follows a slightly different route and continues further into the former East Berlin. Between bus 100 and bus 200, virtually all the top sights in Berlin Mitte can be seen from the bus or are within easy walking distance from a bus stop – great tours of Berlin, several times per hour, at the cheap price of the normal public bus fare.

A perfect weekend in Berlin …
My Favorite Places & Glimpses of Berlin


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