Berlin has a reputation for being “poor but sexy” — but its shopping, nightlife, restaurants, and hotel scenes are intent on making sure you’re never compromising value for taste in any sense of the word.
Combining aesthetic nods to 1920s Paris with Berlin’s modern hedonism, the flirtiest hotel on Berlin’s scene is ready to have as much fun as you are this trip. The Provocateur Hotel is the kind of hotel that is all unabashed red velvet and dark dining rooms, which seems exactly right after years of Scandi minimalism.
One of those hotels where residents and tourists really do mingle at the bar, there’s usually an interesting crowd at the Michelberger Hotel, making it perfect for solo travelers who want to be social, business travelers wanting some coworking company, or groups of friends wanting to stay out all night (or day) at the nearby clubs. It’s within walking distance of arty Kreuzberg and brunch-and-boutique hotspot Boxhagener Platz, and the restaurant on site is excellent, too.
This Michelin-starred restaurant in hip Neukölln blurs the lines between dinner and dessert in an utterly joyful way, thanks to the talent of chef René Frank and the rest of his team. It’s an unexpected break with much of the fine dining scene, thanks to the way Frank, a former pastry chef, applies that approach to meet, enhance, and explode savory flavors on the plate. Two seatings per evening (each with a different number of courses) means a reservation is essential.
A French-Aussie dreamteam run this utterly delightful brunch establishment in leafy Prenzlauer Berg, home to Mauerpark’s massive flea market (where you’ll go after you finish up an eggs benedict people are happy to queue for). You can sit for an hours-long meal if you choose: The menu is heavy on fizz and rosé, and the staff is light on judgment, which is exactly the way a perfect brunch restaurant should be. Check the wonderfully shouty Facebook page to see if special events are happening — oysters and rosé nights are known to happen in the summer.
Come here for drinks before your CODA reservation or make a trip to Berlin’s southern neighborhood — full of galleries, excellent bars, and other after-hours fun — for this cocktail bar. It’s helmed by some of Berlin’s most talented mixologists who develop seasonal menus often centering on foraged ingredients and those sourced from around the city, but no pressure if nothing speaks to you: The friendly staff will also happily conjure a classic concoction or a creative libation with a few hints to go on.
The classic night out in Berlin, iconic techno club Berghain is on the checklist of most tourists and needs little explanation — even if the adventure stops before you actually make it through the doors. While much effort has been made to decode a guaranteed outfit or aura that’ll see you past the bouncer, the general advice is extremely Berlin: wear black and just chill out.
Kurfürstendamm and Friedrichstraße might be where to go to find designer-designer names, but if you want to head to some independent shops instead, Kastanienallee is where to go. Start (or end, or both) your stroll down the street at Prater Garden, Berlin’s oldest biergarten located near the Eberswalderstraß end of the street. Kauf Dich Glücklich is a mid-priced shop for clothes, and Flagship features ethical fashion — and there’s more to discover down the Allee’s side streets, too. In a blast from the past/in true Berlin spirit, there is also a DVD shop.
Kreuzberg’s most famous markethall throws a big party celebrating local gastro once a week called Street Food Thursdays, when you can wander vendor to vendor sampling their wares with friends. (Come early to grab a seat!). It’s family-friendly but there’s some great wine suppliers here too that lend a bit of a party vibe to the evening — our advice is to buy a bottle or two and then send friends out for gathering missions from the talented chefs. It’s also great not on Thursdays for grabbing local specialities to bring back (and to pick up high-quality local ingredients for cooking, if you’re going the apartment route for accommodation).
This designer-driven concept store features both big names and those that are at home with Berliners, whether you’re after an all-black outfit for Berghain, utilitarian trousers from GmbH, Jacquemus knits, or minimalist jackets from Acne Studios.
If capital-F fashion isn’t quite your thing, head over to Manufactum in Charlottenburg for a huge range of homewares for gifting or keeping that marry timeless design with good old-fashioned German quality and some foreign finds. This is where to pick up wooden toys for your kids, Japanese gardening gloves, beautiful stationery, chunky sweaters, and a bottle of German whisky (yes really) to take home — and think of your trip each time you use it.
This former Nazi airport has seen a ton of drama and history unfold over its lifetime — and now it’s a massive park, playground, kitesurfing track, barbecue spot, and basically, backyard for Berlin’s residents. In fact, it’s the world’s largest open space in an inner city, and it’s where you’ll find everyone (really, everyone) hanging out on a sunny summer day. There’s a circus school, biergarten, and a six-kilometer track (the former runways) to walk, run, or kitesurf down, and charming Schillerkiez’s cafes are a short walk away when you need a respite.