Berlin is one of the most lively, vibrant, and unique urban cities in Europe. The city is filled with street art and graffiti graced over its industrial look. Students, artists, writers, and creatives have been pouring into Berlin over the last decade.
If you’re into the big city feel, art, music, fashion, history and trendy night life then you’ll love Berlin. Not to mention the eclectic architecture due to its eventful history.
When deciding where to book accommodations and where to hang out, keep in mind the city is split up into 12 Districts that you can read about here. (click map to enlarge)
Airports -> The City Center
Berlin has two internationial airports: Tegel (TXL) and Schoenfeld (SXF).
SXF is situated 18km (11.2 miles) from the city center, to the south-east of the city. A taxi to the city center will take about 25-42 minutes and cost €35-€45 depending on traffic and where you are going. Taking public transit will take approximately 35-50 minutes and cost €3,30.
TXL is situated 10km (6.2 miles) from the city center, to the north-west of the city. A taxi to the city center will take about 15-25 minutes and cost €20-€35 . Taking public transit will take 28-40 minutes and cost €2,70.
Most destinations will require one switch but getting to some areas, like SXF to Potsdamer Platz, will be direct using the express trains. The best thing to do is simply plug in directions using the google maps app before you arrive and take screenshots of the route you need to take incase you won’t have internet when you land. You can find more detailed info on airport trains to and from the city center here. To get an estimate of the Taxi fare use TaxiFareFinder. Uber is not available from the airport but is available in the city.
Uber & Taxi: Only “Uber Taxi” is allowed in Germany so the prices will be the same as a regular taxi and the supply of availability isn’t too high. A more useful taxi app to use is Funk-Taxi. As far as i know the app is only in German but it’s pretty easy to figure out. Here is the app’s main page and some translations to help you use it.
I’ve caught my taxi drivers trying to take me a longer way approximately 15% of the time, especially on longer drives. If you have internet access or can preload a map its always best to keep an eye on the path they take. The safest thing to do is to preload directions onto google maps and show the driver the direct you want them to take. Also if the wait isn’t too bad its always worth checkin if there is an Uber taxi option that way you don’t have to worry about a driver trying to rip you off.
Public transportation: Public Transportation is King in Berlin as it is the most cost and time efficient method of transportation. Costs are slightly higher than avg (€2,70 one way) but it’s also very efficient, easy to use, and often take almost the same time to get places as taking a taxi. So even if you can afford to take taxis all the time, i’d recommend comparing the driving vs pubic transport option on google maps regularly. You’ll find that often it will just make more sense to take public transport. The city is also very spread out so you may find getting a 1-day (€6,90) or 7-day (€29.50) pass worth the investment. These passes are good for use on buses, trains, and trams. Keep in mind if you buy a 1 way ticket on a train that requires you to switch to a bus you can that same ticket when you transfer onto the bus for a short period of time.
Bike Rentals: Bikes are also great for getting around and cost around €15/day
Berlin is a late night city. You can easily find places that will serve food as late as 4am here. Yelp reviews seem to be pretty prevalent for restaurants specifically, (not so much for bars) as there are quite a bit of reliable resteraunt reviews.
Yeni Adana Grillhaus (open till 4am)
Address: Skalitzer Str. 99
Type of Food: Turkish
Ambiance: Hole in the wall
Berlin’s Turkish population is around 200,000 making it the cities largest ethnic minority group. This means great authentic Turkish food in Berlin! Indulge in their delicious meat platter spreads anywhere from 12pm to as late as 4am. You can eat at a table or sit up at the bar (which i’d recommend) and order one thing at a time as they cook delicious meats right in front of you. There really is something special about the quality of the food here and its obvious once you taste it. The prices are also very reasonable as you can easily have dinner a drink, share a dessert and easily keep your tab to €15 per person. (Make sure you try the Künefe dessert and Turkish tea)
Address: Leipziger Str. 30,
Type of Food: Vietnamese
Berlin also has one of the largest Vietnamese communities outside of Vietnam with about 80,000 people of vietnamese origin. Otito is a small family run restaurant with very good and friendly service along with delicious tasting food. My favorites are the Bún Saigòn and the Bún Bò Lá Lôt. They also serve sushi; I’d recommend the Crispy Chicken Rolle. They also have a killer Mango, Melon, Banana juice. My bill here is usually €11-16 per person.
Address: Kantstr. 30
Type of Food: Sushi Bar, Japanese
Executive Chef and owner Duc Ngo has built quite the reputation for creating some of the top restaurants Germany has to offer. His restaurants are small and intimate with a very pleasant ambiance. The staff is very well trained and Duc is known to hold a VERY high standard for quality. Some of my favorites on the menu include: My Best Friends Roll, Yakitori Wildstyle, Shake Donburi. Meals here come out to about €25-45 per person.
Celebs like Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Justin Bieber seem to have discovered this hidden gem amongst their inner circle and frequent the restaurant often.
Tim Raue (2 michelin stars)
Address: Rudi-Dutschke-Straße 26
Type of Food: Asian Fusion, Modern European
For a 2 star michelin restaurant Tim Raue is relatively very well priced. a 6-course lunch menu is about €68 and a dinner tasting menu runs about €148
Brandenburg Gate: Berlins most famous monument symbolizing a divided city. Brandenburg Gate was located in no man’s land in-between East and West Berlin. People used to climb the observation platform in order to get a glimpse of the world behind the Iron Curtain on the other side.
East Side Gallery: Graffiti Artwork
Potsdamer Platz: Europes business and liveliest squares in the 1920’s and 30’s that was blown to ruins by bombings. The square has now been rebuilt with restaurants, shops, and a movie theatre making it a popular area to hangout. The Sony Center is also located here.
Checkpoint Charlie: Crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. You can see remains of the Berlin Wall here.
Pergamon Museum: Palace like Museum with three wings featuring sculpture and monumental architecture from Greece, Rome, Babylon, and the Middle East. Most visited Museum in Germany
Free Walking Tour: Berlin is a great city to do a free walking tour. They typically last 3-4 hours and you tip your guide whatever you think it was worth to you at the end. They usually have different groups for most major languages. Berlin has quite a few walking tours to choose from so the best is to google and see which ones suits you the best. I typically recommend doing the walking tours your first day in town so that you can map out the rest of your trip and also ask questions to your tour guide.
Here is a link to Trip Advisors highest rated things to do with over 10’s of thousands of reviews for each activity.
Off The Beaten Path:
Try Tree climbing: Just 15-20 minutes outside the city there is a really cool outdoor tree climbing park with tons of cool outdoor activities for both kids and adults of all skill levels. €10-12 for kids under 14 and €19-22 for Adults. If you want to join your friends but not participate in the activities, you can still tag along and hangout free of charge.
MORE COMING SOON!
I’ve always had an amazing time going out in Berlin when i’m with locals who know the scene or when I’ve done my research on where to go. On the contrary the nights i’ve tried to wing it haven’t been so fun (unless you’re a local in the know how). Berlin is known for its secret doors and peep hole doors at the entrance of cool bars, lounges and clubs. You really have to know the scene to figure out how to get into a lot of these places and where to go. (Well if you want to go to the good places that is). So do your research and seek out locals for advice before thinking you’ll just wander around hip areas and run into a cool spot. Here is a list of 8 cool hidden bars and how to get into them that you can start with.
There are a decent amount of well known clubs that have been established for some years that you can get into without the help of locals. Here is a list of Berlin clubs and their door policies. Now just because you don’t like clubs don’t stop reading this section. I got over going to clubs in my mid 20’s but Berlin is definitely one of the few cities I actually don’t mind going out to a club If i am going to have a big night. Reason being that their clubs aren’t the typical pretentious bottle service scenes that exist in a lot of other big cities. (These bottle service clubs do exist in Berlin but aren’t plentiful) Instead they are giant warehouses with tons of open space and its all about Dancing. A typical Berlin club will feel like you’re in some sort of underground dungeon with secret rooms. Many clubs will have several different rooms with different DJ’s and sounds. Berlin is considered one of the House Music Meccas of the world. To give you a sense of the style and mindset here; if you’re dressed up in formal slacks and a button down going out for the night you might not get into some of the clubs. If you are dressed weird, unique, and laid back you’ll get smiles and thumbs up. Another tip is to make sure you always know the DJ that is playing that night as they will sometimes ask you this if the club is close to capacity as they want to save room for people who are fans of the DJ (or at least they say).
Keep in mind almost every nightlife venue in Berlin allows smoking indoors. If this bothers you its best to try to avoid small intimate venues as the smoke can start to get quite bothersome.
Address: Köpenicker Str. 70
Hours: 11:45pm – 6am (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat)
Entry Fee: €13
Music: Deep house / Drum & Bass / Techno
Tressor is a pretty ideal club to go to if you want to experience what Berlin nightlife is all about. This place doesn’t start getting busy until around 2-3am. There are two main open Dance floors with a DJ set in front of them, and about a half a dozen random small rooms to hangout. To get to the main room you’ll walk through a windowless 30 meter concrete tunnel. The entire club feels like you’re in some sort of weird secret underground dungeon. I like this place because it has plenty of space to sit down if you want to relax or chat in-between sessions on the main dance floors. No one dresses up here, anyone wearing button ups, heels etc will feel like an outcast. Everyone is wearing T shirts, v necks, jeans, shorts, sneakers etc… come to dance and have a good time, no one here is trying to impress anyone and thats part of what makes this place cool. Getting into this club is also pretty easy and straight forward. I showed up here at about 1:45am to find a queue of about 40-50 people. It took about 8 minutes to get in as the only hold up was the time it took for the 40-50 people to get ID checked and pay cover. I don’t recall seeing a single person rejected either so this is a pretty safe bet.
Berghain (a very special club)
Berlin is also home to whats been often referred to as the best club in the world, “Berghain”. Here the party doesn’t even get started until about 5am and you’re night can last 24 hours. You’ll walk up to what could be a 30-90 minute line leading up to what looks like an old Jail or abandoned warehouse. When you get to the front of the line the bouncers will either tell you to enter or tell you you cannot enter today. It’s estimated about 50-75% of the people get denied and as absurd as waiting in this line to get denied sounds… it really is worth the wait. (keep in mind the line moves pretty fast since so many people are being denied) Bargain is one of the most unique experiences you’ll ever have and has quite the uplifting energy, madness and open mindedness inside….. in other words you’ll see some weird shit in there! Keep in mind on fridays only half the club is open and you will not get the full experience. Saturdays sometime around 7-8am is the best time to go when things are just getting heated up. (Friday nights are considered when all the tourists and noobs are out so they wait until they all go to sleep before they begin their party) Cover on Saturday night is 15€ and coat check is €1,5 and 50 cents every time you want to get something from your bag. A few tips to maximizing your chances of getting in:
- Don’t dress fancy or like your trying too hard to impress someone. Be stylish but subtle. People often recommend wearing black.
- Don’t be drunk or loud while waiting in the queue, be quiet and respectful
- Don’t show up in large groups, ideally 1-3 people is best. If you are more than 3 people then its best to be a mix of both guys and girls as large groups of guys only or girls only, give off a certain stereotype. They want to let people in that will be fun, have an awesome time, and give the place a good energy.
- Less than 5% of the guys who get in are wearing button ups. Nearly all women who get in are wearing shoes or sneakers and aren’t in a dress. Less than 5% of the people inside are wearing brightly colored shirts and almost none wearing logos. Most clothing worn inside had non traditional cuts and styles
- If you’re mindset is that you are there to be an observer, they will sense it, and you probably won’t get in. If you are there to participate and add to the amazing energy, then just be yourself. Stay cool, calm and relaxed when your time of judgement comes.
Going alone is not a problem as you’ll easily meet people inside, but going with at least one friend might help you keep going that extra hour before you get worn out from the madness that conceives inside.
Lastly, this place isn’t for the faint hearted its certainly very hardcore. If you are reading this and can’t figure out if this type of scene is for you, its probably not. If you are reading this and dying of curiosity then its probably for you.
Berlin is a great city to do your shopping in if you want to walk away with some unique styles and cuts that everyone else won’t have back home. If you prefer the big name corporate brands you’re used to seeing around the world you can always find those in Berlin as well. The different shopping areas can vary drastically so refer to some of the best shopping areas below to help figure out which area is for you.
Address: Tauentzienstraße 21-24
Hours: 10am – 8pm Mon-Sat and closed Sunday
Prices: High / Upscale
Shops: Saint Laurent, Bottega, Veneta, Moncier, Karstadt, Mango, besherks, desigual, zara, H&M, Nike, Chanel, Armani, Ferragamo, and MANY more
Long famous street with many upscale shops, cafes, and restaurants. Often referred to as “Berlin’s Oxford Street” but wider, sassier and more stylish. All the top designer brands are here but they do have a few middle ground more affordable shops as well. Many people who aren’t even planning on shopping find this street to be quite a pleasant walk to experience the city and stop for a mid-day bite or cup of coffee.
*Tip* Keep an eye out for a giant department store called KaDeWe. It’s a very unique 60,000 sq meter department store that you can spend hours in. They carry everything from cosmetics to clothing, music, and furniture. They also feature a sixth floor with delicacies from all over the world.
Address: 10178 Berlin
Hours: 12pm – 11:30pm every day.
Prices: Most middle ground average & some cheap
Shops: Scotch and Soda, Diesel, Energie, Pepe Jeans Paul Frank, Adidas, Mavi, Wesc, Strellson, Cos, Swatch, Fossil, Desigual, Hugo boss, and various small unique shops
If you’re looking for something where you can find small shops, cool unique items, an even a mini flea market then Hackescher Markt will suit you well. They also have many common brand name stores here but less of the high end one and more of the middle ground ones. It’s a mix of famous designer shops, younger Berlin Labels, and also some rare unusual clothing. They also have a lot of cute small cheap restaurants in this area as well.
In the outdoor market area here you’ll find fruits and vegetables for sale along with fresh juices, ethnic food stands, and a hot wine stand during the colder months. My personal experience of Hackescher Markt was that it’s an awesome place to wander around looking at random little shops while munching on some little food plates from the outdoor stands but if you are on a mission to do a lot of shopping its hit or miss. I say this because a lot of the stores are small special niche items where as some of the other shopping areas i mention are more well rounded shopping districts where you’ll be able to find every single thing you need. With that said atmosphere wise this area is still a winner! (Be sure to also walk along Oranienburger str. where you’ll find a lot of the bigger commercial stores)
Address: Grunerstraße 20
Hours: 10am – 9pm Mon-Sat and closed Sunday
Prices: Average to high
Shops: Mediamarkt, Zara, Esprit, H&M, Tommy Hillfiger, Edeka, Bijou Brigitte, Bench, Billabong, Quicksilver, Northface, Vero Moda, Mango, Levi, Bench. Full list of shops
180 stores in an indoor 56,000 sq meter area. Not as cool of an atmosphere compared to the other recommendations as its what you’d expect of a typical indoor shopping area. With that said if you are mainly just trying to efficiently get shopping done this place is good because its centrally located, good during cold weather, and easy to get everything you need.
Other Shopping Mentions:
Friedrichstrasse: High end. Near other tourist attractions.
Schlossstrasse: 30-45 min outside the city in calmer less touristy area
- Sim Cards cost approx €15-25 for 500mb- 1gb of data . Airtime and texting runs about an extra €10-15+ depending on the amount you need and what company you go with. Any unused data or airtime will expire monthly. Sims can be found at mobile phone stores, I-stores, and some grocery and electronic stores. Make sure you have an unlocked phone that accepts other carriers (most do now days including the last few versions of the iPhone) Also its best to ask the person helping you at the store to insert and test the sim card for you as occasionally they will need to trim the sim card or read some instructions that aren’t in english.
- To find a high quality healthy foods look for the words “BIO” which is the equivalent to “organic”. There is a high quality organic grocery chain called “Bio Company” that is fairly prevalent around town
- For a day off to relax check out the Vabali Spa open from 10am-midnight. €18.50 for 2 hours, €24.50 for 4 hours, or €31.00 for a day pass. They charge a small reasonable fee for robes, towels, and slippers (or you can bring your own). They also have a Gym, pool, over a dozen saunas, hot tubs and a very good restaurant. There is no clothing allowed in the pool and sauna areas which is pretty typical in most eastern european spas.