{travelogue} Something for Everyone in Berlin

Berlin is one of those cities that has something for everyone—it can be equally exhilarating whether you’re a sophisticated museum-goer, history buff, laid-back yuppie, family unit, or young partier.

I would have loved Berlin in my younger days, but the older, wiser me is happy that I got to experience and enjoy it without a single hangover. (Full disclosure: since I was 6 months pregnant during my visit, a hangover was not in the cards anyway. But I like to think that regardless, I would have behaved with more moderation than some of the 20-somethings I saw on the U-Bahn still drinking at 8 AM from the previous night.)

If you want to know what the best clubs are or where to go until 4 AM, I am definitely not the best source of information, but I am happy to share some of my favorite places to eat, drink, and see in Berlin! I’ve included street addresses and U-Bahn/S-Bahn stops.

Dinner & Drinks

Berlin is a great city for eating—whether you’re in the mood for traditional German food or more eclectic modern takes on the menu. Of course, since you’re making the effort to go out for dinner, why not stop for a drink nearby to round out the evening?

My top choices for the Kreuzberg area are not in the teeming, tipsy center of it all, but a little bit off the beaten path. For a seasonally changing menu of updated German fare, don’t miss dinner at Nansen, at the corner of Nansenstrasse and Maybachufer. Afterwards, cross the Spree to have a beer by candlelight with the locals at the out-of-the-way Celo Privat Bar at 19a Glogauerstrasse. U: Gorlitzer Bahnhof.

Your Schönberg evening should start at the Green Door, a sweet and friendly little cocktail bar with an extensive drink list. You have to ring the doorbell to get in. The drinks are very good, but not cheap. For dinner, stroll 5 blocks or so to the neighborhoody Renger-Patzsch for your choice of seasonal or traditional Flammekuche (Alsatian thin-crust pizza) or one of the expertly prepared meat specials. Green Door- U: Nollendorfplatze. Renger Patzsch- U: Eisenacherstrasse.

In Charlottenburg/Ku Damm, don’t miss Dicke Wirten (“the fat waitress”) by Savignyplatz for rib-sticking traditional German food. In the wintertime you can get Christmas specials like roasted goose. The portions are large and excellently prepared, the clientele is mostly regulars and locals, and the dining room is plastered floor to ceiling with kitschy Teutonic décor and doilies. After dinner, walk off some of that spaetzle and go to the speakeasy-esque Galerie Bremer on Fasenstrasse, about 4 blocks away, for a digestif. Dicke Wirten- S: Savignyplatz. Galerie Bremer- U: Spichenstrasse.

A warning: lots of bars in Berlin are really smoky, so be prepared for that.


A Berlin street food staple is the Doner kebab, which is a Turkish-German hybrid dish said to be invented in Berlin in the 1970s, and is sort of like a shawerma. Thin slices of cinnamon-scented lamb, shaved from a spit, are wrapped in bread or Turkish flatbread with yogurt sauce, lettuce, and tomatoes. One of the freshest and best examples is the durum doner at Imren, on Boppstrasse in Kreuzberg. The flatbread is made to order, and arrives warm and stuffed with meat. U: Schonlein Tor.

Post-doner, if it’s a Tuesday or a Friday, you can continue your Turkish adventure at the Turkenmarket along Maybachufer, about 3 or 4 blocks from Imren. You can browse fabric, spices, olives, cheese, and much more. Find a stall with fresh Turkish delight for a perfect dessert. U: Schonlein Tor or Kotbusser Tor. 

Another Berlin-born street food is currywurst, which consists of slices of sausage doused in curried ketchup. I will admit that this is not my favorite dish, but aficionados (and the line outside) will tell you that Konnopke’s Imbiss just below the U-Bahn station in Prenzlauer Berg is the best. If you are not keen on currywurst, you may want to have a relaxing lunch at Fellas nearby. The high-ceilinged dining room is open and convivial, and the food is solid. The salads are especially good. The service is friendly, if a little haphazard. U: Schonhauser Allee. 

Probably the best lunch option overall, costing barely more than a stand-up street meal, is the set menu lunch at Nord-Sud near Hackescher Hofe. The food is outstanding, and incredibly, will set you back a mere €7.50 for 3 courses. The charming French owner will explain the daily menus for you to choose from. Prepare to be impressed—and stuffed. Nord-Sud serves dinner as well. U or S: Hackescher Markt.


In a pinch, you’ll always be close to an Einstein Kaffe—Berlin’s local answer to the encroaching Starbucks empire. The coffee is good and the cakes are in a wholly different league than the usual chain sweets. But there are two Berlin cafes that really stole my heart.

EspressoBar in the Charlottenberg/Ku Damm area, tucked away on Mommsenstrasse between Bleibtreustrasse and Knesebeckstrasse, is exactly the kind of café at which I would want to be a regular. (I’d go so far as to say that if I moved to Berlin I would have to live nearby so I could make that a reality.) The place is pretty quiet, but you might hear the sounds of eggs cracking or the mixer going, as the owner bakes fresh cakes and other treats in the impossibly small kitchen. Excellent espresso, a selection of Kusmi teas, and warm flaky croissants—yeah, I could get used to that. U: Uhlandstrasse or S: Savignyplatz.

If you’re a loyalist of Stumptown, Blue Bottle, or the like, then I would have a completely different recommendation: Bonanza in Prenzlauer Berg, on Oderbergerstrasse. This is not a grab-and-go: for reasons unknown, a cup of coffee or a latte will take these mustachioed hipsters literally 10 or 15 minutes to prepare for you. Not only is the coffee worth the wait, you can easily lose track of time as you watch tripping over bags and buckets in this tiny shop as they freshly roast the next batch of beans right in front of you. U: Eberswalderstrasse.

I would be remiss not to mention the café in the MyParis gallery, at 67 Augustenstrasse near Hackescher Hofe. The gallery entry is 6 euros, but you can get a coffee and a snack in the gorgeous, soaring space without ponying up for the show. They have a small but cute and artsy gift shop, as well. U or S: Hackescher Markt.

Next door in the KW Gallery courtyard, at 69 Augustenstrasse, there is yet another arty café with an interesting design, Café Bravo, which seems a little more kid-friendly than MyParis.  U or S: Hackescher Markt.

East & West

I am really fascinated by the history of the Berlin Wall and the divide between East and West Germany, and Berlin is obviously the best place to learn and experience more about it. Aside from the tackified tourist trap of Checkpoint Charlie, there are a couple of other places you can see standing sections of the Berlin Wall. The best-known is the East Side Gallery, in Friedrichshain, which has a section of the wall that was decorated by artists from around the world in 1999 and revamped in 2009. U: Ostbanhof or Warschauerstrasse.

From the East Side Gallery, a short hop on the train will take you to the Stasi Museum, which opened in the previous Stasi headquarters less than a year after the Wall fell. You can see some of the hilariously low-tech surveillance devices, hidden in tree stumps, neckties, and so forth. The film shown at the museum (with English subtitles) gives a great overview of the Stasi and historians share many interesting anecdotes about the Stasi’s history and activities. U: Magdalennenstrasse.

You can find another standing section of the Berlin Wall at Mauerpark, in Prenzlauer Berg. It’s not the prettiest park, but this part of the Wall is the official practicing ground for casual graffiti artists, and is inches thick with spray paint. While I enjoyed the East Side Gallery, somehow the Mauerpark section hit home with me more, perhaps because it was easier to get a sense of the ways in which the Berlin Wall divided neighborhoods so jarringly. U: Eberswalderstrasse.

If you visit Mauerpark, you can pop into VEP Orange, on Oderbergerstrasse, to browse kitschy GDR retro housewares and fixtures. I scored an awesome orange ceramic 1970s lamp for 20 euros. Across the street from VEP Orange you’ll find Bonanza Coffee (exalted in the “Cafes” section above.)

To prepare yourself for all of this Berlin Wall action, I recommend the book Stasiland by Anna Funder, which weaves together stories from both former Stasi officers and from people whose lives were strongly impacted by the Berlin Wall and the Stasi.

Ancient History

Say what you will about Germans, but man, they really knew how to plunder. The result is the excellent Pergamon Museum, which includes a full Babylonian gate, plus some rather astounding displays of Assyrian, Egyptian, Uruk, Persian, Ottoman, Greek, and Turkish treasures. With all this great stuff, the museum gets very crowded, so I would recommend booking a ticket online in advance so you can skip the line (they can scan the bar code or QR code on your mobile phone so you don’t even need to print a ticket out.)

If you want to see the famed bust of Nefertiti (which the Egyptians are still trying to get back) you’ll have to go next door to the Neues Museum. Pergamon and Neues Museum- U or S: Hackescher Markt.

Don’t miss the walk back to Unter der Linden, so you can catch the bizarre juxtaposition of the ostentatious Berliner Dom and the space-agey Alexanderplatz TV Tower.

Need a pick-me-up after all that museuming? Pop into the louche Hotel de Rome for a well-crafted (expensive) cocktail at the bar.

Winter Wonderlands

I imagine Berlin in the spring and summer is just wonderful, with people spilling out of sidewalk cafes, lounging by the banks of the Spree, and sipping frosty beers to cool down. Of course since I was there in late December I wouldn’t know anything about that. The saving grace of the wintertime visit is that Germans are dead serious about Christmas decorations, so the city is absolutely ablaze with lights, and the fabulous Christmas Markets are in full swing. There are over 50 Christmas markets in Berlin alone, where you can drink gluhwein (hot mulled wine), eat sausages and shop for ornaments. If you’re a connoisseur of gaudy holiday ornamentation like I am, you should probably put a Christmastime visit to Germany on your bucket list—the level of glitz and glitter was just outstanding.

No matter what the season or the occasion – don’t miss a trip to Berlin, one of the most affordable, quirky, friendly, historical, art-centric, and culinarily sophisticated cities in the world.

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