Germany’s vibrant capital city was my home for six months this year. A city with its finger on every pulse, Berlin hovers on the cutting edge of contemporary culture – the art, music, theatre and food scenes are spectacular. Whilst in winter Berlin is home to candle-lit bars and Christmas markets, in summer the city comes to life with open-air festivals and crowds of people sipping beer and enjoying the sunshine.
Every Berlin bar, restaurant and space has a distinctive mood and concept. In this city of many facets, a reflection of its fragmented past, each area has its own identity and its own quirky social hubs.
So you’ve been to the tourist attractions – you’ve visited the East Side Gallery and Checkpoint Charlie and scrutinised the head of Nefertiti and are now ready to experience the locals’ Berlin!
Here are some of my favourite places…
Geist Im Glas (Saturdays & Sundays Until 3pm)
Geist im Glas is an intimate cocktail bar by night, but at weekends becomes the best brunch place around. Go for their legendary ‘sweet and salty’, combining pancakes with dolce de leche, maple bacon and eggs for a truly decadent breakfast.
Restaurant Bastard (Brunch Until 4.30pm)
Recently renovated with the support of devoted customers, Bastard is now back and as great as ever. Try the eggs with goat’s cheese and honey and hot chocolate with a splash of rum.
Urban, eye-catching décor and a menu including pizza and antipasti, this was a great discovery on my first night in Berlin. In the summer Sage also has a beach, which hosts vibrant open-air music festivals.
Find authentic wood-fired pizzas in this fine Kreuzberg institution. With a cosy interior and a choice of numerous fresh toppings, this is the ultimate Berlin pizza joint.
Solar Rooftop Bar And Lounge
In search of a view? This stylish rooftop restaurant serves mouth-watering dishes. Sip a cocktail in the bar before or after dinner, overlooking Berlin’s stunning night skyline.
An Austrian dinner in the depths of Kreuzberg with Wiener schnitzel, apple strudel and even an almdudler or two (a blissful Austrian herbal lemonade). You could be dining in the Alps.
Nathanja Und Heinrich
Think wine bottles and dripping wax, this dimly lit bar in Neukölln is a romantic den for drinking and candle-lit conversation.
Hidden away in Kottbusser Tor, this smoky bar has hanging swings for seats. Let your mind drift as you enjoy a beer and play board games late into the night.
Vines, branches and leaves hang from the ceiling in this low-lit Neukölln haunt and transport you to the depths of a jungle making this a watering hole not to be missed.
Sick of techno? Head to Soda club for a night of timeless salsa and bachata. Begin the evening with a master class before spinning the night away under the neon lights.
Bethanien Freiluftkino (Open-Air Cinema)
A Berlin summer-must. Curl up under the stars on a deck chair with a blanket and a drink to watch a cultural classic in the warm evening air.
Distrikt Coffee (Brunch Until 4pm)
Distrikt Coffee serves delicious breakfasts including toasted brioche, smoked mackerel, sourdough with avocado and a wide selection of pastries and cakes (the brownies are exceptional!)
Chen Che Teehaus, Mitte
Chen Che is an oasis of tranquility in Mitte. Its elegant Asian-style architecture and delicious Vietnamese cuisine will leave you feeling invigorated and content.
This quick lunch spot is a go-to destination in Alexanderplatz. Pay a euro per spring roll and choose from delicious Vietnamese dishes at very low prices.
In a stunning old building in Prenzlauer Berg, begin your special evening at Clärchens with an authentic German dinner followed by ballroom dancing in the charming hall.
Mein Haus Am See
With its hipster décor and raked seating at the back, Mein Haus Am See is an atmospheric hot spot for drinking into the early hours.
Zum Starken August
This extravagant bar is sure to provide a sparkling night of cabaret, drag and burlesque to take you back to 1920s Berlin. Check what’s on.
Home to the annual Berlinale film festival, the Babylon Mitte cinema was built in 1929. Watching cultural masterpieces, contemporary documentaries or international films here will leave you nostalgic but fulfilled.
Make your way to Monster Kabinett for a weird and wonderful experience. Part art gallery, part haunted house, this is the underground home of robotic ‘monsters’, which come alive as you meet them.
The ultimate flea market every Sunday. Wander through stalls of unusual antiques, hand-made jewellery and trinkets and sift through vintage clothes that you would only find in Berlin.
An eccentric converted brothel with furniture stuck to the ceiling like an upside down apartment. This bar heaves with idiosyncrasies for an evening you won’t forget.
Set off for this enchanting Alice-in-Wonderland bar, concealed behind a nondescript door. Here butterflies fly out of the storybook menu and cocktails are served from a ‘Louboutin’ Cinderella glass slipper.
Urban Spree is a contemporary art space in a post-industrial compound that puts on exhibitions, festivals and events dedicated to urban culture. Its beer garden is also a popular hangout in summer.
Humana – Frankfurter Tor
A five-storey vintage store with the most outrageous bargains and all in aid of charity – once inside Humana you won’t want to leave.
It’s a warm day and you’re in the mood to chill – go east to Yaam, a Caribbean themed beach club, complete with reggae, street art and hammocks, right in the urban jungle, overlooking the river.
As the city gets hotter, strip down and bask in the sun by the pool at Haubentaucher. Situated between old industrial plants, the chic poolside bar and music create a buzzing Mediterranean vibe for Berliners and tourists alike.
All image credits: Lara Marks
First published on Travelista Club, 2nd September 2018