Berlin

Germany: Top Things To Do In Berlin

We spent a week staying in the heart of 'trendy' Kreuzberg with a great Airbnb host, luckily arriving at start of a much needed sunny spell. Berlin has so much to offer we couldn't possibly list all the many things to do,  especially as the capitals nightlife rarely sleeps.  Here are a few of our favourite things; some that we stumbled onto, others came as recommendations and some pure classic touristic activities that must be witnessed. Introducing, our Berlin top picks....

 

Spend A Sunny Sunday In Mauerpark

This really does have to be top of our list of fun things to do in Berlin.  Every Sunday people of all ages and cultures come together to celebrate the joys of Summer with an eclectic afternoon of live music, market stalls, dancing, drinking and relaxation on the grassy mounds.  The festival-like atmosphere is incredibly fun, there is so much energy, creativity and freedom from the crowd that you just can't help leaving feeling inspired.  People come here to chill with friends and to hang out with strangers in a carefree and open Berlin kind-of-way.  Expect to see people jamming to the beat of a drum, others dancing however feels good.  We were lucky enough to see an amazing Latin funk band all the way from Chile perform on our visit to Mauerpark.  One of the highlights though has to be Bearpit Karaoke, which consists of a hilarious Irish guy orchastrating an afternoon of karaoke of anyone willing to sing to a very large cheering crowd.  It really is entertainment at its best, you get to see such a diverse mix of people performing their favour songs, and the crowd go really wild! Mauerpark is free to enter every Sunday, either bring drinks with you or pay an extra Euro and get a cold one there.

Bearpit karaoke in the Mauerpark 

Bearpit karaoke in the Mauerpark 

 

Soak Up Kreuzberg

Kreuzberg has exploded over the last few years and now nearly every space is a bar, restaurant or corner shop selling food and booze.  The cafe culture is huge, and there really are hundreds of people lining the streets with a tinny in hand chatting to friends and enjoying the moment.  The atmosphere is free and easy, super fun but relaxed.  No one is rushing here, clubs open all night and some all weekend so people are chilling on the streets till late and then head out even later. Görlitzer park is a great place to hang out on a sunny evening or weekend, and on Tuesday nights the locals come together to make music and jam in the park.  Pick up a delicious donner kebab for 3 euro or a famous Berlin currywurst, you really can't get more taste for your buck.  Burgermeister constantly has a queue of about 20 people snaking down the street, or if you are more into Mexican, Indian, Italian, vegan or ramen then it's all there for you too. Wondering around Kreuzberg at night is like feeling the energy of the earth.  Nothing else matters except that you are there and you are with like-minded people.

The infamous donner kebab at a bargain 3 euros!

The infamous donner kebab at a bargain 3 euros!

 

Admire The Murals At East Side gallery

There are many places to see the Berlin Wall across the city, but the East Side Gallery is a must-go for all travellers.  A long section of wall has become an outdoor canvas and mural for artists new and old. The gallery has two functions these days; one as showpiece for graffiti, an art form that can be found across the capital.  The second, a reminder of Berlin's divisive history. Much famed is the piece 'Fraternal Kiss' between two politicians from the 70s, this kiss actually happened, around much fanfare. Situated near Oberbaumbrücke station is the Wall Museum that does a fantastic job of taking the viewer through the journey of the lives either side of the wall. All the way through to the triumphant dismantling of wall, with a whole room devoted to Pink Floyd's landmark gig 1990, an absolute must see! 

 
Murals on the East Side Gallery

Murals on the East Side Gallery

 

 

Party Like A Berliner

You can't visit Berlin without hearing talk of it's infamous party scene. Standard clubbing this is not. Think of it more as experiential process! The mystery surrounding Berlin clubs has gathered over many years where promoter, bouncers and psychologists (apparently) curate the evening dependant on music, vibe and crowd. Clubbers shouldn't feel disheartened if they don't get in. It's normally that some has decided your look, vibe, whatever doesn't fit the night. That said not all clubs attest to these strict principles. We had a tip off from a local that Kater Blau is great spot for a good night and the staff are not allergic to foreigners. Set up by the folks who ran the legendary Bar 25, Kater Blau looks to continue the vibe on a bigger scale by creating a playground for grown ups, fun woody outdoor hangouts in the layout of a ship, foil curtains, coloured lighting, lots of pockets to hang out and chat, dark and light techno, balconies, club all night long till the next day, and unlike other cities, the bouncers just leave you be to chat and make new friends in an open and inclusive haven.

Nightlife in Kreuzberg

Nightlife in Kreuzberg

 

Watch The Sunset at Templehof

The story behind Templehof park starts in an interesting way, if you don't already know the history. Once a commercial airport in its beginnings, later a airforce base in the war, then an airport to the stars, later becoming a US airbase; finally being given back to the people in 2008 to become one of the largest green spaces in the capital. I mean its huge, its an airport right! Given its size there's an array of activities to do around the park; one could rent bikes and cycle, others were blading, few were even windsurfing or those less adventurous just fly a kite. There are two large BBQ areas where Berliners convene in great numbers to drink and dine. One of the most original aspects of this park is the social projects that run through it. Every decision on upgrades or new areas of the park are decided on by the people. One of the most recent additions is the beautiful growing area that is open for visitors to wonder through, sit, read, and admire the foliage. Surrounded of course by fruit, vegetables, wild flowers and bee friendly flora that sit into Heath Robinson style grow boxes, platforms and seating.

Beautiful sunset at Templehof

Beautiful sunset at Templehof

 

Feel The Divide At Treptower Park

Treptower park is where East meets West; a huge park that can be walked through for hours.  Before entering the greener parts you must witness the huge soviet memorial.  The structure really stands out from more conventional western public art.  Upon entry you are met by two huge arching stone gates, very minimal, very dramatic, very soviet!  This park is the largest landmark left by the soviet empire in Berlin leaving the viewer with powerful communist visuals to contemplate. If that was not memorable enough, you can keep walking down the river to find a disused fairground. As legend has it the fairground was built by local man, a local drug dealer, who used his profits to build this fairground for the local children. When he was jailed the fairground went into disrepair, the remnants can be view through a fence, very mysterious! if you do need somewhere to take the kinder there some fun wooden play areas littered in the forest.

The Treptower Memorial

The Treptower Memorial

 

Re-live History at Checkpoint Charlie

It's impossible to visit Berlin and not see the influence of the wall. The divide that split the capital, and to some extent the country, is one of the most important historical events to shape Europe and the world. There is only one place to learn about all the details of the wall and that is to visit Checkpoint Charlie, USA's and USSR's infamous border crossing point. A place that symbolised many of the cold war divides. Visitors can discover stories of escape plans, some that succeeded some that didn't, potential war starting events of the 60s, and the design and engineering that USSR put into the wall development, all totally fascinating. We learnt so much, for example, who new Berlin was actually split into 4 quarters with France and Britain also administrating parts of the capital! And that it was Russias GDP that eventually brought the collapse of the soviet empire. There is so much information to take in you may wish to split your visits across a couple of days. From the checkpoint one can read the timeline of events for free on the large boards running up to the checkpoint. Then a more detailed exhibition can be found inside the boarded area for €4, finally a visit the to the checkpoint Charlie museum. Not forgetting the East Side Gallery for the best graffiti and detailed accounts of life either side of the wall.

 
Remains of the wall at Checkpoint Charlie

Remains of the wall at Checkpoint Charlie

 

 

Promote Plant Power

If you're one of those people who enjoy their time in nature, Berlin has many outdoor spaces, one in particular is the Prinzess Innen Garten (eco garden) found in Kreuzberg. An impressive wooden structure that caught our eye, inside we discovered a huge tree house made from recycled woods with seats aplenty, the perfect spot to enjoy a couple of drinks. As you wonder through the rest of the garden it's clear this plays a big social role for the area as they include many ideas that bring people together including a 'free box' where clothes can be swapped, cooking and gardening workshops that were happening, a bar and food stalls. All these parts came together to form a great atmosphere. Lest we forget, many beautiful growing spaces of organic fruit and veg which visitors can purchase and an impressive recycling area. People can bring unwanted metals and woods to the garden safe in the knowledge they will be used for grow boxes on site.

The Prinzess Innen Garten

The Prinzess Innen Garten

 

Chill Like a Local on the Canal

Berliners make fantastic use of their open spaces, these places are shared and navigated with a sense of openness. As long as there is mutual respect people can live however they like. As a result spaces like canals, parks and streets become melting pots for social get-to-togethers. Especially the canal which offers many spots to eat, drink and be merry. We would recommend wondering the Landwehr Canal in Kreuzberg on sunny evenings and you are likely to hear live music, or you could grab a takeaway and devour it on the bank of the canal. Or purely walk the paths soaking up the lovely multicultural-ness of the area. If your visit falls on a weekend be sure to attend the locals market around Hobrechtbruche on a Sunday, where second hand wares are all the rage, vegan food is rife and coffee is freshly ground.

Chilling with locals on the Landwehr canal

Chilling with locals on the Landwehr canal

 

Warehouse Haven

Mark first visited the RAW bar area, unknowingly, i 2008 when it was just a few connected warehouses crumbling and derelict with industrial charm. Any soul was free to roam this playground of old buildings. Fast forward 9 years and this space has been transformed into a vast district of bars, cinemas, gig venues, restaurants, climbing wall and art spaces while maintaining the industrial aesthetic that made it so special in the first place. You can wonder the RAW bar area on any day or night of week and find something to do, or just sit back and chill in one of the many bars it is so well known for. You can get to the area from nearest tube stop Warschauer Straße. Just go explore it and have some fun.

 
Raw Bar Area

Raw Bar Area

 

We hope you like our top things to do in Berlin, if there is anything we can help you with then let us know in the comments box below.

 

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Berlin & London; A Compare and Contrast

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During our time in Berlin we spotted similarities and some distinct differences with our hometown of London. Their connections are clear; both places like to have a good time. They share weather, language, cultures and in different ways look like progressive capitals. Both are steeped in a rich history; fables that have both connected and displaced, twins built again from rubble towards progress.

The counter culture is deeply engrained in Berlin

The counter culture is deeply engrained in Berlin

As much as Berliners love a sausage and curry sauce, we loved Berliners! The people make this city; they are passionate, loving and very friendly, not to say that Londoners aren't but bars, parks and most open spaces aren't treated the same way. Berliners go out expecting to meet new people. Clubs are melting pots for new friendships, an old crate becomes a plinth for debate, even an off license is a meeting place with benches and seating out front. The Berliners use their capital as their playground; bypassing fences and rules for a view, a chat or quite often a drink.

Berliners' using every inch of the canal

Berliners' using every inch of the canal

The space given to Berliners is what allows the egalitarian society to flourish. Every space is democratic. Take the Templehof park, previously a military airport, now a more social port, where the public decide its future. Space is provided for growing, for sport, for play, bbqs and the park welcomes proposals for new ideas. It's huge, it was an airport, who knows what it could become. This amount of space would undoubtedly be monetised in London where just a sliver of space, or building budget, would be given to a social project. 

Sunset in Templehof

Sunset in Templehof

London and Berlin share a love for the outside. When the sun burns bright citizens of both cities can be found outside, but we feel that Berliners make better use of their outdoor environments. Given that Berlin is a newer city town planners have allowed much more space for pedestrians and cyclists leaving more outdoor places to enjoy. Whereas Londoners seem restricted to parks and pubs Berliners are free to roam where ever and this creates a buzz over larger parts of the city because everyone is free to grab a drink, soft or otherwise, and enjoy it with friends and family. A great example of this the Maurpark gatherings on Sundays; a hotbed of performances from professional bands through to X factor wannabes. We were blown away with the atmosphere, it truly felt like a festival but it was free and happens every week. We, and a 1000 others, watched on at the Bearpit Karoke where any soul could jump on the mike and belt out their favourite song, often joined by back up dancers from the crowd. We also stumbled onto a Chilean 8 piece band rocking away or just random people improvising together as witnessed from the drummers and a clarinet player jamming to the sunset. It was beautiful experience and made us truly jealous of these Berliners. Of course London has music, the best in the world, but never does it happen in such a unplanned way. Planning ahead is huge part of living in London.

Could you enter the Bearpit?

Could you enter the Bearpit?

This is idea of freedom can be extended to nightlife too. London has some of the strictest night time laws in the world, 400 clubs shut last year and every venue has to abide to strict volume levels, even when councils have given consent to build flats next to clubs and bars. This aspect of London is being cruely picked apart, replaced by dull culture-less spaces that create no stories and expand no horizons. In contrast, Berlin praises its nightlife and sees it as a high art like opera, dance or theatre. This is evident in the relaxed way locals attend events. Art spaces are widespread and progressive, clubs are filled with attendees of all ages and only start to get going around 4am, when London clubs normally shut! There is almost no difference between night and day time in Berlin and never did we see a local who was noticeably drunk.

 

Berliners partying on a Tuesday

Berliners partying on a Tuesday

Every person we met in Berlin had a side project that they came to Berlin to continue. We stayed with a musician who explored the music of his native country Georgia through electronica. His friends were DJs or musicians too. When they met up they would create fun activities like making a sculptures about how they felt, a simple creative task that allowed them all to express themselves to each other. This culture of creativity has led to a populace of individuals that are expressive and open, an attitude encouraged by the environment in which they live.

 
Our Berlin housemate Lasha

Our Berlin housemate Lasha

 

Berlin, now, felt like London 10 years ago, parts were a bit crap, not everything was so polished but an undercurrent of creativity could be felt on the streets. But sadly as the money came in the people that created that environment were pushed out. Will the same happen to Berlin? Perhaps it will over time but then again the creative people will always need somewhere to go and if you look at the history of the city it feels like the counter culture is engrained in society. Any place that has been divided like Berlin can only react in one way; a togetherness that was a product of its old divisions. Berlin is an environment for the people. London, we feel, is an environment ruled for the city.

 

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Berlin & London - A Compare And Contrast, by Studio Mali
 

 

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