This guest post was written by Rachel Bale.
Formerly regarded as ‘poor but sexy’, today Berlin is now booming in more ways than one. It’s a creative hub, its nightlife is world-renowned and it’s a city heavy with history. All of these factors have contributed in making Berlin one of Europe’s most visited and talked about cities.
But in order to gain a true sense of Germany’s capital, which, sadly not too many tourists get, it's best to put away your guidebook and see the city through a local’s eyes. After living in Berlin for almost three years, here are my picks of the best of Berlin.
Located in the quiet backstreets of grungy Neukölln, tiny Roamers is a real little neighbourhood treasure. With only room for about twenty people, the vibe is cosy and relaxed and the food and coffee are on point. Be sure to arrive before 10 am on weekends as this place fills up fast.
Location: Pannierstraße 64, 12043, Neukölln
Bonanza Coffee Roasters
You’ll find the best coffee in town at Bonanza Coffee Roasters in leafy Prenzlauer Berg. This was the birthplace of the third wave coffee movement here in Berlin so it's little wonder they have the strongest coffee game going around.
Location: Oderberger Straße 35, 10435, Prenzlauer Berg
Located in central Mitte, Kaschk is a friendly and relaxed place that serves both excellent coffee and great craft beers – perfect for any time of day!
Location: Linienstraße 40, 10178, Mitte
A Berlin favourite that is always packed, Shiso Burger serves some of the most delicious burgers in town… with an Asian fusion twist. Served in bamboo steamers, these burgers are light and fresh. Order a side of edamame beans and sweet potato fries for a yummy combination.
Location: Auguststraße 29, 10119, Mitte
For the best chicken in the city, head to Henne, a Berlin institution that remains just as it was in 1907. You won’t find much else on the menu except the famous Jungmasthähnchen (young, milk broiled chicken) and a couple of sides. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to eat anything else. Be sure to book ahead.
Location: Leuschnerdamm 25, 10999, Kreuzberg
Relaxing at one of Berlin’s many Biergartens is a favourite weekend activity among locals and expats, particularly on a warm, sunny day. Visit Berlin’s oldest at Prater Biergarten, sample the local brew and stay for a traditional German meal in the restaurant afterwards.
Location: Kastanienallee 7-9, 10435, Prenzlauer Berg
Berliners have a thing with flea markets (Flohmarkt in German) and they can be found in every neighbourhood on Sundays. With a culture that is all about recycling and repurposing goods, it’s no wonder that many Berliners love to find hidden treasures here! Uncover some gems yourself at local markets such as the one at Arkonaplatz or head to the city’s most iconic (albeit pricey) market at Mauerpark.
For a truly local experience, a visit to a local market is essential. One of my favourites is Markthalle IV on a Saturday morning. Here, you’ll find organic fruit and vegetables as well as a cluster of tiny eateries serving up a delicious range of food, from arepas to eggs benedict.
Location: Eisenbahnstraße 42-43, 10997, Kreuzberg
Berlin is said to be Turkey’s second capital home as it is home to the biggest population of Turkish migrants anywhere in the world. There’s no place to get a better feel for the ethnic influence than at the Maybachufer Turkish market in Kreuzberg. Every Tuesday and Friday, vendors set up their stalls selling fresh produce along with textiles and fabric. Trust me, you won’t feel like you’re in Western Europe!
Location: Maybachufer, 10967, Kreuzberg
Berlin’s turbulent history means that there are scores of abandoned sites dotted all over the city. Exploring them is a fun activity for Berliners and expats. Lots of information about the different sites can be found on the website, Abandoned Berlin. An easy one to explore that is close to the city centre is the abandoned railroad yard at Pankow’s Güterbahnhof.
Hire a bike
Berlin is a big city but is very bike friendly. Do as the locals do and get around by bike. They’re cheap to hire (around 10 Euros per day) and you’ll be able to get a much better feel for your surrounds on two wheels.
Sip a drink at a canal-side bar
Most tourists aren’t aware that Berlin has five times as many bridges as Venice − around 2,100. The German capital is criss-crossed by six rivers and another six canals and has over 180km of navigable waterways. On sunny days and warm nights, locals love relaxing by the canals, either at one of the many canal-side bars or just simply sipping on a beer from a nearby Späti and watching the sun go down.
Berlin is a vibrant capital that offers so much more than the standard tourist attractions most people tick off on their visit. Experiencing the city like a local allows you to glimpse the soul of the city instead.
Showaround: Thank you, Rachel, for being our first guest blogger!