Berlin

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Berlin

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Berlin

Quick facts

Berlin-Schönefeld Airport

Small airport for budget airlines
Noteworthy for: It's hot, crowded and badly organised, but thankfully will be replaced by the larger, new and shiny Berlin-Brandenburg Airport in 2014.

The smaller of Berlin's two commercial airports, Schönefeld is 18km southeast of Berlin. The easiest, most cost-effective way of getting into the city is to take the AirportExpress train RB7 or RB14, which stops at Alexanderplatz, Friedrichstrasse and Zoologischer Garten. Running every 30 minutes (4.30am – 11pm), the Berlin Schönefeld Flughafen station is a short walk from the terminal building.

At the information centre in the arrivals hall purchase either single tickets or, for better value, a Welcome Card, which can be used on all trains, trams and buses, as well as giving discounted entry to many of Berlin's attractions.

The S45 and S9 S-Bahn trains also stop at Schönefeld, but with more stops, takes much longer to reach the city. By bus, Express Bus SXF1 connects Terminal A with the mainline train station of Sudkreuz, from where it's a short ride to the S-Bahn and city centre network. Taxis are also available from outside the terminal building at the designated rank.
Address: Flughafen Schönefeld
Phone: +49 180 5000 186

Berlin-Tegel Airport

The city's largest transport hub
Noteworthy for: The efficient layout - it's a surprisingly small airport for a capital city - makes the walking distance between airplane and exit mercifully short.

Word to the wise: The opening of brand new Berlin-Brandenburg Airport has been delayed until 2014, but it will replace both Tegel and Schönefeld.

Berlin-Tegel lies only 8km northwest of the city centre and is where most of the larger airlines and long-haul flights will arrive. Unusually, there is no train service operating out of Tegel, so visitors will either hop on one of the many buses or jump in a cab, available from a rank outside the terminal building.

BVG (Berlin state transport) operates the JetExpressBus TXL between the terminal building and Alexanderplatz in central Berlin every 10-20 minutes, taking around 30-minutes. Standard bus routes 128 (U-Bahn Osloer Strasse), 109 & X9 (both S & U Bahn Zoologischer Garten) also run to Tegel Airport day and night but take much longer.

Welcome Cards are also available from the airport information desk and can be used on all buses, trams and trains within Berlin, as well as offering discounts to some of the city's attractions.
Address: Flughafen Tegel
Phone: +49 180 5000 186

Bus

For those staying or visiting a little outside the city
Noteworthy for: The bus network provides a steady back-up to the rapid transit system, especially through the night.

There are four different types of bus service in Berlin, and all can be used by purchasing a standard BVG (Berlin state transport) ticket, also usable on the S-Bahn, U-Bahn and trams.

Metrobuses are denoted by the letter 'M' and then a two digit number, covering most of Berlin and usually operating between two designated rail stations or main streets. Express buses begin with an 'X' and run between major centers, including both Tegel and Schoenefeld Airports, and have fewer stops along the route.

Night buses are plentiful and often used on the rare occasions when you might find yourself waiting for a train. Standard, scheduled route buses are used mainly by commuters outside the city to get into the centre of Berlin but, for visitors, are a poor comparison to the efficiencies of the S-Bahn and U-Bahn.

See the section on the 'U-Bahn & S-Bahn' for ticketing details.
Phone: +49 30 19 449

Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf

The regal retail nucleus of the West
Noteworthy for: After the Berlin Wall went up, former consumer centre Mitte was subsumed into the East, making this area – called City West – the heart of West Berlin.

Talk of the town: The large Russian contingent here has earned the area the nickname 'Charlottograd'.

Home to grand tree-lined boulevards, lofty white mansions and the largest royal residence in the city, Charlottenburg has often been compared to Paris' Champs Elysees. But just like the decadent French district, the elegance has been somewhat muted by the demands of capitalism, and chain stores dominate the vast shopping street of Kurfurstendamm (Ku'damm). However, escape the crowds onto the interesting cobbled side streets – especially around Ludwigkirchplatz and Savignyplatz – with their many boutiques and bistros.

Once the literary and creative heart of West Berlin, after the Wall came down the bohemians moved east, and Charlottenburg somewhat lost its edge. However, with many affluent families and couples living in the stunning apartment buildings, there are still some of the finest restaurants and bars to be found here. This is also one of Berlin's greenest districts with the serene Tiergarten and grand Grunewald Forest here, and culture abounds with museums like the Käthe Kollwitz centre and sights such as the beautiful Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
Address: U-Bahn: Wittenbergplatz, Kurfürstendamm, Adenauerplatz, Sophie-Charlotte Platz
S-Bahn: Savignyplatz

Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

From alternative to gentrified in one district
Noteworthy for: The one common denominator of former East Friedrichshain and West Kreuzberg is the allure to students and youth, with the average age just 29.

Talk of the town: The remaining part of the wall between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg is the longest still existing, home to the iconic East Side Gallery.

On the ground, Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain doesn't feel like one district. Unified in 2001, it's three main areas are vastly different in character, and nowhere else are the changes happening in the city right now so evident.

Referred to by many as Berlin's bohemia, Friedrichshain manages to connect with its East German past, while harbouring the most forward-thinking, alternative youth scene, thanks to low rents. Come for the best bars, clubs and the arty squats Berlin is famous for. Though Simon-Dach Strasse has already started to be favoured by the lager-drinking stag crowd.

Old East Kreuzberg retains some of its gritty street vibe - this is the birthplace of Berlin's punk scene - now with a cosmopolitan mix of cool kids and Turkish immigrants. Oranienstrasse is full of the aromas of Turkish cooking, vintage shops and bars, while the surrounding streets are a beautiful shambles ripe for exploring. But signs of the gentrification that has changed West Kreuzberg are already evident. Now most interesting for its museums, West Kreuzberg is definitively middle-class with a boho chic appeal especially along shopping street Bergmannstrasse.
Address: U-Bahn and S-Bahn: Kottbusser Tor, Mehringdamm, Ostkreuz and Warschauer Straße

Mitte

Berlin's historic heart and present-day nucleus
Noteworthy for: Formerly part of East Berlin with Checkpoint Charlie marking the southern border, the area is defined by the imposing architecture of the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

Talk of the town: The 1980s 'Disneyfication' of the war-damaged old town of Nikolaiviertel is still a subject of controversy, but nonetheless worth a look.

Geographically, historically and literally the 'middle' of the city, Mitte is the big hits parade of Berlin's historical sights. Stroll through Tiergarten towards the German icon of the Brandenburg Gate. To the north the Reichstag looms large and to the south is the giant Holocaust Museum.

Many tourists flock to the rather dull Potsdamer Platz; once divided by the Berlin Wall, it's now ironically a capitalist entertainment hub. Similarly, leafy Unter den Linden is packed with gawping camera-snappers, and further east still – past the culturally-incredible Museum Island – is GDR concrete showpiece Alexander Platz with its towering Fernsehturm TV tower (worth a climb for some decent views).

But there is so much more to Mitte than a walk through the last three centuries of history. Torstrasse and it's surrounding streets are overflowing with restaurants and bars full of trendy young Berliners; Auguststrasse is home to dozens of galleries; and the shopping, especially Rosenthalerstrasse and Friedrichstrasse, varies delightfully from designer to alternative.
Address: S-Bahn and U-Bahn: Alexanderplatz, Friedrichstraße, Brandenburger Tor, Hackescher Markt, Potsdamer Platz, Tiergarten

Neukölln

Hip, gritty and multicultural
Tipple of choice: Walk down Welchselstrasse or Hobrechtstrasse for a taste of the twinkling nightlife, with bar Nathanja & Heinrich a particular pleasure to frequent.

Word to the wise: An interesting sight is the historic 18th-century village of Rixdorf in Richardplatz, which hosts one of the city's best Christmas markets.

With nearly half the population of non-Germanic origin, Neukölln has always felt multinational, but in the last few years the low rents of this gritty neighbourhood have attracted the hip creative classes, who have brought their bicycles, boho bars and attitude. Now, any young Berliner will tell you this is where it's at.

However, locals here are fervently resisting the gentrification that will raise rents and ironically, there is a degree of antipathy towards foreigners. The more tourists start venturing this far east, the more outside investment will come, which will push up prices. Signs with the call to arms - 'Be creative and active against gentrification' - are posted on the walls.

That being said, it's still got some of the most low key and lovely bars, with none of the queues or chaos of Kreuzberg, as well as many up-and-coming restaurants like the highly-lauded Lavanderia Vecchia. Head to the former Tempelhof Airport - now a thriving public park - on a sunny day to get a sense of the vibe here.

Prenzlauer Berg

The boho chic berg
Talk of the town: With one of the highest birth rates in Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg is often called "nappy valley".

Noteworthy for: Local landmark, the red-brick water tower, was used by the Sturmabteilung (Brownshirts) as a torture chamber. It has now been converted into expensive apartments.

Prenzlauer Berg, formerly in the East, was once one of Berlin's most radical areas, but the creative types that migrated here grew up, got jobs and settled down. Gentrification swept through, and it is now charming verging on chi chi. Though Kastanienallee and Oderbergerstrasse are still full of vintage shops, cool cafes and a youngish crowd, the older generation keep the expensive organic delis and quaint, quirky boutiques in business.

The few sights include the somehow surviving synagogue in the courtyard of Rykestrasse, 53, and a huge Jewish cemetery (Schönhauser Allee). But the nicest time to visit is Thursday (12noon - 7pm) or Saturday (9am - 4pm) for the mouthwatering Kollwitzplatz Farmers' Market. Fill your suitcase with the gastro fodder, and nibble on fish Brötchen or cinnamon waffles.

Ever popular - especially on Saturdays - if its too hectic head to the neighbouring Helmholtzplatz market (Lychenerstrasse), which has a smaller but interesting selection and some lovely surrounding cafes such as Wohnzimmer cafe.
Address: U-Bahn: Eberswalder Strasse
S-Bahn: Schönhauser Allee

Tempelhof-Schöneberg

Centre of the gay scene alongside quiet suburbia
Noteworthy for: Rathaus Schöneberg was the seat of the West Berlin government between 1961-1989, and the location of President John F. Kennedy's famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in 1961, where a large memorial plaque is dedicated to him.

Talk of the town: David Bowie and Iggy Pop once lived together at Hauptstrasse 155 in Schöneberg.

Always forward-thinking, by the 1920s Schöneberg was already home to over 40 gay bars, and was one of the few places where homosexuality was not just accepted, but fashionable and thriving with a supportive community network. During the Third Reich, however, it was brutally outlawed with many residents here taken to concentration camps; a plaque at the main intersection of Nollendorfplatz now commemorates this.

Today however, it has returned to its status as a Mecca for the gay community with a rocking nightlife and a sleuth of great clubs and bars, as well as a pretty residential neighbourhood popular with families. Head to the buzzing organic Winterfeldmarkt (Wed: 8am - 1pm,Sat: 8am - 3.30pm); a Berlin institution.

In contrast, Tempelhof – which merged with Schöneberg in 2001 – is typical quiet suburbia with a large industrial area of working life Berlin. The only sight of interest being the former Tempelhof Airport; the gigantic building left in a state of eerie abandonment.
Address: S-Bahn: Südkreuz
U-Bahn: Nollendorfplatz

Top five tips

Our local expert's insider insight
Word to the wise: Public bus 100 passes all the top sights - from the Reichstag along Unter den Linden into the former East Berlin ending at Alexanderplatz - for the standard EUR 2.30 fare.

Berlin is an amazingly easy city to travel in. The public transport is quick and effective and most people speak perfect English amongst other languages, as well as being friendly. These tips, however, may help to make your trip even more enjoyable.

1. Berlin is super bike friendly, and this is actually the most efficient and cost-effective way of getting around.

2. Berlin licensing laws are very relaxed. Venues, shops and clubs can serve alcohol 24/7 if they choose. People tend not to head to clubs until 2am, and it's no big deal to have a beer with breakfast.

3. Always remember to validate any travel tickets you buy before you hop onboard public transport. It's easy - but potentially expensive - to forget.

4. Many venues still don't accept cards, so don't forget to withdraw enough cash.

5. Sunday is a day of rest in Berlin so the only shopping you'll be able to do will be at one of the many flea markets.

Trams

A tranquil way to see the city
Noteworthy for: This is one of the oldest and largest tram networks in the world.

Word to the wise: Nearly 95 percent of the Berlin tram network is in the old East.

Operating mainly in the old East side, where the lines have been preserved, Berlin's trams are a clean, quiet and leisurely way to explore the city, and often mean you'll see more than you would on the U-Bahn, whose networks run mainly underground.

Like the Metrobus, Metrotrams are designed to provide back-up to the S-Bahn and U-Bahn services, and their routes and timings are decided accordingly. The other, standard trams run independently along more detailed routes so that, one way or another, the entire city, and often beyond, are well covered.

Tickets are issued by BVG (Berlin state transport) and can be used on either tram network, as well as on any of the U-Bahn, S-Bahn and bus services.

See the 'U-Bahn & S-Bahn' section for more details on tickets.
Phone: +49 30 19 449

U-Bahn & S-Bahn Rapid Transit

The easiest, most efficient way to get around
Word to the wise: Tickets must be validated at one of the station or platform machines before stepping onto the train.

The S-Bahn and U-Bahn are rapid transit services which are essentially the same thing, just run by different companies. All tickets are usable on both services, as they are for additional journeys on the buses and trams. Basically, one travel ticket will let you travel by any means for the following two hours in one direction.

The S-Bahn runs mainly overground and stretches as far as Brandbenburg and Potsdam, whilst the U-Bahn covers the majority of underground lines. There are three zones: A, B and C and three different tickets - AB, BC and ABC, with AB covering all of the city centre.

Trains run until around 1am weekdays and all night on weekends, and you're never usually waiting more than five minutes for one to arrive. Plus, they're clean, comfortable and amazingly punctual. Tickets should be purchased before travel, from station forecourts, vending machines, and many retail outlets, or from the BVG (Berlin state transport) webpage.
Phone: +49 30 19 449
Opening Hours: Sun-Thu: 4.30am - 12.30am
Sat-Fri: 24hrs

Alexanderplatz and the TV Tower

Popular meeting place with an iconic history
Noteworthy for: The city's most famous meeting point is the World Time Clock (1969) in the south corner, which even keeps tabs on Tijuana.

Word to the wise: This is not a destination in itself, but you'll find yourself here regardless, on route to the other sights and attractions nearby.

This vast and dreary concrete plaza was once the architectural showpiece of the GDR, developed to compete with its Western counterparts as a centre of commerce. It might not be the most beautiful place in the city, but it plays an important part in the history of Berlin. As the key location for demonstrations, it was here the November 1989 protest took place, which began the cataclysmic force to bring down the Iron Curtain just five days later. Over one million east Berliners stood here bravely in defiance of the dictatorship of the GDR.

Now more transport hub than sight in itself, the only real thing to see is the TV Tower, the Fernsehturm. The tallest building in Germany, you can shoot up a lift in the middle for fantastic views over Berlin from the observation deck, restaurants and bar.
Address: S-Bahn and U-Bahn: Alexanderplatz
Phone: +49 30 2475 750
Opening Hours: TV Tower, Mar-Oct, daily: 9am - 12midnight
Nov-Feb, daily: 10am - 12midnight

Badeschiff

A floating swimming pool in the Spree
Word to the wise: No outside food or drink is allowed inside, so don't pack the picnic basket.

It's quite a sight; a 25m-long swimming pool afloat in the Spree. Located in Treptow, this lido definitely has the cool-factor, thanks to the man-made beach sunbathing area complete with deck chairs lining the banks, and the terrace bar where you can hear a line-up of great live acts as you dip in and out the water.

In winter, an inflatable sauna is erected like a bubble on the site, offering spectacular city views as you swelter inside. The sauna can be hired privately or you can just bunch in with everyone else. The night sessions are particularly popular, so you may need to book, as you will with the swimming pool, which fills up early on weekends, especially in the summer holidays.

Children are discouraged, unless accompanied by an adult, as you can expect quite a party atmosphere to build up, with crowds heading to neighbouring Club der Visionaere when night falls.
Address: Eichenstrasse 4, Treptow
Phone: +49 30 533 2030
Opening Hours: Daily: 8am - 12midnight
See webpage for open season

Berlin Botanical Garden

Horticulturist's paradise
Noteworthy for: The Great Pavilion is the largest glasshouse in the world.

Word to the wise: Although only one ticket is issued for both the gardens and the museum, the museum segment can be used on any day within one year of purchase.

Berlin Botanical Garden is a wonderland of over 20,000 different plant species. Housed in acres of tropical grounds, greenhouses and an impressive herbarium, this place likes to show off a bit. The highlight is undoubtedly the gigantic Great Pavilion, made entirely of glass, which maintains an internal temperature of 30 degrees centigrade.

Inside is a giant bamboo, alongside a myriad of orchids, palms and ferns. Be careful walking around the Cactus Pavilion though, as one little trip could prove a tad painful. Don't miss the Pavilion Victoria, where you can see one of the world's largest water-lilies. The nearby Botanical Museum will also entertain, with a unique insight into how many of the species in the gardens came into being.

Over the years, the garden has added many conceptual sculptures amongst it's botanical works of art. Take some time to explore the grounds and see how many you can find.
Address: Freie Universitat Berlin, Königin-Luise-Strasse 6-8, Dahlem
Phone: +49 30 8385 0100
Opening Hours: Garden, Nov-Jan, Daily: 9am - 4pm
Feb: 9am - 5pm
Mar: 9am - 6pm
Apr, Aug: 9am - 8pm
May-Jul: 9am - 9pm
Sep: 9am - 7pm
Museum, Daily: 10am - 6pm

Berlin Underworld Society

Explore the subterranean city
Word to the wise: Tickets can only be bought on the day of the tour.

Talk of the town: At Pankstrasse station, a bunker built in 1977 was intended to shelter 3,339 people for up to two weeks in case of nuclear attack.

Descend into Berlin's underworld to explore the city's history on a unique journey through the spooky network of subterranean tunnels. See the remains of Hitler's torture chambers, resistance fighters' hideaways, the oldest surviving bomb shelters and public bunkers built to hold and sustain thousands of Berliners in the event of a nuclear war.

Most fascinating are the escape tunnels dug from East to West by desperate citizens during the 'Wall Years'. Some were successful, others tragically not, but the stories told by the historian tour guides evoke the fear and panic of the thousands of Berliners who tried to flee to freedom.

There are several different walking tours, each lasting from 90 minutes to 2.5 hours, as well as an interesting museum.
Address: Gesundbrunnen Station South, Brunnenstrasse 105, Prenzlauer Berg
Phone: +49 30 4991 0517
Opening Hours: See webpage for individual tour times

Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial

Berlin's main Stasi prison
Talk of the town: The prison was depicted in the 2006 movie 'The Lives of Others'.

Noteworthy for: After WWII, the Soviet Secret Police used it as a detainment camp with over 20,000 people passing through to other Soviet camps, including a former Nazi concentration camp.

There is no better way to experience history than through the eyes of those who witnessed it. At the Hohenschönhausen memorial centre, not only do you follow in the footsteps of the political prisoners of the GDR, but the guides themselves are former inmates of this Stasi remand prison.

The foundation aims to encourage critical awareness of political persecution and suppression during the dictatorship, and in this, it certainly succeeds. Walking through the cells, interrogation rooms and buildings, fitted out with furniture and equipment from its prison days, while hearing first-hand stories of the atrocities committed, it is an incredible affecting experience.

It is only possible to view the extensive prison complex on an official guided tour, which you can organise in advance or through the visitor centre at the gate. You can also arrange to have lunch in the on-site canteen located in the buildings belonging to the former Ministry of State Security secret labour camp "X".
Address: Genslerstrasse 66, Berlin-Hohenschönhausen
S-Bahn: Genslerstrasse, Freienwalder Strasse
Phone: +49 30 9860 8230
Opening Hours: Daily: 9am - 4pm

Berlinische Galerie

Explore modern Berlin through its art
Noteworthy for: The Berlinische Galerie's speciality is artwork created in Berlin since 1870.

One of Berlin's less well-known art collections, the Berlinische Galerie is also one of its best. Located in a former glass warehouse in a Kreuzberg backwater, its main focus is art related to the city in which it stands.

With both a local and international focus, the works do not necessarily have to be created in Berlin - although many of them have been - but the artists themselves must have had a close relationship to the city. Given Berlin's long history as a centre of cutting edge art, that gives the gallery plenty of scope, with work by expressionists Georg Grosz and Otto Dix a particular strong point. Throughout the year there are also many special exhibitions with a wider remit.

Elegant and spacious, the Berlinische Galerie is in some ways the perfect medium-sized gallery, so it's (almost) a pity that so few tourists seem to drop in.
Address: Alte Jakobstrasse 124, Kreuzberg
U Bahn: Kochstrasse, Hallesches Tor
Phone: +49 30 7890 26 00
Opening Hours: Wed-Mon: 10am - 6pm

Brandenburg Gate

Berlin's most iconic monument
Talk of the town: This is where David Hasselhoff officially attained 'Legend' status, when he performed to a million Germans at the Berlin Wall concert on New Year's Eve 1989.

Originally built as a symbol of resilience and stability, the Brandenburg Gate stands at the western end of Unter den Linden, which in turn led to the palace of the Prussian monarchs. It is perhaps most famous today as representing, first, the division of the city, when the Berlin Wall was constructed either side of it – the Gate being the main exit to the West – and then as a pathway to freedom, when the Wall came down in 1989 and Brandenburg Gate hosted the most frenzied of all the celebrations.

It's a popular venue for rallies and concerts, and since the area was pedestrianised, is also a meeting place for locals and visitors alike, who congregate at weekends before wandering off down leafy Unter den Linden for coffee and a chat.
Address: Pariser Platz, Mitte

Chamäleon Variete

Magnificent cabaret theatre in the Hackesche Hofe
Noteworthy for: This is probably the closest thing Berlin has to the original cabaret clubs of the 1930s.

This stunning old-style vaudeville theatre is located within the popular Hackesche Hofe courtyard complex. It hosts all kinds of dance, film and cabaret shows in a huge Art Nouveau hall that's worth the entrance fee alone.

Dozens of intimate little tables fill the floor space, where guests can dine while they watch the show, and the bar is always well-stocked. The theatre has a moveable stage and a lot of performance space, so it's perfect for the kind of anything-goes production that Berlin is famous for from fire-dancing and illusionists, to lion tamers and mime.

In warmer months, you can simply enjoy drinks in the courtyard outside. Marvel at the beautiful architecture the Hackesche Hofe is famous for, and get a real sense of how the area felt back in its artistic heyday.
Address: Hackesche Hofe, Rosenthaler Strasse 40/41
Phone: +49 30 400 0590
Opening Hours: Box Office, Mon-Fri: 10.30am – 8pm
Sat: 10.30am – 10.15pm
Sun: 12noon – 7pm
See webpage for performance times/days

Charlottenburg Palace

Majestic summer home of the former Queen of Prussia
Noteworthy for: The palace is famed for its gardens, the design of which was heavily influenced by the grounds at Versailles.

Despite it's romantic name, the district of Charlottenburg is filled with great stretches of modern houses and everyday shops. But in the midst of this suburbia, is one of the city's most seductive structures. Built in 1699 by Friedrich III for his demanding wife, Sophie Charlotte, this opulent retreat is defined by its impeccably manicured lawns and sumptuously baroque architecture.

Aside from the main palace, there is a belvedere, an Orangery and a mausoleum, and the grounds often host concerts and garden parties. Inside the palace are impressive collections of porcelain, as well as many of the German and Prussian crown jewels. Be warned though, there are lots of stairs in the palace and around the grounds, so be prepared for a bit of a trek if you want to see it all.
Address: Spandauer Damm 20-24, Charlottenburg
Phone: +49 30 320 910
Opening Hours: Old palace: Apr-Oct, Tue-Sun: 10am – 6pm
Nov-Mar, Tue-Sun: 10am – 5pm

Checkpoint Charlie

Infamous symbol of the divided Berlin
Word to the wise: Don't be fooled by the many hawkers operating here, offering 'genuine' Checkpoint Charlie mementoes – they're all fake.

A former Berlin icon, Checkpoint Charlie remains one of the city's most visited sites, despite the fact that nothing remains of any of the original structures. The infamous watchtower on the East side was demolished in 2000, and the huge billboard declaring "You are leaving the American Sector" is a copy. Even the cabin itself was taken away to a new home at the Allied Museum in Dahlem.

History buffs can spend a few hours in the "Haus am Checkpoint Charlie", a museum on Friedrichstrasse which chronicles the crossing point's history. Souvenir hunters, meanwhile, can have fun with the pretend American and Russian soldiers who 'patrol' the site but beware, taking their photograph isn't free.

Possibly the most interesting part of this spot is the simple line of pebbles that mark where the Checkpoint used to stand – a poignant reminder of the city's former divisions.
Address: Friedrichstrasse 43-45, Friedrichshain
Phone: +49 30 253 7250
Opening Hours: Daily: 9am - 10pm

Clärchen's Ballhaus

The last original Weimar-era dancehall
Talk of the town: In 2008, the venue was used to film scenes for the movie 'Valkyrie', starring Tom Cruise, and Jake Gyllenhaal was spotted on the dance floor during this year's Berlinale Film Festival.

Popular plate: Located on Auguststrasse, the beautiful beer garden is a lovely spot for lunch. They bake pizzas in a Neapolitan brick oven.

This old world dancehall has seen many feet foxtrot, jive and twist across its floors over the last century – it celebrates its 100th birthday next year – and you can feel its history in the paneled walls hung with glitter strips. Opened in 1913 by Fritz Bühler as Bühler's Ballhaus, it was later named after his wife Clara. But after WWII it was badly bombed and remained closed for 60 years.

Upon reopening in 2003, it has seen both older patrons return, happy for a spot to jive it out, and the young, on the back of the trend for all things vintage. The first floor mirrored ballroom is stunning, and the interiors have been left largely unchanged. Come for salsa Mondays, tango Tuesdays, swing Wednesdays (EUR 3) or ballroom Thursdays. At the weekend, the younger generation make up the majority as they bust silly moves to classic tunes at the legendary Schwoof parties (EUR 5).
Address: Auguststraße 24, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 2829 295
Opening Hours: Kitchen: 12.30pm - 11pm
Dances, Mon: 10pm - 12midnight
Tue-Thu: 9pm - 12midnight
Fri-Sat: 8pm - 6am
Sun: 3pm - 6pm

Day trip to Potsdam

Berlin's royal neighbour
Talk of the town: Once an East German backwater, Potsdam's elegant villas have recently become the ultimate address for Berlin's power set.

Word to the wise: Potsdam is easily and quickly reached by S Bahn from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Alexanderplatz and Zoologischer Garten, but make sure you buy a ticket valid for Zones A, B and C.

Just beyond Berlin's limits, the city of Potsdam is the place to come for lavish baroque palaces, beautiful lakeland parks and charming old cobbled streets. The former summer capital for the kings of Prussia (and later, Germany), it has an extravagance of historical buildings and a languid small-town feel otherwise hard to find elsewhere in exciting but gritty Berlin.

The main draws here are Frederick the Great's summer palaces, the exquisite but modest Schloss Sanssouci and the massive, pompous New Palace, both located in a wooded park. The streets beyond the palace are also worth exploring, with spruced-up 18th century houses and a quarter built for Dutch weavers that looks liked it's been shipped over wholesale from Amsterdam.

The chances are you won't be alone here - Potsdam is one of the Berlin region's most visited places - but as Berlin's smaller, prettier alter ego, it's worth the trip.
Phone: Schloss Sanssouci: +49 331 96 94 200
Opening Hours: Schloss Sanssouci
Apr-Oct, Tue-Sun: 10am - 6pm
Nov-Mar, Tue-Sun: 10am - 5pm

Day trip to Schwerin

Picturesque, tourist-free former ducal capital
Word to the wise: To make a day of it, consider breaking your train journey at Ludwigslust, home to the former dukes of Schwerin's baroque summer palace.

A part of Germany foreign visitors hardly ever see, Schwerin is a bustling, extremely picturesque city less than 90 minutes by train from Berlin. Situated on an isthmus between forest-fringed lakes, Schwerin's was actually the capital of an independent dukedom until German unification in 1870, and its focal point remains the dukes' almost ludicrously romantic-looking castle.

This is surrounded both by beautiful gardens and cobbled streets whose charming old buildings and cafe-filled pavements blow away any stereotypes of Eastern Germany as a grim place. Given a modest elegance by the ponds surrounding it on all sides, Schwerin's old town also boasts a remarkable brick gothic cathedral.

Schwerin is far enough from Berlin to deter tourists, but that doesn't mean it's hard to get to, with trains leaving Berlin's Hauptbahnhof roughly every hour.

East Side Gallery

Artistic memorial along the remaining Berlin Wall
Noteworthy for: Particularly famous is Dmitri Vrubel's painting, My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love, of Soviet Union leader Leonid Brezhnev kissing GDR head Erich Honecker.

Tipple of choice: Head to the man-made beach bar here, Strandgut, to party Ibiza-style around a pool, or to the neighbouring Jamaican equivalent, Yaam, for jerk chicken and rum.

The world's largest open-air art space, East Side Gallery consists of 1.3km of murals and slogans. Created by artists including Bodo Sperling and Thierry Noir in 1989, the aim was to express opinions on the Wall's legacy and, in so doing, leave a legacy of their own.

All the artwork is displayed on the old Eastern side of the wall. Over the years, however, many of the paintings have been damaged by nature and vandalism. A restoration project was implemented in 2009, with many of the artists returning to touch-up their existing work, or add new ones.

Amongst the most-visited exhibits, is the slogan: 'Many small people, who in many small places, do many small things, can alter the face of the world.' The gallery is free to visit, though you can arrange guided group tours through the website.
Address: Mühlenstraße, Friedrichshain
Phone: +49 30 251 7159

Haus der Kulturen der Welt

A unique multidisciplinary platform uniting worldwide cultures
Noteworthy for: You're greeted by Henry Moore's Butterfly sculpture before you've even reached the steps – an indication of the experience to come.

The iconic building with its stunning curved roof – illuminated by night and nicknamed 'the oyster' – attracts visitors in itself, but the incredible program of contemporary arts is always worth checking.

Born from the tumult of 1989, HKW was one of the first new cultural institutions to emerge, and takes its role as a platform for international cultural and societal exchange very seriously.

Both gallery and theatre, it hosts lectures, visual arts, music, film and performing arts, as well as festivals and forums in the 1000-seat auditorium. With a mission statement to connect with cultures from non-European societies, you could see anything from a Korean Film Festival to a talk on Germany's Muslims.
Address: John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 3978 7175
Opening Hours: Daily: 10am - 7pm
Exhibitions, Wed-Mon: 11am - 7pm

Haus Schwarzenberg

Museums, galleries and performance spaces in one cultural creative collaboration
Word to the wise: Check the website for details of the frequent parties, exhibitions, workshops – many for children – and shows held in this incredible space.

Noteworthy for: The giant metal monsters will come to life waving their wings or gaping their jaws if you put a Euro in the slot machine.

Amidst the gleaming retail magnets of Mitte lies this tantalising taste of old Berlin; gloriously and conspicuously unkempt Haus Schwarzenberg is both a witness to German history and a hub of international creative subculture. Behind the pockmarked facade hides a graffitied courtyard surrounded by cafes, bars, an independent cinema, performances venues, an art and book store, workshops, two galleries – Monster Kabinett and Neurotitan gallery – and a trio of small, interesting museums.

The property has variously been used as a shared living commune, a GDR production office and a factory that employed and hid Jews during WWII. Explore the fascinating history in the Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt here. Concealed behind a wardrobe door, you can see the untouched rooms where Weidt hid Jewish families – a terrifyingly evocative experience. Empty from the war until 1995, a group of artists called Dead Chickens moved in and slowly created the creative culture now thriving here.
Address: Rosenthaler Straße 39, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 3087 2573
Opening Hours: Daily: 10am - 4pm (check webpage for specific events)

HEBBEL AM UFER (HAU)

Three theatres, one umbrella, many faces
Noteworthy for: Hau resurrected three empty theatres to become the triumvirate it is today.

HAU is an amalgamation of three previously-independent theatres in Kreuzberg, now known as Hau 1, Hau 2 and Hau 3. Under the tutelage of Matthias Lilienthal – Berlin's dramatical wunderkind – HAU has quickly developed a name for itself as a place that breaks down boundaries and constantly challenges accepted theatrical conventions.

If you want to catch some original New World music, listen to a lecture from a famous TV chef or see some conceptual dance from a group of Moldavian mime artists, you'll probably find it at HAU. In one year alone, the HAU staged 118 independent projects and is considered one of Berlin's premier artistic venues. The three theatres are within a short walk of one another and the area is rich in bars, cafes and restaurants for pre- and post-show dining.
Address: HAU 1: Stresemannstrasse 29, Kreuzberg
HAU 2: Hallesches Ufer 32, Kreuzberg
HAU 3: Tempelhofer Ufer 10, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 30 259 0040
Opening Hours: Box Office, Daily: 12noon - 7pm
See webpage for performance times/days

Holocaust Memorial

Poignant remembrance of wartime horror
Talk of the town: Approximately 5,000 people a day visit the memorial, just under two million a year.

Designed by Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold, this stark, beautiful square between the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz, is a permanent reminder of the Jewish persecution during World War II. Opened in 2005, the memorial consists of 2,711 blocks of concrete – 'stelae' – placed over an area of 19,000 square metres. The site slopes slightly, designed to give the observer a sense of confusion and bewilderment symbolising a world that has lost all reason.

The memorial was the subject of much controversy, with many debating whether Germany can ever be allowed to move on with such a powerful reminder of its failings staring back at it every day. Others argue that this is precisely the reason it was needed.

Visitors can wander between the stones – a deeply evocative experience – and spend time contemplating their meaning. There is an information centre underground detailing events of the Holocaust, which is also free to enter.
Address: Cora Berliner Straße 1, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 2639 4336
Opening Hours: Field of Stelae: 24 hours
Information Center, Apr-Sep, Tue-Sun: 10am - 8pm (last admission 7.15pm)
Oct-Mar, Tue-Sun: 10am - 7pm (last admission 6.15pm)

Jewish Museum Berlin

2,000 years of Jewish history in one revolutionary building
Word to the wise: There is no front door; you can only enter the museum through an underground tunnel from the neighbouring Berlin Museum.

Talk of the town: When the empty building was completed in 1999, 350,000 people visited it, even though there was nothing to see inside.

Nicknamed the 'Blitz' for it's stark, angular design, this museum is one of Berlin's most recognisable buildings. It houses a collection of exhibitions, tunnels, mazes and deliberately empty 'voids' that, when experienced together, expertly recount the history of German Judaism.

Many visitors think this place is just about the Holocaust but, whilst there is a memorial and Garden of Exile that symbolise the horrors of World War II, the museum tells a story stretching back two millennia. It's a vast place, and impossible to get through in one day – not least because you're bound to get lost several times as you try and negotiate the dark, seemingly endless corridors and 'axes', all of them symbolic, encouraging you to experience history in a more visceral and personal way.

The entrance fee isn't much, so do take the time to fully appreciate the scale of this mammoth, and fascinating, history lesson.
Address: Lindenstraße 9-14, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 30 2599 3300
Opening Hours: Mon: 10am - 10pm
Tue-Sun: 10am - 8pm
Last entry one hour before closing

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Berlin's poignant symbol of rebirth
Word to the wise: At risk of collapsing, the old church is currently undergoing restoration and is covered by tarpaulin. The new church, however, is still open to visitors.

Noteworthy for: The walls of the new church contain nearly 22,000 pieces of blue stained glass.

The shattered spire reaching into the sky became a poignant symbol of hope and resilience to Berliners. Originally built in the late 19th century by Kaiser Wilhelm II, the church was badly damaged in a 1943 air raid leaving all but these melancholy remnants.

After the war, instead of pulling the ruins down and rebuilding, it was decided to keep the existing structure as a stalwart symbol of Berlin's rise from the ashes. A new, modernist church was erected right around the old one, and the contrasting styles represent the past and the future of Berlin.

While the concrete structure isn't much from the outside, step into the church and behold the luminous effect of the stained glass tiles glowing around the statue of Christ, apparently floating in a sea of light. It can be a deeply moving experience.
Address: Breitscheidplatz, Charlottenburg
Phone: +49 30 218 5023
Opening Hours: Daily: 9am - 7pm
Sunday services: 10am, 6pm
Guided tour, Daily: 1.15pm, 2pm, 3pm
Mon, Fri-Sat (additional): 10.15am, 11am, 12noon

Käthe Kollwitz Museum

Celebrating one of Germany's most important artists
Noteworthy for: This serene museum of a side street from Ku'Damm houses one of Germany's largest collections of pacifist art.

Word to the wise: Hire an audio commentary for EUR 3 to get the most out of your visit.

Popular plate: Reflect on your experience in the lovely Cafe Wintergarten in Literaturhaus next door.

Probably Germany's most famous female artist, Kaethe Kollwitz (1867-1945) was renowned for her moving sketches and sculptures of grieving mothers and the terrible conditions suffered by soldiers at war. Losing a son in World War I and a grandson in World War II, together with other family tragedies, ignited in Kollwitz an insatiable desire to show the world the horrors of war, as well as the burdens suffered by parents who have had children killed on the battlefields.

This museum is housed in the former home of art dealer Hans Pels-Lausden, who donated the building to the museum curators as a monument to his favourite artist. Always a popular attraction, the museum has nevertheless seen a noticeable surge in visitors since the Iraq War, indicating that Kollwitz's work is just as relevant today, as it ever was.
Address: Fasanenstrasse 24, Charlottenburg
Phone: +49 30 882 5210
Opening Hours: Daily: 11am - 6pm

KW Institute for Contemporary Art

Creative co-operative helping establish new artists
Word to the wise: Entrance on Thursdays (7pm - 9pm) is just EUR 4 and includes a guided tour (German only).

Popular plate: After a browse, pop into the attached Cafe Bravo. Even the cakes and light lunches here look they've come straight from an artist's studio.

Founded in the years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the KW Institute is a collection of individual gallery spaces, studios and guest exhibitions surrounding a cobbled courtyard. Dedicated to giving new and established artists a public platform for their work, you are likely to encounter exciting, thought-provoking works by artists who wouldn't normally have anywhere to express themselves.

A non-profit organisation, KW relied heavily on state subsidy and third-party funding, but has been so successful that it launched the now highly-lauded Berlin Biennale culture festival. Wander between the many open studios of the resident artists and small galleries here; some exhibitions are free, while others have a minor admission fee.
Address: Auguststrasse 69, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 243 4590
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun: 12noon - 7pm
Thu: 12noon - 9pm

Lietzensee and Bootshaus

A small and serene local retreat
Noteworthy for: The corner of Witzlebenplatz has a charming neighbourly atmosphere, and it's easy to while away a few hours here between exploring the paths around the pond.

Popular plate: Head to the rustic yet elegant Engelbecken opposite the park for a light German lunch.

This beautiful pond, with the branches of willow trees dripping in its waters, and swans cutting across the calm water, is surrounding by lush grassy banks and flower beds all lending to the air of serenity. This small park in West Charlottenburg is away from the main tourist drag, which makes it more charming.

Head to the Stella am Lietzensee boathouse for a cool beer on their terrace after sunbathing. Or join the local workers who bring a picnic for their lunch break, stripping off their clothes at the first sign of sunshine.

Across the road is the utterly mesmerising St Canisius Jesuit Church, a feat of religious architecture. The wooden chapel is sculpted inside a giant white cube, infusing the chapel with the scent of a sauna. A twisted modernist Christ is the only icon of this entirely white interior, black against the bare walls. It's deeply affecting.
Address: Lietzensee, Charlottenburg
Phone: Club offices: +49 30 3020 1907

Liquidrom

Urban spa with a difference
Noteworthy for: Open late on the weekends, if you need a late night hit of relaxation, you can get it here.

Word to the wise: Take advantage of the free honey infusions and salt massages that take place in the Finnish sauna on the hour, every hour.

Germany is big on its spa culture, and this is considered one of the coolest urban spas in the city with treatments unavailable elsewhere. The huge, domed, saltwater flotation pool has psychedelic lighting, a dark minimalist design, lots of space, and soft piped underwater tunes that could be anything from whale songs and classical music to specially-composed calm-inducing electro.

This isn't a splash-about place – no kids allowed – but a grown-up retreat, with a sauna, steam room, massage rooms and loungers, as well as a cafe serving healthy soups and salads. It doesn't feel like a health club, either, probably because there's no gym, but a serene and chic city retreat. The highlight is the large, feature window that lets in the moonlight during night swimming sessions.
Address: Möckernstrasse 10, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 30 2580 07820
Opening Hours: Sun-Thu: 10am - 12midnight
Fri-Sat: 10am - 1am

me Collectors Room

A world of daring discovery
Word to the wise: Located on Auguststrasse, this street is 'the' art street, lined with hundreds of galleries – including the KW Institute for Contemporary Art – making for a good day of culture.

Talk of the town: Thomas Olbricht is heir to the Wella estate.

From the perverse to the pretty and the serious to the downright strange, this collection wins in terms of breadth of field – fascinating at each turn. For those who get bored of an entire building focused on Renaissance or some such thing, this will keep you on your toes.

The personal collection of Thomas Olbricht, an esteemed art collector, chemist and endocrinologist, he amassed one of the largest private collections in Europe. Covering art, sculpture and artefacts from the 16th century to today, the emphasis is on the macabre with skulls and sinister religious artefacts contrasting against art work exploring the erotic. The cafe and gift shop here are also rather good.
Address: Auguststraße 68, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 8600 8510
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun: 12noon - 6pm

Museum Island

Impressive enclave of some of the world's finest museums
Noteworthy for: Being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

It sounds like something Disney-esque, but Museum Island, or Museuminsel, to give it the proper name, is actually a group of five of the world's finest art, antique and artifact collections. Some are owned by the state, and are free to enter, others charge a small fee.

Altes Museum (Old Museum) – Huge Greco building, housing Germany's largest collection of Classical Greek antiques.

Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) – Vast range of Classical, Romantic, Impressionist and Modernist paintings.

Bode Museum – Home to a stunning exhibition of Byzantine art and sculptures.

Pergamom Museum – Displaying Turkish, Islamic and Middle Eastern art and antiquities.

Neues Museum (New Museum) – Custodian of several important Egyptian artifacts and sculptures.

Also on the island, to the south, is the famous Berliner Dom, the sad and redundant Palast der Republik and the peaceful expanse of the Lustgarden.
Address: Museumsinsel, Bodestraße 1, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 266 424 242
Opening Hours: See webpage for individual opening hours
Most museums, Tue-Wed, Fri-Sun: 10am - 6pm
Thu: 10am - 10pm

Reichstag

A political Phoenix, literally risen from the ashes
Word to the wise: As this is a working parliament building, guided tours must be booked in advance.

Home of the modern German parliament (the 'Bundestag') since 1999, the 'Reichstag' was actually the name of the old parliament building, badly-damaged by fire in 1933, and derelict for 50 years until rebuilt by Sir Norman Foster – between 1992 and 1999 – into its current magnificent state.

Contrary to popular belief, Hitler never physically held office here as German Chancellor, despite his grand plans to rebuild it as the flagship icon of his 'new Berlin'. It's still a popular tourist destination, nonetheless, not least because of the magnificent glass dome that visitors can walk around as part of a free guided tour or by registering for free in advance online.

Situated on the northeastern edge of the Tiergarten, across the road from the Brandenburg Gate, this area is rich in German history and worth a day on its own.
Address: Platz der Republik 1, Tiergarten
Phone: +49 30 2273 2152
Opening Hours: Roof terrace & dome, daily: 8am – 11pm
See webpage for guided tour times

Tiergarten

The second largest urban garden in Germany
Talk of the town: 'Tiergarten' is German for 'Animal Garden'.

Covering 520 acres of parkland, the Tiergarten is situated west of the city centre, yet central enough to provide Berliners with important tranquility amidst the urban madness. Originally the 16th-century hunting ground of the Prince-electors, the park was modernised in the early 19th century, and between 1961 and 1989 was bordered along the east by the Berlin Wall. In the northeast corner sits the Reichstag, whilst to the south is Potsdamer Platz and the Sony building.

Cutting a swathe through the park is Strasse 17 Juni, a vast, eight-lane road connecting Unter den Linden and Charlottenburg, off which spring a myriad of other little roads and paths that stretch deep into the forest. As well as cafes and plenty of quiet benches, the park contains many little lakes, which are popular with brave ice skaters when they freeze over in winter.
Address: Strasse de 17 Juni, Tiergarten, Mitte
Opening Hours: 24/7

Turkish Hamam

Ultimate relaxation at affordable prices
Noteworthy for: Opt for the sabunlama/kese treatment, you'll be as smooth as a baby afterwards.

Word to the wise: At Sultan Hamam, men are only permitted on Sundays and Mondays, and women from Tuesday to Sunday.

With over 200,000 Turks in Berlin, it's not surprising that going to the Hamam is a common pastime here. Most Turkish baths are located in Kreuzberg – the city's "little Istanbul". The Sultan Hamam caters for both sexes, and offers the traditional bath, numerous spa treatments and massages.

The Hamam für Frauen is a women-only establishment housed in a former chocolate factory, with a courtyard and two floors of treatment rooms. Customers can get a 'kese' (traditional Turkish body-peel) as well as facials, pedicures and massages. Various packages are available at both hamams, which can save you a lot of money – ask when booking.

For the full works, allow at least three hours, not including extra treatments. The process is intense and controlled, and so must be done properly to reap all the benefits.
Address: Hamam für Frauen: Mariannenstraße 6, Kreuzberg
Sultan Hamam: Bülowstraße 57, Kreuzberg
Phone: Hamam fur Frauen: +49 30 615 1464
Sultan Hamam: +49 30 2175 3375
Opening Hours: Hamam für Frauen, Mon: 3pm - 11pm,
Tue-Sun: 12noon - 11pm
Sultan Hamam, women, Tue-Sat: 9.30am - 11pm
Men and Women: Sun: 12noon - 11pm
Men, Mon, Sun: 12noon - 11pm

Volkspark Friedrichshain

The People's Park - a natural playground
Noteworthy for: It's the oldest public park in Berlin.

Located between Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg, walking through the Volkspark Friedrichshain is a bit like stepping out of the wardrobe into Narnia. There are so many little groves and coves splintering off the main paths, and the highlight is definitely the Marchenbrunnen, or 'Fairy Fountain'. Built in 1913, it consists of over a hundred sculptures of famous fairytale characters which surround an impressive ornamental lake. At the time of construction, Berlin's children were dying from rickets and typhoid, and the fountain was built in an attempt to give the little ones hope. It remains today a place of inspiration for the city's artists, writers and those in need of a miracle.

The park is also home to a large open-air theatre which holds free plays in summer, as well as a beer garden, tennis courts, playgrounds, sunbathing areas, wading pool and a restaurant.
Address: Am Friedrichshain, Friedrichshain-Prenzlauer Berg

Yorckschloesschen Jazz Club

Lively century-old jazz and blues bar
Noteworthy for: This institution has been busting out tunes and beer for over 100-years, gaining fame in the 1970s as an artists' hangout.

Word to the wise: They serve food until 1am at the weekends, including Sunday brunch (11am - 3pm) all at very reasonable prices.

A lot of people forget that Germany has a rich jazz heritage, so this buzzing little club in Kreuzberg is a welcome reminder of that past. It draws fans from all over the world, keen to get their fix of the eclectic line-up of jazz, blues, soul, swing and funk, as well as a little dance or two if the mood's feeling right.

The clientele is a real mix of young and old. Sunday brunches are a particularly popular time, because of the tempting beer garden out back, and the New Orleans Jazz music on offer.

The decor is traditional German tavern, with yellowing walls covered in numerous knick knacks and framed photographs chronicling the 'names' who have played here, like EB Davis and Phil Page. It's a great springboard for up-and-coming talent too.
Address: Yorckstrasse 15, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 30 215 8070
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 5pm - 3am
Sun: 10am - 1am

Alpenstueckle

From Bavarian brunch to Austrian lunch
Popular plate: You can't go wrong with the pastries. From the strudels to the rye bread, all the goods are homemade in the Mitte bakery daily and sent both here and to the Mitte restaurant.

This bright and breezy little cafe and grocery store is an offshoot of the more famed Alpenstueck, an excellent Austrian and South German restaurant in Mitte (Gartenstraße 9). But located on the pretty Ludwigkirchstraße, with its delis, veg shops and cafes, we love this newer and more low-key little sister venue.

Charming and bright with wood furniture and a farmhouse kitchen vibe, the shelves are stacked with the likes of orange and chill jam and horseradish olive oil while the counter has an enticing array of sweet treats. Have an early Alpine breakfast or a late lunch of Viennese goulash here; all are excellent.
Address: Ludwigkirchstraße 3, Wilmersdorf
Phone: +49 30 889 222 55
Opening Hours: Daily: 7am - 7pm

Antipodes

Flat whites with no frothy nonsense
Popular plate: The cakes and candies please the kids, but it's the breakfasts that grown-ups come for.

Charming Australian couple Jane and Paul arrived in Berlin two years ago set on bringing the joy of a well-executed Antipodean flat white to the city. And in that they've certainly succeeded brewing up an excellent cup served in a genuinely warm and friendly environment.

The cafe has a small selection of seating inside, happy colourful signs and knick-knacks scattered around and a handful of pavement tables for sunny days. They offer free wifi, but they'd rather you read one of the stack of magazines on offer or opt for a game of Scrabble.
Address: Fehrbelliner Straβe 5, Mitte
Phone: +49 176 3834 0118
Opening Hours: Wed-Fri: 8am - 5pm
Sat-Sun: 9am - 5pm

Bar Gagarin

A Russian breakfast bar
Noteworthy for: The Sunday brunches attract a loyal crowd to the sunny terrace.

Word to the wise: The staff here do speak English, but reluctantly, so brush up on your 'ei' and 'speck' before you go.

Dedicated to a certain famous cosmonaut staring down at you from the walls, this cafe, situated in what was East Berlin, cherishes it's Russian vibe. Once the huge breakfast plates of eggs, cold meats, cheeses and dark breads arrive, you're suddenly in the midst of Moscow.

Drinks-wise, the Russian beers and vodkas slip down worryingly easy, even in the morning, when most waiters would raise their eyebrows at such a request. Not here, however.
Address: Knaackstraße 22-24, Prenzlauer Berg
Phone: +49 30 442 8807
Opening Hours: Daily: 10am - 2am

Barcomi's

The best cake and coffee in Kreuzberg
Popular plate: With an American owner, they know exactly how New York Cheesecake should be.

Tipple of choice: The Indian Monsooned Malabar coffee is quite special.

Bergmannstraße is one long, leafy street of cafes, bars, thrift shops, Turkish mini-markets and curio shops, so a roast house like Barcomi's fits right in. It's a busy little place, especially in the mornings when Kreuzberg's finest queue for their daily caffeine fix, but come a bit later and you'll have no problem finding a table at which to sit with a Tasse coffee and a slice of lemon meringue tarte.

The owner is American, so expect a sumptuous array of cakes and treats, like Marble Cake, Raspberry Ganache or Apple Walnut Caramel Cake, perfect washed down with their superior quality of coffee.
Address: Bergmannstrasse 21, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 30 694 8138
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 8am - 9pm
Sat-Sun: 9am - 9pm

Café Einstein Stammhaus

A slice of old Berlin
Word to the wise: Cafe Einstein also has a branch on Unter Den Linden, but this is the original and the most popular one with locals.

Berlin's grandest old cafe, this elegant gem is worth visiting because it smacks of how Berlin might have been seventy-odd years ago – leather booths, crisp white tablecloths, and smart, slick-haired waiters.

In fact, Café Einstein dates back to just 1979, but its setting in a beautiful 19th century villa makes it feel far older. Not exactly undiscovered by visitors, it's still an iconic place for many locals, who love its surprisingly relaxed take on Viennese style cafe culture and its spacious gilt-painted rooms. The coffee is exemplary, as is the traditional Austrian menu of schnitzels, goulash and Sacher Tortes. Pure nostalgia.
Address: Kurfürstenstrasse 58, Schöneberg
U Bahn: Nollendorfplatz
Phone: +49 30 2639 1918
Opening Hours: Daily: 8am - 1am

Café Wintergarten in Literaturhaus

Sedate dining in cerebral surroundings
Noteworthy for: This was the former home of German explorer, Richard Hildebrandt.

Word to the wise: The cafe is a short walk from the Käthe Kollwitz Museum, making it a thoughtful refuelling spot after the exhibition.

Housed in an Italianate villa off the Ku'damm, the Literaturhaus is dedicated to promoting and preserving German authors and their work. With a line-up of readings and lectures, there is a huge library, reading rooms, excellent bookshop and this al fresco cafe.

It's simply furnished, and they serve hearty bistro fare. Try the rigatoni with cheese or the spicy beefsteak. Attached, is a conservatory and terrace, great for summer months, which fills up with chic Charlottenburg types having an afternoon glass of white. It's best for a coffee break however, and a taste of their excellent cheesecakes.
Address: Fasanenstrasse 23, Charlottenburg
Phone: +49 30 882 5414
Opening Hours: Daily: 9.30am – 12 midnight

Chan Asian Market Food

Riverside Thai with a healthy twist
Word to the wise: While there isn't a huge selection for vegetarians, they kindly point out the use of fish sauce and oyster sauce, which is often overlooked on other menus.

Noteworthy for: The food here is cooked entirely without the use of artificial additives and MSG that Asian food is famous for.

This strip of the river along Paul Linke Ufer is lined with the twinkling lights of Kreuzberg restaurants and bars. Smarter than their Friedrichshain neighbours, they're still laid-back and your choices are plentiful. Chan Asian Market Food is one of the best, serving healthy, fresh Thai and Vietnamese dishes.

The interior is serene and cosy with a zen oriental vibe, but it's the outside garden that is the real winner; packed in summer for lunch and lit by paper lanterns in the evenings. The food is executed with the lightest touch, which won't leave you too bloated to bar hop later.
Address: Paul-Lincke-Ufer 42
Phone: +49 30 6953 3322
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 12noon - 12midnight
Sat-Sun: 1pm - 12midnight
Lunch, Mon-Fri: 12noon - 4pm

Cookies Cream

Culinary creative and cool vegetarian
Word to the wise: Dining on Tuesdays and Thursdays gives free entry to Cookies' club downstairs. It no longer has the cache it once commanded but is worth a look in.

Another of Berlin's deliberately hard-to-find restaurants, Cookies Cream is located in an alleyway behind the Westin Hotel, a favourite haunt of fashion and media types since it opened in 2008.

The menu isn't huge, but the list changes daily depending on seasonal ingredients, and even though it's all vegetarian, you can expect more than just a few salads and some rice. Where else have you seen such meat-free curiosities as pumpernickel crumble, pearl barley strudel or chocolate-semolina-flummery?

The interior is suitably sophisticated, and the open kitchen keeps people's gaze as they watch the chef work wonders with a few veggies and some olive oil.
Address: Behrenstrasse 55, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 2749 2940
Opening Hours: Tue-Sat: 7pm - 3am

Dolores

A slice of San Francisco in Berlin
Tipple of choice: Try Dolores' delicious strawberry and tamarind agua fresca.

Promising to rescue Berliners from a snack diet of currywurst and cheap kebabs, Dolores dishes up super-fresh, healthy and satisfying California-style burritos. Not a place for Mexican purists, Dolores' wraps are modelled on San Francisco-style Cali-Mex food, with a huge map of San Francisco's Mission neighbourhood printed on the walls to give you a clue.

The food is good, offering proper smoky chipotle salsas and decent quality meat. Service is no frills - you order at and collect from a counter - but the bright, colourful decor still gives Dolores an upbeat feel, as do its young, hip customers.
Address: Rosa Luxemburg Strasse 7, Mitte
U Bahn: Alexanderplatz, Weinmeisterstrasse
Phone: +49 30 28 09 95 97
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 11.30am - 10pm
Sun: 1pm - 10pm

Engelbecken

Local and low-key Bavarian bistro
Word to the wise: Take the opportunity while here to pop into the architecturally stunning St. Canisius Church down the road.

It feels like this pocket of Charlottenburg has managed to stay secret from the masses on Ku'Damm just ten minutes away. On the corner of one of the prettiest little parks in Berlin, Lietzenseepark, this rustic yet elegant bistro serves great plates of German classics to a mainly local and low-key crowd.

The wiener schnitzel is superb, but with a menu packed full of fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients, everything is well executed with often interesting combinations such as the fresh figs marinated in raspberry-vodka with vanilla mascarpone. It's becoming ever more popular, so booking is essential.
Address: Witzlebenstraße 31, Charlottenburg
Phone: +49 30 615 2810
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 5pm - 1am
Sat: 4pm - 1am
Sun: 12noon - 1am

Hot Dog Soup

Quick-carb-fix for those late-night munchies
Popular plate: Try the 'Hawaii' hot dog topped with pineapple, sweet and sour sauce and crispy onions.

This very popular hot dog kiosk in Friedrichshain has locals queueing most evenings, and especially at weekends, when the need for post-beer carbs and a good, meaty frankfurter is acute.

Alongside the tasty sauerkraut, chilli and cheese offerings, they make space for vegans with their tofu sausage. There are also 50 varieties of soups with flavours changed regularly.

Don't worry if the queues look long; the service at this tiny takeaway is amazingly fast, and they won't shut the door until the last customer is served.
Address: Grünberger Straße 69, Friedrichshain
Phone: +49 30 7439 5560
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 11.30am - 11pm
Sun: 11.30am - 9pm

Hugos

High-end food in a high-rise dining room
Noteworthy for: Michelin-starred food aside, the panoramic view from the top floor of the Intercontinental Hotel gives stunning night-scapes over Fernsehturm, Tiergarten and Potsdamer Platz and beyond.

Talk of the town: Chef Thomas Kammeier is Germany's version of Gordon Ramsay and sells millions of cookbooks every year.

Oozing class and sophistication, this is where to come for a special occasion. It's not just the Michelin-starred food, which has made it stand out and win many accolades, but the immaculate service and elegant atmosphere.

The menu is a truly cosmopolitan pan-European mix with an attention to seasonality and source. The dishes change often, so there's always something new to try, whether its glazed foie gras with mango, or rib eye steak of wagyu beef. Prices are high and portions are small, however, so come for the experience rather than big eating.
Address: Intercontinental Hotel, Budapester Straße 2, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 2602 1263
Opening Hours: Tue-Sat: 6.30pm - 10.30pm

Kauf dich Glücklich

Waffles, ice-cream and cute knick knacks
Noteworthy for: You can buy anything you see whether it's the kitsch art on the walls or the art deco sofa on which you sit. It's all in the name: 'buy yourself happy.'

A cross between a curiosity shop, an ice-cream parlour and a cafe, the vintage furnishings and shelves of oddities are just as endearing as the waffles they serve on pretty vintage china. With white walls and French windows, the main room is refreshingly airy and light in here despite the cluttered aesthetic.

Browse the knick knacks to purchase from mini harmonicas to moustache-shaped kitchen scrubbers while you queue up for ice-cream, waffles or soup in the adjoining takeaway parlour. In the summer the pavement tables surrounded by potted plants on cobbled Oderberger Straße make a lovely spot to pass some time.
Address: Oderberger Straße 44, Prenzlauer Berg
Phone: +49 30 4435 2182
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 12noon - 1am
Sat-Sun: 10am - 1am

Kimchi Princess

Cool Korean barbecue
Word to the wise: This place closes during the day. If you want to try their Korean fare out of hours, head to Angry Chicken, their neon-lit takeaway shop around the corner.

As far as food trends go, Korean barbecue is certainly riding high, and here at Kimchi Princess, they do it with particular panache. Named after the spicy Korean cabbage speciality, it's invariably full of hip Kreuzberg types dining under the red strip lighting at the long wooden benches, or sitting lotus-style on the traditional Korean low tables.

Order the bulgogi (marinated beef) which is cooked on a grill at your table by an attentive chef, who returns with amazing regularity to check on your meat. The place is always packed after 9pm, with later dining more popular, as you get a queue-jump pass to neighbouring bar Soju with your meal.
Address: Skalitzer Straße 36, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 16 34 580 203
Opening Hours: Daily: 6pm - 11pm

Konnopke's Imbiss

Competitor for the best currywurst in Berlin
Noteworthy for: Konnopke's has been open since 1930. Despite a complete renovation in April 2011, it still serves the same standard of sausage.

Popular plate: Need we say it? It's currywurst all the way.

Coming to Berlin and not having some currywurst is like going to Italy and avoiding spaghetti. Konnopke's has been going for over 80 years – operating out of a van underneath a tram line – sending Berlin's commuters off to work with full stomachs and satisfied smiles.

Currywurst is a typical German sausage covered in a tomato, Worcestershire sauce and curry gravy, sometimes served in a bun, but usually on its own. It's cheap, tasty, filling, and will make you look like a local as you learn to walk and eat at the same time, Berlin-style.
Address: Schoenhauser Allee 44b, Prenzlauer Berg
Phone: +49 30 442 7765
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 10am - 8pm
Sat: 12noon - 8pm

Lavanderia Vecchia

Rustic Italian fare with flair
Noteworthy for: Located in Neukölln, this is one of the first destination restaurants to emerge from this up-and-coming district. It certainly has got more people venturing to the gritty South Berlin streets.

Enter through a hidden entrance via three backyards to find this small, barebones supper club. Housed in a former laundrette, the exposed pipes and old washing machines have been left in for effect, and tea towels hang from washing lines like bunting.

You order at the reception area from the choice of two of each course, mixing and matching to create an amazingly priced set menu of EUR 8. The food is authentic Italian – the majority of the staff hail from the homeland – and while it varies greatly, the food is consistently delicious, fresh and surprising.
Address: Flughafenstraße 46, Neukölln
Phone: +49 30 6272 2152
Opening Hours: Tue-Fri: 12noon - 2.30pm
Tue-Sat: 7.30pm (reservation only)

Le Provencal

Cosy and classic French restaurant
Noteworthy for: Located in the reconstructed old town of Nikolaiviertel in Mitte, this is one of your best bets for good food in what is the heart of tourist land.

Sitting delightfully on the banks of the River Spree, this place does get busy, but that's as much to do with the excellent food as the convenient central location. Though that means you will pay a bit more here than in other less-commercial areas.

You'll find standard favourites like French onion soup and confit of duck, but also some interesting variations. Look out for the pepper steak or shrimps with pastis. The seasonal specials and set menus are a good bet too. If the weather is fine, take a seat on the terrace and enjoy the scent of the potted lavender and rosemary as you eat.
Address: Spreeufer 3, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 302 7567
Opening Hours: Daily: 12noon - 12midnight

Makoto

Japanese noodles in the heart of Mitte
Word to the wise: As the go-to place for the local lunch crowd, it gets overwhelmingly busy at lunchtime. Eat early or late if you can.

Located in a busy retail area of Mitte, Makoto is very popular with local office and shop workers who come here for the exceptional noodles and soups. The décor isn't anything wonderful, but more about functionality, and don't expect the staff to spend much time discussing the menu with you – they're too busy serving the hungry guests. But this is genuine, non-tourist driven Japanese cuisine.

You'll find the usual sushi and sashimi, but it's the Ramen and Gyoza that bring people here in droves, not to mention the reasonable prices.
Address: Alte Schönhauser Straße 13, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 9789 3857
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 12noon - 11pm

Miseria & Nobilta

Authentic Italian food in a rustic setting
Word to the wise: The restaurant does not accept cards, so make sure your trip includes a detour to the ATM.

Talk of the town: The owner is a huge fan of Italian actor, Happy Sciosciammocca, whose 1954 movie the restaurant is named after.

Just off the Friedrichshain's vibrant Simon-Dach Strasse, you'll find this gem of an Italian restaurant that basks in its reputation for serving authentic Puglia cuisine in homely surroundings.

With wooden tables, carafes and shelf upon shelf of oils, wines and condiments, it's going all out on the trattoria aesthetic. Even the menu is written entirely in Italian, but the friendly staff will be happy to translate, as well as recommend their favourite dishes from a list that changes daily. There is only a small menu, but, that is just a testimony to the freshness of the food.
Address: Kopernikusstrasse 16, Friedrichshain
Phone: +49 30 2904 9249
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun: 5.30pm - 12midnight

Monsieur Vuong

Inexpensive Vietnamese cuisine in trendy Mitte
Word to the wise: You can't book in advance, so be prepared to wait a while at busy times.

Talk of the town: Famous diners have included Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson.

Very popular with Berlin's art crowd, this simple-yet-chic eatery is situated on one of Mitte's busiest streets and has an infectious buzz about it, making it a great place to start, or end, the evening.

One of the first restaurants to kickstart the Asian food trend that swept Berlin, the predominantly Vietnamese menu changes frequently, although favourites such as the yellow curry or fish spring rolls, are more or less permanent fixtures.

Because it's always busy, you might find yourself sharing a table with strangers but, seeing as this serves as the favoured lunch option of the surrounding gallerists, conversation should be interesting.
Address: Alte Schönhauser Strasse 46, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 9929 6924
Opening Hours: Daily: 12noon - 12midnight

Nola's am Weinberg

A little Swiss mountain in the middle of Berlin
Popular plate: The creamy white wine risotto is excellent.

Tipple of choice: The Swiss vodka - hard to find anywhere but here.

Popular with Berliners who come here for the gorgeous carousel terrace (which has sun loungers in summer), Nola has a reputation for great Swiss cuisine. Hearty breakfasts are dominated by cheese, bagels and salamis, lunches are healthy salads and, for dinner, traditional Swiss roschti, steak-frites and schnitzels take over.

The menu tries to include all elements of Switzerland, so Italian, French and German dishes feature heavily. Portions are large, so it gets very busy, especially in fine weather. The parkland location is ideal for those long, lazy brunches they do particularly well here.
Address: Veteranenstrasse 9, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 4404 0766
Website: www.nola.de
Opening Hours: Daily: 10am - 1am

Restaurant Jolesch

Traditional Austrian food in intimate surroundings
Word to the wise: The restaurant is situated in a residential area, so make sure your directions are good before setting off.

Popular plate: Their goulash is comfort food at its best.

With a smart green and wooden interior, Jolesch is a cosy place in the middle of suburban Kreuzberg, whose clientele is a dedicated mix of locals and schnitzel-hunters, who come from miles around to sample a special piece of veal. Another specialty here are the pancakes, as light as any you'll find and filled with various savory delights, such as minced lamb and ragu.

The real treat here, though, is the wonderful selection of Austrian wines, which easily outdoes more familiar Italian, German and French neighbours. Choose one of the cheeky Veltliners, and you won't be disappointed.
Address: Muskauer Strasse 1, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 30 612 3581
Opening Hours: Daily: 11.30am - 12midnight

Restaurant Marques Rene Maschkiwitz

Rustic, Spanish cuisine in a bustling bodega
Popular plate: The fillet steak is one of the best you'll find in Berlin.

Tipple of choice: The wines change so often, there isn't actually a list. Just point to one on the shelf and hope for the best.

This Kreuzberg tapas restaurant is suitably rustic and low-lit, and regularly fills up with passionate locals who can't get enough of the paella, chorizo and steaks. Worth mentioning is also the quality of desserts – something the Spanish aren't particularly famous for, let's be honest.

The regulars here can get a bit protective, so don't be surprised if everyone stares at you as sit down, aghast that the owner is even allowing strangers in. As soon as you start making approving noises with every mouthful of patatas bravas or passion fruit mousse though, you'll soon find yourself accepted.
Address: Graefestraße 92, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 30 6162 5906
Opening Hours: Daily: 6pm - 11.30pm

Rogacki

Sprawling deli and cafe dedicated to good food
Noteworthy for: With 125 members of staff, Rogacki has separate counters for each food group: 150 kinds of cheese, over 200 varieties of cured and fresh meats, fish, beer, salad, and so on.

Popular plate: Remarkably it is the eel stew, which sells out fast. Order if you're brave enough.

Part-deli, part-eatery, the enormous and chaotic Rogacki is where the locals come to stock up on their meats, cheeses and fish, all freshly prepared in the three floors of prep rooms and kitchens that make up this 1920s marketplace.

At the entrance, groups of rotund, rosy-cheeked Germans stand in the window, happily tucking into sauerkraut and little pots of fish stew. In the summer, there are chairs outside but, if you want to blend in, you need to stand up with everyone else, as you watch the 'hausfraus' whiz around the counters shoving bratwursts into their shopping bags and haggling over the prices.
Address: Wilmersdorfer Strasse 145, Charlottenburg
Phone: +49 30 343 8250
Opening Hours: Mon-Wed: 9am - 6pm
Thu: 9am - 7pm
Fri: 8am - 7pm
Sat: 8am - 4pm

Santa Maria

Day of the Dead-style dining
Word to the wise: On Tuesdays, all tacos and tequila are dished out for just EUR 1 from 4pm. Otherwise, you can pick up a margarita daily between 8pm and 10pm for EUR 4.

Decked out in the black, white and red regalia of that aesthetically macabre Mexican festival, this place looks cool to start with, but add helpful and friendly staff, mouthwatering margaritas and burritos so big you could bludgeon someone with them, and you can begin to understand its popularity.

The Mexican fare here is very good – something that is always tricky to find outside the Americas – and reasonably priced. Come by day for the lunch special (Mon-Fri: 12noon - 4pm) of tacos, a drink and salad for EUR 8, or at night when it's one of the best dining hotspots on Oranienstrasse.
Address: Oranienstraße 170, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 30 9221 0027
Opening Hours: Daily: 12noon - 2am

Schneeweiss

Sophistication and elegance, Austrian-style
Popular plate: Veal entrecote with chantarelle risotto.

Talk of the town: All the waiters wear entirely white, from top to toe, so it's sometimes hard to see them.

If there is such a thing as Austrian fine dining, then you'll find it here at Schneeweiss. Meaning "snow white" in English, the name sums up the virginal, minimalist interior, with clean lines and the most dazzling white tablecloths, napkins and drapes you'll ever see. Even as the restaurant prepares to shut at well past midnight, it's so bright in here, it could be midday.

The menu changes frequently, but dishes like the perch fillet in beurre blanc, and salsify-ricotta strudel, are just two examples of the fineries you can expect here. Classy and stylish.
Address: Simplonstrasse 16, Friedrichshain
Phone: +49 30 2904 9704
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 6pm - 1am
Sat-Sun: 10am - 1am

The Shy Chef

Secret dining in secret locations
Noteworthy for: Reveling in secrecy, you can only contact The Shy Chef by email.

Word to the wise: There is no fixed price for the meal, instead diners are asked to make a 'donation', with EUR 63 being the accepted figure.

For the more adventurous diners, The Shy Chef is one of those clever concepts that will have you talking over other dinner tables for years to come. The idea's simple enough: reserve your space via the website without knowing the actual location, chef or meal. On the day itself, you will be given an address and a time to show up.

A few hours later, you'll find yourself about to sit down with eight complete strangers and, of course, the 'Shy Chef' her/himself. Wherever you end up, you'll be treated to a five course menu with wine, and an evening of unique conversation.
Opening Hours: Fri-Sun: 8pm - late

Themroc

Friendly front-room eatery in Mitte
Word to the wise: There are only 20 seats here, so it's best to swing by earlier in the day to reserve.

Themroc is a secret the locals have been trying to keep for years. In the heart of Mitte's sightseeing central, this small place has stayed rustic and charming with ad-hoc wooden furniture, framed Mile Davis records on the wall and an open-kitchen that serves just one three-course menu a day.

The food has distinctly French and Persian influences, inspired by the nationalities of the three rotating chefs here, with dishes like venison steaks and chervil soup appearing regularly. After the work is done, the fabulously friendly owners will most likely join you at the bar for a tipple.
Address: Torstrasse 183, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 282 4474
Opening Hours: Daily: 7pm - 2am

Transit

Asian tapas, freshly made in minutes
Noteworthy for: The fare here is completely MSG-free, keeping the dishes lighter though just as moorish.

Word to the wise: When Mitte gets busy at weekends, there is another Transit in Friedrichshain (Sontagstrasse 28).

This light, bright Thai/Indonesian restaurant is always popular thanks to its fresh approach to casual dining. What the Spanish do so well with tapas, the guys at Transit have nailed down for Asian cuisine, too. Here, you can sample small or large bowls of anything from crispy fried chicken skin and sticky rice with pork, to papaya salad and five spice duck.

While it's laid-back by day, it's buzzing by night, full of groups of friends drinking and sharing food in the atmospheric lighting. It's all about the sharing plates; at EUR 3 each the price is great, and you can all dive in.
Address: Rosenthaler Strasse 68, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 2478 1645
Opening Hours: Daily: 11am - 1am

Vai mo Salumeria Enoteca

Simple Italian cuisine in a tiny space
Word to the wise: You can ask to try a sample of a few different wines before deciding which to buy.

Popular plate: The panna cotta regularly gets rave reviews.

It's small in here, very small, but that's the charm of this place, really. Checkered tablecloths and dusty wine bottles stacked against the walls make for a personal atmosphere, enhanced by the smiley hostess who'll welcome you like a long-lost relative.

Vai mo is a no-frills place, reflected in the prices and the limited menu. But once the aromas emanating from the kitchen hit you, just point to the open door and ask for "whatever that is, please." This is the perfect spot for that romantic rendezvous.
Address: Danziger Strasse 18, Prenzlauer Berg
Phone: +49 30 4849 5655
Website: www.vai-mo.de
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 11am - 10pm

Vineria del Este

Uruguayan style fusion tapas
Word to the wise: The restaurant is situated on a quiet, residential street, but the busy Simon-Dach Strasse is only a few minutes' walk away.

Tipple of choice: Stick to the theme and try one of the Uruguayan Tarnat wines.

Run by a young team keen to bring a little piece of Spanish South America to Berlin, this is a bright, friendly restaurant offering up a surprisingly detailed tapas menu, using imported Uruguayan beef, authentic Spanish cheeses, and local German fruit and vegetables.

Whilst you'll get all your nibbly favorites such as potato tortilla and fried chorizo, you'll also find some interesting 'fusion tapas' like Hokkaido pumpkin with goat cheese, and spinach balls with Gorgonzola. The paella is famous in these parts and is best pre-ordered, even if there's only two of you, such care they take over preparing it.
Address: Bänschstraße 41, Friedrichshain
Phone: +49 30 4202 4943
Opening Hours: Daily: 3pm - late

White Trash, Fast Food

Restaurant, tattoo parlour, smoking cinema and dive bar all-in-one
Talk of the town: The un-family-friendly menu includes "F**k You Fries" and "Porno-Nachos"; it's what they call, 'Exotic food just like mama used to make'.

Word to the wise: For the smokers amongst you head to the Smoking Cinema - there's something gloriously retro about lounging back watching old movies through the smoky air.

Deliciously over-the-top, this burger bar is part tiki lounge, part trailer trash Americana, part Chinese bohemia, and everything in between; it also makes some of the best burgers and fries in Mitte.

Often live bands take over the restaurant sending the place into a frenzy, as people dance around their booth tables and french fries go flying.

After dinner head to the downstairs Diamond Lounge to cut loose to some rockabilly, 50s surf and punk sounds with the beautifully disheveled crowds. Just avoid the tattoo parlour after a few drinks.
Address: Schönhauser Allee 6-7, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 5034 8668
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 4pm – late
Sat-Sun: 6pm – late

Zur Letzten Instanz

Classic German cuisine
Talk of the town: The name translate roughly as 'the 11th hour' and is where prisoners were taken for their last pint before going to jail.

Popular plate: The house speciality on the meaty menu is the pork knuckle.

Talk of the town: Diners here have included everyone from Napoléon to Angela Merkel.

Yes, you'll find it in every other guide book, but that is because it is Berlin's oldest restaurant, dating from 1621, and - history aside - it still serves some of the best German classics in town - surprisingly difficult to find in a city which has embraced gastronomic multiculturalism often at the expense of its own cuisine.

Expect lots of sausage, pork, cabbage and bread, but try something you may not have had before, such as gammon with grape sauce. The restored medieval building might be too twee, for some, with the wooden, kitsch interior, but culinary history buffs will revel.
Address: Waisenstrasse 14-16, Alexanderplatz
Phone: +49 30 242 5528
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 12noon - 1am

Ankerklause

Social sea shanties in Kreuzberg
Noteworthy for: Their Thursday night parties – complete with people dancing like drunken sailors – are among the city's most wild.

Word to the wise: Located right next to the Maybachufer Turkish market on the Kreuzberg Neukölln border, it gets busy on Tuesdays and Fridays when the market crowds hole up here.

It's hard not to cry "All aboard!" as you enter this kitsch nautical joint. After a few cocktails you can almost feel the rickety shack start rocking on the waves, suspended as it is over the canal, and the plastic fish in the portholes start spinning round in circles.

Maritime paraphernalia aside, you can expect a colourful and relaxed crowd, who come to listen to old tunes on the jukebox and drink on the waterside terrace. In the summer you can watch the boats pass, and in winter its covered and cosy with twinkling lights. The venue is also known for surprisingly good breakfasts.
Address: Kottbusser Damm 104, Schönleinstraße
Phone: +49 30 6935 649
Opening Hours: Mon: 4pm - late
Tue-Sun: 10am - late

Berghain

Berlin's hedonistic club capital
Word to the wise: Any kind of photographic equipment, including phones, is strictly forbidden.

Berghain is the monster of all Berlin nightclubs. Named for its location between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, it's housed in a former power plant, but they forgot to redecorate it, so expect to pump away to three floors of techno, whilst hugging concrete pillars and getting covered in brick dust.

The club has a colourful reputation, so you might expect all sorts to be going on here, from live sex shows in the infamous 'dark rooms', to devil worship in the basement. But in truth, it's just 1,500 people tanked up on Red Bull, dancing like headless chickens. Fantastic, and harmless fun.
Address: Ruderstorfer Strasse 70, Friedrichshain
Phone: +49 30 2936 0210
Opening Hours: Thu-Sat: 11pm - 11am

Chalet

The new hipster playground from the Bar 25 crew
Word to the wise: Riding high on their former club successes, the drink prices are a little higher than usual.

Talk of the town: When the deeply beloved techno hothouse Bar 25 closed down, there was a big nightlife shaped hole in the lives of many Berliners.

Not to shirk on their responsibilities, the cool crew behind Bar 25 didn't leave it long to open up an alternative. First came the now obscenely popular party playground that is Kater Holzig, shortly followed by their latest offering, Chalet.

On the river, it's located in a beautiful three-story brick warehouse adorned with worn-down old-world decor and colourful lights, and surrounded by an abundant fairytale garden in classic Berlin indoor-outdoor club style. Filled with the arty types and hipsters that always find the new haunts first, it also attracts a line-up of DJs that brings in the music aficionados.
Address: Vor dem Schlesischen Tor 3, Kreuzberg
Opening Hours: Mon-Thu: 10pm - late
Fri-Sun: 24hrs

Club der Visionäre

Canal-side party with chilled tunes and cheap beer
Word to the wise: It either costs EUR 2 on the door, or your first drink will cost an extra Euro to pay for the DJ. Nonetheless it's still well-priced.

Popular plate: The pizza oven takes a battering late afternoon as drinkers start taking precautionary measures for the evening ahead.

Sit on the wooden terrace under the shade of a willow tree, dip your feet in the water and watch boats bob past you. The DJ spins some tunes in the background and you're surrounded by the buzz of happy people. This canal side club unsurprisingly fills up the moment the doors open, and keeps going until the early hours.

The chilled vibe changes as night falls, and ramps up to a full-on party palace throughout the weekend. They also have their own boat you can hire out for a pleasure jaunt – worth doing before getting stuck into the beer.
Address: Am Flutgraben 1, Treptow
Phone: +49 30 6951 8942
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 2pm - late
Sat-Sun: 12noon - late

CSA

Chic lounge bar, a cut above the rest
Talk of the town: The building was the former ticketing office for Czech airline, CSA, after which the bar was named.

This might look like a brand-spanking-new cocktail bar, but the building is very much old-East Berlin. With its angled geometry and pillars, it reminds visitors that some of the best architecture in the world was hidden behind the Iron Curtain for far too long.

Popular with the thirty-something artsy set, inside there's a swanky long bar with pale leather stools, perfect for enjoying a Singapore sling or designer beer. Casino-style ceiling lights add to the glitz and glamour, and the staff are so on the money, they're mixing your drink even before you've finished asking for it.
Address: Karl-Marx Allee 96, Friedrichshain
Phone: +49 30 2904 4741
Opening Hours: Daily: 7pm - late

Green Door

Veteran cocktail bar for the quirkier drinker
Tipple of choice: The bar's signature drink is the champagne, lemon, sugar and mint – a bubbly take on mojitos.

Talk of the town: Owned by German TV actor Fritz Muller-Scherz, word has it that the bar was named after America’s first hardcore porno ‘Behind the Green Door’ made in 1972.

The motto is 'Which secrets are you keeping?' and this veteran Berlin bar could certainly spill a few with people like David Bowie filling their glass here over the last 15-years. Like all the best bars, it's hidden behind a green door; just ring the bell and hope the doorman likes the look of you.

The retro decor of gingham wallpaper and kitsch knick knacks – from the porcelain dog mascot to emergency red telephone – is all done with a sleek yet quirky finish, to match the innovative cocktail list. Wile away the night on a leather chesterfield working your way through the mixologist’s endless concoctions.
Address: Winterfeldtstraße 50, Schöneberg
Phone: +49 30 215 2515
Opening Hours: Sun-Thu: 6pm - 3am
Fri-Sat: 6pm - 4am

Kingsize

Small and deadly
Noteworthy for: Run by the people behind cosmopolitan steakhouse Grill Royal, King Size is the restaurant's younger, naughtier, disco-dancing sibling.

The joke's in the name; this bar is no more than a hole-in-the-wall, but the party is definitely supersized. The great DJs and always-kicking atmosphere have made it so wildly popular that just getting to the bar is like playing human tetris. If the crowd weren't so friendly here it could be exhausting, but nowhere else are people under such spatial constraints still so smiley.

The music is a fun mix of electro, techno and disco, and people dance on the counters, the bar, the tiny dance floor, or any space they can find to shuffle and whoop. You're almost guaranteed a great-night out.
Address: Friedrichstraße 112b, Mitte
Opening Hours: Wed-Sat: 9pm - 7am

Luzia

Cosmopolitan boho chic in Kreuzberg
Noteworthy for: The interior wall paintings are by local celebrity artist, Chin Chin.

Part warehouse, part cabaret club, this Kreuzberg bar is a second home for most locals. With cheap drinks and regular acoustic entertainment, it's a welcome change to other DJ-centric bars and clubs in the area.

There's a lot of standing space, which adds to the buzz, as does the diverse clientele of all nationalities, all persuasions, all planets. Random pieces of furniture blend well with flock wallpaper, fairy lights and industrial piping, but it's the feel-good atmosphere of Luzia that makes it such a great place to hang out. The pavement and window seats also make great perches for people-watching along Oranienstrasse.
Address: Oranienstrasse 34, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 30 8179 9958
Website: www.luzia.tc
Opening Hours: Daily: 10am - 3am

Metzer Eck

Traditional Berlin pub
Word to the wise: Lots of the tables get reserved at weekends, so try on a quieter week night to guarantee getting a seat.

A nod to the pre-Wall days of East Berlin, this traditional German bar has managed to retain an air of authenticity, whilst keeping up-to-date with new beers and a constantly-changing menu of heartwarming 'pub grub' – great on those cold, winter nights.

It's quite easy to stay here for a few hours and work your way through the drafts and bottles on offer, and the owners will often sit down with you for a chat if they're not too busy. This is proper German hospitality in a typical German ale-house.
Address: Metzerstrasse 33, Prenzlauer Berg
Phone: +49 30 442 7656
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 4pm - 1am
Sat: 6pm - 1am

Monster Ronson's Ichiban Karaoke

Rock karaoke for extroverts only
Tipple of choice: Tuesdays are two-for-one on selected drinks until midnight.

Monster Ronson's is no ordinary karaoke club – it's a spectacular, high-camp extravaganza of people desperate for their 15 minutes, not just with the microphone, but with guitars, drums and keyboards too. You and your friends can rock out as a band, in front of a psychedelic backdrop, as the crowd throws itself at your feet, begging for more, at least in your imagination.

Aside from the main stage, there are private rooms that can be booked for those who aren't brave enough to 'go public' just yet, but frankly, if you have any self-consciousness at all this place will eat you alive.
Address: Warschauer Strasse 34, Friedrichshain
Phone: +49 30 8975 1327
Opening Hours: Daily: 7pm - 4am

Nathanja & Heinrich

Stripped down and sociable Neukölln cafe-bar
Word to the wise: At the heart of Neukölln's bar scene, you can easily find several more good drinking options in the vicinity, as well as some tasty tapas at Gastón (Weichselstraße 18).

Tipple of choice: The gin-basil smash - a bit like an alternative mojito - is an excellent invention.

Despite the raw walls and rough-round-the-edges aesthetic in this spacious bar, it still manages to feel homely, perhaps thanks to the flowers, candles and old furniture, which you can sink into. There's a back room with antique cabinets and divans that feels like an old-fashioned smoking room.

Nathanja & Heinrich is a popular cafe by day, but it's most atmospheric by night, when even on the weekends it doesn't get too manic - just a relaxed, sociable spot for a drink. Popular with Neukölln locals, you might even find someone reading a book by candlelight.
Address: Weichselstraße 44, Neukölln
Phone: +49 30 62 49 114
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun: 1pm - 3am

Neue Odessa Bar

The warm-up party bar
Word to the wise: This bar fills up on weekends, but if you need a space to breathe the back room is usually empty.

Oddly, it's the bathrooms here which really step up in the style stakes. With dragon-headed taps, gold surfaces and mirrored walls, they almost outshine the rest of the new-deco bar. Maybe that's because the loos are unisex, so it's a surprisingly sociable place.

Not that you come for the toilets. The classic and creative cocktail list and the inevitable good vibes from what is a friendly, upbeat and pretty party crowd are the real draw. The bar is a great warm-up venue for a night out, but it's easy to get stuck, especially when the parties last all night here.
Address: Torstraße 89, Mitte
Phone: +49 171 8398 991
Opening Hours: Daily: 7pm - late

Prater

Berlin's oldest beer garden
Word to the wise: It's distinctly kid-friendly with a play area set aside so the adults can get down to the serious business of beer drinking and sausage eating.

This place is a Prenzlauerberg institution that has been running since the early 19th century in one form or another. These days the swing-era bar is immaculately restored, as is the theatre, but people come in droves for the beer garden.

Every summer the 600 seats here fill up with all sorts: locals chowing down the excellent sausages; rotund old beer-guzzlers heckling passing girls; and tourists happily indulging in a traditional – and reasonably priced – Prater Pils. All add to the general air of hoopla on a hot sunny day.
Address: Kastanienallee 7 – 9, Prenzlauer Berg
Phone: +49 3 0448 5688
Opening Hours: Daily: 12noon - 11pm

RAW Tempel

Alternative events hub
Noteworthy for: It's gritty, edgy and cool. In short, it will fulfill the alternative Berlin ideal you've harboured since you booked your flights.

Word to the wise: Most charming is wooden shack Badehaus; they serve barbecue food on the rickety terrace and inside have a playlist refreshingly free of electro. Hip hop, swing and Russian ska all feature.

You could call it a nightlife complex, if that didn't make it sound like a multiplex mall, which is a far cry from RAW Tempel. Around the corner from Simon Dach Strasse, this graffitied maze of warehouses and garages is packed with bars, clubs and arts and events spaces.

Located in a former railway maintenance yard, it is now a non-profit organisation aimed at offering affordable cultural and social events. With a range of outreach projects, they also host exhibitions. But the big appeal is by night, when it turns into the dark and brooding party hub of Friedrichshain.
Address: Revaler Straße 99, Friedrichshain
Phone: +49 30 2924 695

Reingold

Retro high-style cocktail bar
Word to the wise: The entrance is a little tricky to find behind a big wooden door on the left hand side of a dark alley off Torstraße.

With barman dressed like they fell from a Rat Pack era movie and old swing and jazz tunes tinkering away in the background, Reingold indulges in a retro ilk of luxury. The gold-leaf walls, heavy marble bar and art work add to the ambience, though their attitude to mixology is bang up-to-date. Just name your favourite ingredients, and they'll do the rest.

While it's no longer the weekend party place du jour, this makes it all the better for intimate dates or just enjoying a cocktail and a catch up without the crowds. Head to the outdoor terrace on balmy nights.
Address: Novalisstraße 11, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 2838 7676
Opening Hours: Tue-Sat: 7pm - 4am

Salon Zur Wilden Renate

A hedonistic house party
Word to the wise: Seek out the subterranean labyrinth and secret dance floor – it's not easy to find, but the journey is half the fun.

Locals know not to arrive before the party gets started at around 2am. Before then, a handful of foreigners wander the ramshackle rooms of this old house in a state of bewildered awe, ogling the trash art sculptures, threadbare chaise lounges and dangling bird cages. It's like the tumbledown, labyrinthine abode of your eccentric old uncle, if he happened to have a penchant for partying.

The dance floor is far too small for that many people to rave to the electro-techno line-up, but luckily the clientele are known for being among the friendliest in town. This is one for the quirkier, more wild night owl.
Address: Alt-Stralau 70, Treptow
Phone: +49 30 2504 1426
Opening Hours: Check webpage for individual event details

Schönbrunn Biergarten

Pretty beer garden in the park
Tipple of choice: Try the crisp draft Radeberger with a dash of bitter lemon.

You can't come to Germany and not spend an afternoon in a beer garden. There are obviously dozens of the places around town, but this is among the best: set right in the middle of Volkspark Friedrichshain, it's the picturesque location, which makes it.

Enjoy the comfort of table service – no long bar queues – and an extensive food menu of pizzas, bratwurst and antipasti to soak up the beer as you sit in the sunshine feeling increasingly warm and fuzzy. The beer menu itself might not be huge, but has a good starter selection for those who want to ease themselves into Germany's beer culture a little more slowly.
Address: Schwanenteich, Volkspark Friedrichshain
Phone: +49 304 5305 6525
Opening Hours: Daily: Mar-Oct: 10am - 12midnight
Nov-Feb: 10am - 7pm

Tausend

Classy club for the beautiful people
Noteworthy for: The Friday night disco, which can get a bit sweaty.

Word to the wise: Dress for success – the management are fussy about who they let in.

Tipple of choice: Moscow Mule.

This high-end nightclub is so exclusive, there isn't even a sign outside. Instead, look for a big metal door, knock, and wait for the surly doorman to let you in, if you're lucky. If he does, you'll be rewarded with a slick, space-age outfit, full of glamorous cats (absolutely no grunge here...), sipping Martinis after a hard day's work.

It's like a cross between a James Bond set and a nightclub on Mars, lots of bar stools, champagne buckets and roped-off VIP sections, all set-off against designer chandeliers and lots of metallica. A place to see, and be seen in.
Address: Schiffbauerdamm 11, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 4171 5396
Opening Hours: Tue-Sat: 7.30pm - late

The Rum Trader

Exclusive, elegant and inaccessible cocktail bar
Word to the wise: With only one table, and space for around 20 people, it's no wonder the doorman is difficult to pass, especially as many of those spaces are for Rum Trader regulars.

There are cocktail bars, and there is The Rum Trader. Located on a main street, yet notoriously difficult to find, ring a bell and hope they like the look of you.

Once inside, you'll be lucky to find a seat in the tiny space but, as soon as the white-suited bartender starts regaling you with his far-fetched tales of derring-do and chivalry, you'll be more than happy to just lean on the bar and listen to him all night, sipping on genuine Martinis that take 10 minutes to prepare. Indulge those James Bond fantasies.
Address: Fasanenstraße 40, Wilmersdorf
Phone: +49 3 0881 1428
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 7am - 1am
Sat-Sun: 9.30am - 2am

Watergate

Uber-trendy techno-club right by the water
Noteworthy for: The fantastic sunrises seen from the floor-to-ceiling windows, if you can stay awake that long.

This huge glass box is located right beside the River Spree and specialises in techno and house – it's a popular hangout for Berlin's over-25 clubbers, who are happy to leave the teenagers to their pseudo-underground caverns and have this place to themselves.

Rooms are spacious, with loads of sofas to collapse on during sweat breaks, while the dance floors themselves are covered in a spectacular lighting system running the whole length of the club. Tripping out to some top tunes as you gaze out over a backdrop of amazing architecture and rippling skies – it's sheer, unadulterated ecstasy.
Address: Falckensteinstrasse 49, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 30 6128 0394
Opening Hours: Wed, Fri-Sat: 12midnight - 12noon

Weekend

High-rise electronica near Alexanderplatz
Noteworthy for: The roof terrace which provides welcome fresh air between dances and spectacular city views.

Word to the wise: Try to arrive before 1am, when the doormen get a lot tougher on entry.

They used to queue all the way up Alexanderstrasse to get in here. Maybe the crowd has just got older, moved away, or don't like heights, but Weekend still has a lot going for it. The roof terrace is a real plus, and the two other upper floors of this high-rise block give it a really exclusive feel.

Music is mainly electronic/techno, and it's a great place to come and see some internationally-renowned DJs. It's also where many of the smaller, indie Berlin record labels hold their album launch parties. So, if you want to feel a bit special, check your dates and plan your VIP appearance.
Address: Alexandertraße 7, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 2463 1676
Opening Hours: Thu-Sat: 11pm - 4am

Alte Schönhauser Straße and around

Berlin's ultimate hotspot for independent boutiques
Word to the wise: If Alte Schönhauser Straße's clothes shops start to tire you, the street also has some good places for coffee, such as Pony Bar, and buzzing Vietnamese diner Monsieur Vuong.

Snaking its way through Mitte, Alte Schönhauser Strasse and its surrounding streets are the ultimate Berlin address for any boutique that wants to be taken seriously. An H&M-free zone, Alte Schönhauser Strasse is home to key upscale brands such as A.P.C and Filippa K, as well as smaller independent shops and the odd vintage store.

Alte Schönhauser Strasse has become so popular that the coolest brands are increasingly migrating to side streets, so keep exploring. These include neighbouring Mulackstrasse, home to Berlin's knitwear queen Claudia Skoda, and Rosa Luxemburg Strasse, where you'll find cool Danish streetwear brand Wood Wood.
Address: Alte Schönhauser Strasse, Mitte
U Bahn: Weinmeisterstrasse

Another Country

Second-hand book store and lending library
Noteworthy for: The live acoustic evenings most Wednesdays are delightfully free.

This is such a great idea – you buy a book, decamp to a Berlin cafe for a few days to read it then, if you don't want to keep it, just bring it back for a refund, minus a Euro or two for the privilege of borrowing it.

It's perfect for those who hate having to pack 'vacation reads', and with 20,000 books to choose from be prepared to spend a good hour dawdling over which classic to rent next. An extra treat are the regular film, dinner and acoustic evenings they hold here – impossibly civilised.
Address: Riemannstrasse 7, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 030 6940 1160
Opening Hours: Tue-Fri: 11am - 8pm
Sat-Sun: 12noon - 4pm

Apartment

Exclusive designer boutique hidden from the masses
Word to the wise: The 'cash' section of the store deals with second-hand or second season items that often go for 50 percent off the list price.

You'd easily walk past this place if you didn't know it was here, which is probably the point. So achingly hip, it's one of Berlin's best-kept secrets and occupies a suitably mysterious basement cell near Alexanderplatz.

If you're a McQueen freak or obsessed with Rick Owens, then Apartment can feed your habit. They also stock some obscure up-and-coming local labels like HuiHui for those after something really unique. It's as much about finding the place as shopping here.
Address: Memhardstrasse 8, Alexanderplatz
Phone: +49 30 2804 2251
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 11am - 7pm
Sat: 12noon - 7pm

Claudia Skoda

Iconic, edgy knitwear designer
Talk of the town: Designer Claudia Skoda was a key figure in establishing Berlin's underground scene, a friend to David Bowie and Iggy Pop and a collaborator with artist Martin Kippenberger.

Working under the motto "Modern since 1973" Claudia Skoda is one of the most distinctive, long-standing voices in Berlin fashion. With often bright colours, unusual cuts and particularly interesting textures to her signature knitwear, Skoda's clothes are anything but bland.

Admittedly, some of the bolder designs here are not necessarily suited to the shy, and prices are undoubtedly high. Happily, costs are matched with quality and excellent materials, and despite Skoda's status as a fashion veteran, the clothes have lost none of their edge. Hard to find outside Berlin, this could be a great place to buy something genuinely different.
Address: Mulackstrasse 8, Mitte
U Bahn: Rosa Luxemburg Platz, Weinmeisterstrasse
Phone: +49 30 400 418 84
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 11.30am - 7.30pm

Flea Markets

Put your bargain hat on
Word to the wise: As with most flea markets the world over, the earlier you get there, the luckier you'll be.

There are dozens of flea markets going on in Berlin most Sundays. The grand Mauerpark is the ultimate draw, but some of smaller ones are actually more manageable. Retro Trödelmarkt Arkonaplatz (Sun: 10am - 4pm) has a definite emphasis on 60s-90s goods, especially old vinyl, posters and former GDR items.

The no-frills market, Rathaus Schöneberg, in front of the Schöneberg Town Hall (John F Kennedy Platz 1; Sat, Sun: 9am - 4pm) is where the locals go to offload (and acquire) clutter and clothes. Finally Trödelmarkt am Boxhagener Platz (Sun: 10am - 6pm) is more like a garage sale than flea market, but you'll find a bargain if you can get past the tat.

Flohmarkt am Mauerpark

Vintage threads and live music in a hipster haven
Noteworthy for: Every week you'll find impromptu live performances on the grass next to the market, where travellers and hippies converge.

You could easily spend a whole day at this market trawling through piled-high second-hand clothes and bric-a-brac, staying on to dance the sun down in the evening. It may be a scrappy park, but every Sunday droves of Berliners and visitors arrive for the kilometre-long flea market where you can find anything from wartime silk nighties to 1980s records.

Grab some sausages and sauerkraut from the food court, then at 3pm head to the "bearpit" to the east of the market. This outdoor stone amphitheatre hosts notorious karaoke sessions, which attract hundreds to watch the brave sing it out.
Address: Bernauer Straße 63-64, Prenzlauer Berg
Phone: +49 176 2925 0021
Opening Hours: Sun: 7am - 5pm

Galeries Lafayette

Department store for the seriously well-heeled
Noteworthy for: The dramatic glass facade and opulent interiors are the work of prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, whose notable projects have included the Arab World Institute and Paris' Musée du quai Branly.

The little sister of the French institution, Galeries Lafayette is a stunning building that drips with hundreds of designer labels under one dazzlingly beautiful roof. Construction took five years, a thorn in the side of many commuters, but the results are worth it and Lafayette is now established as one of Berlin's premier department stores.

You'll get lost in here, prowling through Chloé, Dior and Versace. There's also a fantastic food court which, although pricier than the cafes on the street, serves up great French food to boost you with energy enough to keep shopping.
Address: Friedrichstrasse 76-78, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 209 480
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 10am - 8pm

Hackeschen Höfe and Hackescher Markt

A triangle of old-world shopping streets
Noteworthy for: There is still a market in Hackescher Markt every Thursday and Saturday selling the usual foodie fodder, leather goods and average arts and crafts.

Word to the wise: Watch out for the trams – the streets can get so busy, you might not see them heading right for you.

While Hackescher Markt and the surrounding streets have many chain stores such as Mac and Muji, as well as some boutiques, including stylish glasses label Mykita, the more interesting shopping can be found in the adjacent Hackesche Höfe. This beautiful art-nouveau complex has been here since the early 20th-century. Made up of a series of eight interconnecting courtyards, they are surrounded by perfectly proportioned German Secession style buildings with shops, bars and restaurants on their lower floors.

Damaged during the war it was recently restored, giving it an air of Disneyfication, but it's a pleasure to meander through admiring the intricate facades and mosaics, while stopping for coffee to people-watch.
Address: Between Rosenthaler Platz, Hackescher Markt and Sophienkirche

KaDeWe

Berlin's flagship department store
Word to the wise: The food court gets packed on Saturdays.

Talk of the town: KaDeWe is currently Europe's second biggest department store - only Harrod's in London is larger.

Kaufhaus des Westens, or 'KaDeWe', is a Berlin institution. Surprisingly, despite its size it's easy to miss, as you wander the gray frontages of the Tauentzienstrasse. But, look up, and the 'ShopZilla' will be staring down at you.

A traditional department store, floors are genre-specific (beauty, men, women and so on), so it's easy to navigate. There's a good mix of designer and chain favourites, but the highlight is the seventh floor food court, which is more a high-end delicatessen. The top-floor restaurant is worth a visit for the extraordinary views alone.
Address: Tauentzienstraße 21-24, Schoeneberg
Phone: +49 30 21 210
Opening Hours: Mon-Thu: 10am - 8pm
Fri: 10am - 9pm
Sat: 9.30am - 8pm

Kleidermarkt Garage

Bargain buys by the kilo
Noteworthy for: Garage is part of chain Kleidermarkt, which includes two trendy - and more organised - vintage boutiques in Mitte, both called Made in Berlin, as well as stores in Hamburg and Munich.

Word to the wise: Come for the Wednesday happy hour where you get a 30 per cent discount on every purchase from 11am-1pm.

Kleidermarkt Garage is the largest secondhand clothes store in Europe, so be prepared. This basement emporium sells anything and everything in such vast quantities you'll find yourself submerged in bargain bins of retro fashion from garish 80s catsuits to 50s circle skirts.

Located in West Berlin's Schöneberg, all sorts come to search for goodies, from young mums trying to kit out their brood of kids to hopeful bargain-hunting fashion types. You buy by the kilo - EUR 17.99 per kilo - so simply grab what you want, weigh and pay.
Address: Ahornstraße, Schöneberg
Phone: +49 30 211 27 60
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 11am - 7pm
Sat: 11am - 6pm

Ku-Damm and around

Berlin's most famous shopping street
Noteworthy for: Ku'Damm only flourished because the main consumer centre of Berlin 'disappeared' to the East with the construction of the Wall in 1961.

Word to the wise: Those with an interest in design should head to the parallel Kantstrasse, especially at the intersection with Uhlandstrasse, which has an incredible array of design stores.

Berlin's main shopping high street, comparable to London's Oxford Street or Paris' Champs-Élysées, is 3.5km of chain stores, luxury labels, car showrooms and retail giants. The western part of Kurfürstendamm – known locally as Ku'damm – is a broad tree-lined avenue of magnificent white mansions lined with designers including the flagship stores of Falke, Bally and Jil Sander, though the cobbled side streets have smaller still chic boutiques.

Meeting with Ku'Damm to the east is Tauentzienstrasse, where you'll find the prestigious KaDeWe and Peek & Cloppenburg department stores, as well as the more commercial shops such as Zara, Mango and Nike.
Address: Kürfurstendamm, Charlottenburg

Lala

Soft and sexy fashion darling
Word to the wise: If you really fall in love and want something exclusive, you can commission customised pieces within the Berlin store.

Leyla Piedayesh's collections have achieved cult status in Berlin for her timeless, feminine chic style, just bold enough to be interesting, without being so bold as to be unwearable. The darling of fashion writers the city over, Piedayesh was first adopted by Berlin's cool crowd for her sumptuous knitwear, and her latest collection is tactile, sexy and soft, with plenty of slinky silks and peekaboo chiffon. The Berlin store is just like her clothes; feminine and pretty.
Address: Mulackstraße 7, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 2576 2924
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 11.30am - 7.30pm
Sat: 12noon - 6pm

Markt am Maybachufer

The bazaar comes to Berlin
Noteworthy for: This is one of the nicest ways to explore Neukölln, when there is live music on the streets, and the bars are bustling.

Word to the wise: The official opening time is 11am, but many stallholders set up before, so get there early for the best bargains.

The largest Turkish market in Berlin, this is naturally the centre of the Turkish community here. On the border between Kreuzberg and Neukölln, every Tuesday and Friday the kilometre-long riverside road of Maybachufer feels like walking through a souk in Istanbul.

Hundreds of traders set up stalls selling everything from freshly-imported nuts and spices, to cheeses and breads made that very morning. But it's not just a food market; you can get electronics, games, books, fabrics, even 10m-long Turkish carpets. The general rule of thumb is, if you can buy it in Turkey, you can find it here.
Address: Maybachufer, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 30 6690 9546
Opening Hours: Tue, Fri: 11am - 6.30pm

Oderberger Straße

Vintage shopping and cafe culture
Word to the wise: While this is certainly the most charming stretch, the neighbouring streets have a lot to offer too, with a concentration of shops along Kastanienallee too.

On the border between Mitte and Prenzlauerberg, this area has a younger vibe than the rest of so-called nappy valley. The cobbled street has a number of vintage shops and boutiques ranging from the homage to 90s grunge that is Paul's Boutique to the chicer and more carefully curated Hoboken. For shoes head to Calypso, a paradise of 50s kitten heels, 80s slouchy boots and everything in between.

But it's just as worth coming here for the cafe culture. Grab a waffle or ice cream at Kauf Dich Glücklich or a sourdough sandwich from Glory Whole.
Address: Oderberger Straße, Prenzlauer Berg

Organic markets

Fresh food free from the bad stuff
Word to the wise: Many locals rise early to bag the freshest produce, but you needn't – new supplies arrive in the middle of the day.

Berlin knows how to run a good market and has its fair share of dedicated organic ones, not just confined to food, but also handmade clothes and gifts. Kreuzberg's Chamissoplatz (Sat: 9am - 3pm) is perhaps the most famous, having sold everything from nuts and fruit, to wine and coffee for 20 years.

Leafy Kollwitzplatz, however, is the chic option (Thu: 12noon - 7pm, Sat: 9am - 4pm) with expensive, high-grade produce popular with the local families, whose kids run amok in the playground while they enjoy the hot punch or a glass of wine in one of the neighbouring cafes.
Address: Ökomarkt am Chamissoplatz, Chamissoplatz, Kreuzberg
Ökomarkt Kollwitzplatz, Prenzlauer Berg

Paul's Boutique

Grunge rock nineties in full force
Talk of the town: The owner is not, as you might imagine, called Paul. His name is Frank, and the shop was named after the Beastie Boys album.

Word to the wise: Further down the street, Goo (Oderbergerstrasse 45) stocks designer vintage (APC, Miu Miu, Marc Jacobs), while Chapter Mitte (Torstraße 76) sells new labels, predominantly Cheap Monday.

Specialising in second-hand 80s-90s streetwear, Paul's Boutique is a temple to slackerdom. It's so gloriously chaotic inside that you can easily spend three hours pairing up sneakers and rummaging about for the right-sized jeans amongst the piles and racks of mismatched labels.

Fashion has seen the nineties make a comeback, so as well as the youngsters wearing plaid shirts and Doc Martens all over again, you have those that never grew out of them in the first place. Colourful Converse, torn denim, rock band tees and ditzy print playsuits are all here, as well as an amazing not-for-sale collection of toys.
Address: Oderberger Strasse 47, Prenzlauer Berg
Phone: +49 30 4403 3737
Opening Hours: Daily: 12noon - 8pm

Second Hand & Vintage

Unique items at rock-bottom prices
Word to the wise: Many second-hand stores have 30 percent off sales one day every week, so worth checking which day before you go.

Berlin has loads of second-hand stores, if you don't mind rummaging to find what you're after.

STIEFELKOMBINAT – Eberswalder Strasse, Prenzlauer Berg
Vintage specialists stocking 60s-90s clothes and boots. There's a retro furniture store too, at Wolinstrasse, where you can pick up authentic GDR-era homeware.

CALYPSO – Rosenthalerstrasse, Mitte
For dedicated shoe fetishists. The only place in Berlin you can buy a pair of genuine 1930s kitten heels.

GARAGE – Ahornstrasse, Schoeneberg
Basement emporium, selling anything and everything. Stock is sold by the kilo, so grab what you want, weigh it and pay for it. Easy!
Phone: Calypso: +49 3 0281 6165
Opening Hours: Calypso, Mon-Sat: 12noon – 8pm

Soto

Stylish store for street menswear
Talk of the town: Soto stands for the hip area south of Torstraße in imitation of London’s Soho.

Word to the wise: Everything is in the upper price brackets with very little for the shallow-pocketed.

This is a collaboration between online style-zine High Snobiety and creative collective Made, who saw a gap in the market for stylish and selective menswear store. It’s not just a fashion range, but a lifestyle choice. They’ll kit you out with products to keep you well-groomed and books to keep you well-read.

They bring together the brands that men want to be wearing from urban to gentleman street style: Acne, Band of Outsiders, Opening Ceremony, Our Legacy and more. The shop is the usual minimal stripped-down warehouse with rough wood and hard glass furniture not to deter even the most reluctant of male shoppers.
Address: Torstrasse 72, Mitte
Phone: +49 30 2576 2070
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 12noon - 8pm
Sat: 11am - 8pm

Voo Store

A roll call of cool
Noteworthy for: Not content with being solely an arbiter of cool fashion, Voo also host exhibitions, readings and gigs in their enviable warehouse space.

Tipple of choice: Pick up a coffee from Voo’s in-store CK Café – award-winning baristas – and browse their literary classics also on offer.

In a backyard tucked away in Kreuzberg, the 300m2 warehouse space with its raw concrete walls, floor-to-ceiling windows and bold lighting, is bang on the derelict chic aesthetic that Berliners do so well. They also have cutting-edge fashion to match with a range of homegrown to international designers reading like a roll call of cool: Cheap Monday, Surface to Air and Don’t Shoot the Messengers to name a few.

Not known for its shopping, this is a welcome addition to Kreuzberg, as well as the fact that many garments fall within an affordable price bracket.
Address: Oranienstraße 24, Kreuzberg
Phone: +49 30 6165 1119
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 11am - 8pm

Wühlischstrasse

For the up-and-coming and the underground
Word to the wise: Vintage shop Trash Schick (Wühlischstraße 31) epitomises the punk attitude of the squatter underworld here, and partakes in the trend for old eastern nostalgia: 'ostalgie'.

Home to several individual boutiques that you can only find in Germany, Wühlischstrasse is a popular stalking street for the trendsetting cool kids that frequent Friedrichshain. The fashion-conscious visitor can find a few designs nobody else will have here, as well as enjoy the number of cafes and restaurants scattered around.

Stores like Prachtmaedchen (no. 28) stock labels such as Tokyo Jane and Skunk Funk, whilst the dress-haven of Zartbitter (no. 27) has women from all over the city flocking inside for vintage and custom-made one-offs. Head up Gärtnerstrasse for cute gift shops, kitsch crafts and cafes.
Address: Wühlischstraße, Friedrichshain

Welcome to Berlin

Berlin is acknowledged the world over as a cultural melting pot of creative cool. In the dark underground clubs, cutting-edge music is sending crowds into an all-night frenzy; in tumbledown pre-war houses, groundbreaking art is being conjured by creative communes; and behind unmarked doors, guerrilla supper clubs are performing culinary wizardry.

What makes this all the more impressive is that in the last century alone Berlin was spiritually ransacked by fascism, devastated by war, divided ideologically and physically by politics, and left in ruins. And yet it hasn’t so much as restored itself to a former glory, but revolutionised to become something completely different, unlike any other capital.

Berlin is stoically independent and fiercely resists the inevitable march of gentrification that turns creative ghettos into boho chic enclaves. It was the cheap rents that first attracted artists like Warhol and Bowie that got the heady days of the Weimar Republic started, but as rents go up, the creatives, free thinkers and students are priced out; the latest target for refinement being Neukölln.

But Berliners are in uproar; they don’t want central Berlin to become an identikit town or for their gritty derelict aesthetic to be made nice. This anti-commercialism is fascinating in a country that is probably the most financially stable of any in the EU. But what it does mean is that whether you’re walking the glamorous streets of Charlottenberg or through the shambles of West Kreuzberg, this is a lived in city and there is an opportunity to find the ‘real’ Berlin on almost every corner.

Bleibtreu Hotel

Individual and elegant Charlottenburg base
Noteworthy for: In support of the arts, Bleibtreu is part of the LiteraturRaum project, which offers international authors a room to live and work in the hotel.

Word to the wise: For extra space and higher decorative standard, it's worth going for the superior over the business rooms.

Located just off the shopping hotspot of Ku'Damm, Bleibtreustrasse is the prettier, more elegant alternative with lots of boutiques and cafes leading up to the shops of Savignyplatz. The Bleibtreu is tucked away behind their trendy Deli 31, past the florists and through an old-fashioned arcade, making it feel more like it's part of a little community than a hotel.

A renovated 19th century patrician house, the decor is casually minimal with lots of natural materials and occasional splashes of colour. The individually decorated rooms each have free Wi-Fi, free mini-bar and allergy-free everything. The staff here are incredibly friendly, and with the in-house bike rental service, it's an easy base for exploring surrounding Charlottenburg.
Address: Bleibtreustrasse 31
Phone: +49 30 884 740

Honigmond Garden Hotel

Charming, friendly and affordable Mitte hotel
Noteworthy for: The name means 'honeymoon' and the romantic atmosphere lends itself well to vacationing couples.

Word to the wise: The street-facing rooms are noisier though larger than those overlooking the gardens. If you're looking for romance, request a room with a four-poster bed.

Tipple of choice: The 'honesty bar' in the lounge reinvigorates our faith in humanity.

The Garden Hotel is 300 metres away from the main house of the Honigmond Restaurant Hotel, but this sister venue is smaller, more intimate and less expensive. Best of all, however, it boasts a secret garden of Koi ponds, bridges, fountains and leafy grottos, not to mention the resident cat Felix.

Located in a protected 1845 former tenement house in the heart of Mitte, there is a presiding sense of tranquility. From the modernity outside, you enter a world where a suit of antique armour is considered decorative.

Each room is uniquely decorated - there are 60 in total spread between the two houses - in an old-world style that is more thrown together than overwrought. Most have cast iron beds, polished wood floors, gilded paintings and the odd antique, but all have a good dose of charm.
Address: Invalidenstraße 122
Phone: +49 30 2844 5577

Huettenpalast

Go urban camping in Neukölln
Noteworthy for: What could have passed as a fad, is now one of the most popular hotels in Berlin, and the campervans book out months in advance.

Word to the wise: They also offer normal rooms for overspill, which whilst being comfortable, modern and cool, can never be anything but second best.

It could be considered gimmicky if it wasn’t quite so well executed. Harking back to all those childhood camping memories, here at the Huettenpalast you can sleep in a retro caravan, a beach hut or what can only be described as a living room fort.

Located in a warehouse in creative hub Neukölln, this is part art installation, part campsite. Steeped in retrophilia there are lots of cute and quirky features: a record player, a tree from which your breakfast 'grows' in the morning, a free chocolate wafer dispenser.

Yes, you get less space than in other hotels, but go explore the communal areas instead and socialise around the campsite, which is all part of the appeal. There is also a garden, playground, cool cafe and bar with good food and plenty of events scheduled too.
Address: Hobrechtstraße 66
Phone: +49 30 3730 5806

Ku' Damm 101

Striking and stripped-down design hotel
Popular plate: Breakfast isn’t included, but it’s worth paying for it, just to eat in the sunny top floor terrace looking out over West Berlin’s rooftops.

Berlin does budget hotels well with almost too many good ones to choose one. But they also do hotels you expect to be more expensive and somehow aren’t, like Ku’ Damm 101. This striking, stark and futuristic design hotel just off Kurfürstendamm shopping street is a good base for exploring Charlottenburg for those who want to save their pennies to spend on beer and bratwurst.

The airy lobby looks out onto the West Berlin street life passing by, with a lounge bar and relaxing garden. Each of the 170 rooms are stripped down and minimal with clean lines, modern furnishing, a harmonious colour scheme and plenty of space. The only minus point is charging for internet in the rooms. There is however, free internet in the lobby.
Address: Kurfürstendamm 101
Phone: +49 30 5200 550

Michelberger Hotel

The epitome of edgy, eccentric Berlin
Word to the wise: The budget rooms here are basic. if you have the money opt for the opulent Golden One or literary Clever One.

Tipple of choice: They have just launched their very own brand of Coconut Water, Fountain of Youth, to go along with their in-house Michelberger Booze, a herb-infused liquor.

The Michelberger is a bastion of cool. If you're here to fall down the proverbial Berlin rabbit hole into the eclectic depths of its hipster scene, this is where to stay. Run by a group of awesome friends, it thrives on an unpretentious, kooky ethos, which you can instantly feel part of. Hole up at the bar and make some friends, and then head off to wherever the staff have recommended. It will be good.

Located in Friedrichshain, the industrial meets retro main space is full of flea market finds and vintage books, while the bedrooms range from functional to fantastic. This is the abode of travelling rockstars, struggling models and modern day Jack Keroucs. The Book of Rules in each bedroom says it all: 'Late-night workers, performers and dancers ask for late check out prior to crashing out.'
Address: Warschauer Straße 39/40
Phone: +49 30 2977 8590

nhow

The future is bright pink and musical
Tipple of choice: Head to the neon-lit bar and browse the menu shaped like a stack of LPs. They are known for the extensive list of sakes.

Word to the wise: Yes the nhow nails the wow factor, but the expensive breakfast (EUR 22) and charges for in-room internet (EUR 17 per day) are bad form.

This is ostensibly Europe’s first music hotel. They have two professional music studios with panoramic views, their own music manager on staff and they offer guitar and keyboard room service, as well as a silent rehearsal room for practise. As you can imagine that means there are plenty of live sessions and music events going on here, and you’ll spy a fair few instrument-wielding guests.

Located on the banks of the river Spree in Friedrichshain, they’re surrounded by the creative types to which they appeal. The building itself is architecturally epic, and the design throughout the hotel is equally daring and bright. Fuchsia stalactites hang from the lobby ceiling, the hallways are bathed in pink light and the furniture is curved and futuristic. It feels a little like a camp, pink Starship Enterprise with Berlin techno playing from the bridge.
Address: Stralauer Allee 3
Phone: +29 30 290 2990

The Mandala

Intelligent and thoughtful luxury
Popular plate: In the airy, peaceful dining room, they lay on a gourmet breakfast buffet of such decadence it's hard to stop.

Word to the wise: The top floor ONO spa has some innovative treatments and great views. While you're here why not try out the award-winning “AlphaSphere" bed, which encases you in blue light, sound and vibrations?

This is understated luxury at its best. Walking in from the chaos of Potsdamer Platz you instantly feel calmer. Perhaps it's the zen-like design with flickering candles and natural hues or the impeccable service. Either way, sometimes it's hard to vacate the bubble for the bustle of Berlin.

With postmodern and quietly plush interiors, every room in the hotel is a suite complete with kitchenette, study, living area and enormous bathrooms. The floor-to-ceiling glass doors leading out to a terrace flood the rooms with natural light.

They really think about guests' needs here. The desk has a stationary drawer, there's an empty picture frame for a photo of your loved ones, the all-natural products include foot cream to relieve tension after a long day sightseeing and the pillow menu guarantees a good night's sleep.
Address: Potsdamer Straße 3
Phone: +49 30 590 05 0000

The Weinmeister

Hyper hip 'golden cage' of Mitte
Tipple of choice: The Schwarz-Bar, named after German actress and hotel regular Jessica Schwarz, is frequented by locals and guests. Try the exclusive Schwarz liqueur, a herbal cordial made according to the actress’ family secret recipe.

The Weinmeister is undoubtedly cool. There are Apple iMacs instead of TVs, iPhone docking stations, bathtubs inside the room and lots of designer ‘graffiti’ about. The look is strong and masculine with a black, grey and dark brown colour scheme, moody lighting and an endlessly hip soundtrack. But there are also moments of whimsy in the oversized bespoke furniture and touches of gold, no less in the glimmery facade (hence its nickname, the 'golden cage').

Yes, it’s hyper-styled, but it’s not style over substance. There is free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, Asprey of London beauty products and enormous beds at the centre of each spacious room. And you can amuse yourself by trying to wangle your way into the invitation-only rooftop bar.
Address: Weinmeisterstrasse 2
Phone: +49 30 755 6670