How is it that I’ve been to Berlin five times and still don’t really know where I’m going?! In my defence a Year 12 school trip is very different to having family in tow and I’ve only really started to connect areas together on my recent visits.
Although it’s smaller than London, a lot of the main landmarks and interesting neighbourhoods can be pretty spread out, so it can be harder to figure out in a weekend. Also I don’t know whether I’m more observant now, but there seemed to be loads of shops, restaurants and retro photobooths (yes, I’m late to the party) that I never seemed to notice before. Once you’ve seen all the main sights, Berlin is a great place to live the ‘hipster’ lifestyle at a slightly cheaper price than London.
I’ve been to a lot of places now that remind me of this eclectic city (such as Rotterdam and Geneva) and luckily a photoshoot gave me a chance to get reacquainted after a three year hiatus. I took a bit of a chilled approach, asked for Instagram recommendations and discovered a few other places that are worth visiting if you love colourful interiors, Middle-Eastern food and unusual hotel concepts.
Check out my Berlin Instagram Highlight!
You can probably imagine my face when I stepped into O.K and saw Mexican bowls for less than a fiver. The store has a similar concept to Kitsch Kitchen in Amsterdam and has been providing a treasure trove of handpicked homeware for 17 years. Products hail from places such as Mexico, Russia, Thailand, India and China and it’s definitely given me an idea of what to look out for if I ever visit these places. Leave some room in your luggage for the baskets.
You can’t go wrong with Alte Schönhauser Straße if you’re looking for independent boutiques, but just be aware that of the places are in between High Street and designer prices. Broke + Schön has affordable clothing and jewellery though, plus Lala Berlin has pieces you won’t get elsewhere.
Every Kind Of Cuisine
I asked Instagram for lunch recommendations and was rewarded with Kimichi Princess, a Korean restaurant with a decent €10 lunch deal. The bibimbap has a nice kick and it’s pretty popular, so this is probably the best time to visit.
There’s also plenty of other good places nearby, such as Miss Saigon (I still remember the Vietnamese feast I had there after 6 years) and the nearby Markthalle. It’s the usual mixture of street food and artisan treats you may want to bring back.
I was also tempted by the aesthetically pleasing terrazzo at Five Elephant, baked goods at Zeit für Brot and bargain Middle Eastern feast at Sababa. We also had a group dinner at Crackers, a visually impressive restaurant that’s intentionally hidden away on one of the main shopping streets (look out for an unassuming iron gate with a small sign). The entrance takes you through the pastel tiled kitchen and the interiors wouldn’t seem out of place in a Wes Anderson film.
Places for next time
Pasternak (Stella sung the praises of the Jewish buffet brunch), Roamers, Zola (be prepared to queue for your pizza in the evenings), Cocolo Ramen, Brammibal’s Donuts (instagram-able and vegan), House of Small Wonder, Silo coffee.
Admiring Gorki Apartments
Since the Airbnb restrictions have made it tricky to stay in a whole apartment, Gorki may be your best bet if you’re after a bit of privacy (and a photogenic place to stay). As this was the photoshoot location, I didn’t have the typical guest experience but I loved the fact that it didn’t seem like a typical hotel.
It’s situated in a 20th century apartment block and each ‘room’ is given a person’s name instead of a number. There’s apartments of different sizes and each one is given an individual touch with antiques, mismatched furniture and statement lighting. Their Instagram feed is interior goals.
Key Areas & Tips
Even though the scale of the city may seem daunting, I always scour blogs, Instagram hashtags and plot everywhere into Google maps to get an idea of key areas. I then plan rough itineraries and aim to walk from one nearby area to another, so that I can capture any interesting details or other places along the way.
Most of my Berlin recommendations tended to be in Kreuzberg, Mitte and Freidrichshain, with Alte Schönhauser Straße, Kastanienallee and Kastanienallee standing out. This map of ‘Photoautomat’ booths is also handy and a great way to stumble across pop-ups, outdoor bars and colourful architecture.
In terms of transport, the U-Bahn (underground) is pretty straightforward as you buy your tickets on the platform and they don’t expire if they haven’t been validated. I also really appreciated the Brutalist nature of the stations, so be prepared to turn every journey into a potential photoshoot. Uber does work here but it may be easier to use MyTaxi as it’s more commonly used (I once had to wait a good 15 minutes for an Uber). The journeys are a great place to practice your A-Level German though, as the drivers are pretty chatty. I’d best swot up on Duolingo for my next visit!