Berlin: A Hipster's Paradise
The epitome of cool, Berlin has it all. You'll be walking down a street with tall modern buildings and turn the corner to a graffiti lined lane with hip galleries and boutiques. It's polished and clean in some places and grungy and eccentric in others. You can find it all in Berlin, you just have to know where to go. We took a graffiti art tour around the city our first day, which helped us figure out which areas to revisit and gave us a good grasp on the city's layout. There are a ton of Graffiti tour options so pick one and soak it all in! I only got to spend three days there with my grad school room mate (Shout out to Brooke!). We covered a lot of ground, but I would love to go back and explore more! Below are some of the highlights from our quick trip.
Areas to explore
Potsdamer Platz: The more commercial area of Berlin, you'll find corporate stores, lounges and bars. This is Berlin's comment on modern consumerism and the area is full of modern, industrial buildings with sleek and chic interiors.
Mitte - Meaning “center” this area is the heart of the city. It encompasses the diversity of modern Berlin, housing heritage sites, museums, and memorials. Berlin doesn't hide the past, it’s actually thrown in your face. While walking down the streets you'll find remnants of their tumultuous history among the now diverse, colorful, and fashionable culture. For example you'll find remaining pieces of the Berlin wall scattered throughout the city. Don't forget to visit all of the amazing museums in this neighborhood on Museum Island. You can find more info on the Berlin art scene in my previous post!
Tiergarten: Berlin's largest park, this area contains public art, prime jogging paths, flea markets and of course beer gardens. Local's refer to this area as the "lungs of the city". Germany's government buildings, such as the infamous Reichstag, are also located in this area.
Kreuzberg: You could spend hours wandering around this part of town. Hop from artsy and trendy cafes to designer stores. The area is riddled with graffiti and loved by locals. It's got great coffee and a bohemian spirit!
Friedrichshain: Street art is a huge part of life in Berlin, and you'll find a ton of art in Friedrichshain. The famous East Side Gallery on the Berlin wall is located above the Spree river. Walk along the gallery, drink a beer and relax on the lawn next to the Spree. If you're looking for unique nightlife and clubbing spots, like warehouses and techno, this is the area you'll want to hit.
Favorite points of interest
Haulocaust Memorial: This monument is one of my favorite public art installations I've experienced. As you walk through the concrete forest of repetitive, large square blocks, a heaviness and eeriness is suspended in the air as you think about all the atrocities committed during the Nazi era. The memorial is big, unabashed and very frank about the history it represents.
Berlin Wall: The iconic structure that divided East and West Berlin for three decades is the focal point of Berlin. Parts of the wall still stand throughout the city and there are maps and markings with information about each part of the structure still standing. Follow the Berlin Wall Trail (The Mauereg) on a bike tour or rent a bike and do it yourself by following the signs around town.
There are so many stops along the wall to see and explore, but if you're limited on time these are some of the top locations to see:
Checkpoint Charlie: This was the checkpoint for non-German citizens and members of the Allied forces to enter communist Berlin.
Berlin Wall Memorial: Located in Berlin Mitte on the Bernauer Strase, it's famous for it's representation of the impact the wall had on German citizens living in Berlin. Large poles interspersed with remnants of the wall represent where concrete once stood and memorials, monuments and historical remnants along with educational signs reinforce the turbulent history during the Cold War.
The Palace of Tears: This is one of the last original border control buildings still standing, where west Berliners checked in and out going from the east to west parts of the city.
Berlin Wall Watchtower: This is the last preserved example of a watchtower along the wall. For a small donation you can climb into it.
Berliner Dom: Berlin's incredible Cathedral is located on Museum Island next to all Berlin's amazing institutions. You can walk up into the side domes for amazing views of the city.
*Pro Tip: For lunch, grab a German beer and a bratwurst (or currywurst!) from a food cart just down Bundestrasse. Then, relax and snack in the park in front of the Berliner Dom and soak in the city!