The richness and diversity of Berlin’s music scene means you are bound to discover something you have never heard before. There are numerous festivals covering everything from dance to classical music, and it is host to one of Europe’s largest jazz festivals. Avant garde, experimental music and ‘noise’ music are perhaps more popular here than elsewhere, with two clubs Ausland and Stralau 68 featuring it regularly, as well as more hardcore industrial music. A policy of spending on the arts means culture and the arts in Berlin are its main selling point, and have attracted artists and musicians as both residents and visitors.
The ‘Lange Nacht der Museen’ is when 100 of the museums, collections and exhibitions stay open into the early hours on one night in January and one in August, with concerts, readings and other events especially put on.
The enormous Alexa mega-mall near Alexanderplatz, combines mainstream chains with the less well known and houses Loxx, the world’s largest model railway. For the traditionalists, try KaDeWe, a century-old department store offering a diverse array of goods. Colours stocks second hand clothes from the 60s, right up to the present day, priced by the kilo, are located on the rear of Bergmannstrasse.
Although considered to be a young city by European standards, Berlin has had a very eventful history and is especially significant in relation to the two world wars. Many of Berlin’s historical events are characterised by radical change, and there is an ever-present sense of this throughout contemporary Berlin. From becoming the centre of the Enlightenment in 1740 to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Berlin has often encouraged change and led the way culturally.
Things to do
In keeping with its avant garde culture, Berlin is full of many sizes and types of art galleries, and can almost be described as a Mecca for those interested or involved in the arts. One of the larger galleries, the Martin-Gropius-Bau, is situated right next to where the Berlin Wall once stood, on Niederkirchnerstrasse, Kreuzberg.
Many Berlin venues offer a combination of entertainment forms, for example the Calabash Club located on Veteranenstrasse, Mitte, and containing an independant cinema, theatre and art gallery as well as a dancefloor and popular but somewhat dingy bar.
Beer in Berlin
Berlin���s many breweries have undergone changes in fortune over time, much like other elements of berlin culture. Pils is the most common type of beer throughout the city, and there is also the Berliner Weisse, a bottle conditioned wheat beer. It features sour and acidic notes when tasted alone, and it is a very popular practice to add fruit syrup to the beer, often served in wide, low tumblers with a couple of straws. Recommended beer-orientated hang outs include the atmospheric, wooden panelled Wilhelm Hoeck 1892, on Wilmersdorfer, Charlottenburg, although the drinks are poured as slowly as they should be so less ideal for the impatient, and the old-style Deponie #3, tucked away beneath railway arches on Georgen strasse, Mitte.
Where to stay
Berlin is full of great hostels which are ideal for groups staying together and offer a variety of prices and facilities. The pension Berolina is a great example of one of those suited to smaller budgets, as although its 73 rooms share numerous bathrooms, they each contain a TV, a breakfast buffet is provided every morning and there is free Wi-Fi, and it is in an ideal location for many of the essential Berlin sights in the heart of the Charlottenberg district, a few minutes from the exhibition centre, ICC and main bus station.
Generator hostel in Berlin city offers ideal accommodation for a sociable stay in Berlin. Located just six tram stops away from Alexanderplatz Square, the hostel hosts many events and parties, has an on-site bar, games room and souvenir shop, and bicycles are available to rent from the hostel, providing an ideal way to see the rest of Berlin.
Alternatively, the All in Hostel Berlin is located in the heart of the trendy Freidrichshain district within easy reach of many bars, restaurants and shops. All eighty colourful rooms and dormitories can provide Wi-Fi access at an extra fee, and bicycles are available to rent here.
Those with a bit more cash to flash will be delighted with The Regent Hotel Berlin, a luxury 5* hotel in Berlin city centre, considered by the ‘Conde Nast Traveller’ to be one of the ‘best places to stay in the world’ offering a variety of top quality cuisine including Berlin’s only 2 Michelin-starred restaurant, Fischers Fritz, a stay in this beautifully grand hotel would melt anyone’s heart.
Slightly less expensive is Louisa’s Place, cited as feeling like a deluxe secluded property rather than the centrally located hotel it is. Classically elegant décor, pool and sauna provide the perfect base for relaxation, while being located on Kurferstendamm, Berlin’s famous shopping street.
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The Best Locations
For a culturally focussed trip to Berlin the Seminaris Campus Hotel is ideally located in Dahlem, Grunewald. As the name suggests, this area is also particularly attractive, with the famous Homonymous Forest nearby, along with such points of cultural interest as three of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Botanischer Garten Berlin and the Alliiertenmuseum Berlin.
The hotel itself will also provide a relaxing environment and with restaurants and bars, gym, sauna and steam room and internet access, guest will find plenty to do even when needing a rest from exploring the outdoors.
Berlin is renowned for the diversity and eccentricity of its nightlife. Berghain/Panorama Bar is highly recommended as it has been cited ‘strong contender for best club in the city, if not Europe’, and offers an experience like no other in the surroundings of a former power station. The smaller Panorama Bar is open all weekend while Berghain is open only on Saturdays.
Berghain covers the techno clubbing market, while for those after something more avant garde the clubs Ausland and Stralau 68 are not to be missed. Featuring regular live experimental music acts they really reflect Berlin’s spirit of cultural creativity.
Bar 103 and Schwarzsauer are both located in Kastanienallee, both providing ideal locations from which to indulge in a particularly interesting spot of people watching while relaxing with a beer. For something altogether more novel, the Badeschiff or ‘bathing ship’ Berlin is a must. Located on the River Spree, this cargo ship now comprises of an open air bar joined to its very own public swimming pool, next to an on shore beach. Kick back with a cocktail in the sun to some techno from live DJs in the summer, and even if you’re visiting during the colder months the bar transforms into two saunas, heated pool, bar and lounge, all undercover.
Berlin offers a seemingly endless variety of cuisine, catering for all tastes and pockets. For a great budget eatery try Baraka, located on Lausitzer Platz, Kreuzberg. Enjoy their North African and Egyptian cuisine, such as falafel, kofte and couscous from the comfort of comfortable embroidered cushions, or takeaway if you’re on the move. Demonstrating the other end of the spectrum is First Floor on Budapester Strasse, Charlottenburg, offering top notch fine French and European delicacies such as Saddle of fawn with cranberry and Jerusalem artichoke, and Breton lobster with champagne and melon.
Berlin boasts a range of cabaret venues and acts, from the progressive BKA Theatre with its taboo-breaking tradition, to Chamaleon, located in the courtyards of the Hackesche Hofe and more likelty to preserve tradition with its decadence and comfort. Admiralspalast is a venue offering a more diverse range of entertainment forms, showing musical theatre, concerts and cabaret on three separate stages as well as planning to re-open the Roman style baths dating back to 1873. For something perhaps slightly more family friendly and conservative, the Wintergarten Variete provides especially professional, slick acrobatic and magician acts.