Berlin is a unique city with an alternative vibe. It’s a city for deviants and misfits as much as it is for creative minds and entrepreneurial spirits. Despite its grungy atmosphere, the city is home to several startups that have attracted youths from all over Europe there to work.
I’ve been to Berlin 4 times, and I fall deeper in love with it each time. When I’m in Berlin, I feel a true sense of liberation. In this city, I can be whomever I want, dress how I want, do what I want and no one would judge. It’s a city where the soul can truly be free!
This city isn’t an easy one to understand especially for first-timers, but the more you visit, the more you “get it”!
Berlin: Off the Beaten Path
Arrival at Berlin Central Bus Station
I always go to Berlin from another European city, on an overnight journey on a coach. From there, I walk about 300m to Messe Nord/ICC S-Bahn station, where I began my journey to my accommodation.
Stay at the Michelberger Hotel
Popular with hip, young travellers who want to feel the pulse of Berlin’s nightlife, Michelberger Hotel offers Lofts and Rooms, all of which are decorated differently from each other. There’s a café as well as an al-fresco dining area. It’s located 2 minutes from Warschauer Strasse station and within a 10-minute walk to some of the most infamous techno clubs that Berlin is known for.
Address: Warschauer Straße 39/40, Berlin, BE
Go to Berlin’s historical sites for a peek into its history
Of course, I had to visit the major attractions during my first time there. I visited the sombre Holocaust Memorial, the iconic Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, and East Side Gallery, where the longest part of the Berlin Wall remains. It’s a look at the city’s history, a lesson in itself.
Shopping in Berlin
I had the best shopping experience around Hackescher Markt (S-Hackescher Markt). The bustling city square is dotted with trendy high-street stores, indie and luxury boutiques, as well as commercial fashion outlets. As someone who’s always looking for a bargain, I enjoy thrift shopping. Picknweight – Vintage Kilo Store in the Mehringdamm area (U-Mehringdamm) is a huge 2-storey thrift store with countless pre-loved items that I sadly didn’t have the patience to sift through. I did walk away with 2 tote bags that have received many compliments though!
Picknweight address: Bergmannstraße 102, 10961 Berlin, Germany
Street food in Berlin
Most days in Berlin, I survived on doner kebabs and doner boxes that are inexpensive, tasty and filling. The products of Turkish immigrants are now the staple foods of Berliners. Mustafa’s Gemuse Kebap in Mehringdamm is allegedly the best kebab in the city, and there’s a long queue of people waiting to get their kebab fixed any hour of the day. I joined the queue only once, and I must say it was a pretty good kebab! Other days, I snacked on Bratwurst and Currywurst whilst strolling through the city centre.
An authentic German dining experience at Rogacki
On my 25th birthday, I treated myself to a meal at Rogacki, located in Charlottenburg. Featured in the late Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, Rogacki is a canteen-type eatery serving up rustic German dishes in enormous portions. I ordered sausages that came with a heap of sauerkraut and a mountain of creamy mash, but it proved too heavy for lunch on a scorching hot summer’s day. My slice of chocolate cake satisfied my sweet tooth later that evening though.
Address: Wilmersdorfer Str. 145/46, 10585 Berlin, Germany
Mauerpark on a Sunday
Every Sunday in the summer, Mauerpark comes alive with travellers and Berliners alike chilling on the green grass. There’s also a huge flea market with stalls selling vintage tchotchkes and food stalls serving German and Turkish food. I was craving for some fish and had a grilled mackerel with dill cream and a bread roll.
Row boating in Tiergarten
My friends who live and have lived in Berlin all tell me that the winter there is brutal. I’ve personally never experienced winter in Berlin, as I believe that the best time to be in Europe is in the summer; there’s so much to see and so much to do. A friend took me row boating down the river in Tiergarten (S Tiergarten). That was fun!
Even though Berlin is renowned for its nightlife, there are several daytime activities to keep one occupied. Street art, museums, parks, music, history — the German capital has it all. It’s a city for the free-spirited and it’s best to approach it with that attitude.