By Joel Johnson at 9:11 am Fri, Dec 21, 2007
Next week I'm going to Berlin. I'm not really going with an agenda, but is there anything I should see while I'm there? I like: art, food, music, things powered by electricity, forlorn ruins, and things that vibrate.
Record a few albums with Brian Eno near what’s left of the Berlin Wall; worked most excellently for Bowie.
Currywurst and German beer. I’ve never been to mainland Europe but those two things are wonderful.
Take a free bike tour if it’s not cold and wet outside – Visit the Bauhaus museum and try not to spend your whole trip’s budget at the gift shop – Check out the film museum at Potsdamer Platz – Walk around the Garden of Exile at the Jewish Museum until you get sick – Take a stroll through Kufurstendamm and visit Kaiser Wilhelm’s Gedaechtniskirche for some pictures of Berlin after the Allied blitz – Spend a night clubhopping (Tresor, Maria am Ostbahnhof, and Berghain if you’re feeling really raunchy) and listen to some good techno – Go up to the top of the Reichstag for a nice panoramic view – stay at the JetPak hostel in Charlottenburg…it’s one of the best hostels in Europe – Have some currywurst and wash it down with a good pilsner – try not to get too depressed when you have to leave.
Hook up with John Brownlee from Ectoplasmosis, I believe he lives nearby and could show you some really excellent things.
John Brownlee is the most interminable person I can think of. Just knowing he’s in the same city makes me reconsider my trip.
If you’re looking for old school Berlin cabaret, check out Der Kleine Nachtrevue. As their website advertises, the show features “Acrobatics, dance, song, comedy and naked ballet.” How can you go wrong?
I can’t believe people are recommending Currywurst. Slices of sausage swimming in a pool of weak, vinegary ketchup, all of which is doused with a healthy dose of a stale German variant on curry powder. Walk by a Currywurst stand, look at what the people are eating, back away in disgust and go buy yourself either a DÃ¶ner or a Falafel. What I can second is the Pilsner. Also the Hefeweizen. Actually, most of the beer you can get in Berlin isn’t that amazingly different than the Becks you buy in the states. But it is CHEAP. And, best of all you can buy, and drink, it anywhere: beer on the subway, beer on the sidewalk beer in the park; often I’m drunk by the time I’ve made the commute to the bar. Also, Charlottenburg is worth seeing , but just for the sake of comparison, Charlottenburg is more or less like the upper west side; Kreuzberg 36 and Friedrichshain are roughly equivalent to Williamsburg; Kreuzberg 61 and Prenzlauerberg are kind of like Fort Greene and Park Slope. Also, this will be in any guidebook, but you should definitely check out the new train station, Museum Island (especially the Pergamon, which has both art AND ruins), and the Hamburger Bahnhof, which is the modern art museum.
Lo and behold, Halloween Jack beat me to it, with the first comment in the thread no less.
Pour out a box of jelly donuts on the curb for your homie JFK.
Yeah, the DÃ¶ner is a better choice
I would also recommend a good DÃ¶ner in Berlinstyle over the Currywurst…but even the Curry…is not that bad 🙂
Don’t drink tooo much Beer (even if it is better than all the US puke…it still contains the same amount of alcohol).
Another tip would be to Check out some of the ebassies, even if it is hard to get inside…recommendations are the embassies of Danmark, Iceland, Sweden, Finnland (YES, they have saunas inside), Mexico and Austria which are all located around Tiergarten.
Maybe your US Passport might make getting inside even harder (the Chinese passport of a friend of mine did)
Man, I had almost forgotten about the wursts. Weisswurst is one of my favorite things, sucked right from the skin.
I’ve had currywurst in Germany before. It was…gross? It was like a hotdog in a bland sauce.
what about toronto? im in the same situation. no agenda just going for the hell of it. so far the only thing i will be checking out for sure is the distillery district for both the architecture and the alcohol. any other suggestions? note that i am from south texas and haven’t seen snow since i was in kindergarten in 85.
If you want some REALLY good food, go to KaDeWe and head for floor six (the chocolate cake must be from heaven…or rather hell).
Also, visit the German Museum of Technology in Kreuzberg, they have some quite fancy high voltage exhibits 😉
Potsdam is really worth a visit, with history all over it (it’s just about 50 minutes by S-Bahn from Berlin Hauptbahnhof). Park Sanssouci is fantastic, as are Park Babelsberg and “Neuer Garten”.
I can also second Bauhaus Museum and Reichstag.
Finally, take a walk “Unter den Linden”, around the “Brandenburger Tor”, FriedrichstraÃŸe and Museumsinsel. You’ll fell, how this city vibrates 😉
PS: I guess, “Potsdamer Platz” will be quiet unimpressing for someone from NY..
There’s a cafe in Berlin called Kakao. Totally chocolate themed joint. Brilliant design, the aesthetic of the space is delicious.
If you drink the 100% Drinking Chocolate you will get high.
really nice cafÃ©s and bars around oranienburgerstrasse. also in kreuzberg.
reichstad is definitely worth the climb, despite the queue. and jewish museum is also very good.
@Anon #9: “better than all the US puke?” Uhh, no way. The US makes some of the best beers in the world. Becks is crap compared to some of them. US beer is not all Budweiser any more than German beer is all Warsteiner. (Which is also crap.) I’m sure there’s good German beer, but most of it is only slightly better than the undrinkable mass-market American beers.
The best beer in Germany is either pilsner or hefeweizen. Go with either of those and you won’t be sorry (unless you’re drinking Becks or Warsteiner). Koenig Ludwig is a pretty solid bet. And yeah, try the currywurst, if only because it’s a Berlin specialty. If you go to a decent joint it’s very tasty, and while the kebabs in Berlin are tasty, they’re really not that different from the kebabs anywhere else in Europe (except the bread is better).
Too bad the Tabou Tiki Room is closed, it had the best Exotic Cocktails in Berlin…
Visit the Berlin Trader Vic’s in the Hilton on the Gendarmenmarkt Platz; say hello to Pierre the Bar Manager & try the ribs.
There’s the Aloha-Luau Lounge, Oranienstr. 188, Berlin-Kreuzberg, which has a small art gallery in front & Mai Tais in back.
Tiki Heart Cafe, Wienerstrasse 20, Berlin-Kreuzberg, isn’t very Polynesian Tiki, more Florida Tiki, but still has some nice drinks after 5 PM when Marco should be there.
The Berlin Underworlds Association. a society for the exploration and documentation of subterranean architecture has wonderful holiday tours set up.
Bring your flash light.
If you like art, head over to the Oranienburger Strasse stop on the uber-efficent transit system, and check out both KW gallery (which has a slide to take you down from the top floor, and an excellent chocolate cake in the cafe) and the Kunsthalle Tacheles, which is an old squatted department store full of artists studios.
Definitely pay a visit to the Pergamon museum. To date, it is my favorite museum yet (I have yet to go to the Louvre). The Germans stole this beautiful and very large altar from Turkey and reconstructed it inside the museum, and its beautiful.
I second the tip to eat a Doener! mmmm
If you like zoos, the Zoologischer Garten is HUGE and pretty cool. Plus some of the boring animals they stick in the corners are almost like forlorn ruins. I was lost for a good 15 minutes without seeing another (human) soul.
And while you’re at the Zoologischer Garten, you should get an awesome dÃ¶ner kebab nearby. When you exit the Zoologischer Garten subway station, take a right and cross Hardenbergstrasse (I think). There is a kebab stand under some stairs near the corner here. Sure, it’s technically Turkish, not German. But it’s along the same lines of pointing out a good Mexican place in town. Plus, there is an 8×10 of Schwarzenegger with him saying that it is his favorite kebab ever. (Both the provenance of this photo and the fact that the stand is still there are unknown, I haven’t been to Berlin in 5 years)
For electronic things, you should check out one of the coolest things: the world clock at Alexanderplatz. Also, there is a pretty impressive Sony store, if you’re into those things.
For Berlin beers, they have a speciality with red and green weissbiers. If you’re looking for awesome beers, Munich is more the place to go, but the green and red beers are interesting and worth a try.
@10 Joel Johnson:
WeiÃŸwurst is more of a Southern German thing, but the DÃ¶ners are wonderful. Also, be on the lookout for KÃ¤sespatsel–sort of a fried noodle dish with cheese. It’s terribly delicious.
Ride the U-bahn (but don’t forget to purchase and validate your ticket). I love those yellow subways.
If you do get the chance, go up and see the Mirrored dome of the Reichtags but there’s usually an hour-long queue to ride the elevator to the top.
Look into visiting some local breweries (each region has its own type of beer, and in Berlin it’s a light Pilsner).
There are some cool, small jazz clubs in Berlin (perhaps someone else knows what they are).
Do check out the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedenknesskirche (Memorial Church), which is built of the ruins of a bombed-out church.
You’d probably also be interested in the old Olympic stadium, to the West of Berlin. It’s towards the end of one of the central U-bahn lines.
At the very least, take your camera with you EVERYWHERE.
Also, I forgot to mention the Deutsches Teknikmuseum Berlin–it’s full of cars, airplanes (many somewhat broken from shrapnel and explosions), boats, and engines and trains and their history. I’d liken it to the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle, but with a focus on more things than just airplanes.
*For Berlin beers, they have a speciality with red and green weissbiers. If you’re looking for awesome beers, Munich is more the place to go, but the green and red beers are interesting and worth a try.*
I believe the Red is from Raspberry Syrup & the Green from Woodruff Syrup.
Let me second the Kunsthaus Tacheles, it’s an incredible place – I was there the second time I was in Berlin in the late ‘Nineties. It’s half of a building – the rest was bombed during WW2 and it was subsequently taken over as a self-governing artist’s community and was nearly pulled down more than once over the years, but was preserved once it was shown to be quite stable and inhabitable.
There’s a bar at ground level, where as you look up you see bombed-open rooms looking out over a courtyard featuring – and this one really sticks in my mind – a heavily graffiti’d Mig Russian jet. Go up the stairs and you’ll find any number of artists rooms you can often go in to check out their work. An absolute must-see in my mind, particularly given it feels like you’re standing in the middle of a set from Escape from New York. There are pictures here: http://www.bushtrash.com/bilder/tacheles/tacheles.htm
Lots of good suggestions up there!(you have to do the Brandenburg gate!) I say try Currywurst AND DÃ¶ner – Problem solved. If you want to get an overhead view of the city/part of the city, you can go up the Chrysler building in the fastest elevator in the world. It’s a red/brick building across the street from Potsdamerplatz – which you will probably go to whether you like it or not. I also liked the giant timezone clock/sculpture the “Weltuhr” in Alexanderplatz. The East Side Gallery is a MUST see – a long, standing section of the Wall. Which reminds me, I think you’ll appreciate the city more if you know a bit about the history of the division/Wall (I’m a German studies major, and I cried at the Brandenburg gate). The Neue Wache memorial near Humboldt on Unter den Linden is incredibly moving.
“Brauhaus Mitte” in Alexanderplatz is a delicious brewery/restaurant if you feel like doing the “I’m in Germany, I’m going to try German food!” thing.
(Here are my old blog posts about Berlin, should you be interested: http://mariannainregensburg.vox.com/library/posts/tags/berlin/)
One morning, head to the cafe on Augustrasse- the one that looks pseudo-Californian.
It’s about 50 feet from the end of the Closed end of Augustrasse, facing a tiny park. Sit at the tables and enjjoy life. Simple but sublime. It is one of the most pleasant cafe expereinces I’ve ever had.
The recommendation to go to the Jewish Museum is spot-on; it’s the most impressive building I’ve ever been in. Liebskind’s design was effective enough that the museum was open for a while without any exhibits except the building itself.
It’s also worth checking out the (relatively) new Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which you’ll probably find anyway. Unless you’re planning a trip to Montgomery, Alabama, sometime soon, it’s your best chance to see how former perpetrators memorialize their victims.
Touristy, yes, but the Reichstag dome is pretty cool. See if you can find the graffiti left by Red Army troops.
I haven’t been to any of the “blind” restaurants, but some friends of mine ate at Nocti Vagus a few years ago and enjoyed the experience. http://noctivagus.com/english1.htm
And try a colaweiss–cola and beer. Better than it sounds. Much better. There’s a restaurant in the Sony Europe complex that serves them; I’m sure they’re the Applebee’s of Berlin, but I didn’t know any better.
First of all, get a copy of Tip or Zitty magazine. I don’t know if there are English versions of those, so you may need a translator. Those cover a two week period of city events from the underground to the wacky to the sublime.
Check out the east parts of the city. I was there in 93, so its a lot different now.
The east Berlin zoo when I went was a forlorn place, but it had a lot of space. It was spread out with moats around the animals. Since East Germany had good relations with China and India, there were a lot of the great cats there, though their enclosures were a little sad.
If there are any left, see if you can find an old communist block building and take a tour. When I was living there, I went to one. It was sad, there were people living in it, yet it was under construction when reunification happened. It would never be completed. It was about two city blocks long and some of the walls were not even completed.
Check out Kruetzberg and step into a little Turkey . It was bright, festive and the signs were in Turkish.
Take a cruise an der Spree (the river in Berlin). Definitely ride the U-Bahn and S-Bahn. Drink a ‘Berliner Weisse’ (Berliner White) and they will ask you if you want red or green. Yes, its a cheesy tourist thing. You can’t get the green (Waldmeister) in the US for whatever reason, and the red is raspberry syrup.
Go to the Neue Nationalgalerie (Mies!), then walk along the river past the embassies to the Bauhaus museum. I’ll also second seeing the Kaiser Wilhelm church. Crawl around Kreuzberg at 4 am looking down alleys for squat bars. Eat at every pastry shop in the Mitte. Have an egg breakfast and bananakuchen at Schwarzes cafe (Savignyplatz). Graze for hours at a sunday buffet off the Kollwitzplatz and then look around the Kulturbrauerei. Watch Wings of Desire again before you go and then go to Potsdamer Platz and marvel over the changes. Saturday, go to the flea market on str. 17 Juni. I love that town.
This is from a few years ago, but if you call around to some hostels you might come up with an American guy who does walking tours focused on history. Older ex-State/CIA fellow with good stories to tell and deep understanding of 20th century history. Dress warm! Best club I visited was in a big old underground bunker on the east side — great people, acoustics and karma.
Take yourself to the Badeschiff – it’s a spa type thing that actually floats on the river Spree. Shed your clothes and spend a couple of hours kicking back and straightening yourself out. That swimming pool’s COLD, though…
if you can find the worker owned co-op coffee house, you’ll then find the latest lefty ‘zine (which is called something like “stresse!”). there you’ll find all sorts of artsy diy oriented things to do. if you visit my friend birte, she’ll show you the bike co-op she organizes and she might even invite you to a queer-o-matik party.
a great (and still not touristy way) to start the day is the farmers market at Winterfeldplatz. It is Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 am until 3 pm and you get there easily by U-Bahn (the station is called Nollendorfplatz, it is right in the center of the city). Afterwards you could head over to Treptower Park, there is a huge and somewhat disturbing WW2-memorial build by the soviets (check it out on Googlemaps http://tinyurl.com/2nc9mp ).
Potsdam is definitely worth a visit, but it will take a day just to get a glimpse at the main castles there (plus: to really appreciate it, you need to make your way from Castle Glienicke and Castle Pfaueninsel which is quite a hike).
Way quicker is a visit to Castle Charlottenburg, it is the biggest castle in Berlin and you get a good impression of the lifestyle the prussian kings liked. On your way back you may want to get out at U-Bahn station BismarckstraÃŸe. About 100 meters north on Wilmersdorfer StraÃŸe is a huge Delikatessen called Rogacki, which is as native Berlin as it gets. Try the fried fish with a cucumber- and a potatoe-salad!
Almost forgot: Some nice ruins are on top of Teufelsberg. There used to be a radar station of the Echelon network. Facts and a couple of nice pictures here: http://www.ccc.de/teufelsberg/
go to the martin gropius bau. great exhibition called “vom funken zum pixel” , “from the spark to the pixel”!!!
if you like gadgets you gotta see it!!!!!!
no photos allowed but take your phone and be a criminal;)
Visit C-Base. Crazy German hackers building a space station in Berlin. Anyone from CCC can point you in the right direction.
I’got two simple tips for you:
The grandeur of East Germany “There is a visitor platform and a rotating restaurant in the middle of the sphere. The visitor platform is at a height of about 204 m above the ground, and visibility can reach 42 km (25 miles) on a clear day. The restaurant, which rotates once every twenty minutes, is a few meters above the visitors platform”..
and FrÃ¼hschtÃ¼ck in Mitte (it’s a lovely large breakfast buffet.
The best thing we ever did in berlin was a simple walking tour that started from a hostel called circus. it was billed as a two hour walking tour – but it turned into 8 great hours. that may seem like too much but no one on our tour left early and it was a great insiders view of the city. the best advice from the trip was to explore creepy alleyways that you would never walk down alone in usa. the first one we tried ended up having a supercool pub, an arthouse movie theater and a very hip gallery. oh and check out kunstworks – an art gallery in a former butter factory.
Amazing suggestions, guys, and far, far too much for me to do in just a week. But I’ll post updates. I’m taking a camera, but only 1GB of memory. It’ll be like having film, except I can at least delete the bad ones.
Release 99 red balloons and end the world.
Why is everyone recommending dÃ¶ners?
You can get a plenty good dÃ¶ner in america, they’re not even german… they’re middle-eastern.
Besides, they’re not even very good food, they’re reconstituted F-grade meat mixed with breadcrumbs and spices and left to sit on a lukewarm spit in open air for days on end… If you’re going to germany to sample the culture, at least eat german food.
Use the s-bahn and u-bahn, have a drink at the kastanien allee, take a look at the karl marx allee (for a moskou feeling), visit the stasimuseum (www.stasimuseum.de). And try some hefe-weizen beer. Too bad the computergame museum (www.computerspielemuseum.de) is closed, but hamburger bahnhof is also worth a visit…
I forget the name of the cafÃ© but it’s on the right not far from the Bradenburg Gate when heading east.
We had ice cream with cherries in hot Kirsch sauce on Unter den Linden at midnight. It’s hard to top.
What was my spelling up to last night!i!
I forgot the n in Berlinnnnn in the link on the Fernsehturm.
Frohe Weihnachten und ein GlÃ¼ckliches neues Jahr 🙂
(still: the Fernsehturm is zeee coolest – and try to say it 20 times very fast 😉
White Trash Fast Food! It’s a tattoo parlor, barber shop, restaurant, and club. The club is in the basement under the restaurant. Great kitchy decor!
The summit of Berlin cool: Tageles. An arthouse cinema, gallery and open air cafe in a squat-like half-torn down building. I loved it.
Someone else’s photos:
Here’s a link for an Engadget blog about the Belin Tesla gallery, a great best place for you to visit before it is shut down (soon.)
Quote “Do you like art? Do you like mystery? Do you like technology?”…
I guess you’ll be in Berlin for the 24c3 hacker congress starting in two days (why else would you be coming over right now, right?).
So if you’re there, you’ll learn of a lot of things to do recommended by the other people there. Hope to see you.
I agree with most of what has been said already (except Berliner Weisse, the flavoured beer, is usually served in summer and if you can get it now, it’s a tourist thing for sure).
My suggestions: Museum of Technology, Tesla, c-base. Craphounds will like the flea market at Arena in the Treptow district (shameless link to my blog), every Saturday and Sunday.
Berlin’s english language magazine is called Exberliner.
(And the underground zine mentioned in comment #31 is actually Stressfaktor.)
I’ll second the call to enjoy all the street food you can: Currywurst, Doner, Gyro, Pretzel, scarf it down. You might gain some weight, but you’ll miss it for the rest of your life.
I doubt there will be any still running, but if you can get to a Weihnachtsmarkt or something similar, enjoy yourself some Thuringer.
Take a look into the newthinking store at the TucholskystraÃŸe. It’s close to the OranienburgerstraÃŸe, where the Hookers are. The newthinking store is a Linux store. They sell stuff that usually Hookers don’t handle although they probably could. Buy a shirt there – you’ll need one after you’ve spilled some DÃ¶ner-Sauce.
the Berlin Museum for Communication is cool, and has three robots to say hello to.
sirs – you forgot the some important reasons for a trip to berlin:
1. no curfew !! open 24 hrs /7 days a week
2. no dress code / no cover in most of the bars
and everybody’s trying to speak english
3. take the berlin walking tour / lasts around 4 hours – but worth every step, try to get one of terry’s tours
and usually terry piedpipers you into one of his favourite watering holes
Ooooh, my second-fave city after my hometown of NYC!
–Yes, get a currywurst from one of the guys toting around a hot grill strapped to their nether regions. For a Euro you can say you did it. Gives new meaning to the phrase “weenie roast.”
–Hit the Unsichtbar restaurant. The food and the experience were great.
–Find the current location of White Trash, this always kitschy, always fun crazy bar that is half-expat and half everything else. The last time I was in Berlin I actually met up with one of the members of Einstuerzende Neubauten, one of whom also DJs there sometimes. Note to self: A red wine, three cherry bombs, two shots of Jaeger, and one order of onion rings with hoisin sauce is NOT dinner.
–For a fabulous sisha (water pipe) AND a glass of absinthe AND light eats AND comfy chairs and wood furniture AND a funky world music soundtrack AND your Internet fix, go to Cafe Al Hamra (if it’s still there). It’s at 6 Frauenparkplaetze. I spent my best afternoon there writing in a real paper journal after getting a laptop with Net access for an hour. I smoked my shisha, had an absinthe, wrote, and watched Berlin go by in the freezing rain. LOVED IT.
–Get a hangover hot lunch at Keyser Soze, a cafe in Mitte. I got a great German lunch with a beer for 3.5 Euros. TuchowskyStrasse at the corner of Augustrasse.
–Hit Tacheles Art Center before it becomes lofts for rich hipsters and Starbuck’s.
–Brandenberg Tor. Be sure to hit the “peace center meditation room” when you’re there; great place to rest your feet.
–Pick up a copy of Zitty and hit any of the art openings listed therein.
–Hit Hamburger Hof Modern Art Museum.
–Get a MilkBerlin messenger bag.
–Also get a Tasche/Tausche messenger bag–they have interchangable front flaps. I got one of mine with an iconic Berlin symbol (the FunkTurm) on it.
Have fun! WE WANT A FLICKR STREAM AND UPDATES!
Also, if you want more info, your blogadmin Teresa knows where to find me in meatspace; she has my permission to give you my email.
Go to Potsdamer Platz and look for the icecream shop on the East side. It’s the greatest icecream parlour in the world!
Also Museum Island, and the German history museum. They really know how to make a museum interesting! Zombies, guns, swords and armour!
I was just there in November. My favorite things.
1. Flea Market Sundays at the Mauern Parkt (Wall park). I went to all the flea markets on the weekend, and that one is the largest, craziest, and most likely to have great stuff. And you can walk up the hill to check out one of the preserved sections of the wall.
2. Side trip to Potsdam to visit Sanssouci Palace and wander around. Great place for conventional shopping with some very decent restaurants. Potsdam is out at the end of the S-7 line, about 40 minutes from the AlexanderPlatz station.
3. Shopping along Greifswalder Strasse. Prenzlauer Berg is Berlin’s answer to Park Slope Brooklyn, and there are a lot of nice shops and restaurants. The B2 streetcar runs down the middle of the street, you can hop on at AlexanderPlatz, and hop off when a block looks interesting.
4. Buy day passes or week passes for the Ubahn/Sbahn. Most of what you want to see is within the first zone, so save money, and buy a separate ticket if you’re going out to Potsdam or whatever.
5. Museum Island. Not far from AlexanderPlatz. Just walking around the Island is amazing. The Pergamon is one of the best museum in the world for ancient civiliation — if you go to just one museum, go there.
John – I am in the same situation, traveling to Berlin next week & looking for suggestions. After reading all these great ideas, what did you end up doing?
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