Nicknamed the “youth capital of Europe”, Berlin has often been labelled the best city for young people on this side of the Atlantic, and it is easy to see why.
A far cry from the scene of conflict and division Berlin was embroiled in just 30 years ago, the German capital has transformed into a trendy and affordable metropolis. The shadow of its history remains, but the transparent and educational approach Berliners take to their past makes the present-day city all the more interesting.
The liberal culture, world-famous nightlife, beautiful green spaces and multicultural food scene has long made Berlin my favourite city in Europe (other than London). It is somewhere I seem to find myself returning to, each time with a fresh list of things to do.
I reunited with the city over the Easter weekend, staying in the area of Berlin Mitte, a trendy borough from which the city was born. The weekend was spent dashing from East to West, trying to squeeze everything on my over-ambitious plan into three days, made possible only by the city’s affordable and tourist-friendly offering of an unlimited travel “Welcome Card”. That being said, it often felt as if we spent more time on the U-Bahn than in our hotel; a weekend in Berlin never feels quite long enough.
One of the best aspects of Germany’s capital is the city’s food scene. There is something for everyone, no matter the dietary requirement. Start the day with the perfect vegan pistachio and cinnamon roll at Factory Girl in Berlin Mitte, then take a break from sightseeing for a classic kebab from one of the city’s many Turkish kebab shops (with plenty of falafel options for the vegetarians), then finish the day with a pescatarian five-course wine pairing at Aufwind in Charlottenburg.
Unlike Elon Musk, we didn’t bother trying our luck at the notoriously exclusive nightclub Berghain but opted for the more civilised option of enjoying beers and pretzels at Café am Neuen See, a large beer garden in the Tiergarten that overlooks a small lake with boats you can rent for a lazy afternoon on the water.
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The beauty of Berlin is that the city can be whatever you want it to be; a wild weekend of partying till the sun comes up, an educational trip exploring the city’s history or a multicultural culinary adventure. There’s just one thing for certain, no matter what you’re looking for from a weekend in Berlin, you’ll never be short of things to do (or eat).
What to do
On Sundays, Mauerpark transforms into a huge flea market filled with clothes and accessories to help emulate the effortlessly cool Berlin-look. The market is surrounded by food stalls and live performers who put on shows throughout the morning and afternoon. Shop till you drop, then relax on the grass or in one of the nearby cafes and enjoy the music.
Walk along the Berlin wall
It might be an obvious one, but it is something that doesn’t get old, no matter how many times you visit. Not only is it an important visual reminder of the division the city faced for so many years, but the street art that adorns its once foreboding surface transforms the wall into a poignant open-air gallery.
Visit a Kneipe
A Kneipe is the Berlin equivalent to an old English pub, found all around the city. Often dark and dingy, smoking is unofficially allowed inside and a pint of beer costs around £3 (though they often don’t take cash so make sure you have some euros).
Where to eat and drink
You can’t beat al fresco dining and Bonvivant is the place to do it. The bistro offers a wide-ranging brunch menu; enjoy a flavoursome green shakshuka followed by a few espresso martinis, in the name of balance. Soak up the sun and watch city life unfold in front of you.
Lon Men’s Noodle House
Described as an “institution” by a friend who comes from Berlin, Lon Men’s Noodle House in Charlottenburg offers affordable and delicious Taiwanese food and is famed for its dumplings. You might have to queue (they don’t take bookings) but this delicious and authentic food is well worth the wait.
Where to stay?
Hotel de Rome
To truly immerse yourself in Berlin’s history stay at the Hotel de Rome on Bebelplatz in Berlin Mitte. Originally constructed in 1889 by the architect Ludwig Heim, the building housed the head office of Dresdner Bank until 1945. Nowadays, it is a luxury hotel with a stunning roof terrace, decorated with a contemporary interior to complement its authentic facade. Step out of the hotel and find some of the city’s best cafes and restaurants on your doorstep, and relax in the hotel pool in the evening, after a long day’s walking.