The Art Historian’s Failed Guide to Hipster Berlin

I already had the words formed in my head before I even arrived in Berlin. Maybe that was a mistake in the first place. The Art Historian’s Guide to Hipster Berlin. I was convinced I could write this.

I exactly knew what this post was supposed to be like. I wanted to write about street art and those cool coffee shops were you can buy coffee as well as the mug your coffee’s served in and the chair you’re sitting on. I wanted to write about Berlin the party capital, where every café serves breakfast until 7 pm so you will always find a place to have your hangover-curing scrambled eggs at. I wanted to write about bikes and museums, about Vietnamese food and the huge empty airport fields of the old Tempelhofer Flughafen. I wanted to tell you how I listened to karaoke and how I bought beautiful individually crafted earrings at the Mauerpark. I wanted to describe this incredible Berlin self-confidence when in comes to art and fashion. I wanted to prove that it is true what they say: Berlin is the closest thing Europe has to New York City.

Berlin, Germany

I wanted to experience this Berlin that I’ve heard, read, and seen so much about.

But I failed. Because I underestimated Berlin. Maybe it was because I thought I had the advantage of speaking the language and didn’t really prepare myself properly. Berlin was bigger than I thought — geographically and mentally. Most definitely I didn’t have enough time: I roughly had 40 hours in the city. I could only scratch the surface. Maybe not even that.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany

Therefore, I cannot offer you a proper guide to hipster Berlin. I don’t know where the funkiest art galleries, the favorite cafés of Berlin’s famous fashion bloggers and the best flea markets are. I can’t tell you where to find the best street art and what hipster neighborhood is my favorite.

What I can give you, however, is to show you the few glimpses of the real, antsy, edgy, slightly fucked up, awesome, insane, artistic Berlin that I found during my way too short stay.

Berlin at night

Street art in Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany

Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain at night. Berlin at daytime is one thing. But at night, it’s a whole different story. Whereas my daytime experiences in Berlin were filled with tourists from all over the world and cheesy Soviet souvenirs, the nights in Kreuzberg felt more like the Berlin I was looking for: Guys with nerdy glasses, girls with 80ies tops and bare midriffs, Turkish street food stalls, incredibly talented buskers and oh-so-much graffiti.

Warschauer Straße, Berlin, Germany

Night scenes in Berlin, Germany

Night scenes, Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany, at night

Seeing Berlin’s skyline reflect in the dark water of the Spree River while listing to a fantastic sitar player, made me fall in love with love nighttime Berlin quickly. It was a Friday night and Berlin’s hippest neighborhood was buzzing with life and creative energy — I was simply overwhelmed by this sensory overload of sounds and smells and emotions. 

Berlin, Germany, at dusk

Street food in Berlin, Germany

Beer in Berlin, Germany

Live music in Berlin, Germany

East Side Gallery. Berlin has approximately 450 (!) galleries and 180 (!) museums, and I feel bad for not having visited any of them this time in Berlin. Pretty crappy for an aspiring art historian, I know. But I did see Berlin’s probably most famous gallery — which also happens to be the world’s largest outdoor gallery.

East Side Gallery, Berlin, Germany

East Side Gallery, Berlin, Germany

East Side Gallery, Berlin, Germany

East Side Gallery, Berlin, Germany

In the 1990ies parts of the former Berlin Wall were painted and sprayed by artists from all over the world. The East Side Gallery is a vast conglomeration of different kinds of art: From thought-provoking slogans to meaningless statements, from historical motifs to abstract forms. History meets art in the best possible way. The East Side Gallery is definitely the one gallery you should not miss in Berlin.

So, after this short experience of Berlin — did I have the right to name this post a guide to hipster Berlin? Probably not.

Graffiti door in Berlin, Germany

Photoautomat in Berlin, Germany

Hipster cup poster, Berlin, Germany

Night scenes in Berlin, Germany

But I can tell you a few things about how to find artsy, crazy, gorgeously chaotic Berlin:
Open your eyes. Take nighttime strolls. Follow the hordes of people walking into a shady courtyards with graffiti on brick walls. Listen to the buskers. Look for street art. Get lost.
And I’m sure hipster Berlin will find you.

Night scenes in Berlin, Germany

Live music in Berlin, Germany

Graffiti door in Berlin, Germany

Have you found hipster Berlin?

Many thanks to the Berlin Tourism Board for providing Steffen and me with a complimentary Berlin WelcomeCard which made getting around in this bigger-than-I-imagined city so much easier. However, all opinions are my own.