It took me a while until I understood what fascinates people with Berlin. Berlin is not the kind of city you fall in love with at first sight because it’s so beautiful. But once you looked behind the facade of all the ugly concrete post-war buildings, you can understand why people from all over the world keep falling in love with the German capital.
Berlin is so vibrant, so multicultural, so buzzing with creative energy that it’s way too easy to become obsessed with it.
A few years ago, I never would have guessed that I could actually fall for Berlin’s fuck-up charm. I usually love cities close by the sea with beautiful architecture and pretty parks. And Berlin is definitely not a city you’d call beautiful at first sight. But I did fall for this special edgy charm, and I even feel like I need to go back every other few months to get my fill of good coffee and this crazy Berlin energy.
Still though, Berlin can be super overwhelming. Expansion-wise, Berlin is bigger than New York City. The German capital has so much to offer and is changing so quickly that it is basically impossible to not get lost eventually. And thus it’s quite tough to find great places to eat, drink, and see all by yourself. Visiting Berlin’s most famous sights isn’t too hard, but to find the Berlin beyond the touristy spots, to find the Berlin that I fell in love with — that’s a whole different story.
Now, I’m really no expert when it comes to Berlin. I can’t really provide real insiders tips. But then again, even the few real Berlin locals I’ve met might be experts for their neighborhoods, but Berlin is an impossible city to really truly know in all its depths.
I can however share the places that made me fall for Berlin: The coffee shops and hipster spots that make me return to Berlin. The places that made me consider Berlin beautiful at second sight. I wanted to share these favorite places I discovered throughout my trips to Berlin, because I would want you to fall in love with “my” capital as well.
See: Mauerpark Flea Market
Of course, the Mauerpark and its Sunday flea market are not really an insider tip, but as it’s not the Brandburg Gate I thought I’d still mention it here: I loved browsing vintage jewelry and funny t-shirts here. Also, if you want to blend in with the Berlin hipsters, you should buy a jute bag with an artsy print here (I got one with a retro camera on it).
It can get really crowded in the summer, so make sure to arrive early. Keep in mind though: The Mauerpark area won’t exist the way it is now much longer, because there will be new housing blocks built in the near future — so make sure to go as soon as possible!
Schillerkiez is a neighborhood in Neukölln, the new up and coming hipster part of town. It’s super multicultural with interesting people and interesting shops, and definitely worth a trip out of the more touristy districts. One Neukölln highlight for me was this insanely rich chocolate cake at Schiller Café.
The Barn is a Berlin coffee shop institution that you should definitely not miss: The roastery and taste lab in Prenzlauer Berg is a great place for a quick espresso and a good sniff of freshly roasted coffee, the coffee shop in Berlin Mitte is great spot for a flawless flat white and people watching. And: Both places sell Portuguese egg tarts to go with your dose of caffein — what else do you need for a perfect coffee break?
This little restaurant in Prenzlauer Berg sells itself as a wine bar, but besides the fabulous wine, the food also is absolutely on point. Honestly, this pasta dish transported my right back to Italy and it might have even been the best thing I ate in the entire year of 2014. Food, wine, and service, this little place was absolutely outstanding.
More about Muret La Baba (and their wine delivery service!) can be found on their homepage.
Drink: Coffee at CK Café
This coffee place in Prenzlauer Berg is located in my favorite residential neighborhood in the city and I loved the international atmosphere and the flat white here. Best part though: That chocolate cookie!
Tempelhofes Feld is not really one of the secret free sights in Berlin, but discovering this little guerrilla garden gem with my friend (and Neukölln local!) Mariella was not something I expected. A true hippie oasis in the middle of the city! There are dozens of little benches and hidden nooks and all of the flowers planted in old TVs and shoes. I seriously couldn’t think of a better place for a picknick in Berlin!
This tiny café in Prenzlauer Berg was the definitely the cutest place I ever had breakfast at: A little room full of furniture from the 60ies and the most adorably meticulous breakfast arrangement of all times. The best part: Even the rolls are freshly baked — it may take a little longer for the food to arrive at your table, but every second of waiting is worth it!
For coffee experts, this Prenzlauer Berg coffee shop needs no introduction: The coffee machine used here only exists three times on the entire European continent and it even made Buzzfeed’s list of the best 25 coffee shops of the world! And I couldn’t recommend the flat white here enough: Seriously, the best coffee I ever had! And that chocolate croissant on the side didn’t hurt either!
This socially responsible bar/restaurant with a super stylish retro interior serves amazing vegetarian food: This sandwich with grilled veggies and chili hummus was an absolute highlight in Berlin. I can’t wait to go back and sample more of their delicious sounding menu!
The drinks in this hotel bar are great, but to be honest: The views make them even so much better! This bar is located above the famous Ku’Damm, Berlin’s most famous shopping street, right next to the Gedächtniskirche. This view of the city and the famous Berlin Zoo combined with a cocktail is seriously the best way to start a crazy night in Berlin!
Berlin still has a few old market halls, but only one of them is used as an actual market hall today: Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg, which was basically turned into a food truck heaven. From cakes to tapas, this market hall has everything. Aside from the many great photo opportunities, the weekly Street Food Thursday is what the market hall is most famous for. Plus: I’ve been told that the pork belly here is mind-blowingly good!
Rumor has it that Berlin has the best Vietnamese food outside of Vietnam. I tried (granted, my first ever ) Vietnamese at Monsieuer Vuong and I loved it. Apparently, this place is so famous for great food that I encountered waiting in line in front of a restaurant for the first time in Germany. The menu is small, but if they can even make a picky cilantro-despising vegetarian like me can fall head over heels for Vietnamese flavors, this restaurant is absolutely worth checking out.
The Hackesche Höfe are a housing complex full of little alleys and courtyards close to Alexanderplatz in Berlin Mitte. Most of these courtyards have benches, bikes, or pretty little stores, but the one leading to Café Cinema has the best street art of Berlin Mitte. If you’re looking for a little edginess in otherwise rather posh Mitte, this is definitely where you should come!
To find this graffiti courtyard, take the subway to Hackescher Markt and head to the Anne Frank Zentrum.
Eat: Sandwiches at Zeit für Brot
It doesn’t get more German than a slice of whole-grain bread with cheese, and Zeit für Brot serves this German classic as good as it gets. This shop combines the classic German bakery with a 21st century update: Everything is 100% organic, and the interior is absolutely stylish. I swore to myself that I have to come back for the their famous cinnamon rolls, which looked crazy delicious.