Brooke, student and budding journalist, just spent a few days in Berlin declaring it “one of my favorite cities in the world.” Here she shares her highlights of her trip. Berlin marries history with a modern edge in a way I've never seen some before. At the end of the war, all the physical traces of the Nazi regime were destroyed, however, several artful and impactful reminders of "Never Again." have been erected. Though most of the Berlin Wall has come down, the East Side Gallery stands to remind everyone of the communism that divided the city for too long. All of this comes together in a truly electric city, where house music rules the clubs and biergartens line the streets, where the myriad of street food options reflect the diverse population and where the architecture and design are breathtaking.
Very few places in Berlin (including restaurants) take credit cards, so make sure you take out cash before hitting the town.
If you're visiting on a Sunday, don’t miss the flea market in Mauer Park. Enjoy the live music, biergartens and the amazing food trucks. Vendors sell everything from vintage cameras to clothing, handmade jewelry and records. It’s an excellent way to spend the afternoon.
Home Base: Berlin is huge and is divided into several areas. I suggest you stay in Mitte. It is the heart of the city and from here you can walk, bike or tram anywhere. The area is flooded with cool locals, and has a particular niche for artists. Mitte didn't exist when Berlin was separated, and after the wall came down; artists took over the area that was once full of abandoned buildings and ramshackle apartments. Now, it’s home to dozens of good restaurants and unique shops. The Soho House Berlin is a great hotel choice - their rooftop pool/bar has a great vibe and a good scene. Book a room at the Amano Hotel if you are looking for a more traditional stay.
Morning Fuel: There's no shortage of cafes in Berlin, you don't have to look too far for a good cup of coffee. We stayed near Zeit Fuer Brot, which had excellent coffee, and a counter full of lite bites and treats. Their Bircher muesli was phenomenal, and if you're looking for something more decadent you must try their cinnamon buns. There are tables outside for people watching and the cafe itself was adorable. Another good choice, is Cafe Fleury. Also in Mitte, it was one of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time. Their outdoor patio transported me to France and the food was delicious. I will definitely come back here on my next trip to Berlin. If you're more adventurous you have to check out Geist Im Glas. This whisky-bar-turned-brunch-spot may have fewer breakfast options than cocktails; however any of the choices are out of this world. If you like pancakes and booze with your brunch you can't miss this.
Wander: I walked all around the city during my trip, and tried to cover all the major sights in one day. From Mitte, on the way to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews; I passed the German History Museum. I stopped inside and was so glad that I did. The bottom floor showcased the ways in which individuals in 12 different countries were affected by the holocaust. The personal biographies were very moving and the design puts one in the moment. After finishing up, I headed to the Memorial. Walking through here is so surreal. The artist refuses to explain what the work really means, which leaves it open to interpretation. I loved it. Then I headed to the Jewish Museum. Wow. You absolutely have to go here while you're in Berlin. ArchitectLiebskind did a fantastic job transforming the space and the museum offers a truly comprehensive history of the Jewish people and a gut wrenching tour of the holocaust. The Kunthaus Dahlem just opened exhibiting amazing post-war German modernism.
Lunch: On your way from the museum to the East Side Gallery you'll pass through Kreuzberg, the hipster capital of Berlin. The neighborhood is grungy and the sidewalks are packed with graffiti and street food from every cuisine in the world. Princess Kimchi is a classic Korean favorite, Mustafa's has a tiny stand that serves amazing grilled delights rolled in flatbread and Maroush serves the best falafel in Berlin. Between the young crowd and the cheap eats you can't go wrong exploring this neighborhood.
Afternoon: The East Side Gallery is 1.3 km of what’s left of the Berlin Wall and it is so breathtaking. The murals are incredibly well done, but what is even wilder is thinking about how just a few decades ago the city was completely divided, with no way to cross over to one side. From here, I can promise you'll be exhausted but don't go back home just yet. Head to Prater Biergarten in Mitte for some classic German brews. If you're feeling like a snack, there's a menu with traditional German fare, and a huge outdoor seating area for a casual place to hang out and rest.
Dinner: I'm not the most adventurous eater, but I found myself at some very unique restaurants in Berlin. Super casual, District Mot, is a take on Saigon street food, and not to be missed. The walls are filled with Vietnamese decorations, there’s bench like seating and pops of color that all enhance the vibe. And, though the hip hop music in the background may not have been true to theme, it was so much fun! My favorite thing was the make your own summer roll, but every item on the menu is delicious. Also, don't miss the "District Mot" classic drinks; they're fantastic. Another dining experience I'll never forget is White Trash Fast Food. You walk up to a building with the restaurant's name written in a font straight out of a Chinese take out menu, and a bouncer will demand 5 euros just to enter. Why? Because the restaurant is also a concert venue (and also a tattoo parlor.) I had to wait a bit for my table, so I listened to some punk-rock scream-singing while drinking a fresh strawberry margarita in what can only be described as Count Dracula’s lair meets pirate ship, in the best possible way. I got the octopus burger, get it, it was awesome. What an unforgettable dining experience and I'd definitely go back. The location is also prime, right in Kreuzberg near lots of clubs and bars.
Night: Dinner ends at 12 and you have two hours to kill, as the nightlife scene doesn’t start booming which till 2AM. Watergate is the most known club in Berlin, but everything here is wild and fun: you can't go wrong where ever you go. A bit further out, visit the Monkey Bar at the 25 Hours Hotel Bikini. Their rooftop bar is super cool and has incredible views of Berlin.