BY MADDY THOM
In recent years, Berlin has developed as a progressive and liberal-minded capital city, oozing creativity and culture it all their forms. Having been completely rebuilt—socially, politically, and architecturally—since WWII, the new city is young and still being formed by the influx of ideas and opinions that it comes in contact with. Though it sits in a country that is still famous for its sausages and world-class beer, Berlin is evolving—brimmed with artists, freethinkers, and an open-minded population, it is a city that stimulates and inspires. And, for an animated backpacker seeking excitement, this site of information exchange and open minds, delivers the desired adventure.
Even with only one day in Berlin, SANDEMANs NEW Europe Free Tour is a must do. It’s extensive—about 3 1/2 – 4 hours with a break for lunch, but is informative and entertaining. The guides are enthusiastic and the tour provides an excellent basis for understanding the city as it has emerged in the postwar years; in addition to cultural tidbits, it will help you to grasp both the physical and political rebuilding that the city has experienced in the last half century. On foot it’s impossible to cover the entire area, but you’ll see all of the major sights close to the center including the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, and the remains of the Berlin Wall. If taking an tour in English, request guide Amy, a girl who has relocated to Berlin from London; while all the guides are exceptional, you can tell that she has a true passion for the place she calls home and imbues that same fervor to learn and explore Berlin in those she shares her knowledge with. Don’t forget: while the tour is a free service, tipping is customary and appreciated.
Birthed in a city with a long history of political oppression, Berlin’s street art culture has emerged as a liberal response to its history in today’s evolving city. While the celebrated art hub Kunsthaus Tacheles (Art House Tacheles) in Mitte officially closed this past month with the remaining 40-60 artist squatters peacefully leaving the property, the creative spirit persists and there is still the overwhelming presence of decorative street art throughout the city. For an ever-varying display visit Mauerpark, or, for a more permanent collection take the S-Bahn out to the East Side Gallery where the longest stretch of remaining wall still stands and has been designed by artists from around the world as a freedom memorial.
As Mecca for tasty and affordable food you’ll have no trouble eating at any number of restaurants and food stalls and still staying within budget. While currywurst, bratwurst, and bockwurst remain a part of the traditional culinary experience, the presence of a multitude of ethnic communities means that the city caters to all gastronomic preferences and that the experience of eating out is inevitably an exciting one. If the options overwhelm you, simplify things by selecting a kebab. Arguably home to the best kebab shops in the world, signs advertising Döner and shawarma pitas adorn windows on every street corner and smells of Turkish spices and French fries cooking waft through open doors. Sandwiches are cheap, costing only around 2.5-3€ regardless of where you are in the city, and will fill you up before or after an evening out discovering Berlin’s nightlife.
Additionally, in a country traditionally famous for it’s bratwursts and schnitzel, many travelers will be surprised to find a unique catering to vegetarians as well. If looking for an alternative experience, try Vöner in Friedrichshain, a mostly vegan shop taking an animal-friendly approach to the traditional fare or Wonder Waffle in Kreuzberg: marketed as Berlin’s first fruit Döner a fruit-filled, chocolate-drizzled treat from here is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.
Inhabited by a creative-minded youth culture and a network of clubs formed in old, abandoned warehouses, it’s no surprise that Berliners have turned partying into an art form. Labeled as one of the best cities to party in the entire world, the city attracts young people from all over looking to dance until sunrise and the nightlife caters to the crowd with clubs often remaining open until the last patron leaves—the morning hours or even later. A unique interior space, Stattbad Wedding has been repurposed from an old public swimming complex, with the emptied pool serving as the DJ booth and dance floor. Doubling as a venue for art events and installation projects, it suits a variety of party interests. Both entry fees (around 6€) and drink prices (around 3€) are reasonable for a night out. Find a Fotoautomaten on your way home—the old style photo booths are situated around the city and will be the perfect memory of a night lost in a haze of Club Mate and vodka.
Located just next to the Rosenthaler Platz U-Bahn, the Circus Hostel makes for convenient accommodation right in the city center. It’s clean and modern with spacious dormitories and free Wifi throughout. The hostel goes above and beyond by including all the extras like linens, luggage storage, and lockers, with alarm clocks, phone chargers, and other often forgotten items also available for use. Housing both a café and basement bar, there’s a great atmosphere for socializing regardless of whether you decide to do it over a cup of coffee or a shot of tequila.
Also worth checking out: Maybachufer Turkish Market, Flohmarket in Boxhagener (Sundays), Tempelhof Airport and recycled golf course, DDR Museum.