Buro city guide: Berlin
As someone who splits their time between Berlin and Sydney, I've got to know the city well - from the off-the-radar brunch spots to secret cocktail bars. This is my comprehensive edit of the best places to eat, drink and shop, plus what you simply can't miss while you're here.
Top 3 coffee shops
1. The Barn
There are two Barns. The bigger one, The Barn Roastery, is near our apartment so we go there more. It's where they roast all the coffee beans and is a nice big industrial space. The other Barn is on Auguststrasse and is much smaller. If you go to that one, head across the street to Do You Read Me first (Berlin's best independent magazine store) to pick up something interesting to read while you drink your coffee.
Schönhauser Allee 8, 10119 Berlin
Auguststrasse 58 (Corner Koppenplatz), 10119 Berlin
Ora is a newish café inside an old pharmacy, and for that reason it's probably one of the most Instagrammed cafés in Berlin. They make really good cakes and conveniently also have a full bar.
Oranienplatz 14/Erkelenzdamm 1, 10999 Berlin-Kreuzberg
3. Five Elephant
Five Elephant is a great little spot where they import and roast all their coffee and bake their own cheesecake - cheesecake that has reached such cult-status that if you Google it, 'Five Elephant Berlin Cheesecake' comes up higher than 'Five Elephant Berlin Coffee.'
Reichenberger Str. 101, 10999 Berlin
Top 3 breakfast spots
1. Betty'n Caty
Betty and Caty are two real people who make tasty, homely food and good coffee. On weekends you need a reservation, and if you go on a Saturday you can also check out the Kolwitzplatz organic farmers' market, which is just around the corner.
Knaackstraße 8, 10405 Berlin Prenzlauer Berg
Delicious and nutritious cold-pressed juices and vegan breakfast, lunch and snacks. It has a great outdoor seating area in summer and there is a very good magazine shop a few doors down called Soda Books.
Weinbergsweg 3, 10119 - Berlin - Mitte
A cool space in Friedrichshain with good coffee and good food for a good start the day.
Gabriel-Max-Straße 4, 10245 Berlin Friedrichshain
Top 3 lunch spots
1. The Store at Soho House
Tommy, Johnnie and their team of chefs create a constantly changing menu, all seasonal and from local producers, most of which is vegetarian, very healthy and super delicious. No one else in Berlin does this kind of food this well. They've just introduced a small à la carte menu for breakfast and lunch and plan to start opening for dinner soon. They do the best avocado on toast in Berlin. There's the added benefits of eating in a beautiful space with good music and great people watching. I go for lunch at least three times a week.
Torstraße 1, 10119 Berlin
2. David Chipperfield Canteen
The actual staff canteen in the Mitte offices of the renowned architect David Chipperfield is also open to the public for lunch Monday - Friday. Every day there's a short, seasonal menu of about five different things and you eat outside in the courtyard on sunny days or inside the buzzy dining room at tables designed by David Chipperfield in partnership with E15, using cutlery designed in collaboration with Alessi. I love it here.
Joachimstrasse 11, 10119 Berlin Mitte
3. Shiso Burger
Berlin is obsessed with burgers. There's even a festival called Burgers & Hip Hop. Our favourite is the cheeseburgers at Shiso Burger in Mitte.
Auguststraße 29 c, 10119 Berlin,
Top 3 restaurants for dinner
1. Das Lokal
Lokal has tasty, simple food, good wine, a nice atmosphere and great staff. It's always packed, even on weekdays, so a reservation is essential.
Linienstraße 160 Berlin-Mitte
Cecconi's only opened at the start of 2016, but looks like it's been here forever and is already pumping. A seat at the kitchen counter and a bowl of the lobster pasta is the go.
Torstrasse 1, 10119 Berlin
Dottir was only supposed to be a temporary restaurant but has been so popular it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. There is no menu as such, just an ever-changing weekly set menu of five courses. They will change it if you're allergic to something. Never had a bad meal there; definitely worth a visit. You 100 per cent need a reservation.
mittelstraße 40, 10117 berlin
Top 3 best cocktail bars
1. Saint Jean Bar
East Berlin's coolest gay bar. Not so much a cocktail bar, just a really good bar and a really lovely crowd.
Steinstrasse 21, Berlin
2. The upstairs bar at Borchardt
Borchardt is a local institution. It's one of the few places in Berlin you'll see 'suits', but is also popular with Berlin's artistic community. It's a big old-school bistro with tiled floors and soaring ceilings. It's great for lunch on a Friday, when it's extra buzzy. Not many people seem to know that above the restaurant there's a champagne and cocktail bar. It probably stays below the radar because it's only open on Fridays.
Französische Str. 47, 10117 Berlin
3. Panorama Bar
Situated on a mezzanine overlooking Berghain nightclub is Panorama Bar. It has a more relaxed environment of cocktails and house music, which is definitely called for when what is arguably the world's best techno club gets a bit too intense.
Am Wriezener Bahnhof
10243 Berlin Friedrichshain
The 3 best suburbs to stay
Mitte means middle in German, and Mitte is in the middle of the former East Berlin. It's also where we live, so by default is home to a lot of the suggestions in this guide.
Full of cafes, bars and places to eat. Kreuzberg has been home to many creative communities who have migrated to Berlin since the '90s. Good people watching, and really the centre of everything fun during the summer months.
The more grown up and orderly part of West Berlin, with parts that are reminiscent of Paris. Home to restaurants, theatres and galleries. This is certainly a more refined Berlin experience.
Top 3 hotels
1. Soho House
Soho House is where I would recommend most people stay. It occupies the entirety of a huge old department store and feels warm and comfortable with an aesthetic that really suits Berlin. If you stay in the hotel you also get access to the private member's club, the gym and and the rooftop pool bar. The 'extra large' rooms are some of the best I have ever stayed in, with showers so powerful I think it's the closest you can come to drowning on dry land.
Torstrasse 1, 10119 Berlin
2. The Michelberger
The Michelberger is a bit like Berlin's Ace Hotel, with a real community atmosphere. Request one of the 'Hide Out' rooms, which are newly reappointed by the very talented local architect and designer, Sigurd Larson.
- Warschauer Str. 39-40 10243 Berlin
3. FVF Apartment
Not a hotel, but a beautiful apartment by creative agency Freunde von Freunden ('friends of friends'), with wooden floors, Aesop in the bathroom and filled with designer furniture by Vitra and Artek. It's modern and design conscious, yet still very cosy. We lived here for a couple of weeks when we first moved to Berlin and loved it. It's like staying with friends who have great taste and are never home!
Mulackstr. 26, 10119 Berlin
Where to shop
1. Voo Store
Situated in a quiet courtyard off Kreuzberg's main strip, Voo Store has an excellent contemporary edit for men and women, from the likes of Marni, Acne, Nike and Yeezy, as well as lifestyle products and a nice little café off to one side.
Oranienstraße 24, 10999 Berlin
2. Andreas Murkudis
Has everything from Céline and Dries Van Noten, Aesop and Byredo. The store itself is an amazing space. The Blain Sothern Gallery next door is worth sticking your head into as well, and a big Acne store is soon to open around the corner.
Potsdamer Strasse 81E, 10785
3. The Store at Soho House
The brainchild of creative directing machine Alex Eagle, The Store at Soho House Berlin is a beautifully curated space with a café (see above), cold-pressed juice bar, nail salon and a florist and plant counter by Aussie expat Ruby Mary Lennox. It's a popular co-working space with free Wi-Fi and lots of plug sockets for Macbooks - it's EVH's European offices when I'm in Berlin. Pretty much everything, from the beautiful furniture and ceramics to fragrances, records, books and plants, is for sale, as are collections by brands like AMI, Vetements, Common Projects and Mansur Gavriel. The space is run by the delightful Celia, who is one of the best connected people in Berlin. Say hello to her from me if you go. The Store London opens in Soho in the next couple of months.
Torstrasse 1 10119 Berlin
Best places for live music
People come from all over the world just to go to this infamous techno club with a super strict door policy. There are even 'how-to' websites devoted to advice on how to make it past the front door - but many still fail. We have friends who love it so much they go almost every weekend.
Am Wriezener Bahnhof, 10243 Berlin Friedrichshain
2. Berliner Philharmoniker
Home to the Berlin Philharmonic, which is consistently ranked one of the best orchestras in the world.
I've not been, but my more fun friends love this club. Set on the grounds of an old dog biscuit factory, it's a largely open-air scenario, complete with a pond, beach, deck chairs, snack bar, sock shop and an old fire engine. You can literally spend the entire weekend here for an entry fee of 10 Euros.
Hauptstraße 15, 10317 Berlin
Top 3 galleries
1. Boros Bunker
Undoubtedly the best contemporary art experience in Berlin. Set in an old WWII bunker, as the name suggests, this gallery is home to the private collection of Christian Boros, who lives on the top floor with his family. The incredible history of the building alone is worth the trip, but the art on display is just as impressive, featuring the likes of Dirk Bell, Ai Weiwei, Michael Sailstorfer and Wolfgang Tillmans. It can only be viewed on certain days and by guided tour. Booking is necessary as it sells out at least four weeks in advance.
Reinhardtstr. 20, 10117 Berlin-Mitte
2. The memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe
This memorial takes up a whole city block, and visiting it is a very moving and perspective-giving experience. It's then a short walk to The Topography of Terror, an outdoor/indoor history museum set on the former headquarters of the Secret State Police, the SS and the Reich Security Main Office. An incredibly detailed documentation of the Nazi regime.
Niederkirchnerstraße 8 , 10963 Berlin
3. Museum Island
A beautiful (and convenient) cluster of five renowned museums - Pergamon Museum, Bode Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Altes Museum - all set upon the River Spree. Block out a few hours and choose the museums of most interest to you.
The top 3 places to hang out in winter
1. Marktalle Neun
This market was on the verge of closing until a group of locals got together to save it. It now houses stalls selling cheese, cured ham and German sausages, organic fruit and veg and numerous stalls serving all types of delicious meals, as well as a couple of bars. You can go, do the weekly food shop, have lunch and a beer. It's a really nice way to spend a Saturday, when the whole market is open, or on Thursday nights when they do 'Street Food Thursdays'.
Eisenbahnstrasse 42/43, 10997 Berlin-Kreuzberg
2. The Hammam at Soho House
In the basement of Soho House, inside the Cow Shed spa, there is an incredible large, dark and steamy hammam, which is the place to go to literally defrost in winter. It has a brilliant steam room, sauna, power showers, day beds and marble plinths for chilling out on. Heads up: it's a very naked experience and is also unisex.
Torstrasse 1, 10119, Berlin
3. The food hall at Ka De We
Ka De We is Berlin's most historic department store, and as well as being home to all the luxury brands, it houses one of the biggest food halls I have ever seen. It's actually mildly overwhelming. After exploring the Ku Damm area, it's a great place to go for lunch at one of the many tiny restaurants or food counters that line the edge of the food hall. Our favourite is the main fish one on the far edge of the front of the building (you can't miss it, it's always really busy on the weekend with people eating seafood and drinking wine).
Kaufhaus des Westens, Tauentzienstraße 21-24, 10789 Berlin
The top 3 places to hang out in summer
Open every Sunday, Mauer Park is famous for its huge flea markets, food and drink stands and mass participation karaoke, where anyone can join in after a few talented (and not so talented) regulars have warmed things up. In summer the vibe is what would best be described as 'day three of a music festival.'
Bernauer Strasse 63-64, 13355 Berlin-Mitte
2. The canal in Kreuzberg
Drinking in the streets is no big deal in Berlin; it's practically encouraged. You can buy beers everywhere. In summer the canal in Kreuzberg is packed with people drinking, smoking and enjoying the incredible weather that Berlin experiences from June-August.
3. Badeschiff Swimming Pool
This swimming pool 'floats' in the middle of the River Spree and has amazing views of the city. Go early to get in - it's one of the few places to cool off during summer when temperatures can reach 40 degrees.
Best view of the city
Klunkerkranich is a bar on top of a carpark that has great views of the city and is an ideal place to watch the sunset in summer. If you want something a bit more cultural, book a ticket to go up in the glass dome of German Parliament's Reichstag building.
Top 3 tourist attractions you may not have heard of
1. David Bowie Strasse
Hauptstrasse was where David Bowie lived during his famous Berlin years. Since his unexpected passing it's become home to various shrines and Bowie-themed graffiti. Locals are petitioning the council to officially change the street name to 'David Bowie Strasse'
2. Berlin has great food markets
While not known as a particularly culinary nation, the Germans are obsessed with organic food and farmers' markets. The famers' market at Kollwotzplaz on Saturdays, the Turkish market in Kruezberg and Market Halle Neun are our favourites.
Spreepark is an old, abandoned amusement park that closed its gates in 2002, with rollercoasters, bumper cars and even a Ferris Wheel all left to ruin. Although it's not open to the public anymore, there are now guided tours of the grounds. A pretty eerie experience.
Kiehnwerderallee 1-3, 12437 Berlin
My insider tips
1. Gallery Weekend
Every spring over 50 galleries, big and small, open their doors for a week of special events, exhibitions and parties. It's a good time to visit.
2. Go to Berghain (see above) on Sunday
I'm a grandma who doesn't stay out late that often, but our more fun Berlin friends never go to Berghain on Friday or Saturday night. That's for tourists. Instead they go on Sunday morning/afternoon, after a lazy brunch. The thinking is that you can get home at a reasonable hour and still feel fresh for Monday morning. Smart.
The best place to drop in for an exercise class
Y 4 ALL. They teach both yoga and pilates in English. The owner Nicole is hardcore - in a hilarious way.
Greifswalder Str. 9, 10405 Berlin
The best day spa
I go for regular massages at the Cowshed Spa at Soho House, especially after long haul flights. Go for an hour-long massage and ask for Zoran. He has magic hands. Afterwards you can use the amazing hammam.
Torstrasse 1 10119 Berlin
Top 3 shops to buy homewares
Manufactum is a homewares store full of classic products (a lot of which are made in Germany) that are tasteful, functional and built to last a lifetime. Even their most mundane household objects are appealing. Hot tip: as appealing as they are, don't by your partner a broom for their birthday. Even if it was hand-turned in birch with a goat hair brush and your partner is a clean freak. It really won't go down well.
Hardenbergstraße 4-5, 10623 Berlin
Modular is an incredible (and massive) shop full of every kind of stationery and art and craft materials you could ever imagine. Visiting makes you want to craft something with your hands and be a generally more creative individual.
Prinzenstr. 85, 10969 Berlin
3. Halleschaes Haus
This place is great for gifts and homewares. It also houses a canteen that's excellent for lunch or coffee.
Tempelhofer Ufer 1, Berlin 10961
Follow Matt Vines on Instagram: @mattvines
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