The kind of place where you’re likely to find Billy Joel’s eponymous “Uptown Girl,” Charlottenburg is where the hipsters of Friedrichschain and Kreuzberg migrate once they give up their dreams of graphic design and become successful lawyers, bankers, or owners of expensive cafés. But what it lacks in youth and gritty charm, Charlottenburg makes up for in affluence and suavity. After all, the neighborhood was originally built around Friedrich I’s palace in the west. Nowadays, however, you’re more likely to find the rich and glamorous further east, prowling the streets of Kurfürstendamm, Berlin’s Fifth Ave. equivalent.
Schöneberg and Wilmersdorf
Schöneberg and Wilmersdorf epitomize Berlin’s lively yet laidback spirit. Situated between Charlottenburg and Tempelhof, and separated from Kreuzberg by the Landwehrkanal, the area is heavy on green spaces. A train to Nollendorf Pl. will find you at the meeting point of the two neighborhoods, as well as the heart of Berlin’s BGLTQ+ scene. However, you might choose to ignore the cafés and nightlife altogether and just lounge the day away at Viktoria Park, or if you just want to get away from it all, the more out-of- the-way and consequently more serene Grunewald Forest.
While most neighborhoods in the city require at most a day to explore, Mitte could easily take a week. Found at the base of the Tiergarten, the Pariser Platz area boasts the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, Jewish Memorial (among other Holocaust memorials), and the Victory Column. Not to be outdone, the six museums that comprise Museum Island—a 10-minute walk east—house incredible collections of ancient relics that’ll put any nursing home to shame. While you’ll find all these sights south of the Spree, the north is where you’ll spend most of your time eating, unless the idea of bland and overpriced food excites you. Check out Prenzlauer Berg, which forms Mitte’s northern border, for the Berlin Wall Memorial.
Berlin’s answer to Outkast’s perennial question “What’s cooler than being cool?”, Friedrichschain is the grungy and graffiti-strewn haunt of the city’s artists, hipsters, and punks. Following the collapse of the wall, West Berliners flooded into this formerly Soviet-occupied region, turning every abandoned building into a café, bar, or nightclub and every café, bar, or nightclub into one of the city’s trendiest destinations. Walking along the main street, Warschauer Str., you’ll pass the East Side Gallery, the RAW site—an old train repair facility that now houses everything from art galleries to beer gardens—and eventually Grünberg Str., which will lead you to the best restaurants, cafés, and vintage stores Friedrichschain has to offer. With world-renowned clubs like Berghain, About Blank, and Salon Zur Wilden Renate, diving head-first into the nightlife of Friedrichschain is a totally non-optional experience.
Young, multicultural, and counter-cultural, Kreuzberg is Friedrichschain’s even grittier counterpart. You’ll find the same abandoned industrial plants-turned-clubs (Tresor, OHM) and the same 50-foot, graffiti-plastered walls (look out for the Cosmonaut) as you would just across the Spree in F’Hain. The area’s abandoned buildings include a former international airport (Templehof), and its cheap eats have a chic “hole-in-the-wall” aesthetic: some of them are literal holes-in-the-wall (Maroush)—and all the better because of it.
Nick Grundlingh spent a summer traveling through Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic. He always looks forward to—Sorry, what was that? What’s Nick wearing? That’s his fanny pack. Anyway, Nick always looks forward to meeting—Look, Nick really doesn’t see what’s so funny about it, unless you think keeping your valuables safe is some sort of joke. Now, where was he? Oh yeah. Nick can’t wait to meet new people and—Seriously, guys. Knock it off. You know, in Europe, people make fun of you if you don’t wear one. At least Nick assumes they do. He got a looot of compliments while abroad, mostly from girls dressed in festival attire, but still!