Our Expert (As Always) Advice: Where to Stay in Berlin
No matter what you want from the city, this comprehensive guide to Berlin's neighbourhoods will help you choose the right one for you.
Berlin is a strange mix of wayward history, the greatest clubbing in Europe, swanky dining and shopping, and a large immigrant population from all over the world. The once divided city is a mecca for artists, writers, and DJs, flocking for cheap rents and the city’s commitment to independence and radical energy. Berlin is alive, and it’s ready for you.
But we know - it’s a lot to unpack. Especially when you’re trying to find out where to stay in Berlin. Should you go east, to the once-DDR? Or west, where Bowie and Iggy Pop partied? No matter what, we’ll help you along the way. Don’t fall victim to the bland currywursts or the overpriced beer gardens. Don’t end up in a tourist trap munching on a stale pretzel. Instead, Plum Guide is at your service (aren't we always?) with our expert adivice on where to stay in Berlin.
Thank the Germans for their literal language. Mitte means 'middle', and, naturally, it’s the central heart of the city — offering easy access to pretty much anything cultural, musical, outdoorsy, or otherwise. Best of all, most of the historical monuments are stitched between cobblestone streets in Mitte. Including the stuff you see on the postcards, like the TV Tower and Brandenburg Gate and Museum Island. One for the sightseers.
A typical day in Mitte
If your're looking for what to do in Mitte, start the day at Distrikt Coffee. It's a speciality coffee shop that uses premium beans from The Barn Berlin and lends an air of sophistication — such is Mitte’s bougie, rather-traditional European charm. The breakfast is a dream of smashed avocado on sourdough toast, pillow soft pancakes and a Berlin rarity: bread pudding, made with pain au chocolat.
After that, mosey toward Hackescher Markt, cut straight from old Berlin — featuring nine courtyards, restored from the ‘90s. Now, it’s the hub of fashion and designer shopping — everything from the Nike Store to the ever-hip Broke + Schön. Don’t miss Auguststraße, which simmers with multiple art galleries like KW Institute for Contemporary Art and Deschler. Head around the corner, near U-Bahn Weinmeister Str., for trendy vintage shopping at Made in Berlin and the multi-floored Pick n Weight. Museums abound in Mitte — from the classical Pergamon Museum to the bizarre Designpanoptikum, which features a quirky assemblage of industrial equipment, which the equally-strange owner has arranged in a surrealist fashion. Mitte’s historic monuments are unmissable - from the iconic TV Tower overhead to the powerful Brandenburg Gate.
For dinner, opt for the Tel Aviv-inspired Night Kitchen, on Oranienburger St., in what was once horse stables for the old post office in Berlin. You pay a single price for alcohol and food. You are simply asked, 'Do you have allergies? Do you eat meat?' Then, they prepare a dinner party for you, before your very eyes. For post-dinner music, b flat Jazz Club is one of the best in Berlin. Hackendahl bar has old-world, 1920's vibes, while Mein Haus am See has a livelier atmosphere, pumping out delightful tracks and delivering the goods — cocktails, beer, wine, whatever’s on your mind.
Kreuzberg is rather infamous. It's a strange mix of raggedy hipsters, a lively Turkish community, astonishing gastronomy, cool art galleries and pumping clubs. Back before the Berlin Wall came down, Kreuzberg was the poorest area of West Berlin. It was a kind of open zone for trendy cafés and artists to flock, create together, and build a world that still offers a hint of Istanbul mixed with Brooklyn hip.
The Landwehrkanal sweeps directly through it — a perfect place for mid-afternoon picnics and strolls and evening beers from little corner shops — the lovable spätis that make up the backbone of this city.
A Typical Day in Kreuzberg
Brunch spots and hip cafés are a stone’s throw from nearly every corner of Kreuzberg. For a carb-heavy dream, hit up Albatross — a bakery that supplies more than 50 Berlin cafés and restaurants with delightful sourdough bread, cinnamon rolls, cardamom loops and more. Next, head to Kreuzberg’s Berlinische Galerie which offers a stunning display of modern art — with ever changing exhibitions that challenges your preconceived notions of art.
Bergmannkiez, toward the west, drifts toward the 'posh' end of Berlin-charm, with cobblestone streets and high-end shopping. For second-hand chic and an eclectic array of jewellery and dresses, check out Allet Schick. Bergmannkiez is also the home of the number one currywurst shop in all of Berlin, Curry 36, so if you're indulging in a food tour of Berlin, be sure to pay a visit. Plus, Bergmannkiez’s Viktoria Park offers one of the best views of the city from atop its 'mountain', next to Berlin’s only waterfall. It's a perfect place for a little picnic or drink in the middle of the day.
For lunch, head into Prinzessinengärten — a lush urban garden with a rotating menu, made with the vegetables grown directly within its walls. Don’t miss the Bethanien mid-afternoon — a place that looks far more like a fortress than a normal building, that was once an old hospital run by nuns. Much like the rest of the city, the Bethanien has gone through many different eras — becoming a squatters residences in the ‘70s before its current iteration — a place for art exhibitions, an open-air cinema (don’t worry — they show movies in English), and a few restaurants.
For dinner, a must-stop is Burgermeister at Schleisisches Tor — located in an old toilet, directly beneath the train. Ron Telesky Canadian Pizza is also to die for (try it with a drizzle of maple syrup), and located on one of the most stunning streets, Dieffenbachstr. Kreuzberg’s street food market at Markthalle Neun offers a smattering of some of the best of the best in the city — from artisanal pasta from Mani in Pasta, to Big Stuff Smoked BBQ, to countless bio wine shops, ice creameries, Korean BBQs, amongst others. Whatever your palate craves, Markthalle Neun has the answer. For your late night, hit up the LGBTQ favourite Barbie Deinhoff’s, the ultra hip craft beer place, John Muir, or the part-record-store, part-dive bar, Wowsville (with a sister pizza joint across the street).
Friedrichshain is a bustling kiez — connecting the lively, family-friendly Boxhagener Platz with the buzzing tourist bars along Simon-Dach-Str. with the historical Karl-Marx/Frankfurter Allee. It’s difficult to scratch the surface of this neighbourhood — full of bountiful restaurants, pulsing techno clubs and speciality shops.
A typical day in Friedrichshain
Silo Coffee offers Australian third-wave coffee and a swanky breakfast — including a build your own breakfast option that starts on Sironi Toast, with two organic eggs and toppings like goat’s cheese whip. Friedrichshain’s boutique shops line the area around Boxhagener Platz, and you can spend hours dipping in and out of the unique shops — with a stunning array of second-hand clothes at Sometimes Colored, beautiful stationery and other household decor at Schwesterherz, and even a paint-your-own pottery shop (who doesn’t like homemade gifts?) at Paint Your Style. Mid-day, opt for food at Wahrhaft Nahrhaf. If ice cream is what you’re after (Germans are great at this), the dark chocolate at bio-Eiscafé Caramello is an organic-lovers dream, whilst many call Eismanufaktur Berlin the city’s very best.
Friedrichshain bars can be a bit tricky. Simon-Dach is a minefield of overpriced tourist traps. Pop off to some side roads for gems. Sheriff Teddy’s offers incredible cocktails and plays old movies on a projector on the wall. Die Tagung is a classic DDR bar with grim faced bartenders and cheap pints. For a brilliant German meal and the best pint around, hit up Hirsch — it will become your home away from home. Of course, Friedrichshain is a clubbing hub — with Berghain topping the list of the best clubs in the world, and nearby Sisyphos, along with a smattering of other clubs. In Berlin, you can quite literally stay out all night, all day, and all night again. But still, you’re going to at least need a place to put your stuff.
Just north of Mitte, find Prenzlauer Berg — a once-portion of East Berlin, which, from the 1960s onward, offered a rich counterculture of bohemians and artists. In 1989, Prenzlauer Berg made history — becoming the site of the peaceful revolution that finally crumbled the Berlin Wall. After that, throughout the 1990s, Prenzlauer Berg became the home to Berlin’s at-the-time anarchistic squatting scene. These days, it’s more of a family-haunt — with some of the most beautiful buildings (left over from pre-war) lining its streets. Bougie eateries, trendy bars, trendy and beautiful families with prams are scattered throughout Prenzlauer Berg, making it a perfect place to stay for families in Berlin and people who want a more 'demure', yet still gorgeous Berlin.
A typical day in Prenzlauer Berg
Start your day in Prenzlauer Berg at CAFE KRAFT, with its great food and Instagrammable decor (that'll keep the teenagers happy). After your hearty brunch, make your way to Mauer Park — a hub for people watching, located directly near the Berlin Wall Memorial. On Sundays, Mauer Park explodes with vintage stalls and an eclectic array of food trucks. Countless buskers and musicians arrive to serenade — and the karaoke 'Bear Pit' never disappoints.
For dinner, you can’t get much better than Prater — an old beer garden dating back to 1837, which offers a wide array of German food, along with a little shack with some of the best German doughy pretzels and wursts city-wide. Kreuz + kümmel offers an inventive take on Indian food, pairing Indian flavour with old German classics. For late night adventures, it's Misirlou for its stellar cocktails and old-world, vintage feel — or opt for the iconic 8mm, which offers a cutting soundtrack and frequently hosts some of the best live gigs in the city.
West Berlin edges toward affluence — a pretty wicked contrast to the grit, grime and hipster sensibilities of Kreuzberg and Neukölln. Charlottenburg has the largest royal palace in all of Germany — the Schloss Charlottenburg — dating back to the end of the 17th century and built in rococo and baroque styles. Days in Charlottenburg are busy, with shopping galore at Kurfürstendamm, exploration of the iconic Berlin Zoo, and picnics in the Tiergarten.
A typical day in Charlottenburg
Start the day in one of Charlottenburg’s upmarket breakfast and brunch spots like Sets, with its high ceilings and soft interiors. If bagels are what you’re after, What Do You Fancy Love offers a wide selection (bagels are still quite a difficult thing to find in this city), along with fresh-pressed juices, smoothies and smoothie bowls. We like the 'Botox Me' juice with ginger, apple, and mint.
Spend your day perusing the countless shops at Kurfürstendamm (no end of luxury, plus your run-of-the-mill high street stores). But a trip to Kurfürstendamm isn’t complete without a leap into the Kaufhaus des Westerns, or KaDeWe, Berlin’s luxury 6 storied shopping centre. KaDeWe has all the designer goods you could dream of, including an entire gourmet department, where you can find some of the finest foods from all over the world. While shelling off cash around Kurfürstendamm, make sure you wander along the small side streets, like Bleibtreustraße and Knesebeckstraße. Admire their beautiful and classically built townhouses from over 100 years ago, along with several little lesser-known cafés and boutiques.
For the very best Indian food in Berlin, head to Bombay Café Bunty’s for inventive takes modern Indian fare — featuring a Masala Cheese Corn Ball, stuffed bread with four types of cheese, and Nutella-stuffed naan (yes, really). For an excellent Italian-owned pizza experience with a neighbourhood feel, opt for San Giorgio (the parma ham and parmesan is a things of dreams). Back when Charlottenburg was part of the central hub of West Berlin, Paris Bar was the epicentre for artists and writers and filmmakers. These days, it serves up incredible food and cocktails against a sophisticated backdrop of dark walls and bright white tablecloths. Beneath the arches of the train, close to the iconic old translation Bahnhof Zoo, find Bar Zentral — a smoky and dark little bar with cocktails that punch back. Try the martini with white port.
Once West Berlin, Schöneberg was where David Bowie and Iggy Pop put down Berlin roots, and now offers an eclectic array of dive bars, LGBTQ clubs, glorious cafés, and a diverse mix of culinary delights (along with one of the best Saturday markets in the city). Schöneberg is understated, sans the raucous hipsters and expats of Neukölln and Kreuzberg. It allows a bit more breathing room for long days of exploration, a more relaxed option when deciding on where to stay in Berlin. Oh, and it also has some of the best street art, as well, showcasing itself as an unmissable art district.
A typical day in Schöneberg
Start your day with the best espresso around at DoubleEye — with coffee beans from all over the world and a creamy Portuguese pastel de nata. The rustic Café Bilderbuch is also a favourite serving up a satisfying brunch. The Winterfeldtplatz Saturday market is the largest and liveliest weekly market in Berlin — find cheeses, flowers, fruits, vegetables, household goods and anything else you can think of. (Note: if you’re only in town during the week, a smaller version of the market opens on Wednesday mornings.) Schöneberg is home to one of the best bibimbaps at IXTHYS — which is the Greek word for fish, and is a perfect lunchtime fix. Schöneberg is also home to incredible green spaces, including the Rudolph-Wilde-Park — perfect for mid-day strolls. For dinner, opt for the lively Greek place, Taverna Kos, or typical German cuisine at Goldener Stern. Nightlife erupts in Schöneberg: try the kitschy Kumpelnest 3000 for disco music and an eclectic mix of clientele, or Green Door Bar on Winterfeldtstr.
Neukölln is the raggedy, wilder cousin of Kreuzberg — similar in atmosphere, with an added layer of grit. It’s got countless vegan cafés and art galleries stitched beside classic Turkish bakeries and eateries, all alongside the enormous green space and old Nazi airport at Tempelhofer Feld — which the people of Berlin refuse to allow to be used for new buildings. Neukölln is dark, shadowed, interesting and at-times eerie, a place filled with ever-changing corners and a curious mix of expats, all making art and staying up night after night after night.
A typical day in Neukölln
Start the day in Neukölln’s stunning Schillerkiez, just steps away from the vast Tempelhofer Feld airport, for one of the best breakfasts in town. Selig is a sun-drenched restaurant, a part of the Herrfurthplatz church. The food has a definite trendy edge to it, but it’s done well and without effort — with the very best Huevos Rancheros in the city. A wide selection of organic cakes and stunning cocktails COULD very well keep you into the afternoon. Next up, ease your way over to Körnerpark — which receives less attention than the Tempelhofer Feld green space, yet offers a more refined park experience. It’s oddly Parisian — a glittering fountain, lush grass and pillars lining a mighty staircase.
Neukölln is full of surprises. And the Puppentheater-Museum Berlin is one of the more delightful ones — featuring an overview of the artistic movement of, well, puppet theatre. This museum shows off puppet making through the years throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia — and further offers performances. It’s perfect for young and old – a perfect idea for fun things to do in Berlin with kids.
Tuesdays and Fridays along the Neukölln Maybachüfer you'll find the eclectic and buzzing Turkish market. Street food, fruits, vegetables, fabrics, and strange knick-knacks – you can spend hours exploring it all before heading off to one of the bars in the area. Speaking of bars — Neukölln has a wealth of them. Jungle Bar is a walk into another world of lush green, fish swimming in tanks, and an impressive selection of cocktails. For a rooftop setting, Klunkerkranich is located atop a nondescript shopping mall — yet offers one of the best views of the city and occasional jazz nights. For clubbing, check out Sameheads or Griessmuehle.
So there we have it, our comprehensive guide to where to stay in Berlin. Chosen your favourite neighbourhood? Next up then, is to choose your favourite Plum Guide Berlin home.