In the past years, many friends and visiting acquaintances have asked me about my personal recommendations and highlights for Berlin. Over the course of time, I’ve created an easy list or cheat sheet with restaurants, hotels or experiences that I consider essential and easy, ideal for a mid-range budget and perfect for people who want the backbone of their trip sorted – without planning ahead every step of their journey.
Sleep: The Yard
The Yard is a relatively new and fresh boutique hotel between Mitte and Kreuzberg, located in a quiet, “dead zone” of the neighborhood. Close to the Jewish Museum and König Galerie, but only a short walk from the U1 and maybe 15 minutes from Kottbusser Tor, the Yard is perfect headquarters and ideal for the summer months to explore Berlin on bike, as everything is pretty easy to reach from here.
The interior and rooms are without much distractions, so while the hotel doesn’t win an award for expressive design, it does it’s job for an okay mid-range budget.
The Yard is consistently the hotel that my friends and acquaintances like the most in Berlin (if they’re not staying in private apartments or Airbnbs). The only alternative I might offer up here is the Michelberger Hotel in Friedrichshain, which has a nicer vibe and a great restaurant, but the rooms can be tatty and rather uncomfortably small.
Street Food: Izmir Köfte
Can’t beat Kreuzberg’s signature köfte at Konak Grill. The sandwiches are made to perfection in this small shop on Kottbusser Tor. The Turkish meatballs, the squishy, sweet white bread and the ideal balance of spices in the sauces come together to form an addictive meal. Especially post-drinks. Vegetarians can try the Halloumi instead of the meat, but it’s just not the same.
Annelies have definitely deserved the crown for best breakfast in Berlin. The dishes are creatively crafted and go beyond the usual staples of pancakes & granola (which are amazing here, just as well). I know this list is very Kreuzberg-centric, but since I live here, I can only vouch for the places I visit frequently.
In Mitte, Annelies’ sister-café “Distrikt Coffee” is a decent alternative, although wait times here can be excruciating and the quality inconsistent.
Summer: Walk along the Spree
Bring a blanket and some snacks from a Späti and head to the Regierungsviertel. Although the Bundestag is always worth a visit if you’re into architecture or art, I don’t consider it a must. But I do think that discovering this “new” part of Berlin on a leisurely walk is a great idea, especially if you have a book to read or just want to people watch. Also a fantastic route for runners.
On your way, you will pass the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the Schloss Bellevue, so it’s quite the sightseeing trip. Great for visitors staying in or working around Hauptbahnhof.
Art: Feuerle Collection
An experience, whether you’re into art or not. The Feuerle collection is shown in a former telecommunications bunker on the banks of the Canal between Kreuzberg and Schöneberg. The art is divided in two categories: contemporary and very ancient South East Asian sculptures and furniture. While that might not sound very compelling, Feuerle bunker is a must visit for those who want to experience a very eccentric and highly sensual art collection. I promise you won’t regret it.
All tours are guided. Book tickets in advance.
Café: La Maison Berlin
Outside or inside, in the mornings, afternoons or evenings: You can spend hours at La Maison with great coffees, fresh juices and mouth-watering French pastries. The backroom is ideal for reading books or even watching some Netflix (except on the weekends, where it gets really crowded). When the sun slowly sets over the quaint Landwehrkanal in this part of Kreuzberg, you can exchange your coffee cups for very good wines from Club of Rhone. I’ll never forgive you if you don’t try the Financier or the almond croissant, though.
Big Groups: Da Jia Le
If you’ve got a big group to organize, I can whole-heartedly recommend booking a table at Da Jia Le and just letting everything happen to you. While some of the dishes can be hit-or-miss – always order from the front of the menu – the best ones are easily the best in Berlin: the tofu skin salad, cucumber salad, aubergines in soy sauce. What stands out at Da Jia Le is the vast selection of craft beers and good wines, and the big tables with Lazy Susans to help everyone reach the sharable dishes.
Always worth the trip to Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf: When my friends brought me to Tianfuzius, I was very skeptical. While not everything’s exclusively vegan, some of their best dishes, like the Vegan Dan Dan Noodles (made with a heavy and succulent sesame paste), are absolutely stunning. The menu is quite overwhelming but it’s such a pleasure for vegetarians to have so much choice.
Park: Treptower Park
While the former airfield on Tempelhof is a close second, I still enjoy Treptower Park a little bit more. It’s just greener and doesn’t feel as big. Of course, the Soviet Memorial, although always crowded with eager Instagrammers, is not to miss. Great for a picnic in the summer, but with no Spätis around, pack your drinks ahead.
Drinks: Brutal 54
Not any better or worse than other cocktail bars, but located perfectly for barhopping and some rumble and tumble. It gets heavily crowded on weekends.
“German Food”: Einstein Unter den Linden
The best German food is actually Austrian food. To me, the difference is night and day, but when visitors ask for German food, they usually refer to South German (Bavarian) Knödel, Wiener Schnitzel or something along these lines. Well – short of sending them to the cursed Hofbräuhaus franchise in Berlin, I prefer suggesting the long-standing Viennese restaurant Einstein Unter den Linden. The Backhendl may just be the best fried chicken you’ve ever had.
Souvenir: KPM Vase
My best advice is to go shopping at KaDeWe, where you can actually ask for local designers or manufacturers. You’ll find “made in Berlin” liquors, chocolates, hot sauces and spices. But a very classy and historically relevant souvenir is actually porcelain from the “Königliche Porzellanmanufaktur”, or Royal Porcelain Factory in Berlin. Founded by the Prussian King in 1735, their products are still timeless and wonderful presents. Their “Berlin Shot Set”, in collaboration with Our/Berlin vodka, is the perfect gift (also available via only-shop) for friends, while a beautiful vase could be something to bring home for yourself.