The perfect weekend in Berlin
“Poor but sexy.” This is how former mayor Klaus Wowereit aptly described the German capital. Today, Berlin is more often referred to as Europe’s Silicon Valley, home to more than 2,500 tech start-ups. Over the past decade, contractors and engineers have done exactly what artists did after the Wall fell 26 years ago: they’ve flocked here for cheap rents and thriving music and nightlife scenes, and to join a huge community of creative expats. Young chefs are also arriving, determined to undermine the city’s reputation as a culinary wasteland. And these artists? They are still there. Now, however, they are embarking on major projects that will leave their mark not only on Berlin, but also on Europe itself. Visit soon and often – the city will feel new and vibrant every time.
You will have the impression that someone has handed you the keys to a large estate at the
Soho Berlin House ||| Soho Berlin House |||
, an 89-room Bauhaus-style building and landmark in Berlin’s Mitte district. The concrete lobby and rooftop pool bar offer just enough style to attract a devoted clientele, not to mention George Clooney and Claire Danes, who both reportedly stayed here in February for the Berlin International Film Festival. Eugenia Gonzalez spent ten years working in the fashion industry in New York City before moving to Berlin in 2014 and the hotel is one of her favorite places in the city. The Soho House store has everything from Adidas, The Row and Anndra Neen to a small selection of baby clothes, books, magazines and toiletries. It also has a gorgeous nail salon. and a juice bar. It’s a great place to have a coffee or just hang out, send emails and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. “
DAY 1: A taste of the Orient
Start your day with … Okinawan taco rice?
Good Japanese food – and for breakfast, nothing less – might be the last cuisine you expect in Berlin. Behind an unmarked door in Mitte, a staircase framed by potted greenery leads to an atrium-style cafe bathed in light
serving matcha cappuccinos and all day brunch. (Okinawa’s taco rice might sound odd, but ground pork, chopped veggies, and fried egg over rice make for a perfectly satisfying meal.) A more formal partner restaurant, Zenkichi, recently opened in side.
Fortified, cross the Spree to the famous Brandenburg Gate, the Arc de Triomphe in the city that once separated East and West Berlin, and which served as a gathering point for major moments in the history of the city – everything since Reagan “Tear down that wall!” “welcome speech from the hero after the 2004 World Cup victory. Just west of Brandenburg and Pariser Platz is Tiergarten, a former hunting ground which is today one of the largest city parks in Germany. If you prefer a dose of culture, to the east (and all within walking distance) is Museum Island, a UNESCO heritage complex of five world-class museums, including the Neues Museum, houses the bust of Nefertiti.
Order a mytaxi pick-up travel further south to
– a covered market in Kreuzberg whose Street Food Thursdays “have become a testing ground for aspiring chefs,” says Luisa Weiss, from the influential Berlin food blog The Wednesday Chef). “The couple behind the Korean culinary sensation Mr. Suzanne has organized a pop-up event here in preparation for their soon-to-be-opened restaurant, as has the Egyptian restaurant Koshary lux, before opening in Charlottenburg. This is the future of the evolving Berlin restaurant scene. “
End the day with a drink at
Michelberger Hotel ||| Michelberger Hotel, |||
just back on the Spree. This aggressively cool former factory complex might not be for everyone – guests in the lobby seem drawn from an urban-style blog – but no other hotel is more representative of modern Berlin: the Michelberger is made up of natives and artistic expatriates who know the city well. and are happy to share their information with guests. It’s also within walking distance of the legendary Berghain nightclub, if you like that sort of thing.
DAY 2: It’s (still) all about art
Nowadays, Berlin art is no longer so underground. It’s on the wall itself, a political and pop art graffiti mashup on display at the East Side Gallery. And it’s around town in the galleries and studios, which today house some of Europe’s most avant-garde artists.
a converted brewery cave in Prenzlauer Berg, is a fascinating example of how the city turns historic buildings into exceptionally modern cultural destinations. The complex has been under construction since 2010, with gallery spaces displaying works by controversial German painter Norbert Bisky and Cuban artists Roberto Fabelo and Carlos Quintana. The industrial-chic restaurant on site
is run by Michelin-starred chef Tim Raue and offers a classic German menu.
an imposing pre-war brick building which housed a school for Jewish girls until 1942, now houses three galleries, including Michael Fuchs, on the top floor: one of the most respected in the city, it exhibits brain shows from artists like Frank Stella and Nir Hod. Two floors below is the CWC Gallery, which displays contemporary photographs, paintings and sculptures. And in between, somewhat unexpectedly, is The Kennedys, a museum dedicated to the former American first family. It’s not just art that attracts visitors:
, on the ground floor, are two of Berlin’s best new restaurants.
Make sure your visit includes
a Saturday, the day of the week when the collector Erika Hoffmann opens her house and exhibition space to the public. The rotating collection includes works by Basquiat, Nan Goldin, Mike Kelley and German sculptor Isa Genzken.
A good way to end the day would be a meal at
Stephan Landwehr and Boris Radczun, the team behind Pauly Saal and Grill Royal, two stylish restaurants in the city, have just opened this charming and simple space in Mitte. The Nordic-inspired menu uses ingredients like Icelandic barley in combination with langoustine and burnt pear. Fun fact: Chef Victoria Eliasdóttir is the sister of Icelandic artist superstar Olafur Eliasson.
DAY 3: A walk on the west side
Anything you’ve heard since the 90s about Berlin as a cool incubator? It all happened in the old East Berlin. On the other side of town, things were decidedly more sleepy. But it’s come full circle, and now even millennials are buzzing with attention about the leafy and old-world charms of the West Side – and historic markers such as the marred spire of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church – that give neighborhoods patricians like Charlottenburg a renewed interest and attraction.
Start with a perfect apple strudel and a
at the Literaturhaus Berlin, an 1889 mansion turned into a literary museum with a serene outdoor garden, just off Kurfürstendamm, Berlin’s fifth avenue. Next door is Villa Grisebach, an auction house where the art on display (past sales range from Van Gogh to Twombly) is as impressive as the restored 18th century townhouse itself. Walk ten minutes east to Bikini Berlin, a collection of 1950s Modernist buildings that is now a state-of-the-art shopping center. Discover Gestalten, a concept store focused on design.
Then stop for lunch or a drink of Gewürztraminer at Neni Berlin, the rooftop restaurant of the
25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin ||| 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin |||
in the complex with some of the best views in the city. Stroll through the adjacent Tiergarten, Berlin’s lush main park, where joggers and cyclists (and, in summer, the occasional nude bathers) revel in the expansive manicured lawns and flower fields, before heading to the Helmut Newton Foundation. The images of the late fashion photographer and native of Berlin are on display in a neoclassical complex, displaying the full depth of his vast work.
Originally appeared on Condé Nast Traveler