Avant Garde to High Street: Discover Berlin’s Best Districts
12 districts, 23 neighbourhoods, and a geographical footprint four times the size of Paris, Berlin is among Europe’s most popular destinations. Yet with so much to explore, it’s easy to get lost in this sprawling, historic city of artists, anarchists, and the avant garde. Immerse yourself in the uniquely bohemian lifestyle and culture without feeling overwhelmed with this handy guide to where to stay in Berlin's best avant garde districts.
Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain
Street art, street food, bohemians and art galleries, Kreuzberg and neighbouring Friedrichshain share a common bond of easy going lifestyle, art and culture. Staying here you’ll be situated close to:
East Side Gallery
Crossing the River Spree at the Oberbaum Bridge will take you between the districts. Here you’ll also find ‘East Side Gallery’, a collection of some 150 artworks and wall paintings by international artists from around the world located at the former site of the Berlin Wall. Regardless of where you’re staying, this is a must see for any trip to Berlin.
Many Turkish migrants call Kreuzberg home, offering unique cultural and culinary experiences for the inquisitive traveller. While the Turkish influence can be seen throughout Berlin, it is in Kreuzberg where you can go beyond the kebab stores. You'll also find a diverse array of punks, students, hipsters, artists and musicians contributing the daily milieu of this bohemian Berlin neighbourhood.
Friedrichshain is like an extension of Kreuzberg. As the latter gains in popularity (and notoriety) many tenants have shifted Kreuzberg for the cheaper rents and diverse array of bars, cafes, restaurants and nightclubs. Both areas showcase a history of architecture, with high rises and 19th century townhouses prominent.
West of Kreuzberg, Schöneberg is the centre of Berlin’s vibrant pride scene. Clubs and restaurants abound, and there’s a generally welcoming and bohemian feel to this small yet popular neighbourhood.
Despite being pretty residential and a little further out than more well known neighbourhoods, Neukölin still has that edgy Berlin vibe. If you're looking to blend in with the locals, this is the place to do it.
Tempelhof, the former airport turned into a park, is a magical place to while away an afternoon flying kites, throwing a drive or kicking a ball between old runway tarmacs. Neukölin is also where you will find Hüttenpalast, an indoor retro caravan hotel in Berlin, and a great place to stay during your visit to Berlin.
Prenzlauer Berg (Pankow)
Located on a small hill north Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg is the original post war punk district. In the late 80s and early 90s it was rife with artists and anarchists. Nowadays, it's a little more gentrified.
Prenzlauer Berg art scene
Prenzlauer Berg’s art scene is huge, and is the main attraction of this avant garde if somewhat renovated region of Berlin. With a seemingly never ending rotation of art fairs and gallery openings, you’re sure to find something to see during your stay. With cheap rents, big spaces and an international milieu of artists and curators, this is the place to be for European arts.
A night out in Prenzlauer Berg
Littered with cool bars and nightclubs, it's popular with students who make their home among the historic 20th century buildings. After the fall of wall and the reunification of Germany, Pankow became on of the places to be for artist types. It continues this tradition today. For a good time check out Kollwitzplatz, Helmholtzplatz, and Kastanienallee.
Also check out Kulturbrauerei culture centre which is set in a former brewery.
Berlin’s status as an international city is marked by a curious lack of defined 'downtown’ or CBD. In fact, it's sprawling urban environment is part of what makes the European city so unique and inviting. But for those looking for a more ‘central’ experience, Mitte provides.
History and modernity in Mitte
Home to some of Berlin’s oldest buildings, including Marienkirche and Nikolaikirche, you'll also find art and cultural experiences at Museum Island, Humboldt University, the Crown Prince’s Palace, Brandenburg Here and the Opera House. As you wander Mitte’s wide streets, you’ll notice the occasional modern high rise. A rare sight in Berlin, but a sign of the changing times in this constantly evolving city.
Popular with tourists, it's less avant garde than some of Berlin's other bohemian haunts. Still, Mitte is a uniquely ‘Berlin’ version of a central district that will please refresh the most experienced traveller, with lines seemingly endless shopping boutiques, easy commute and proximity to popular Alexanderplatz.
Once upon a time these West Berlin neighbourhoods may have attracted a more bohemian crowd. Now they are strictly a high end experience. Mixing old and new in both architecture and culture, sight seekers should head to the Charlottenburg Palace and Ahmadiyya Mosque for stand out architecture.
5 star rebuild
Charlottenburg was bombed heavily in the 1950s, which explains the mix of newer structures in around the old. Wide streets, 5 star hotels and High Street shopping aren't exactly avant garde, but in among the glitz Savignyplatz still offers bars, cafes and youth culture of a more bohemian taste.
Park life in Berlin
Between Charlottenburg and Mittens is Tiergarten Park. A huge public green space that was once the Great Elector’s hunting ground (way back in the 17th Century). Perfect for a picnic or a Sunday stroll with friends, it's also a preferred route for exploring both Mitte and the Charlottenburg neighbourhoods.
Berlin: Always evolving
Since the fall of the wall, Berlin has been a city of near constant change. While what’s hot and what’s not varies quickly, and new replaces old, one thing remains the same. Berlin is the heart of Europe’s avant garde. From artists to art lovers, hipsters, students, anarchists and immigrants, there’s always something to discover in this wonderful city.
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