If you asked me which city to go for a grad trip, I’d say go to Berlin! Even better take up an internship there as Berlin is one of the most affordable cities in Europe. Oh, and did we mention that most of the people in this city speak English? It’s rare to hear people using Guten Tag or Servus here. So, don’t worry about not being well-versed in Deutsch.
This dynamic city is a must-visit for those in pursuit of art, music and ambrosial vegan fare.
I can’t describe Berlin in one word, but I’ll quote the decades-old slogan by former Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit “Berlin is poor, but sexy”. This slogan has open up possibilities for the creative types to thrive in Berlin (since the studio rental here is cheaper than London). Hundreds of backyard art studios emerged, and art soon began to take over streets, the walls of buildings and even entire districts. Ultimately, Berlin cemented its status as a creative capital of the world.
Even though Berlin is not as posh as her cousins in the south, the German capital is never dull.
From Brandenburg Gate to the Holocaust Memorial to the graffiti-ridden remains of the Berlin Wall, the city brandishes its chequered past as a reminder of the dark days behind it.
If you can— spend at least a week in Berlin, look beyond its gruff facade— you’ll come to appreciate this city’s creativity, resilience, solidarity and abundant green spaces.
Not convinced yet? Here are some of the city’s best bits in 12 photos.
What usually comes to mind when Berlin is mentioned? First, its diversity of nightlife, second, the dominant presence of Berlin TV Tower, once a symbol of Communist power by East Germany, and last but not least, the Berlin Wall.
Spring in Berlin is marked by longer days and shorter nights. If you like long exposure photography, spring and summer are the best seasons to hang out after the sunset which is usually after 9pm. Winter in Berlin is miserably cold at night so you might be better off staying indoors.
In London, you have the iconic red buses. In Berlin, the public transit systems are in yellow.
Berlin is Germany’s largest city taking up 891.8 km², which is relatively bigger than Singapore, but it is less crowded with approximately 3.7 million people.
So if you’re tired of your cramped and crowded, constantly delayed daily commute, you’ll feel the difference immediately in Berlin. But like any big cities, rush hours are expected in the morning and evening.
It also makes a world of difference to your experience in terms of which neighbourhood you choose to set up your base.
This is Prenzlauer Berg, which used to be an impoverished neighbourhood in former East Berlin. Today, it is the most charming residential estate that is populated by artists and young families.
There are endless artisanal coffee houses in Berlin and most travel guides would have pointed you to Kreuzberg, a district that is multicultural and ever-changing with a treasure trove of cafes and restaurants.
While it is true that Kreuzberg offers the food-and-coffee obsessed the best of both worlds, the central borough of Berlin, Mitte, which was once the heart of East Berlin, also offers plenty of chic cafes for breakfast, brunch and coffee.
To escape the city buzz for a while, head over to Father Carpenter, located in one of Berlin’s most beautiful and stylish courtyards along Münzstrasse.
While Berlin might seem like a concrete jungle, it is the people of this city that makes it colourful and hopeful.
Let yourself be inspired, seduced and enchanted in this strangely creative city.
If you’re visiting Berlin for the first time, I highly recommend going on a street art and graffiti tour.
Berlin’s history has left the city with an eclectic assortment of architecture. You’ll notice that Berlin has no organically-developed architecture, unlike London and Paris.
And that’s what makes it unusual and fascinating.
Apart from the tourist hot spot like Brandenburg Gate, this double-deck bridge, Oberbaumbrücke has great significance too. It connects Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, the former boroughs that were divided by the Berlin Wall, today it is a symbol of unity.
Abundant Green Spaces
Berlin is not all concrete, it is home to 2,500 parks.
Apparently, one-fifth of the city is covered with trees. The more you explore the city, the more you’ll realise just how green this place is, unless you’re visiting in winter.
Treptower Park offers some of the best running and biking options in Central Berlin. The Spree River runs right by it with great boating opportunities.
If you want to see well-preserved cities on the eastern side of Europe, Berlin is not your best bet. I’d say go to Prague or Budapest instead. And if you want to see “typical” German architecture, drive through the Black Forest, up to the Rhine valley, or through Bavaria.
What’s attractive about Berlin is precisely what’s missing in the cities that are beautiful. It’s not perfect, and it cares not to be. Berlin will surprise you.