Berlin Guide

The 24-hour party city with surprises around every corner

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Where to Stay in Berlin:

As with pretty much everything to do with Berlin, there’s no shortage of cool in the city's selection of places to stay. Slap-bang on the Kurfurstendamm, Hotel Q! is an ultra-stylish design hotel that doesn’t come with the usual eye-gougingly expensive design hotel price tag (and has a loyal celeb following ranging from Brad and Angelina to J-Lo). Just up the road, Ku'Damm 101 also strikes the right balance between price and style.

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For something rather more towards the luxe-y end of the scale, out in leafy, residential West Berlin, Schlosshotel im Grunewald has seen the likes of Leonardo di Caprio, Beth Ditto, Jay-Z and Beyonce check in, while over in Mitte, ultra-grand Berlin Fashion Week favourite Hotel de Rome counts Rihanna, Matt Damon and Karl Lagerfeld on its guest list.

Where to Eat in Berlin:

Known for being the least ‘German’ of German cities, Berlin’s gastronomic scene effortlessly spans continents and budgets. However, if you've just got to have your fill of schnitzel and sauerkraut, then there really is no better place than Gugelhof (Knaackstrasse 37). Hidden away down a quiet residential street in up-market Prenzlauer Berg, the restaurant specialises in Alsace cuisine (Black Forest ham, sweet and sour plum and goat cheese salad, and fondue served with pickled gherkins), and food is served by waiters from a bygone era wearing impeccably starched aprons. For something a bit lighter on the digestion and a lot heavier on the hipster eye candy, head to Dudu in Mitte (Torstrasse 134). A chic Japanese restaurant serving great cocktails and probably the city’s finest sushi, it can get very busy with a cool crowd, so call in advance to bag a table on the patio and watch the parade.

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Anyone looking for an old-fashioned romantic evening out should make a beeline for the enchanting Paris-Moskau (Alt-Moabit 141), set within a tiny 19th-century building on the now-defunct Prussian state railway line. Go for the five-course extravaganza and enjoy knockout German nouvelle cuisine including crunchy pork belly with smoked pumpkin and fresh cheese dumplings.

Possibly the most important dining fixture in any Berliner’s week is Sunday brunch, the perfect opportunity to swap stories from the night before over large macchiato coffees. A particularly splendid brunch is done in Café Anna Blume (Kollwitzstrasse 83), where tiered cake stands arrive at your table laden with fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, cheeses and meats, salads, pickles, freshly made bread and cakes to round things off. The brunch for two easily feeds three hungry girls.

Where to Go Out in Berlin:

Blissfully devoid of dress codes, velvet rope, and anything as mundane as an actual time scale, the nocturnal possibilities in Berlin know no bounds. Ask what time the club closes at Berghain on a Friday night, and you’ll be told “Monday”. The highest concentration of cool bars and underground clubs is to be found in Kreuzberg, the pulsing heart of East Berlin’s party scene. Start off in Das Hotel (Mariannenstrasse 26a), where you can sip wine and be serenaded by a piano player, or nip to the speakeasy-style cocktail bar next door and sway to vintage vinyl hits. Move around the corner to Luzia (Oranienstrasse 34), a popular watering hole with mismatched mid-century furniture, wall murals and a DJ playing cool minimal techno until the wee hours. If you’re feeling in need of a fashion fix, try sipping an Aperol and kumquat martini under the watchful eyes of Helmut Newton’s nudes, blown up to staggering effect on the walls in Newton (Charlottenstrasse 57), an ultra-chic bar in Mitte.

Then it’s on to the clubs. Whether you plump for riverside dancing, technicolour lighting and big name DJs at Watergate (Falckensteinstrasse 49), kooky décor and laid-back beats at former cinema Lido (Cuvrystrasse 7), or the all-out hedonism of rave-til-Sunday Berghain (Am Wriezener Bahnhof), one thing is guaranteed: cutting-edge dance music and a crowd that will go until dawn at least. To round it all off, the best place to spend a Sunday afternoon (whether or not you’ve slept the night before) is Club Der Visionaire (Am Flutgraben 1) an old shack on a canal where hipsters flock for cool beers and fresh sounds from a pristine sound system while they dip their toes in the canal waters below.

Where to Shop in Berlin:

Vintage-lovers should head straight for Prenzlauer Berg for one of the best collection of vintage, second-hand and retro shops in Europe. Soeur (Marienburger Str. 24) is a lovingly curated store that stocks impeccable designer seconds such as Manolo Blahniks and Marc Jacobs coats alongside French vintage furniture and a few choice current pieces from Acne and A.P.C. Paul’s Boutique (Oderberger Strasse 47) is another must – a rummager’s heaven stocking everything from bashed up leather biker jackets to lurid sunglasses made in West Berlin. Even cheaper again is Colours Leidermarkt on Bergman Strasse in Kreuzberg, where it’s possible to pay for your finds by weight. For those who can’t quite get the Berlin shabby-chic look down but still crave that elusive hipster factor, head for Apartment, a blink-and-you’ll miss it minimalist store stocking choice pieces from Rick Owens and Nicholas Kirkwood (Memhardstrasse 8). For browsing and mooching afterwards, you can’t beat nearby Neue Schonhauser Strasse in Mitte for cutting-edge boutiques and scene-stealing street style.

Don’t Leave Without:

Sunglasses or spectacles - Berlin is the best place to find the perfect frames. Finding a unique pair that nobody else will have is especially easy because of the many boutiques that deal in carefully preserved dead stock dating to pre-'89. Lunettes Brillenagentur (Marienburger Strasse 11) is the daddy of these stores, so whether you’ve got 20:20 vision or not, it’s definitely worth a visit.

What to Wear in Berlin:

Dressing down is undoubtedly the new dressing up in Berlin, so leave your bandage dress at home. There’s a particular silhouette favoured by the cool girls in Berlin: big, billowing and outsize tops, complemented with a super-tight lower half. Cheap Monday jeans or cigarette pants need only a pair of chunky heels and a slick of mascara to take them through to the dance floor.

Beauty SOS – Where to go for Pampering in Berlin:

Rejuvenate tired eyes and stock up on lost energy at Yi Spa (Monbijouplatz 3a), a luxe haven where the architecture will have your eyes out on sticks - at least until your therapist puts you to sleep. For edgy asymmetric haircuts in edgy asymmetric surroundings, head straight for Tunnel (Lausitzer Platz 1), a brilliant and original spot run by the multi-talented Viktor Leske, who in typical Berlin-style is a DJ and producer in his spare time.

Been to Berlin? To plan a trip to Morocco instead, check out our Marrakech guide. Or see all our travel guides.

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