Want to experience a destination like an insider? Read on for travel tips and favorite finds from Berlin notables in the realms of fashion, design, food and hospitality. From the best place to shop to what to eat, these globe-trotting Tastemakers offer their wanderlust wisdom.
Entrepreneur, HECH Functional Nutrition & Co-Founder, TheLiberate Bar
Being a native German — but having spent 20 years moving back and forth between Miami, New York, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo — I only witnessed the reunification of Berlin in 1989 on my TV in South Beach. While I call Miami my Cuban nanny, New York my professional mentor, Hong Kong my love affair and Tokyo my mysterious friend... I call Berlin my trusted love since 2004.
Frau Berlin is a battered but resilient and amazing woman. She had a poor upbringing, a seductive, sexual, artistic and experimental youth, a forced and terrorizing marriage, and spent four decades serving two masters in order to survive. But her resilience was never broken.
When you come to meet and visit Berlin, do not take her for granted. Look beyond the obvious, be inquisitive and she will be your friend. There are a few tips to ease your way into her heart:
Indulge in a true German breakfast at Strandbad Mitte. I love the Große Frühstück — it saves me from buying lunch.
In summer, make a pit-stop at a Berlin beer garden, my favorite being Café am Neuen See in the Western part of the city. Should you happen to roam the eastern part of Berlin on a warm summer day, I recommend Prater Garten, which you may combine with a walk down the bohemian avenue Kastanienallee.
On a rainy day, I love watching art house movies at Hackesche Höfe Kino. A-Trane or B-Flat are favorite jazz haunts.”
Berlin is an amalgamation of cultures — food, styles and languages converge to create an atmosphere that is truly unique. It’s a city that has a little something for every kind of person, and Berliners like it that way.
The artists among us will swoon over Galerie für Moderne Fotografie, which houses photographic exhibitions from artists you’ve heard of but rarely see — also try Maedchenschule for a whole gaggle of great galleries under one roof. And since you haven’t experienced Berlin until you’ve been to a cabaret, try Bar Jede Vernunft to see some old-school Berlin cabaret — as classic as it gets.
Foodies will swoon over Katie’s Blue Cat, which offers a charming atmosphere with scrumptious dishes (and as a plus, it’s off the beaten path). Oliv Café is a definite must-see; it’s a gorgeous space with an amazing cappuccino — also, the owner is really hot, so… Dinner and a show!
Partygoers don’t have to look far for something wild: Berlin is a nightlife maven and the parties don’t stop until… well, they just don’t stop. Bar Saint Jean is super sexy, modern, romantic and my neighborhood haunt! Drayton Bar is another must — so wacky it’s wild, a definite Berlin original. Berliners have an unmatched sense of style; you simply MUST go to department store at Quartier 206 — super high-end with amazing picks. Parkhaus is another love of mine. In fact, words cannot describe my insane and incomprehensibly unbridled adoration for this place.”
Fashion Stylist and Publisher www.styleproofed.com
I’m a native Berliner — born and raised in West Berlin — and I happen to be obsessed with vintage fashion and German food.
Maybe it's the city's rich history and inspiring people, but when visiting Berlin, most people seem to be keen on shopping for unique items — preferably antiques. You have to know the places to get the one piece that will always make you remember Berlin.
For great vintage designer clothes and jewelry, I recommend Rianna in Berlin. A Greek lady named Rianna owns the store — and from the vintage Hermès blouses she's selling, she reminds me more of a talented art curator than a saleswoman. You also can't miss Made in Berlin, the go-to place for funky and affordable second-hand fashion.
If the city life is too bustling for you, head to quiet Linienstrasse in Mitte, sit down at "Lokal" for a homemade cheeseburger and watch the artsy crowds pass by. Since "Lokal" is a typical German expression for a traditional and cozy restaurant, I just love the owners' approach in using organic products from local farmers only.”
Journalist & Travel Writer chadnernavarro.com
One of my favorite things about Berlin is how diverse the food scene is. I'm partial to all the Vietnamese restaurants — from hole-in-the-walls to see-and-be-seen eateries — that look to be dominating the city. My favorite is nothing-fancy Hamy Café near Hermannplatz. It's always packed; you may have to share a table for two with a few strangers, and don't be shocked if you feel like you're being rushed through the meal. But I love the bowl of peanut-sauce noodles with beef that's only served on Sundays (or at least that's the only day I've ever had it).
Shopping-wise, Berlin is one of the best places to splurge in Europe. High-fashion destination Andreas Murkudis relocated to a much bigger, gallery-like space in Potsdamer Platz last year, but the expertly curated inventory of marquee designers (Balenciaga, Maison Martin Margiela) and hard-to-find regional labels (Ludwig Reiter, Neri) remains unmatched. It might just be my favorite place to shop on the planet. Voo Store over in Kreuzberg is where all the cool fashion kids are dropping their Euros. And why not? It carries everything from the latest Nike sneakers to beautifully draped, unusually patterned Stine Goya dresses to fringed heritage blankets from Pendleton.
There's also a really strong coffee culture exploding in the German capital. Everyone (including me) seems to be worshipping at the house The Barn built. The teeny-tiny Auguststraße original is always busy — maybe it's because of the siphon coffee, maybe it's because of the hot foreigners who serve it. The second, much larger outpost on Schönhauser Allee quite frankly doesn't have the charm or the friendliness.”
Founder & Director, Cult of Monochrome
Berlin is fertile ground for niche endeavors and a great creative catalyst for those who choose to use the city to their advantage — those who manage to wake up before noon, despite of the wild night before.
As expected, Berlin’s art scene is unlike any other. The Boros Collection is a private art collection displayed in a WWII bunker, viewable by appointment only. It takes a while to get a reservation if you don’t know anyone, and it only accommodates 12 people daily on Saturdays and Sundays.
For eats, California Breakfast Slam serves the best brunch, hands-down. It flits from restaurant to restaurant every weekend. I’m also keen on Street Food Thursdays at Markthalle, a 120-year-old market with more than 40 stands to choose from, serving delicious bites from all over the world.
Roses is the weirdest, coolest, roughest gay bar you’ll ever go to — case in point, pink plush fur covers the toilets and the walls. If the owner doesn’t like you, you won’t get served. For a more relaxed environment, I like the classic Stue Bar at new hotel Das Stue — the space overlooks the Berlin Zoo and features eclectic touches like leather animals handmade in the U.K."
The List: OUTMODED & ON-TREND
Flea markets around the globe serve as portals to the past. That’s why they’re often my favorite way to tap into the heart and soul of a city. With upwards of seven famed marketplaces, Berlin has recently become the hottest destination for outdoor perusing. (But places like France and Thailand are definitely giving it a run for its money.) Whether you seek true antiques or vintage-inspired trends, you’re sure to leave any one of these fab spots with a one-of-a-kind trinket in hand. Read on to see more of the world’s trendiest outdoor markets...
THE TREND: ALL THAT JAZZ
Located in Charlottenburg, this venue is the crème de la crème of international jazz clubs. Its clubby atmosphere makes it the perfect place to begin, or end, a night out on the town. Swing by any evening to hear the likes of Herbie Hancock and Diana Krall, or stay out late on Saturday night and soak in Jazz after Midnight.
This iconic New York venue screams old-world glamour, and while the venue isn’t exclusively dedicated to jazz, regular performances by Woody Allen & The Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band are a must-see. Enjoy some Imperial Russian Osetra caviar and let the music wash over you. New York glamour meets rollicking jazz… Nothing more Gatsby than that.
You can’t talk about jazz without mentioning the French Quarter. This neighborhood is synonymous with the musical style, and Fritzel’s is, simply put, the best of the best. The venue is the oldest operating jazz club in New Orleans — that means Preservation Hall performances galore — and they are dedicated to maintaining the authentic feel. Come here with the intention of listening to some serious tunes and leave blown away.
Thanks to Baz Luhrmann’s gilded take on The Great Gatsby, out this month, I’ve been getting into the Roaring ‘20s spirit. A chic bob and vamp lipstick aside, nothing has the power to transport you to that period of champagne decadence quite like jazz. When done right, jazz isn’t simply music — it’s a smoky, seductive experience. While the States is the birthplace of this improvisatory genre, Berlin boasts an underground scene that would make Sir Duke and Porter proud, and regardless of your worldly whereabouts, chances are you can soak in the cool sounds of an even cooler decade at the nearest posh café. Mix yourself a Southside — the quintessential Prohibition cocktail — kick back with a cigarette holder, and read on for more on my favorite jazz clubs.
About The Travel Curator
The Travel Curator is the only resource savvy travelers will need for the inside scoop on inspiring destinations. Luxury travel expert Melanie Brandman opens up her little black book and shares her tried and tested favorites, the latest trends, and word-of-mouth travel tips from her globetrotting friends and tastemakers.
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