It’s long, it’s loose and it’ll take you to you mysterious, sexy places – 24 hours in Berlin is an experience unlike any other.
A city of such intense and volatile history, today the German capital thrives as a flourishing creative haven, a concrete cluster of unique and unendingly fascinating districts and neighbourhoods. When summer hits, leisurely brunches and outdoor shindigs abound, as long sunsets spill across the city, heralding endless nights of bar-laden wanderings, ethereal clubbing and exotic all-night gastronomy.
For that reason, summertime in Berlin is one of the greatest spots on earth to be. Nights are notoriously slippery – perhaps more than any other city in the world – this city shows the least regard for that pesky division between nightfall and morning. There are prime tourist sights to experience as well as endless ‘must-see’ lists. It can’t all be captured in 24 hours, but if you heading with an open mind – especially after dark – you’ll catch a glimmer.
10am – Check-in & Frühstück
Check-in at Mitte’s beautifully refurbished Bauhaus-era Soho House, Friedrichshain’s quirky Michelberger Hotel, or the uber-hip 25 Hours Hotel Bikini Berlin (replete with views of the Berlin Zoo monkey enclosure).
Afterward, embrace a hefty brunch – or as they call it here, ‘frühstück’, a local institution: a generous spread of cured meats, cheeses, fruits and dense breads, slurped down with coffee and juice, enjoyed liberally across the noon threshold.
Some of the best:
#1 3 minutes sur mer: Laid back, French bistro style
#2 Café Bateau Ivre: Lively Kreuzberg institution
#3 Fuchsbau: Canal-side terrace delight
#4 House of Small Wonder: NY/Euro with a Japanese twist
#5 Roamers: Neukölln’s hipster hangout.
#6 Silo: Friedrichshain’s finest.
Prime caffeine stations:
#1 Aunt Benny: Creamy cups of wonder
#2 Chapter One: Casual, cool caffeining
#3 Companion: The Barista’s choice
#4 Concierge: Moustaches and legendary lattes
#5 The Barn: Roasthouse deluxe
#6 Röststätte: Central city artisans.
12pm – The sights
Berlin’s historical points of interest are immense. As the city is quite flat, cycling remains the preferred mode of transport – pick yourself up some wheels and roll through the central Mitte district for a glance at the imposing Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust memorial, and the restored glass dome of the Reichstag.
Walk off your frühstück through Museum Island, featuring a list of world class museums and galleries, or if the weather’s right, the Tiergarten, one of the leafiest and loveliest gardens in Europe.
Ambitious cram in:
3pm – Leisure
Amsterdam might be Europe’s pinup ‘canal city’, but Berlin sports its fair share of picturesque human-made waterways too. An icy charm in the depths of winter, come summer the grassy and concrete banks of the Landwehrkanal attracts hordes of interlopers armed with picnics and half-litre späti biers.
For an authentic canal experience, sort out a blow up dinghy from the local ‘Bauhaus’, a couple of plastic oars to boot, stock up with supplies and let the canal take you on a whimsical adventure through the boroughs and kiezes of lackadaisical summertime Berlin.
6pm – Refuel
Berlin is a burgeoning foodie capital – whether you’re after Turkish or Lebanese, modern French, vegan, vego, or even a traditional pork-knuckle and ‘tater fix, you’ll find an array of very generously priced options. However, one of the best meals you’ll ever have in Berlin is the one you cook yourself on a diminutive BYO grill in one of the many open ‘grillplatzes’ of the city’s decommissioned Tempelhofer airport.
Built in the ‘30s by Nazi architect Albert Speer, the imposing, monumental terminal – at its height, the largest man-made structure on earth – today provides Berliners with its most epic recreational reserve. Enjoy the sun setting over Speer’s eerie relic amidst the waft of meat-fog, as kiters, land surfers and spandex-laden skaters skim and wheel across the tarmac runways.
#1 Cocolo Ramen: the city’s best ramen
#2 The Bird: NYC-style burger bar
#3 Kimchi Princess: Korean BBQ excellence
#4 Monsieur Vuong: Modern, classy, casual Vietnamese
#5 District Mot: Saigon street food deluxe
#6 Eins44: A fine dining gem hidden in raw Neukölln
#7 Zur Haxe: Bona fide Bavarian
8pm – Fun
A decade ago, for a bona fide ‘gritty’ Berlin experience, you’d likely traipse south to Kreuzberg, the gentrifying, bar-laden borough known for its multi-cultural, far-left leaning sensibilities. Kreuzberg’s still got the goods (especially its bustling, bi-weeklyTurkish market on the Maybachufer; and the street party madness of their May Day festivities), yet the Kreuzberg of now is a slightly tamer beast.
For today’s raw slice, folks like to delve into the old concrete frontier of Neukölln, where the waft of apple shish and döner meat fuses with the smoky must of newly popped-up bars. You’ll find one of the best in Klunkerkranich, a revamped parking garage-come-rooftop lurking seven stories high atop the Neukölln Arcaden, home to rare and exceptional views of the whole city.
10pm – Night crawl
You only have to glance at the three-year-old Googlemap street view of Neukölln’s Weserstraße to see stark evidence of the area’s recent gentrification spike. Few, if any, of the fresh bars, cafes and kooky boutiques can be seen on it. In a very short time, change has swept through Neukölln, to the mixed, though reasonably positive embrace of locals. Lace-windowed kneipe bars and dusty old shopfronts continue to make way for galleries, occult bookstores and a litany of candle-lit nightspots. Weserstraße, and surrounds, is a fine starting point for a night of cocktails and whistle-wettingly affordable pilseners.
Some of our favourites:
#1 Ä-Stube: Fooßball fabulousneß
#2 Du Beast: Neighbourhood favourite
#3 Yuma Bar: Orange neon and Belgian biers
#4 Fuchs und Elster: Refined up top, party below
#5 Das Gift: Haggis nachos and super whiskeys
#6 Nathanja & Heinrich: Cocktails and raw cool
1am – Club
Berlin is arguably the best clubbing capital in Europe, largely due its kooky and accessible array of venue options. Forget the glitzy club scenes of more image-conscious capitals – with the exception perhaps of Berghain (the infamous former industrial power station turned ‘church of techno’, reputed for its mind-blowing sound system, lurid basement shenanigans and hit or miss entry policy) clubbing in Berlin is a pleasantly casual, ‘come one come all’ experience.
Choose from a ramshackle mass of wild indoor-outdoor funhouses, platforms, labyrinths, decommissioned swimming pools, industrial silos, canal-side warehouses, artificial beaches and more. You’ll get in with sneakers, and they open late (some, the entire weekend).
A few of the finest:
#1 Berghain: Temple of techno
#2 :// about blank: Indoor-outdoor industrial awesomeness
#3 Tresor: Techno legend
#4 KitKat: Check your pants at the door
#5 Watergate: Premiere DJ action
#6 Sisyphos: Beach, bar and wonderland
#7 Griessmuehle: Canal-side chill out
#8 Salon zur Wilden Renate: Cavalcade of whimsy
24 hours later
With the sun peaking out from the horizon, and that pleasant, if not slightly unnerving chirp of birdlife filtering into your quixotic consciousness, congratulations are in order – you’ve been well and truly ‘Berlinned’. Dust yourself off, stretch out the calves, wash up, fix yourself a Bloody Berliner and head forth for a hearty, reparative frühstück. Catch a few lazy winks, and repeat as required.