When we moved to Berlin in the summer of 2018, I was immediately amazed by its diversity, but it wasn’t love at first sight between us. The first time we visited, the city felt huge, complicated, and uninviting. The second time, we warmed up to it and understood why people love it so much. But I only truly found my place here after we moved, when I strolled the streets with a baby carrier and a backpack. The city’s eclectic nature is still one of my favorite things about it - the mixture of old and new, the way that the rough and industrial edge meets the classical European chic, the combination of contemporary trends with places that look like they’re stuck in another era.
One of the first things that I did after we moved, was to create a few lists of shops, attractions, galleries, cafes, restaurants, and streets that I wish to visit. As you can imagine, given how big this city is, these lists were very long, and I keep adding to them as I read about new spots. Until now, I posted mainly family-friendly activities in and around the city, because since the kids were born, my time to explore places that don’t offer any slides, swings, ball pits, or other kid-related attractions, is very limited. But over time, I did manage to feed my soul the design and architecture that it craves and put together a list of places that I personally really liked. Naturally, Berlin has even more to offer, and I hope to continue exploring, discovering new locations and maybe publish a sequel to this post.
In the quiet neighborhood of Weisensee in north-eastern Berlin, stands the last residential building of the world-renowned architect in Germany. Visitors can enjoy the elegant interior of the L-shaped house, which today doubles as a small contemporary art gallery, and relax in the backyard overlooking the lake. If this speaks to you, don’t miss the Neue Nationalgalerie, a modern art museum that was designed by Mies van der Rohe as well, and re-opened to the public in 2021. Even just passing by it and admiring it from the outside is worth it. While the two buildings are completely different in type, materials and scale, they both showcase the architect’s point of view and demonstrate the power of the modernist style.
The center of the monumental boulevard in Berlin’s Friedrichshain, which was a flagship project in Eastern Germany after WWII. I find that this is a great example of the astounding mix of styles throughout the city. Make your way from there to Boxhagener Platz to get the full Friedrichshain experience. There are many cool shops of all kinds to explore during weekdays, and on the weekend you’ll find the local flea market.
A small yet very cool museum of lettering and typography collected from public spaces. You’ll find signs from public transportation, shops, malls, office spaces, and various other locations, that were salvaged from dismantling to be displayed as urban history. While you’re in the area, take a walk around the gorgeous Tiergarten, or visit the Bellevue Palace. And if you visit the museum on the weekend, make sure to stop by the weekly flea/antique market.
A photography and visual media gallery with rotating exhibitions in Berlin Charlottenburg. The building itself, titled Amerika Haus, was built in the 1950s and designed by the architect Bruno Grimmek. Originally it was used as a cultural and information center for the United States in Berlin, and was sensitively renovated in 2015. Not far from the gallery stands the Bauhaus Archive, designed by Walter Gropius, which is currently under renovation. The temporary Bauhaus archive, featuring a small gallery, shop, and other related events is also worth a short visit.
An old listening station from WWII, located in the middle of the forest in the west side of Berlin, which was transformed into a street-art gallery. It features numerous huge paintings as well as smaller pieces all around the deserted building, and at the top is a beautiful view of the city. You can take the S-Bahn and walk up the mountain through the Grunewald forest, which is a lovely location on its own.
A museum dedicated to street and urban art. The museum was established to provide a safe place for graffiti and street artists since art in the public space is always at risk of being removed or destroyed. The impact of the museum on the neighborhood is felt strongly as you walk along the street, which is filled with urban art and graffiti of all shapes, sizes and styles. Stop by Frühstück 3000 on the other side of the street for an amazing breakfast or snack. And If you visit the museum on Wednesday or Saturday, then you should grab a bite at the nearby market at Winterfeldtplatz.
Grab a beer by the Spree river, listen to live music, get something to eat, and spend an evening at this super cool and oh-so-Berlin spot. This old industrial location became the home of a cooperative association for artists, makers, creators, and small business owners, so they could work together and exchange knowledge and ideas. Design-wise, this place is all about reusing, recycling, and repurposing of different objects, and of course, wood, which connects back to the original use of the place as a timber-trade market. Make sure to check their website and socials for special events.
Berlin is a huge city, and almost every district (Bezirk) has at least one strolling-worthy street, with cute little shops, cafes, restaurants, pretty buildings, and sweet hidden corners. On a side note - the zip codes are crucial when navigating around the city because there are streets with the same names in different districts. Here are a few of my favorite streets, make sure to wander off to the smaller streets around them as well-
# Goltzstraße (10781) in Schöneberg, with highlights such as Jones ice cream, The Visit coffee roastery, Sironi for pizza and pastries, The Goods for home decor prettiness, Nordliebe for Scandinavian wonders, and Hobbyshop Rüther for arts, crafts and beyond.
# Bergmannkiez (10961, between Gneisenaustraße and Bergmannstraße) in Kreuzberg. Stop by Barcomi’s Café for a cup of coffee and cake, Mjot for children’s heaven, Broken English for Great Britain’s finest, Schwesterherz for paper products, and Tranquillo for home decor and gift ideas.
# Kollwitzplatz (10405) and the surrounding streets in Prenzlauer Berg with great food, drinks, and shopping at every turn. Stop by ting for beautiful interior design objects, Die kleine Gesellschaft for toys and accessories for the little ones, NOVeL for home decor, fashion and accessories, and Cookies&Co for a sweet break.
# Continue to explore Prenzlauer Berg towards Helmholtzplatz (10437) and check out Victoria met Albert for clothes, accessories and home goods, Mia und Leo for kids’ clothes and toys, YOnkel Ork’s lovely collection of stationery, gifts and decor items, Schoemig Porzellan for hand made porcelain creations, and Popkornditorei Knalle for surprising Popcorn flavors handmade in Berlin.
# Walk down Kastanienallee from Eberswalder Straße towards Rosenthaler Platz (10119), and continue on Rosenthaler Straße to Hackescher Markt. Along the way you’ll discover many cool spots, like Zeit für Brot’s dreamy pastries, Broke + Schön’s fashion and lifestyle products, the English books in Love Story, the stylish collection of clothes and accessories at GE03, Granit’s minimalistic and monochromatic interior accessories, Schee’s amazing poster and home goods selection, the wonderful combo of home, lifestyle and clothing pieces at Kauf dich Glücklich, fresh coffee at the Barn, and more.
# Oranienburger Straße (10117) offers many galleries, such as the newly reopened KW Institute for contemporary art and the Michael Fuchs Gallery, which is located in a building that used to be a Jewish school for girls. Don’t miss the photogenic and peaceful atmosphere at the hidden courtyards of Heckmann Höfe, and the upscale shops, like Amodo and Parkhaus that offer hand-picked design brands, and Hay’s Berlin flagship store. For a sweet bite to eat check out Princess Cheesecake and/or Loti Pantón for delicious Macarons.
# Walk along Suarezstraße for antique, retro, and vintage shops.
# Modulor and Idee for art supplies, stationery, gift ideas, and more.
# Visit Søstrene Grene for an affordable and beautiful home, kitchen, nursery design, and more. They have stores all over the city, but the flagship one on Schloßstraße (12163) is by far the best.
# For design, art, and architecture books go to Taschen, she said, and Do you read me?
# If second-hand finds speak to you, like a true Berliner, then you should make the trip to Nochmall, Berlin’s first second-hand mall.
# check out HEMA for affordable design, stationery, toys, kitchenware, gifts, and even snacks.
# Bröhan Museum - a museum dedicated to applied and fine arts with collections of art nouveau, art deco and functionalism pieces, in addition to temporary exhibitions.
# Hamburger Bahnhof - a contemporary art gallery located in an old train station building.
# Humbuldt Forum - an old palace-turned-museum with a fascinating and controversial history. The courtyard is open to the public and you can walk through the building to check out the architecture.
# Haus am Waldsee - a small gallery of temporary exhibitions. Its location in a house overlooking the lake, and the wonderful cafe make it a true gem.
# Reichstag Dome - one of the most famous locations in Berlin, but I have to admit that the Dome, which was designed by Norman Foster is very impressive and architecturally remarkable (visit is free, but requires an online ticket).
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