Berlin four of the best neighbourhoods
Ask any Berliner and they’ll tell you that the German capital is not one city but a collection of distinctive and fascinating neighbourhoods. That’s good news for backpackers, who can pick and choose a base to suit their needs. Will you go for a city centre hostel in Mitte, close to the sights and museums? Or put yourself at the heart of the city’s alternative scene with a hostel in Kreuzberg? Here are some pointers to help you decide…
Best for major sights: Mitte
The central district of Mitte is where you will find many of Berlin’s historic sights. Most famous of all is the Brandenburg Gate, which stands at the end of Unter den Linden, the central boulevard that is home to Humboldt University, the German History Museum and the world-class exhibitions of Museum Island.
Part of Mitte is the “new socialist city” built around Alexanderplatz during the years of communist rule in the GDR, including the TV Tower, which was erected in the 1960s and has become one of Berlin’s most recognisable sights.
Best for markets and cafes: Friedrichshain
This former district of East Berlin is an appealing mix of leafy squares, cafés and bars, and some of the few remaining squats in the city. Boxhagener Platz is the venue for an excellent farmer’s market on Saturdays and flea market on Sundays, and there are numerous places to eat and drink in the streets around, not least the nearby Simon-Dach-Straße.
Another highlight of Friedrichshain is the RAW-tempel (pictured). It’s a former railway yard whose crumbling industrial buildings are now filled with nightclubs, exhibition spaces and even a climbing wall.
Best for alternative culture: Kreuzberg
In the years before the Berlin Wall came down, West Berlin’s counter-culture scene, attracted the likes of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Nick Cave to the city – and Kreuzberg was the heart of it all. Today it still has a lively mix of bars and clubs, alternative shops and radical politics, not least during the annual May Day celebrations and demonstrations.
Oranienstraße (pictured) is home to many Kreuzberg institutions, including the legendary SO36 club, whilst in the west of the district, Bergmannstraße is slightly more upmarket, with some great cafés and restaurants.
Best for shopping: Charlottenburg
Berlin’s West End seems to be forever linked with the glamour of the roaring 1920s. In recent years the area around Zoo Station has been given a facelift, re-establishing it as the place to see and be seen. The new Bikini House mall (pictured) is a 21st century shopping destination with a distinctly Berlin twist, whilst the famous KaDeWe department store on nearby Wittenbergplatz is still going strong.
A short walk from Wittenbergplatz is Nollendorfplatz in neighbouring Schöneberg, at the heart of Berlin’s large gay scene with numerous bars and clubs.