Europe’s most energetic, resurgent and resplendent capital has transformed itself inside and out since the Wall came down in 1989 to become a multinational hub, a hedonistic party town, a cultural focal point and (yes) a place to eat, drink and be merry. For a city break with real style, Berlin is indeed uber alles.
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The most famous of Berlin’s shopping hotspots is the upmarket boulevard of Kurfürstendamm (often known simply as “Ku’damm”), which is good for everything from browsing through fashion outlets to rubbernecking at car showrooms – check out the Porsche Design Store (Kurfürstendamm 190). The city’s most famous department store, meanwhile, is the enormous KaDeWe (Tauentzienstrasse 21-24), second only to Harrods in terms of its overall size. A city like Berlin packs in a wild amount of diversity of course, and there are some great options for one-off finds – make a beeline for the weekend antique market at Strasse des 17 Juni or the art market at Zeughaus (Am Zeughaus 1).
Food & Drink
There’s more to German food than the clichés. Berlin in particular has a whole host of different ethnic communities, meaning Turkish, Vietnamese and Arabic food can be as easy to come by as a currywurst. Kebabs are something of an art form in Berlin in fact, although the flipside to these basic pleasures is a sizeable number of high-end restaurants. Some of the best restaurants in Berlin include the Regent Berlin Hotel’s Fischers Fritz (Charlottenstrasse 49), which specialises in seafood, and the nearby Lutter & Wegner (Charlottenstrasse 56), great for traditional German and European classics.
Berlinale International Film Festival
Berlin’s annual film festival is one of the most prestigious in the world, drawing larger public audiences than any other. It shows some 400 different films a year, selling more than 300,000 tickets in the process.
Carnival of Cultures
Providing a window onto the myriad cultures and colours that make up today’s Berlin, the Carnival of Cultures centres on a spectacular parade of themed floats and costumed participants. Music, food, dance and street parties are all key components.
Berlin’s marathon has become one of the most popular in Europe, thanks in no small part to the atmosphere generated by the crowds and the fact that the course itself is considered particularly fast.
Festival of Lights
For 12 nights each autumn, Berlin’s historic buildings and major landmarks are illuminated by projections. There’s no cost attached and the lights themselves are generally turned on from 7pm until midnight each evening. It’s even possible to take guided tours of the highlights.
An abbreviation of Berlin Music Days, BerMuDa has earned a reputation as a focal point for the city’s healthy electronic music scene. The four-day event attracts musicians (and increasingly fans) from around the world, with the central aim of celebrating Berlin’s near-legendary club culture.
Berlin’s accommodation options – much like its cultural attractions – range from well-known, large-scale choices to lesser-celebrated but no less rewarding alternatives. The 383-room Pullman Berlin Schweizerhof (Budapester Strasse 25) is one of the former, as is the similarly slick 311-room Hotel Concorde Berlin (Augsburger Strasse 41). By contrast, Myer’s Hotel Berlin (Metzer Strasse 26) is a boutique property located in a heritage-rich building dating back to the 1870s, while the compact but stylish Quentin Design Hotel Berlin (Kalckreuthstrasse 12) is a quality four-star choice on a quiet backstreet close to the city centre.