Visiting Berlin Buzzwords - where to go for drinks and food

2012-03-07 19:39
There are literally hundreds of bars and restaurants in easy walking distance to the conference venue. And if that is now enough for you, hop on U-Bahn and head east to either Kreuzberg or Friedrichshain to find more. For inspiration check out Tip Berlin - they have a decent, reliable restaurant list.

For quick orientation: Berlin is no one city center but many districts that all have their own look and feel to them. Those most interesting for eating and drinking:

  • Schöneberg is a bit more calm, well suited for eating out until late evening. The two areas that are most interesting are around Akazien-/Golzstr (head north from Hauptstraße up until Nollendorfplatz), Crellestraße, as well as the area around Bayrischer Platz.
  • Friedrichshain is the area to go for drinks in the evening and to see the young, urban Berlin. Get lost in the famous "Simon-Dach" quarter ("Simon-Dach-Kiez" as we say in Berlin) with its cobble stone streets, wide sidewalks, bars, restaurants and cool little shops. If the weather is as nice as it has been on the weekend, it might be worth walking or cycling a little farther to Holzmarktstraße. Between the streets "An der Schillingbrücke" and "Michaeliskirchstr." (see there are a few really nice outdoor beach bars right on the banks of the River Spree.
  • Kreuzberg comes in at least two flavours: For coffee and food head over to Bergmannstraße, for drinks at night go see Oranienstraße, for young and vibrant head over to Wrangelstrasse (do not miss Heinz Minki, Freischwimmer and Club der Visionäre), for a relaxed "down by the river" evening head over to Maybachufer (do not miss Van Loon, also check out Bethanien close by).
  • Prenzlauer Berg - young, family friendly, slowly being turned into a German Kleinstadt ;)
  • Mitte - a bit more fancy, gentrified, great if you love culture, museums, ballet, concerts. Remember to explore the city by boat. If you are hungry head over to Linienstrasse and explore the little streets around. There is tasty cheese fondue available at Nolas am Weinberg. Go dance at Clärchens Ballhaus, get a coffee and code while drinking at web2.0 cafe Sankt Oberholz.

Two special recommendations for breakfast:

On the weekend before the conference days are best started with a long and tasty brunch. My personal recommendation if you love tea is to head down to TTT - apart from serving best tea in town you can also get really tasty food there. And best of all, buy tea, tea cups and pots. I tend to take keynote speakers to that place - so far none has complained ;)

Another option is to start your day on top of Bundestag - enjoy the view of the city, take an audio, tour, eat breakfast in the Käfer Restaurant and maybe add a brief lecture on German legislation afterwards. Make sure to book about a month in advance!

For burgers there is no better place than Burgermeister in Kreuzberg. Best Falafel is on sale at Habibi. Judging on where to get the best ice cream actually is a bit harder: Aldemir is the location in Kreuzberg, Pinguin Club is the location in Schöneberg (Inka Eis beats that only if you are more for unusual types of ice cream), if you are in Mitte close to Brandenburger Tor consider visiting Der Eisladen - lots of different types and really tasty.

When it comes to cocktails there are various locations - large and small that people tend to frequent. Some places to start and feel welcome: Salut, Green Door and Stagger Lee.

Walking through Berlin

2012-03-06 18:27
Ever made the mistake of booking a flight to a city and trying to decide on what to do only after you arrived? That type of planning does work for Berlin - though you may end up with quite a different schedule than originally intended.

The only thing that needs a bit of planning ahead (about a month) is visiting the Bundestag - fast way to discover it is to just go up to it's dome. You can book a table at the restaurant up there if you want to have breakfast above Berlin. In addition the visitor service offers various presentations for free that can be booked from their web page.

Some hints in addition to visiting a tourist information after your arrival:

When I have guests I usually recommend to either buy a day (or week) BVG ticket - you can use public transport as often as you like with these tickets. That includes S-Bahn, tram, busses, tube and ferries (but not the tourist roundtrip boats with moderation). If you know you'll be going to several museums, a Welcome ticket might be worth it's prize. Alternatively just get a bike - unless you want to reach destinations outside the s-bahn-ring or want to visit in winter (don't) all distances should be easy to do by bike. To plan your trips use - they know road conditions to e.g. let you exclude larger streets or prefer green routes.

Your best bet to see most of the attractions for less than five Euro is to take the regular bus line 100 from the Bhf. Zoo train station down to Alexanderplatz and line 200 back. Though no audio guide is known to me there should be guides available for sale in local tourist information offices.

For guide books: Lonely Planet is a good start. If you speak German the city box might serve you well. It contains 30 cards with proposed walking tours including brief explanations. Also the book "Die schönsten Berliner Stadtspaziergänge" has been great to discover areas that are less known.

The city has two bi-weekly magazines that feature lists of concerts (both modern and classical), exhibitions, markets and more: For one there is Zitty, the other one Tip Berlin. Both are quite good, which one to prefer depends on personal taste. In addition both publish restaurant guides, books on where to go shopping, special issues on where to go and what to do. In addition their online restaurant reviews are quite decent.

Two final hints: If you happen to know locals (or anyone who moved their a while ago) - make sure to ask them for recommendations. Also, try to stay at one of the many B&B locations - in general you host will know several local recommendations.