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We Will Show You Berlin

I'm looking at a write up from Mr. & Mrs. Smith about Berlin and I'm going to try to keep that in mind as I explore the city! 

Berlin 

Cityscape
 Soviet so-cool republic
City Life
 Louche and lowdown

Flying in the face of stuffy German stereotypes, famously liberal and fun-loving Berlin has long been a magnet for pleasure-seekers.

Willkommen to perhaps Europe’s most fascinating city. Lines of bars and clubs, blaring out rock, techno and everything in between, have now replaced the famous Berlin wall, and are testament to the city’s resilience and upbeat character. Indeed, the collapse of the Iron Curtain has allowed its dormant creativity to flourish. Art galleries have sprung up in almost every vacant warehouse space, theatre and cabaret venues continue to pack them in, and awe-inspiring buildings such as the metal-and-glass Reichstag have brought iconic design to the Soviet-era cityscape. Add to this a vibrant culinary scene, offering everything from traditional würst to elaborate Asian fusion, and this city is one you’ll never want to leave. Berlin? It’ll take your breath away.

Beautifully Berlin

See the city as those who lived behind the Iron Curtain did, and drive a Trabant – the tiny tin box on wheels that the State decreed suitable for East German citizens – around East Berlin’s Communist-era landmarks. A Trabi-Safari guide will take the lead in another car and provide commentary via radio. For more information, call +49 (0)30 2759 2273 or go to www.trabi-safari.de.

Local knowledge

Taxis
 You’ll find taxi ranks all over the city, and you can also call Taxi Fon (0800 8001 1554) to get one sent to you. When you get into a cab, the meter will always be set to €2.50. Expect to pay €1.50 a kilometre after that.

Tipping culture
 Restaurant bills include service, but it is usual to add five to 10 per cent on top of this. Add about 10 per cent to your taxi fare and five per cent to your bar bill.

Siesta and fiesta
 Berlin shops are legally allowed to open around the clock, which makes for erratic opening times – though you’re unlikely to find anything closed before 6.30pm. The city goes a bit quiet on a Sunday. Bars tend to close between 1am and 3am in the week, and stay open till 5am at the weekends. Clubs can go on all night.

Packing tips
 A portable DVD player on which to watch brilliant Berlin-set films – take your pick from Metropolis, Good Bye Lenin!, The Lives of Others, Cabaret, Downfall and, um, Octopussy, among others.

Recommended reads
 Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin chronicles the decadence of city life in the years just before World War II. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carré is a snapshot of Cold War espionage. Russian Disco by Wladimir Kaminer is a collection of tales about ‘everyday lunacy on the streets of Berlin’.

Cuisine
 Though most dishes on Berlin menus are of the rib-sticking variety, the city serves up plenty of lighter fare. Splendid Delikatessen (+49 (0)30 9212 7247) on Dorotheenstrasse sells artisan honey, organic vegetables and salads alongside the meatloaf. There’s a vibrant eco movement here, too, so good vegetarian food is easy to find. 

Currency
 Euro (€).

Time zone
 GMT +1.

Dialling codes
 Country code for Germany: +49. Berlin: (0)30.

Do go/don't go 
 There’s never a bad time to visit Berlin. In the balmy summer, there are all kinds of alfresco delights to indulge in; in winter, it may be cold and up-to-your-knees snowy, but it’s also incredibly atmospheric. And there’s glühwein on sale everywhere to warm you up. 

Worth getting out of bed for...

Viewpoint
 Built by the Communists to loom over free West Berlin as a symbol of Soviet might, the Fernsehturm (television tower) in Alexanderplatz is the tallest structure in the city at 368m. Take a lift up to its viewing platform. From here, you can see the entire city spread out beneath you. For information, go to www.berlinerfernsehturm.de.

Arts and culture
 When the Cold War ended, artists from all over the world flocked to Mitte, in search of low rents and the creative vibe. The area is still home to plenty of quirky galleries specialising in experimental art. Try Eigen + Art (280 6605) on Auguststrasse, or Tacheles (+49 (0)30 282 6185), an artists’ collective in an old department store on Oranienburgerstrasse. The latter regularly hosts impromptu parties and gigs. For more traditional art, head to the Alte Nationalgalerie (+49 (0)30 2090 5577) in Mitte and Tiergarten’s Gemäldegalerie (+49 (0)30 266 2951). 

Something for nothing
 The city’s four Weinerei bars (www.weinerei.com) are a blessing for visitors struggling to adapt to the soaring rate of the euro. Simply pay a €1 deposit to get a glass, then help yourself to as much wine as you like. Pay as much as you think fair – and maybe treat yourself to one on the house…

Shopping
 If you’re looking to update your look, then you won’t go far wrong in Mitte. Walk along either Alte or Neue Schönhauser Strasse, and you’ll find all manner of designs you won’t see anywhere else. Women should pack their men off in the direction of clothes store Respectmen (+49 (0)30 283 5010) and music Mecca DNS Recordstore (+49 (0)30 247 9835), and then spend a leisurely couple of hours browsing the innovative creations at Claudia Skoda (+49 (0)30 280 7211) and vintagewear at Sommerladen (+49 (0)30 177 299 1789), or trying on the beautiful shoes at Calypso (+49 (0)30 2854 5415).

Daytripper
 Just half an hour outside Berlin, Potsdam, former seat of the Prussian royal family, is a refined alternative to the bustle of the German capital. Based around the rococo Schloss Sanssouci, the town is famed for its ornate gardens and lush parkland. 

Perfect picnic
 Stock your picnic hamper in the food hall of department store KaDeWe (+49 (0)30 21210) and then take the S1 train from Schöneberg to Wannsee, two linked lakes in the southwest of the city, and dine on the shores. 

Walks
 New Berlin Tours (+49 (0)30 5105 0030) and Original Berlin Walks (+49 (0)30 301 9194) will both lead you expertly through streets that were at the forefront of one of modern European history’s most turbulent periods.

Activities
 Berlin Zoo (+49 (0)30 254 010), right in the city centre, is home to Knut, probably the world’s most famous polar bear. Swimming is extremely popular in Berlin, and the city has many beautiful, Soviet-era schwimbads. Stadtbad Mitte (+49 (0)30 3088 0910), close to Lux 11, comes with heated tiles, a criss-cross beamed glass roof and stained-glass windows picturing proud workers going about their toil. Continuing the watery theme, Liquidrom at 10 Möckernstrasse (+49 30 2580 7820) is an urban spa in Berlin’s city centre. It’s worth a visit for the ‘underwater concert hall’ alone – a heated saltwater pool with a gentle soundtrack of electro world music. Leave your inhibitions at home, since the sauna and changing rooms are mixed, and no clothes are allowed in the former (take a towel in if you’re bashful). 

Berlin Eating, drinking and dancing

Restaurants

(+49 (0)30 612 5170)

Abendmahl

Set in the middle of Kreuzberg’s Turkish quarter, Abendmahl is perhaps the city’s finest vegetarian restaurant. It also serves fish.

9 Muskauer Strasse, D-10997 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 2175 1646)

Alpenstück

Who'd have thought you could indulge in hearty southern German cuisine such as sausages, sauerkraut and schnitzel in a stylish environment? There’s not a heaving dirndl in sight.

9 Gartenstrasse, D-10115 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 6730 20510)

Bandol sur Mer

For somewhere romantic for dinner, book ahead to reserve one of the six tables at this former kebab stand, now a favourite of Brad Pitt's. Try the snails, foie gras or speciality Irish entrecote.

Torstrasse 167, D-10115 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 2859 8585)

Brecht’s

This bistro-style restaurant down by the river on Schiffbauerdamm specialises in Austrian cuisine. Try its veal sausages or gnocchi in a creamy cheese sauce.

6–7 Schiffbauerdamm, D-10117 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 214050)

Die Quadriga

One of Berlin’s finest restaurants, this is where chef Bobby Bräuer serves up Michelin-starred cuisine to a sophisticated, urbane crowd. The 1920s-inspired interiors are beautiful, too.

14 Eislebener Strasse, D-10789 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 2887 9288)

Grill Royal

You'll find this fashionable French-style bistro under the Friedrichstrasse bridge. It's great for steak.

105 Friedrichstrasse, D-10117 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 442 9229)

Gugelhof

Wonderful Alsatian restaurant (as in the region, not the dog) that specialises in sturdy choucroute and tartes flambées. Bill Clinton stopped by a few years ago…

37 Knaackstrasse, D-10435 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 2265 2611)

Margaux

Young Michelin-starred chef Michael Hoffman does astonishing things with seafood at this hip Unter den Linden hangout.

78 Unter den Linden, D-10117 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 9929 6924)

Monsieur Vuong

This stylish spot is perfect for a quick lunch or supper of modern takes on Vietnamese favourites.

46 Schönhauser Strasse, D-10119 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 6956 6775)

Spindler & Klatt

This restaurant in a warehouse on the water's edge has a ready-made dancefloor waiting for your meal to finish.

16 Kopenicker Strasse, D-10997 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 211 1182)

Susuru

Just along Rosa Luxemburg Strasse from Lux 11, Susuru is an excellent Japanese noodle bar with chic decor. Its udon selection makes for a good lunch option.

17 Rosa Luxemburg Strasse, D-10178 Berlin

Bars

(+49 (0)30 2809 3840)

Altes Europa

Drink in the evening at this atmospheric café bar with an old-fashioned ambience. Dress up – it's frequented by Berlin’s beautiful people.

11 Gipsstrasse, D-10119 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 7174 5469)

Bar Tausend

This bar has dark, mysterious interiors, flooded in a golden light from the enormous 3D eye on the wall.

11 Schiffbauerdamm, D-10117 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 2809 5566)

Greenwich

This cool cocktail bar has lime-green walls lined with fish-filled tanks. It's open till 6am.

5 Gipsstrasse, D-10119 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 7889 9704)

KitKat Club

Perhaps the best known – courtesy of its namecheck in Cabaret – of Berlin’s numerous sex clubs. This is the place to come for fetish parties and to meet other liberal (and we’re talking extremely liberal) consenting adults.

2–14 Bessemer Strasse, D-10179 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 448 5688)

Prater

The city’s favourite spot for an alfresco drink when the weather’s fine. The tree-shaded garden fills up quickly in summer with fashionable Berliners who come here for cocktails and food – and for a nightclub called ‘Bastard’.

7–9 Kastanienallee, D-10435 Berlin

Cafés

(+49 (0)30 7895 7900)

Café Neues Ufer

This long-established gay and lesbian hangout near Heinrich Von Kleist Park in Schöneberg was a favourite of David Bowie and Lou Reed when they shared an apartment next door in the 1970s. It’s still an atmospheric haunt.

157 Hauptstrasse, D-10827 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 2888 4282)

Chén Chè

This authentic Vietnamese teehaus is down a courtyard in Mitte, with the bamboo plants giving away the exotic menu that's inside. Sip delicate teas as you sample the oriental dishes.

13 Rosenthaler Strausse, D-10119 Berlin

(+49 (0)30 614 2373)

Hasir

It may be the post-pub, pre-brawl food of choice in the UK, but the doner kebab is a far more acceptable snack in Germany. The combination of pitta and sliced meat was invented here, at Hasir, in 1971 by owner Mehmet Aygun.

10 Adalbertstrasse, D-10999 Berlin

Diary

June The city’s biggest gay carnival (and, believe us, there are quite a few), the Christopher Street Day Parade, sees more than 400,000 take to Berlin’s streets in all manner of flamboyant costumes. Expect lots of piercings. October Commemorating the day in 1989 when the wall finally tumbled, the Day of German Unity on 3 October sees street parties being held throughout Berlin. December Christmas markets spring up throughout the city – pretend to do your shopping whilst joining the locals in getting subtly sloshed on schnapps and glühwein.

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