Despite having hit up Berlin twice in the last couple of years, I still feel like I’ve barely scratched its surface. The European capital of cool, it’s got a real vibe going on. From its well-hyped nightlife scene, to its hipster-cool coffee spot culture, dynamic restaurant scene, rich modern history, and distinct neighbourhoods, Berlin has something for everyone, and is somewhere you can easily walk around for hours. Through the winter months, be warned, it can be a little bleak, but with infinite great options for coffee, pints, and cocktails, you’ll always have somewhere to hide from the rain. For me, the Michelberger is the ultimate crash pad for long days exploring, but if you’re in the market for a more chilled-out trip, you might want to upgrade to somewhere a little more luxe. You’ll never squeeze everything you want to into a few days, trust me, but hey, the best cities are the ones you leave wanting to more of, right? Here’s where to hit up over 48 hours in Berlin…
The ultimate crash pad, Michelberger Hotel is one of the original lifestyle hotels, attracting creative types from near and far, who’ve been lured in for years by its laid-back lobby, crash pad rooms, and über-affordable rates. What Michelberger lacks in frills and floor space (be warned, rooms are cosy!), it makes up for with style and substance. The chilled-out lobby is serious interior goals, with low leather seats, tonal hues, DJ decks, and plentiful plants. The open-air courtyard and restaurant, which specialised in seasonal fare, are definite hotspots for locals especially through the summer months.
25Hours Bikini Berlin
On the other side of town in Tiergarten, 25Hours Bikini Berlin is a slightly more premium offering, with roomier rooms, a similar laidback ambience, and wow-factor rooftop cocktail bar, Monkey Bar — a must-visit whether you’re staying at the hotel or not. Bathrooms, complete with rainfall showers and matt-black tiles, feel particularly luxe and deserve a special shout out, as does the breakfast buffet, which is included in rates and served on the 10th floor restaurant, overlooking Berlin Zoo. Muesli with a side of monkey-business! Bikes are available to hire from reception and are the perfect way to cross the park and explore the city.
Explore Berlin on bikes
‘Get bikes’ is my new favourite tip that goes in every 48-hour guide I write, but seriously, Berlin is a brilliant city to see on wheels as it’s pretty huge with its sprawling different neighbourhoods. Lots of hotels offer free or good value bike hire, otherwise Uber Jump e-bikes are a favourite of ours, super easy to hop on and dump anywhere, and VERY fun to whizz around on. Don’t miss the impressive Brandenburg Gate and TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm) which towers tall over the city.
East Side Gallery
In 1989, the Berlin Wall was finally torn down. Most of it was quickly demolished except for the 1.3km stretch that runs along Mühlenstrasse, parallel to the River Spree, in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. This section became East Side Gallery: the world’s largest open-air mural collection, with over 100 paintings from international and local artists, showing political statements, artists’ liberal musings and colourful abstract creations, highlighting the optimism of the era after a period of such oppression. Free to appreciate, it’s a must-do in Berlin and a hugely celebrated historic and artistic landmark.
Stay out late and party
The party never stops in Berlin. Whilst its notorious underground club culture may have bubbled up into the mainstream, you can be sure the best parties are the ones you aren’t invited to, unless you’ve got an in with the cool crowd of course. Get a taste of the scene at Kater Blau or Club de Visionaere. Heavy ravers and stay-out-all-night types should try their luck getting into Berghain: the Mecca of house and techno in Berlin. Berghain is dubbed by many as the best club in the world, and with such acclaim comes an extremely strict door policy. Wear all black and hope for the best!
Kreuzberg is Berlin’s coolest neighbourhood: a mishmash of hip bars, vintage stores, food markets, laidback cafes, and some of the city’s best restaurants too. There’s a real bohemian vibe to it —still pretty gritty in parts— but there’s no shortage of places to stop for coffee/ a pint. Best explored on foot, wander along the leafy banks of the Landwehrkanal (canal), stop in at the Berlinische Galerie, and definitely don’t miss Markthalle Neun for food.
Window shop in Mitte
Mitte is Berlin’s boujiest neighbourhood, all hip concept stores and contemporary brands we wish we could afford, peppered with nice bars and trendy cafes aplenty. Whether you plan on purchasing anything or not, it’s definitely a nice area to potter around.
Klunkerkranich is Berlin’s answer to Frank’s Peckham: a super hip rooftop bar atop a multi-storey car park. You get the vibe, right? Much like Frank’s or Lisbon’s Park Bar, Klunkerkranich is a notoriously popular spot for locals and out-of-towners whenever the sun is out, plus a crowd-pleasing night-time destination with it’s neon lights, DJs, and indoor and outdoor spaces.
eat + drink
Come rain or shine, Markthall Neun is a safe bet for a good time and a good feed. The old market hall has had fresh life breathed into it and is now home to a variety of traders serving everything from pasta to pulled pork, alongside wine bars, cannolli stands, and fresh vegetable stalls too. A concept not far removed from Time Out Market Lisboa or Amsterdam’s Foodhallen, Markthall Neun is low-key yet hip, and great for a good lunch, a drink, or maybe just shelter from the rain! The big plates of freshly cooked pasta are so good and such great value, we ended up going two days in a row on our last trip to Berlin!
Both times we’ve been to Berlin recently, we’ve been running races, so are more often than not on the hunt for carbs. Il Ritrovo was somewhere we by-chance stumbled upon in Friedrichshain one evening, and absolutely loved. It’s a super local, super lively Italian, with Italian staff and a cheap and easy frills-free pizza and pasta menu. One of the most affordable places we ate, and also one of the most fun. A carafe of wine will set you back around €10 and pizzas start at €6.
Annelies is a very beautiful neighbourhood restaurant in Kreuzberg, with a refined menu offering all-day breakfast/ lunch, coffee and wine. If you have even the mildest sweet tooth, go for the buttermilk pancakes (€9.50). Fluffy AF and stacked up tall, they’re pretty special and definitely ~the dish~ to order here. The space itself is super beautiful too, all raw and stripped back interiors, and flooded with natural light. Cameras out!
Monkey Bar, the cocktail bar on the 10th floor of 25Hours Bikini Berlin, is a must-do whether you’re staying in the hotel or not. Overlooking Berlin Zoo (hence the name), it’s a lively spot for sundowners with its cool interiors, cushioned bunches, cosy corners, mad views, and an outdoor terrace too. Locals and guests alike queue are happy to queue to come up here for the creative cocktail list and tasty Asian snacks.
Lo Men’s Noodle House
Dumplings are always a good idea, and for something cheap and cheerful, Lo Men’s Noodle House in Charlottenberg is a great spot for a quick, cheap dinner. Go expecting a queue because this casual Taiwanese is no secret to locals. Get the chili wontons, steamed duck buns and a couple of plates of noodles.
Break up a shopping trip in Mitte with coffee at Father Carpenter, a café ran by some dudes who are seriously passionate about coffee. Along with beautiful-looking cakes and pastries, it does a mean brunch. Highlights include vegan banana bread with whipped peanut butter, eggs benedict with braised pulled pork, and baked French toast with maple syrup, coconut crumb and crème fraîche. DELICIOUS.
Natural wine fans should make a beeline for Jaja, a laid-back wine bar in Neukölln (ust south of Kreuzberg), that’s all about the juice. Take your pick from over 200 carefully curated wines, mostly from France, plus a handful of small-scale European producers — and if you’ve no clue what you’re ordering, they’ll happily point you in the direction of something you like. Wine aside, the weekly-changing food menu is a medley of small plates, using as much fresh local produce as possible. Sadly, we didn’t get chance to eat here but next time we’re in Berlin, it’s at the top of my list!
I’m a sucker for Asian food and there’s no shortage of places to get it in Berlin. Monsieur Vuong is one of Mitte’s best Vietnamese eateries, with indoor and outdoor seating, and a good-value, authentic menu. After browsing the likes of Acne Studios, A.P.C and Aesop, refuel with a big bowl of steaming hot pho — perfect for the winter months when Berlin can be brutal!
things to know before you go
- Airbnb has some strict rules about renting in Berlin, and I've heard stories from a couple people who've been let down over there. Of course, it's very much a case-by-case basis, but if you're feeling nervy, stick to hotels or hostels. We found Michelberger to be surprisingly affordable.
- A surprising number of places don’t take card, so it’s worth carrying cash for markets and smaller eateries.
- The public transport system is very efficient and great for getting around. Don't forget to buy tickets and validate them in the stations or else risk steep fines.