My Guide to Berlin

My Guide to Berlin

personal 3 minute read

I’ve been living in Berlin since 2010 and making this city my home base and the place to start our company was a very conscious choice. Berlin is vibrant, a bit gritty, very walkable and offers a high quality of life relative to the cost of living. It’s also a city full of culture and history, having been at the centre of modern European history for the past 100+ years, from two world wars to the Cold War and the years spent as a city divided between East and West Germany.

This guide collects some of my personal favourite places and recommendations, including restaurants, cafés, bars, shopping, activities, museums and practical tips. Of course, my selection of places is very biased and heavily centered around the district of Kreuzberg, where I live and work.

Use the sidebar to navigate by category or expand the map to view it in a new window. Click on a place for my notes and more info.

Useful apps and websites

  • Songkick: View all concerts in Berlin for a given day. Pro tip: if you create an account, you can sync it with your Spotify and get personalised recommendations for artists you like.
  • Resident Advisor: Club nights and concerts focused on electronic music.
  • Exberliner: English-language city magazine for Berlin, online and in print.
  • Mit Vergnügen: German online magazine keeping you up to date on new places, events and what else is on, with nice themed and seasonal roundups.
  • FREE NOW: Support your local taxi drivers, order a real taxi and pay via the app! When ordering, make sure to actually select “taxi”, not “ride” (which is their Uber-like service). Note that unlike with Uber, the price you see when booking is only an estimate and not locked in beforehand.
  • BVG: Berlin’s public transport is one of the best in the world and includes subways, trams, buses and even its own taxi service. Download the app so you can get whatever ticket is right for you when you need it. If you’re planning on getting around a lot, day or week tickets are definitely worth it.
  • Lime: If you want to get an e-scooter, Lime has the best and they can be booked via their app or on Uber. E-scooters are actually a great way to get around as an alternative to biking and public transport, and they’ve really grown on me.
  • Wolt: My favourite delivery app, offering food from some of the best restaurants and all kinds of products from a growing selection of local stores.
  • Flink: Get groceries and essentials from a large selection delivered to your door in under 30 minutes, depending on your location. Keep in mind that just like supermarkets, the service is closed on Sundays (see below).
  • Flaschenpost: App and online shop for ordering drinks and some food and household items, delivered to your door (even to the top floor!) within 2 hours. They even take all your empty bottles and crates with deposit and credit the money.
  • Urban Sports Club: A huge variety of different sports all across the city with a single monthly membership. Especially nice for testing and finding places you like.
  • MAYD: If you’re sick and can’t or don’t want to head to your closest pharmacy, this app delivers over-the-counter medications within 30-60 minutes.
  • Treatwell: Need a haircut, cosmetics appointment or massage? This site and app makes it easy to find available salons and appointments nearby, including last-minute slots (especially helpful if you’re only visiting and need something right now)!

Practical tips

  • Cash is king: Although things have changed a bit, especially after COVID, many places are still big on cash. Especially bars, clubs or takeaway places are often cash-only. So make sure to get enough money out.
  • Language: Berlin is an international city and you should get by okay with English. However, not everyone speaks English or is comfortable with it, so I’d recommend downloading the German dictionary on Google Translate for offline use, just in case.
  • Wi-Fi: There’s free wi-fi on public transport and in many cafés and restaurants, but it’s not as developed as you might expect from a big city. I recommend getting a cheap pre-paid (e)SIM just for mobile data.
  • Drinking: It’s legal to drink alcohol on the streets and there’s even a German word for a beer you have on the way to a place: “Wegbier”. Drinking on the subway is not officially allowed, but common and tolerated. When you’re done, don’t throw your bottle in the trash but place it on the ground below the orange bin. There’s deposit (“Pfand”) on bottles and cans, so if you’re not taking your empties back to a store yourself, make it easy for someone else who needs it to collect them.
  • Smoking: Despite the general German smoking ban, many bars, pubs and clubs still allow or tolerate smoking inside. If that’s not something you’re into, make sure to check before you head to a place.
  • Sundays: Shops and supermarkets are closed on Sundays. You may find a “Späti” (kiosk) selling essentials, although that’s not officially allowed for places selling supermarket goods. If you’re desperate, there’s an exception for supermarkets at long-distance train stations, for example Ostbahnhof or Central Station.
  • Rhythm: Berlin stays open late and likes to sleep in. It’s not uncommon for people to head out to a club way past midnight (or in the morning, really), and most cafés won’t open before 9 or 10am.
Ines Montani
About the author

Ines Montani

I'm a software developer working on Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing technologies, and the co-founder and CEO of Explosion, makers of the popular NLP library spaCy and Prodigy, a modern annotation tool for machine learning. Read more →