My Guide to Berlin

My Guide to Berlin

last updated personal 5 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.

Areas and streets

Sometimes you just want to walk through the city, take in the surroundings, do some shopping and maybe stop for a coffee or food along the way. Berlin’s central districts are very walkable and dense, so here’s a non-exhaustive selection of streets to start on. I recommend starting at a more central point and then walking outwards.

  • Oranienstraße (Kreuzberg): Vibrant and slightly gritty street at the centre of the alternative Kreuzberg district with many shops, restaurants, cafés and bars.
  • Gräfestraße (Kreuzberg): Street with beautiful architecture and many nice restaurants and some shops, connecting the Hasenheide park to the Landwehr Canal. I used to live around there and it’s still one of my favourite areas of Berlin.
  • Boxhagener Straße (Friedrichshain): Street leading you through the alternative and free-spirited district of Friedrichshain and past Boxhagener Platz, a small park surrounded by many restaurants, bars and shops. Also check out the various side streets. I often take this route when shopping for clothes and gifts.
  • Neue / Alte Schönhauser Straße (Mitte): A slightly more traditional shopping area with international stores and brands like Weekday, & Other Stories and Doc Martens, mixed with some local shops and cafés. But hey, better than a mall!
  • Bergmannstraße (Kreuzberg): Popular street taking you through the “other side” of Kreuzberg, less gritty and with nice architecture and many small side streets, restaurants, cafés, a market hall and independent local shops.
  • Weserstraße (Neukölln): Although Neukölln is considered one of the hippest districts, its appeal is definitely less obvious compared to Kreuzberg or Friedrichshain. This street is a nice intro and has several cool bars and restaurants. I sometimes take tourist friends for a “Späti” (kiosk) tour through the area: grab a drink for the way (see notes on drinking below) and walk along to the next Späti (there are many).
  • Kurfürstendamm (Charlottenburg): Also called “Ku’damm”, this historic boulevard is probably the most famous and touristy street. Likely more of a sightseeing experience, because shopping-wise, it’s mostly big brands and chains, tourist shops and luxury fashion (think Dior and Hermès).

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. Keep an eye on the red areas on the map where parking isn’t allowed, and always park your scooter next to the sidewalk and out of the way of pedestrians.
  • 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. They can even pick up prescriptions for you, although I haven’t tried that. (Note that unlike in the US, medication is not sold in regular drug stores, only in pharmacies.)
  • 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. Cannabis is legal from April 1, 2024, with certain restrictions, so if you’re interested in that, make sure to check online for the latest rules, and don’t buy anything from random people trying to sell it to you in the parks.
  • 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 →