During my first trip to Berlin in October, I spent most of my time touring the fascinating museums and taking in the historical sites on a walking tour. For my second trip, my intention was to spend time with my friend, a resident of Berlin, and to see what her and other Berliners did for fun. I have to say, the difference in the moods of the people and the spirit of the city is completely different during the stinging cold winter months and the beautiful breezy summer that Berlin is currently experiencing now. Much more lively, friendly, and full of street markets and music, Berlin is best experienced in milder weather.
Let me say first and foremost, the historical sites are not to be missed. Berlin is fascinating as it played a central role in the Second World War and the Cold War, torn apart and revived repeatedly as a cultural stronghold in Europe. Berlin has recently gained popularity among European graduates and young professionals due to the cheap cost of living and increasingly attractive employment opportunities. The city is vibrant, full of young people, infamous clubs that stay open 24/7, and an increasingly famous contemporary art scene, specifically street art and graffiti.
My friend led me through a park that was brown from the unusual lack of rain and surrounded by tiered cement blocks covered in graffiti. I didn’t know where she was taking me or why, and was a bit skeptical at first, but when we got to the center we arrived at a beautiful and delicious coffee shop overlooking the scene of Gorlitzer Park in Edelweis. On another afternoon we went to the Markt am Maybachufer, a Turkish Street Market, and enjoyed a wonderful picnic on a small river. The market is full of produce, finely made jewelry, spices, dips, breads, music and clothes. You will find the food is a lot cheaper than in most other European cities. One night we headed to the Club der Visionaere, a club open until the late morning, situated on a river with dancing and cheap drinks. It is likely you will be welcomed as a tourist, which isn’t always the case in Berlin when going to a popular spot for locals.
My advice to student travelers is to meet up with a local if possible. If you have a friend, or a friend of a friend, or a friend’s cousin’s friend, definitely contact them as they are your best bet in finding the gems of Berlin, which are mostly hidden away from the constant stream of tourists. If you have no friend in the area, you can easily meet people in your hostel or tour group. You will have a much better time finding things to do and experiencing the city with companions!
Photo credit: Amy Wiener