Today’s Berlin is often compared to New York in the ’80s. There’s the clash of cultures, a sense of warp-speed transformation, and above all a pronounced streak of confidence, perhaps even arrogance. But cheap rents, cheap beer and cheap Club-Mate keep the creative class thriving.
None of this, of course, is a secret, and today the city is a major point of pilgrimage for the international party crowd, lured by mayor Klaus Wowereit’s famous quote, “Berlin is poor, but sexy.”
If you want to fit in at the party, the young Berliner’s traditional posture is one of cool indifference — a hard look to pull off when you’ve just scored a room at Ku’Damm 101 or the Sir F.K. Savigny for a third of what you’d pay in another of the world’s culture capitals. There’s no catch: both places have central locations and comfortable, stylish rooms. For a more residential take on the city’s low-rent, high-style spirit of hospitality, there’s the Bleibtreu; it’s a favorite breakfast spot for locals, and you can freshen up your room with some flowers from the on-site florist, an unexpected luxury at such an inexpensive hotel.
Another way to get a dose of flora without peeling the last euro from your wallet: head to the city’s parks and lakes. The mere rumor of a few rays of sun will have Berliners pouring into Mauerpark or the Monbijoupark, where the Amphitheater offers entertainment like free evening dance classes. Stay cool by grabbing some ice cream at Paletas — or stay on budget by getting your fill of samples at Markthalle 9. On cooler, rainier days, try Prince Charles, a former indoor pool that’s been turned into a bar, or peer inside the containers at Platoon Kunsthalle to see some contemporary art.
The iconic Turkish Market (Türkenmarkt) is another low-cost, iconic Berlin experience. It’s home to some of the best Turkish food outside of Turkey. Mustafas Gemüse Kebap is a locals’ favorite, partly because it’s delicious, and partly because three euros will keep you full all day long — or at least until the gates of the Bite Club open. Food trucks are still somewhat of a novelty in Berlin, but you’d hardly know it at Bite Club, where they’re gathered to feed a hip, hungry crowd by the banks of the Spree. A few coins buy a meal accompanied by a live DJ set.
Finally, relaxing next door at Badeschiff and watching the Nhow Berlin’s façade glow red in the day’s last light, it’s safe at last to strip yourself of that cool indifference. There’s no use feigning it anyway; a scene like this is just gonna melt it away.
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