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There’s nowhere quite like Berlin. Sensual, gritty, hip and debauched, it’s a colossal city with a tumultuous back-story. It also has a myriad of different faces: the staunch solidity of the Reichstag, the rainbow melee of its multicultural population, the insistent bass-thump of its numberless nightclubs.
The city is a cosmopolitan, creative hub with a thriving underground pulse. This is not somewhere to cover in one visit. Its history is labyrinthine, its design and food scenes are worlds unto themselves and its hedonistic nightlife is among the best this side of the Atlantic. It’s also one of the most liberal destinations in Europe – there are few taboos left here.
While the locals might have moved on from the past, the scars of war are still visible on some of the most iconic monuments. Sections of the Berlin Wall, which divided the city for nearly three decades, still stand today. There are also plenty of world-class museums documenting life under both the Nazis and the Soviets.
For visitors, today’s Berlin is mostly sought after for its vibrant cultural life. In the early 2000s, cheap rents, widespread squatting and alternative economies in the face of the city’s financial woes gave rise to a generation of home-grown creative types; even former mayor Klaus Wowereit described his city as ‘poor but sexy’.
Gentrification and rising house prices have begun to challenge that. But Berlin still boasts thrilling street art, resident artists of all disciplines, and a strong music scene befitting the one-time home of names such as Lou Reed, David Bowie, Nick Cave and Iggy Pop.
From a tourist perspective, Berlin remains relatively inexpensive – moderate budgets will suffice to eat, drink and sleep well here. The city also offers a kaleidoscope of different culinary cultures, so you can dine on Vietnamese, Japanese and Turkish food as easily as German. The city’s large Turkish community has earned the trendy East Berlin district of Kreuzberg the nickname ‘Little Istanbul’. Legend has it the doner kebab was born here, and takeaway shops selling it can be found on almost every street corner.
With its global gastronomy, stormy history and vivacious subcultures, Berlin is unrivalled in its ability to entertain, asking only one question of its visitors: when are you joining the party?