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Berlin Travel Guide

About Berlin

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 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?

Key facts

Population:
3,712,000
Latitude:
52.516505
Longitude:
13.384800

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Das Stue

Billed as Berlin's first luxury boutique hotel, the none-more-cool Das Stue sits on the southwestern fringe of the Tiergarten park. It's full of grand design touches, while the rooms themselves are modern with hardwood floors. The hotel also plays home to a spa and, in Cinco by Paco Pérez, a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin

Hotel Adlon Kempinski is one of Berlin's great historical hotels, and a magnet over the decades for the rich and famous (including Michael Jackson, who notoriously dangled his baby over one of the balconies in 2002). It's located close to the Brandenburg Gate, and retains the luxurious feel of Europe's golden age.

Soho House Berlin

Part of the Soho House empire, this private club and boutique hotel is based in Mitte, east Berlin's achingly hip heart. The 40 bedrooms vary enormously in price and layout, but all include vintage furniture and quirky features such as record players. Bring your swimmers for the glamorous rooftop pool.

Honigmond Berlin-Mitte

This gem of a hotel is a real find - the building's exterior doesn't suggest its gorgeous combination of period features and swish modernity. The rooms have antiques scattered throughout, and the breakfast is excellent. There's a second property too on a nearby street, in much the same style.

Ritz-Carlton Berlin

Expect the full whistles and bells of an international five-star chain hotel at this sumptuous 300-room property on Potsdamer Platz. Notable features include four restaurants and bars, among them the Tea Lounge, known for its ceremonial afternoon teas. Underground parking is another perk.

Ostel

The prices vary enormously here at this retro showcase for the garish/fabulous interior design of the former East Germany. Part hotel and part museum, this is definitely one of Berlin's more idiosyncratic places to stay; prepare for lots of brown and orange. It's also a stone's throw from techno temple Berghain and the adjacent attractions of hipster Friedrichshain.