Unveiling Berlin: Key Tips for a Genuine Local Experience

Updated on 11 Aug 2023

Embarking on a journey to Berlin? Get ready to submerge yourself in the deep and diverse culture of this historically enriched city. Berlin boasts a unique mixture of yesteryears, the present, and the future. Whether you’re attracted to its tantalizing cuisine, remarkable landmarks, or the eclectic street art, there’s something for everyone. However, to truly appreciate its charm, you need to be mindful of a few key things. This guide will help you maneuver around Berlin like a local and help you bypass the typical tourist clichés.

Choosing the Right Accommodation in Berlin

Das Stue Berlin
Source: SO/ Berlin Das Stue

Each district in Berlin has its unique flair, and your choice of accommodation can significantly influence your experience. Consider these top picks:

  • Soho House Berlin: This modern, stylish hotel nestled in one of Berlin’s most fashionable districts is a magnet for the artistic and creative crowd.
  • Das Stue: Looking for serenity amidst nature? You’ll find this hotel near Tiergarten just right. It’s great for business travelers and offers rooms with stunning views of the neighboring zoo.
  • Casa Camper: Located in the Jewish Quarter, this hotel is perfect if you love offbeat and unusual accommodations. Enjoy the stunning rooftop view and the all-day complimentary snacks.

Avoid hotels in areas dominated by commercial franchises like Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts unless you’re in a city like New York where these are a part of the local scene.

Exploring Berlin

Berlin is a city waiting to be discovered. Here’s what to do:

  • Cuisine: Relish the famous currywurst paired with a Gessner Cola, the local take on Coke. Explore local bakeries and coffee shops, or unwind at one of the city’s numerous Biergartens. Don’t forget to sample Turkish kebabs – an homage to the city’s significant Turkish community.
  • Landmarks: Walk beneath the Brandenburg Gate, contemplating its historical relevance. Visit the Holocaust Memorial, and remember to behave respectfully. Examine the Berlin Wall remnants, featuring artworks from 1990. Visiting the Reichstag and the Reich Chancellery is also worthwhile.
  • Cycling: Hire a bike to explore the city’s local neighborhoods, parks, and museums. Berlin is known for its bike-friendly culture, enabling you to take in the city at your own pace.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

Cycling in Berlin
Source: Lonely Planet

Avoid certain pitfalls to make your Berlin experience more memorable:

  • Checkpoint Charlie: Despite its historical significance, it’s now heavily commercialized and crowded. You’ll find it filled with fast-food chains, making it far from the original atmosphere it once held.
  • Driving: Opt for the city’s efficient public transport or hire a bike. Driving might detach you from experiencing the city’s lively pulse.
  • Stereotyping: Berlin is a cultural melting pot. Stereotyping Germans might come across as offensive. However, the laid-back Berliners might just shrug it off with, “We’re Berliners.”

Discovering the Real Berlin

Beyond the usual historical sites, the true spirit of Berlin lies in its less explored corners. Make sure to investigate the bohemian districts, street art murals, and converted nightclubs into artists’ spaces.

The Jewish Quarter is particularly worth visiting. Discover unique coffee shops, enjoy delicious Pfannkuchen and Berliner (a type of jelly doughnut), and don’t miss Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind.

Additionally, move beyond the mainstream shopping centers and explore the side streets around Mitte and the Jewish Quarter. Instead of flashy high-end brands, you’ll find Berlin celebrates unique art and cool design.

Lastly, witnessing the striking contrast between the WWII-affected areas and the post-communist reconstructed structures provides a deep insight into Berlin’s resilience and its continuous self-renewal. 

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