“You know the saying, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere? Well, there’s a saying in Berlin, if you can’t make it here, you can’t make it anywhere.” – My Berliner roommate.
*So I guess I can’t make it anywhere…
As some of you may recall, I fell in love with Berlin during my first visit in May 2018 when I stayed for 6 days. Within those 6 days, I tried to do as much as possible to have the ultimate Berlin experience.
You may have also remembered me heading back in August 2018 on a 1-way ticket, as my previous trip had left me wanting more. I’d felt like I couldn’t put my mind to rest until I returned.
Summer in Berlin! It’s all I'd heard from Berliners during my first visit. “You’re going to miss summer, it’s the best time to be here”, they’d say. Their sentiments stuck with me and fostered even more curiosity about life in Berlin.
I wanted to live like a Berliner- even if it were just for a month or two, so with that, I booked a 1-way ticket, excited to spend the rest of the Summer (and maybe even more) there.
My “move” from Shanghai to Berlin was almost one year ago and lasted 3 months, where I’d spent my time frolicking, learning German and doing what Berliners do best- chill.
That summer turned out to be one of the best of my life, and I get emotional every time I think about it!
My experience there felt like a daily blessing and I would now share some of my “fake Berliner” tips with you. Yes, a year has passed, but I think the chill-factor remains the same!
Feel free to use any of them if you ever venture out to this city- and YOU SHOULD.
So here goes, my guide on how to “chill in Berlin”!
1. The lakes: Summer in Berlin means spending your days at Berlin’s many lakes. I only visited one, Schlachtensee, as I tried to be a good student and focus on my German classes. I visited twice and it was a dream. My favorite thing about my trips to that lake was taking a rowboat out. I even tanned and swam topless once.
I love that nudity is not taboo in Berlin and it’s normal to see people at the lakes sunbathing in their birthday suits with no care in the world. There are even FKK (free body culture) areas for people who just want to feel more one with nature.
2. The parks: Another favorite Berliner activity and definitely one of mine. I frequented a couple and made it a habit of always packing my picnic blanket in whatever bag I used during the day because I couldn’t have resisted buying some cheap wine and unwinding at a park.
Don’t be alarmed if you see butt naked sunbathing friends at the parks as well; remember it’s pretty normal in Berlin. Just chill and maybe even join them, if you dare!
My favorite parks include Mauerpark (on a Sunday), Viktoria Park, Volspark Fredrichstein and Tiergarten.
3. Bikini Berlin: Is a great mall to check out as it’s filled with many stores that stock local designers. I’d never experienced anything like that- a mall seemingly dedicated to independent designers. They also have a nice rooftop where you can chill- of course, with the options of dining or having a drink at the restaurants as well.
4. The art galleries: They’re everywhere. Enjoy!
5. The open-air markets: They usually take place on the weekend and you can find a plethora of things on sale like vintage clothing, furniture, food, jewelry, records and handmade crafts.
6. The Biergartens: I am not a fan of beer, but I somehow got in the habit of having a beer or two whenever I visited a Biergarten. And even now, a year after, I sometimes have a beer in memory of my time in Berlin.
I enjoyed visiting biergartens like, Café am Neuen See, a Biergarten at Tiergarten: I had to make it rhyme! It’s by a canal and you can take a rowboat out for a little spin.
Urban Spree is a bit more than a Biergarten because it's also a gritty/cool art hub that houses an art gallery, clubs, bars and of course, a Biergarten.
Klunkerkanich is more touristy, but this rooftop Biergarten is definitely a place that you should check out at least once. The aesthetic of the venue is artistic, but in a trashy way- probably the vibe they were going for, as are a lot of venues in Berlin. The sunsets are amazing here, so if you’re in Berlin, go, go, go!
7. Ballhaus: One of my most memorable experiences in Berlin was going to Ballhaus. It’s an old building that hosts dance classes, has a restaurant, bar and also a dance floor with a disco ball! At Ballhaus, I experienced what felt like a crazy retro party, that has had me randomly singing “I wanna dance with somebody” for an entire year. I can’t really explain this experience nah, you just have to go!
8. The outdoor cinemas: Ok I failed at this one, which is crazy because it’s the one thing that I really wanted to do in Berlin. There are outdoor cinema venues scattered all over the city and it’s is a great activity to do at night. I still don’t know how I managed to not go to at least one, but I think that it had to do with a combination of my jet lag and mental exhaustion after my German classes.
Oh well, next time!
9. The coffee shops/cafes: There are lots to choose from, with different vibes and great décor, many of them mixed with super stylish Berliners and freelancers- probably working on or with some kind of startup. So get ready to see style and lots of MacBooks.
What do you Fancy Love was hands down my favorite places to get some work done. It’s a bit small compared to other spaces that are more co-working friendly, but it has a vibe, plays lots of Hip-hop and R&B throwbacks, has great juices, desserts, bagels, friendly staff (especially the cute guys haha) and an overall awesome café to people watch!
10. The bars: I didn’t partake in the nightlife scene in Berlin as much (granny vibes). But I’d visited a few bars that deserve special mention-
Meine Bar, a very small but cozy bar. Although it allows indoor smoking (I think it goes with their retro vibe), it’s a great place to relax and have a drink, especially for old souls who love a vintage aesthetic. I felt as though I was transported back in time, from the music to décor and even some of the bar-goers, as their personal style was that of an earlier time.
The radiator was also a vintage one and gave us some entertainment at one point in the night. A guy rested his coat on it and it eventually caught fire, thankfully only his coat suffered a casualty.
Badeschiff: Along the Spree River, there’s a pool, sand, and an outdoor bar. I know a certain person who frequently ditched her German classes to hang out there, but I won’t name names. I guess it’s that awesome!
I also visited a bar called Winerei, which some of you may have read about before. You know, “that bar that allows you to pay whatever you feel like”. Well, first of all, it’s not that simple. You don’t pay whatever you feel like. You first pay 2 Euro as an entrance fee and the event starts at 8:00 pm. You are free to try as many wines as you’d like, but you are told that you should pay based on how many drinks you have, there’s also buffet-style food, in which you are instructed that you should pay 5 euro minimum for the food you consumed.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t check it out; I’m just saying that you shouldn’t go in broke and expect to pay next to nothing for bottomless wine and food!
8. The restaurants: There are a plethora of dining options in Berlin, with almost every cuisine that you can think of- I even had Trini food here! It wasn’t that awesome, but the pelau hit the spot.
Berlin is still on the come-up when it comes to brunch, but brunch is life wherever I go. So I was determined to find at least one spot that not only had good décor but also tasty brunch- specifically pancakes and French toast!
It took me some time to find spots in Berlin that offered great and tasty brunch options (Shanghai spoiled me), but after a lot of trial and error and asking real Berliners, I managed to have one or two great meals.
If you must visit one place, I’d suggest ABC, Allans Breakfast Club. Owned by a French guy, who’s spent many years in Australia and now Berlin. This is where brunch is at, especially for a “brunch snob” like me. It was recommended that I try the poached eggs option as well as the French toast and let’s just say that those two dishes were so good that I couldn’t believe what was happening in my mouth.
Berlin has now become ‘vegan heaven” and I enjoyed many vegan dishes and drinks during my time there. My favorite spot for a vegan meal was a Vietnamese restaurant called Quy Nguyen.
LaLucha is a great spot for Mexican. It’s located along Paul Linke Ufer in Kreuzberg and seems to always be packed. The vibe is nice and the food is a great twist on modern Mexican. The chicken tacos were like none I’ve ever had- in the best way possible! GO!
I’d also suggest that you check out Admiralsbrucke, which is along the way. It’s a great way to experience pure Berliner street vibes. Grab a beer from a nearby corner store, and join everyone else on the street. Chill, listen to live music and watch the sunset.
Guys, this “guide” is just the tip of the iceberg, but I think it’s a good place to start. If you’d like to read more of what I love about Berlin, check out my previous blog post. Also, feel free to suggest any other spots that I should check out during my next stint there!
Before I leave, here are a few more quick tips on how to enjoy Berlin, Berliner style!
There’s so much shit to do here yall, I can’t even.
BERLIN I love you, maybe one day I’ll make you my home for real #nobullshit