Berlin was so much more than I expected and two weeks later, I’m still feeling buoyed by all the great design and creativity I saw. I hadn’t been there in 26 years(!) so I did a lot of research and planning beforehand and we ended up having one of the most fun trips in recent memory.
Going forward, I’m going to try and share more of my travel finds and experiences here on the blog. For a long time, I felt that if I can’t cover every aspect of a destination, it’s not worthwhile. (Perfectionist tendencies rearing its ugly head again.) But I’ve also been feeling like it’s a shame not to share all this good information. So I’m going to try and devote more time to putting together these Travel Tips FROM THE RIGHT BANK with the understanding that they’re not meant to be complete guides. (There are certainly more than enough places on the web for basic information on any destination anyway.)
So, Berlin. First and foremost, let’s discuss our hotel. Das Stue. Like the city itself, it far exceeded my expectations and don’t you just love when that happens? I’ve been a fan of Patricia Urquiola’s designs for a very long time but after experiencing Das Stue, it’s on a whole other level. The design was so flawless I really could have spent the entire week holed up in the hotel and I would have been happy. Have a look around…..
Around every corner, it was perfection.
But I did leave the hotel long enough to take in some of the sights, to shop and of course, to eat…..
There was a heat wave in most of Europe the week we were there but it was worth suffering the heat to see the Reichstag (she’s a beauty) and we did a quick walk by the Brandenburg Gate and the Wall Memorial.
We spent another very hot (100 degrees!) afternoon walking the length of the East Side Gallery, which is made up of the remnants of the former Berlin wall now covered in some great art.
Our hotel was on the edge of Tiergarten, a huge garden that’s really lush and full of shady trails and lakes. Picture Central Park with a lot more mature trees and a lot less people and that’s the Tiergarten. Peaceful and lovely.
Kreuzberg (Little Istanbul) is full of small cafes, restaurants and shops. I found my favorite shop of the trip there – VooStore – as well as the very quirky Museum of Things.
Checkpoint Charlie is probably the most touristy spot in Berlin but It think it’s a fascinating part of German history and worth a quick visit.
The Helmut Newton Foundation houses the iconic fashion photographer’s personal effects and exhibitions of his work as well as other photographers. On my visit, there were two great exhibits of Willy Maywald and Frank Horvat. If you’re an architecture buff like me, you’ll also want to visit the Bauhaus Archiv which is nearby.
I wanted to check out the design of the Michelberger Hotel so we ducked in for a drink one afternoon. It has a nice laid back, hipster vibe like much of the Friedrichshain neighborhood.
Mitte is the buzziest area by all accounts and one of the areas you’ll want to visit to see contemporary art. There are numerous galleries on and off of the main drag, Augustrasse, where you’ll also find the Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art (KW). I also recommend two wonderful shops there: Gestalten Space, a concept store and Hut up which makes the most beautiful clothes from just felt, soap and water (no thread!). The Hackische Market also has cute little shops, most with a local focus.
Not pictured, I also did some damage at KaDeWe, which you could call the Harrod’s of Berlin. (It was my birthday after all…..) Its claim to fame is that it is the largest department store on the continent and while it didn’t feel that big to me, it certainly had plenty of everything, including a wonderful gourmet food section.
Now let’s talk about the food.
We ate so well! We had some good spatzle, pretzels, currywurst…. all the usual suspects. But the highlights were all the really innovative and novel restaurants that are making the fine dining scene in Berlin really exciting. Oh and the wines! We discovered so many new and interesting wines predominantly from Germany and Austria but also Hungary. The sommeliers at these restaurants are some of the best I’ve met anywhere. They really know what they are doing.
These were the highlights from the week…..
Cinco by Paco Perez. Playful, Cataln-inspired avant-garde cuisine and presentation. Chef Perez happened to be there the night we dined and he was lovely, which is always a plus.
Tim Raue. This was the husband’s favorite restaurant of the trip. Asian-inspired but like nothing you’ve ever had elsewhere and perfect service. I’m still dreaming of the langoustine dish I had.
Paul Saal. Fresh take on traditional German cuisine, pretty terrace/courtyard and the most interesting location inside a former Jewish girls’ school that also houses the oddball Kennedy Museum and a gallery.
Nobelhart & Schmutzig. This one wins for most creative. I can’t even begin to describe it. It’s great food, sourced locally prepared using traditional methods all served from what they call a shared menu. All I can say is if you’re in Berlin, this is one you’ll want to experience.
Horvath. This was not only my favorite of the trip but it goes on my top 10 list for the entire world. (It was that good!) Inventive Austrian cuisine, very friendly service and the best wine pairings we’ve had anywhere in a very long time. I want to get back on a plane just to eat there again.
So there you have it. Again, this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive guide but just the highlights of my own trip so if you have any tips you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments!
P.S. This was the first time I Snapchatted during a trip and it was so much fun. It’s such an easy way to share short video tours and to give you a better feel for places. I’ll definitely be doing more of it on future trips. So join me there if you’d like to see more from my travels – or behind the scenes at home. I’m @fromtherightbnk.
(Photos: FROM THE RIGHT BANK)