Where should you stay in Berlin?

So you’ve bitten the bullet and made the plunge and booked that dream trip to Berlin. The flights are booked, the transfer to the airport arranged, you have a list of things to do, however, you haven’t booked a hotel yet, as you do not know where is best. With this guide, we’ll answer the question of where you should stay in Berlin.

The Neighbourhoods

Berlin has a vast array of neighbourhoods. The city administratively is broken down into 16 districts but within those districts, there are little neighbourhoods known in Berlin as a Kiez.

A Kiez used to be, a very long time ago, a way of denoting an area within the governance of a local palace or castle. However, it has changed much over the years. It once was a derogatory word for people who lived in remote areas, but by the early 20th century this had started to change.

In Berlin, the Kiez became areas controlled by the rivalling Ringverhein or gangs that controlled prostitution, drugs and other things of an illicit nature. However, after the second world war, the name started to become more beloved and more used. By the 1990s more and more areas were being affectionately called a Kiez. Today Berlin is awash with them.

Prenzlauer Berg

Buildings in sunshine
Prenzlauer Berg

Prenzlauer Berg is one of Berlin’s most beautiful districts. However, with the beauty gentrification has also followed.

The streets of Prenzlauer Berg are beautiful and narrow. The buildings decorated with lavish ornamentations. Doorways are grand. There are rooftop apartments and bars. Cafes and restaurants that cover every ground floor frontage. Food from around the world.

Prenzlauer Berg was once part of East Berlin. Only thirty years ago the streets were darker, the buildings painted in the cheapest colours that could be produced, and little in options of eating the foods from anywhere outside of the Soviet Union’s influence. But then the wall fell.

When the Berlin wall fell, money flooded into Prenzlauer Berg, EU money. The buildings whose facades were crumbling were restored, colour was splashed and quickly Prenzlauer Berg became the destination for the middle class of Berlin’s growing transient nature.

Today Prenzlauer Berg is a wonderful place to stay. The streets are clean and public transport access is excellent, with U-Bahn, S-Bahn and trams the city is easily accessible.

Where to stay: Kollwitzkiez
Hotel Suggestion: Hotel Oderberger
A place to drink: Metzer Eck for a classic Berlin Kneipe
To Eat: Lucky Leek for some vegan food
What to do: Berlin Wall Memorial Park, and on a weekend Mauer Park Flohmarkt.

Friedrichshain

Sunset on Berlin

Friedrichshain is what Prenzlauer Berg was ten years ago. The streets are still clean and safe to walk yet there is an air of the grungier to it. Street art still adorns many walls and the bars are not as bright and shiny as they are in Prenzlauer Berg.

Friedrichshain should be the choice for someone who wants to experience life in the city. It still is very central with excellent public access with the U5 line and central S-Bahn lines. There are interesting pockets to explore like the old train yards at RAW Gelände. There are bars with music and small cabaret shows, excellent places to dine, and history surrounding you.

Friedrichshain was once the workers’ district of the city. A densely populated area of narrow streets and the old Grosse Frankfurter Straße running through it. However, the British RAF bombing targeted the people of Friedrichshain as the workers rather than the factories. The factories could be rebuilt, the people could not be reborn. Thus a large portion of Friedrichshain was laid to waste.

After the war was over, the Communists were in control. The East German communists wanted to show to their master Stalin how great German socialism would be thus they began construction of the great Karl-Marx-Allee boulevard where the Große Frankfurter Allee used to stand. Buildings in a soviet neo-classical style rose high above the remaining sections of the old district. Stalin, however, died shortly after construction began, but today the street is still magnificent to wander along, rivalling anything in Kyiv, Warsaw or even Moscow.

Where to stay: Boxhagener Platz
Hotel Suggestion: AirBnB is your best bet
A place to drink: Primitiv
To eat: For brunch, Homemade on Simon-Dach Straße, for dinner Portofino (Italian) on Guebener Straße.
What to do: Stasi Headquarters Museum

Kreuzberg

Kreuzberg Street Art

Now we are in West Berlin. Kreuzberg was where the German youth went to escape military service during the Cold War. It was the home to punks, rockers, and those who existed out of the throws of society. Today Kreuzberg is at the heart of the gentrification issues that surround Berlin.

In the West, the streets aren’t clean and street art is even more present than in Friedrichshain. The streets are busier with cars and a louder more enveloping atmosphere hangs in the air. However, pockets of calm and beauty still exist. Which is why we recommend Graefer Kiez as a Berlin neighbourhood to stay in.

Situated near the Landwehrkanal Graefer-Kiez is one of the few beautiful pockets of West Berlin.

At the end of the Second World War Berlin was in ruins and divided in two. In the West the new German government paid the owners of the surviving buildings to destroy the ornamentation of the apartment blocks, to flatten the facades and remove the traces of Berlin’s once grandly displayed imperial past. In the East, the ornamentations predominantly stayed. Yet Graefe-Kiez was an exception to the West German government.

The buildings have been restored beautifully. On a frosty winter’s morning or a bright summer’s day, the streets are wonderful to walk through. Cobblestones pave the roadways and pavements are wide. In the summer sit out with the people of Berlin on the Admirals brücke or in the winter cosy into one of the many cafes.

However, if you do decide to stay in this area, be aware that public transport is not the best. The U8 station Schönleinstraße should be avoided. So we highly recommend making use of the excellent ride-sharing app in Berlin called Berlkönig to get around. You can find out more from the website here, and pay using PayPal.

Where to stay: Graefe-Kiez
Hotel Suggestion: AirBnB
Where to drink: Weserstraße nearby has numerous bars
Where to eat: Datscha Kreuzberg (Russian inspired food)
What to do: Check out the Turkish market on Maybachufer for some delicious food bites.

Mitte

Statues by the side of a river

Mitte is the historical heart of Berlin. It was where the city began around 800 years ago and where the beautiful palaces, museums and squares are located, not least to mention the Brandenburger Tor.

Here the streets are once again clean and the buildings grand. You can walk the boulevards where the Electors and Kings of Prussia, Napoleon, the German Emperors and Hitler once walked or drove. Purchase the three-day museum pass and pop in and out of the many different museums of Berlin.

Enjoy a concert, opera or light show at one of the many theatres. Discover the hidden cocktail bars and delight in interesting food (sometimes obnoxiously presented).

However, if you are looking for the spirit of Berlin, this is not the district. When the stores shutter at 7 the streets will empty. In the evening you’ll not find any locals, and nightlife you will have to travel for but Berlin is easy to navigate by Public transport so don’t think you have to stay close, there is always more waiting for you one district over.

Where to stay: Near Unter den Linden
Hotel Suggestion: Any of the Grand hotels will make your stay wonderfully comfortable.
Where to drink: Drayton Bar (Hidden down the service entrance to the Westin Grand).
Where to eat: Borchardt, there is no finer Schnitzel in Berlin.
What to do: Walking Tour (our Berlin Highlights Tour is our recommendation) and Museums.

Charlottenburg - Wilmersdorf

West Berlin road with traffic

One of the larger administrative areas of Berlin Charlottenburg – Wilmersdorf encompasses much. But the main area is the area around Breitscheidplatz.

Breitscheidplatz is a name many wouldn’t recognise, not even under its old name of Queen-Louise-Platz. However, it would be known when people say West Berlin or Ku’Damm.

If you think of the 1920s in Berlin this is the area. It was the heart of the expansion of the city westward at the end of the 19th Century, it was grand and lavish. Apartments were for the wealthy and the cafes that lined the streets were for the people wanting to showoff in their finest garbs even on the chilliest of winter days.

Much has changed since those days. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is a bombed-out ruin left as a reminder of the devastation of war on a civilian population, much of the grandeur of old has gone and been replaced with towers that touch the sky. But West Berlin has merely adapted.

From the magnificent department store of KaDeWe, to the alternative Bikini Berlin building or the Zoo there is something to do. Wander the Ku’damm the grand shopping street of Berlin, stop for a coffee at Reinhards, take a cocktail in the numerous speakeasies or plump yourself with the magnificent options of restaurants. There is also a plethora of Hotels to choose from.

Where to stay: Near Breitscheidplatz
Hotel Suggestion: The Zoo or Waldorf Astoria would be our recommendations.
Where to drink: Hildegard Bar for a Cocktail, or Zwiebelfisch for a Berliner Local.
Where to eat: Marjellchen (I’ve recommended it before and I’ll recommend it again, good honest food).
What to do: Shop! KaDeWe is your friend here, its Berlin’s largest department store.

With these recommendations we hope we have inspired within yourself some ideas of where to stay in Berlin. Berlin is a city of many districts, and many different atmospheres. There is always something more to explore in Berlin.

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