I have always had an ‘obsession’ with Germany. I love eating sausages (I know you’re snickering; get your mind out of the gutter, people), I love the language (learning German has been on my to-do list since forever), and I especially love the people with their combined efficiency and dry sense of humour. Perhaps it’s a result of their tragic past that Germans are some of the most liberal people I have encountered – in my personal experience, anyway.
In particular, Berlin stole my heart quicker than you can say ‘currywurst’ and it is one of my all-time favourite cities. The running reel of things to do in this grungy city reads like a hipster’s guide to history, counterculture and all-round good times. The locals exude effortless cool, which could be misconstrued as pretentiousness in other places; however, in Berlin it’s as authentic as it gets and the city manages to always stay ahead of the proverbial curve. Berlin dictates the trends as opposed to following them.
So without further ado, here are 8 alternatives things to do in Berlin before they stop being ‘cool’.
1. Explore the Urban Spree
The Urban Spree is a large artists’ collective made up of industrial warehouses housing exhibitions and workshops, clubs and concert spaces, cafes and beer gardens and anything else remotely cultural. Located along Revaler Strasse in Friederichschain, the Urban Spree is akin to an arts compound meets adult playground.
2. Get a taste of Istanbul at the Turkish Market
The colourful outdoor Turkish market is situated in the uber-cool, multicultural neighbourhood of Kreuzberg. Street vendors selling traditional Turkish street foods, fresh produce and an assortment of knick-knacks combine with the swarm of locals and tourists to create a vibrant market atmosphere – the closest you’ll get to an oriental bazaar in Berlin. Don’t leave without picking up one of the gözlemes. The Turkish market takes place in Maybachufer on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 am to 6.30 pm.
3. Sing karaoke at Mauerpark
As a self-confessed karaoke fiend, I was completely in my element watching bearpit karaoke in Mauerpark on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Less private-booth karaoke and more of an American-style get-up-and-sing-your-heart-out-in-front-of-strangers affair, bearpit karaoke is a great way to entertain yourself after you’re done scouring for treasures at the flea market stalls in the park. The best part is not the brave and amazing (read: awful) singers, but the warm-up guy who does a fantastic job of revving up the crowd and creating an electric ambiance. Summertime vibes at its best.
4. Ride your bike around an abandoned airport
Ever wanted to ride a bike on an airport runway? Well, take the chance to do so at the former Tempelhof airport turned recreation area. During the warmer months, this venue transforms into a lively public concrete park crammed with cyclists, kite-flyers, skateboarders, rollerbladers and unicyclists zipping around the tarmac. It’s a popular place for locals to gather for a picnic, and there is also an urban garden and dog-friendly areas.
5. Visit a former bunker turned contemporary art gallery
Whether you’re an art aficionado or history buff, or neither, Sammlung Boros, which houses the private art collection of Christian Boros in a converted bunker, is well worth a visit. In line with the general Berlin aesthetic, the exterior of the building is grey and drab; however, inside, the former bunker rooms have been transformed into spaces filled with provocative pieces of contemporary art and intriguing installations. Apart from being formerly occupied by the Red Army and used for prisoners of war, it was also a techno and festish club in the ’90s and there are still traces of the neon paint on the walls from these parties. Sammlung Boros can only be visited through a tour, which take place from Thursday to Sunday, and needs to be booked in advanced through the Sammlung Boros website.
6. Head to a beach bar for summertime vibes
Europe comes alive in the summertime and sunny days are made the most of because, well, European winters are seriously looooong. This especially seems to be the case in Berlin where Berliners approach summer with a whole lot of fervour and zest, which is evident by all of the pop-up beach bars that get packed to the brim as everyone congregates outdoors to soak up some vitamin D. Head to the Badeschiffe (but be prepared to line up to get into the venue and then to get into the pool) to mingle with the trendy set or saunter over to the YAAM beach in Friedrichshain or the Strandbar Sage Beach in Kreuzberg if you’re after some chilled Caribbean vibes.
7. Visit street art heaven
The buildings in Berlin may be grey and cheerless, but it’s the graffiti and street art murals that inject colour and personality into the otherwise bleak architecture. For a particularly concentrated area of graffiti, find the courtyard complex close to the Hackescher Markt where impressive street art covers every inch of the walls and is constantly changing. If you’re there at the right time, you may even come across a street artist working on a new piece. There are also cafes, shops and quirky spaces to wander around in and explore.
8. Go on an alternative Berlin tour
To be shown some of the aforementioned places, join the alternative Berlin tour, where a guide will take you around to local haunts that you may not have stumbled upon otherwise, as well as teach you a thing a two about Berlin’s underground subcultures. We liked the tour so much that we also went on an alternative tour in Amsterdam, but I felt that the Berlin tour was far better and more informative. Alternatively, why not try the Food and Art in Funky Kreuzberg tour with Urban Adventures?
Other alternative things to do in Berlin
Go on an underground tour of the Berlin bunkers.
Sneak into Spreepark, an abandoned amusement park (although I’m not condoning trespassing!).
Eat a burger at Burgermeister, a converted railway toilet block.
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