The Alternative Berlin Guide

In the European epicenter of cool, instead of just buying a brilliantly faked piece of The Wall try to explore the alternative Berlin.

Creative spirits, cheap booze, and despite those two things, a totally functional economy. Berlin has something for everybody. But first, here’s the deal about Berlin: the city has no city center. While everybody thinks that it’s Alexanderplatz, they couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, Berlin was never a real city. It is a conglomeration of smaller settlements that made Berlin what it is today.

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The East Side Gallery is something you just have to see in Berlin anyways. Take a glimpse of the famous Bruderkuss or Fraternal kiss graffiti and go for a stroll along the river. From there you can see better the Oberbaumbrücke Bridge, which formerly marked the border between East and West.

Skip the selfie-farm at Check Point Charlie and Unter den Linden, where Germans dress as US Army soldiers and pose for pics. Head to the Bernauer Strasse memorial instead. It’s the last piece of really preserved Berlin Wall, complete with border fortifications, a viewing tower and tons of info.

One of the most photographed places after the Bruderkuss is the Holocaust Memorial. Designed by Eisenman Architects, at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews people can grasp “what loneliness, powerlessness and despair mean”.

Revisit the dark past at the Topography of Terror, one of the most popular, but interesting museums.
It’s an information-based museum, meaning that you’ll get to read a lot. You’ll be surprised at how disconnected we all are sometimes about the horrors and terrors of World War II. The Topography of Terror offers an amazing permanent exhibition that details the life of the Gestapo and the SS.

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Check Point Charlie
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The Wall
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The Holocaust Memorial
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The Holocaust Memorial


Berlin has so much interesting museums to choose from. In alternative to Museuminsel, visit the Haburger Bahnfhof Museum. The museum’s name refers to the building’s original function as one of the first terminal stations of the rail system in Germany. Since 1987 it is Berlin’s most important exhibition space dedicated exclusively to contemporary art from the 1950s to the present. The best of all was Julian Rosefeldt’s new film installation Manifesto: 13 films running in parallel bring angry, youthful, and amazingly current sounding words to the screen.

The Jewish museum, mostly famous for its building designed by Daniel Liebeskind, displays two millennia of German-Jewish history. Definitely worth a visit.

Visit the Bauhaus Archive if you are interested in architecture and design. A permanent exhibition displays key works from the Bauhaus collection. Unfortunately, one of the best exhibition spaces, Neue Nationalgalerie designed by Bauhaus director Mies van der Rohe, will remain close for another 3 to 4 years for maintenance.

Sign in your agenda Potsdamer Straße, there you can find amazing small bars and galleries such as Blain|Southern.

Topography of Terror

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Jewish Museum, Installation Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) by Menashe Kadishman


The guidebooks suggest that the best city skyline is the one from the TV Tower.  Actually, no. Skip the massive fee they charge for riding the elevator 200 meters up, and instead hike yourself over to Wilmersdorf’s Teufelsberg. Teufelsberg translates as ‘Devil’s Mountain’ and it’s the highest hill in Berlin. It’s a man-made mountain, a spying station built by NSA in the sixties. The place is almost abandoned now, but you can still sneak in.

The Berlin Zoo is one of the largest in Europe and completely worth a visit. But if you want to spend an alternative day outside, visit the Botanical garden. It is one of the top three in the world and well worth a visit even during the winter.

The Hackesche Höfe represent the largest, enclosed courtyard area of Germany once put under a preservation order in 1972. Now is a lavish area with numerous bars, restaurants and clubs. One of the best places is a hidden library – exhibition space on Rosenthaler Straße, by the side of Cinema Café, on the second floor of the building. In order to find it you have to keep your eyes open, there are no signs.

Drive around Berlin in a Trabi. Trabant, or trabi, was East Germany’s standard car for more than 30 years until it no longer met safety standards. Trabi Safari gives you the opportunity to actually drive one while your guide sits in the back and explains the city to you.

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Hackesche Höfe
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Botanical Garden

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A not so alternative must is a burger from Burgermeister just across East Side Gallery. It’s a century old and used to be a public toilet, but try not to think about that.

Check out Street Food Thursdays. Every Thursday, Markthalle Neun transforms into a communal dining area serving dishes from all over the world. Paradise for foodies.

Go to Mauerpark on a Sunday afternoon. The park transforms into a social gathering, where everyone comes to eat, drink and listen to the bands play.

If you love art and food, then Zagreus Projekt is definitely for you. Every other month artists are invited to create a site-specific installation. Then the chef composes a menu inspired by the artwork and serves it at a communal table right in the gallery. Reservations are essential.

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Hackesche Höfe
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Zoologischer Garten Berlin

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the alternative berlin guide nook twelve

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Das Berliner Dom at Festival of Lights 2016

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