- Lifestyle & Sports
- 02 May 14
The German capital is Europe's hipster and clubbing hotbed - plus there's lots to see and do after you've been up all night grooving to the hottest DJs
Where is it?
Berlin is Germany’s largest and most densely populated city with a metro population of 4.5 million. It is in the northeast, about 37 miles from the Polish border. Straddling the river Spree, approximately one third of the city’s total area is made up of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes.
How do I get there?
Ryanair and Aer Lingus offer multiple direct flights to Berlin Schönefeld daily. Depending on time of year and proximity to departure date there is a degree of fluctuation in price. Expect to pay between 150 and 200 euro return.
What language do they speak?
As one might expect, German is the language favoured by the vast majority of Berlin’s population. Most Germans under the age of about 40 are also able to speak English with varying degrees of proficiency, though it’s always advisable to have a few key German phrases under your belt to show that you’re at least making an effort.
What’s the local beer like?
First and foremost, plentiful. Pretty much every corner shop in Berlin has a wide selection of beers available 24 hours a day and most establishments reimburse you with a couple of cent for every empty bottle you return for recycling (a model Dublin could sorely do with introducing). Berliners as a whole favour light coloured, crisp pilsners and helles but there is no shortage of variety on offer with most German regions having a signature style of their own. A favourite beer of the locals and certainly one of the tastier ones this writer encountered on his Berlin jaunt was the Munich- brewed Augistiner Helles.
Berlin is at the forefront of the coffee revolution with no shortage of premium coffee shops showing love to the humble bean. In particular, Marienburger Straße’s Café CK is a hub for European coffee culture and a damn fine place to stop in for your daily caffeination requirements. A special mention should also be given to the peculiarly Berlin phenomenon that is Club-Mate, whose 500ml glass bottle will be a familiar sight to anyone with any experience of the Berlin club scene. A caffeine heavy, low-calorie soft drink made from extract of the matte plant, Club-Mate is a favourite amongst late-night revellers looking for a somewhat wholesome means of pulling an all-nighter.
What is the transport like?
Berlin has a remarkably punctual, clean and wide-reaching transport infrastructure. The primary means of transport around the city and its suburbs is the (almost entirely underground) U-Bahn and (mostly overground) S-Bahn rail networks. Aside from putting Irish public transport to shame in terms of reliability, the real ace in the hole for Berlin’s transport network is the fact that the U-Bahn runs 24 hours a day during the weekend.
What’s the food like?
Berlin is one of those cities lucky enough to have a legitimately unquestionable signature dish, the Currywurst. This consists of a steamed then fried pork sausage cut into slices and slathered in a kind of curry flavoured ketchup, before usually being sprinkled with curry powder. One cannot stress enough the omnipresence of the Currywurst in Berlin. You are probably never more than a couple of metres from a Currywurst vendor.
Despite the Currywurst’s total dominance of the Berlin snack market it would be remiss not to mention the grand tradition of kebab eating in Berlin. Thanks to the considerable amount of Turkish migrant workers that were invited by the German government in the ‘60s to help in the continued rebuilding of the city post-World War 2, Berlin’s Kreuzberg district is a mecca for the discerning kebab-fancier.
What’s the nightlife like?
The German capital has one of, if not the, best club scenes in the world. The absence of closing times, saturation of world class DJs and staggeringly reasonable prices all assist in no small part in making Berlin’s nightlife so remarkable. The secret ingredient might just be the city’s own brand of “do whatever you want as long as it’s not bothering anybody else” supportive indifference that characterises not only the club scene but the Berlin experience as a while. This whole guide could have been made up of nightclub recommendations but if there were only opportunity to draw particular attention to one special case it would have to be Friedrichshain’s Berghain.
Since opening in 2004, Berghain has been almost universally recognised as the single most significant location in techno music and on arrival it becomes immediately apparent just why that is. The club is housed within a monumentally huge, disused power plant, with the main dance floor having enough room to accommodate approximately 1500 guests.
Berlin is, of course, renowned for its night-life, but what the uninitiated might not realise is that in Berlin “night-life”, so to speak, is not restricted to the night time. “Open-Airs” make up a vital part of electronic music culture in the German capital and are the backbone of the “summer in Berlin” experience.
What are the touristy things to do?
Berliners take their museums seriously – so seriously, in fact, they set aside a whole Island for them. Typically utilitarian in name, “Museum Island” is situated on the Spree in Berlin’s central Mitte district. There are a total of five museums that generally focus on art and architecture of the 19th century. All host fantastic collections.
Elsewhere, the famed Brandenburg gate and Reichstag parliament buildings are only a stone’s throw from one another and are obviously a must see for anyone with even a passing interest in architecture or twentieth century European history. Only a block south of the Brandenburg gate also stands one of the most remarkable monuments not only in Berlin but also arguably on earth, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
What’s the currency?
The euro, as one might expect, is the currency, though the cost of living is considerably lower than one coming from rip-off Ireland might expect. With an increase in “techno-tourism” there has been a minor rise in the cost of a drink in clubs but, again, it remains noticeably cheaper than pretty much any city-centre bar or club in Cork or Dublin. Public transport is also very reasonable compared to other sprawling cities like London, for example. At every turn Berlin offers you a greater bang for your buck than you would expect from a metropolis of its size.
What’s my challenge?
Go and take a dip. Berliners love their public pools and there is a fine selection of swimming holes of both the indoor and outdoor types dotted around the city. Of the indoor ones perhaps the most impressive is the breathtaking Stadtbad Neukölln. The colossal neo-classical baths was considered Europe’s most spectacular when it was first opened in 1914. Re-opened in 2009 the interiors of the building still ooze old-world grandeur with great Corinthian columns, mosaics, gargoyles, fountains and all other manner of architectural marvels to drink in. On the other end of the spectrum we have Badeschiff. Opened in 2004 and designed by local artist Susanne Lorenz, Badeschiff (Bathing Ship, in English) is a floating swimming pool installed on the banks of the Spree.
When to go?
Christmas Markets are a German tradition under which public spaces are populated with stalls and attractions selling food and drink for the weeks leading up to December 25. The club scene in the German capital is obviously a global frontrunner all year round but the clubs are at their peak during the warmer times of year, with many featuring larger outdoor areas and oftentimes a total abandonment of weekend closing times.