A cast of creative people, including a magazine editor and a chef, share their favorite places to eat, drink, shop and play.
Berlin has long been the world capital of the underground. It’s a city where artists, musicians, writers and misfits can find — and afford — a home and studio space somewhere within its massive 344 square miles (for perspective, that’s about nine times the size of Paris). These days, though, the German capital is known as much for its tech start-ups, cutting-edge restaurants and beautifully designed hotels as for its avant-garde electronic music and gritty art scenes. Here, six locals share their favorite spots.
Founder and Editor in Chief, 032c Magazine
“This is a modern Japanese restaurant by the local culinary mogul The Duc Ngo, and it’s absolutely addictive,” says Koch of this discreet, easy-to-miss Japanese- and Peruvian-influenced restaurant in the former West Berlin neighborhood of Charlottenburg. Look for the neon sign — it’s the only indicator that a restaurant lies behind the mirrored, graffiti-covered walls. One of Berlin’s highest profile restaurateurs, Ngo also runs the popular spots Kuchi, Madame Ngo and Cocolo Ramen. The menu at 893 Ryotei includes a selection of sushi and sashimi that’s widely considered the best in the city. Kantstrasse 135, 893ryotei.de.
“It’s a super old-school, West Berlin art-crowd restaurant with classic French brasserie food,” says Koch. “But the main attraction is the atmosphere and the art on the walls,” which includes works by the German painters Martin Kippenberger and Daniel Richter. Since its opening in 1950, Paris Bar has been a hangout for celebrities and creative types, from Madonna and Claudia Schiffer to Robert Rauschenberg and Damien Hirst. Kantstrassee 152, parisbar.net.
Buchhandlung Walther König
Stacks of massive art, design, photography and fashion books line the walls of Walther König, which also stocks hard-to-find style magazines and journals. “Next to Museum Island in Mitte, it’s one of the greatest art bookstores in the world,” says Koch. There’s also a collection of rare, out-of-print and first-edition books and catalogs, locked within a glass cabinet. Burgstrassee 27, buchhandlung-walther-koenig.de.
Even in a city known for experimental art spaces, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler stands out, “with its cutting-edge sensibility,” says Koch. The Kreuzberg gallery, founded by Amadeo Kraupa-Tuskany and his partner, Nadine Zeidler, represents artists from around the world, including the Beijing-based sculptor Yu Honglei and the New York-based multimedia artist Andrea Crespo. Kohlfurterstrasse 41/43, k-t-z.com.
This Brutalist building, formerly a church and originally designed by the German architect Werner Düttmann, and completed in 1967, was bought by the gallerist Johann König in 2015. It’s now home to König Galerie gallery and the 032c magazine offices and store. Visitors can “drop by and say hi,” says Koch. Alexandrinenstrasse 118-121, koeniggalerie.com.
In the buzzy and gentrified former East German neighborhood Mitte, Civilist is a “classic skate shop,” says Koch. “No frills, but a wonderful hangout space.” Opened in 2009 by the skaters and magazine producers Alex Flach and Andreas Hesse, the store carries brands like Palace Skateboards, Norse Projects and Quartersnacks, as well as its own label, which makes logo-emblazoned cotton caps, retro tube socks, screen-printed T-shirts and hoodies. Brunnenstrassee 13, civilistberlin.com.
“A cafe, furniture store and luxury fashion in a grand setting” is how Koch describes The Store, which occupies 30,000 square feet of the ground floor of the private members club Soho House Berlin. Developed by the London-based creative director Alex Eagle, it’s a popular hangout for freelancers tapping away on laptops, as well as shoppers looking for their fix of groovy furniture or clothing by Jil Sander and Ann Demeulemeester. Torstrasse 1, thestores.com.
Owner, Aptm Gallery and Event Space
This neighborhood haunt is “easy for breakfast, lunch or a snack,” says Glass. “The minimalist design feels like you’ve left Berlin for a moment to sip a flat white in Bushwick or Camps Bay in Cape Town.” Located in Mitte, the cafe is also known for its excellent carrot cake and quiches. Münzstrassee 8, oliv-cafe.de.
Built on the dance floor of a former nightclub in Mitte, this German-Mediterranean restaurant serves up delectable cocktails as well as dinner. “It takes a minute to find this one, but the search is worth it,” Glass says. “The food is simple, refined and modern.” Standout dishes include grass-fed grilled lamb with tzatziki and olives, and baked aubergine with hummus, smoked almonds and pickled peppers. Friedrichstrassee 158, crackersberlin.com.
Opened last year in a 1905 carriage house in the up-and-coming Wedding neighborhood, Glass’s store, gallery and event space attracts a young, local crowd (the name stands for “a place to meet”). He furnished it like a private home, envisioning it as a gathering place for creative people working in the worlds of art, fashion, food and media. “Whether it’s a dinner party or an afternoon shopping for Moroccan-sourced rugs, it’s a space where something inspiring happens,” says Glass. Lindower Strasse 18, aptm.berlin.
On the ground floor of an apartment building in Mitte, this flower shop has a loyal local following for its variety of blooms and knowledgeable staff. “I tempt myself at least once a week with a stop in,” says Glass. “The space is not only full of beautiful seasonal flowers, but all sorts of vintage furniture, jewelry and vases.” Charlottenstrasse 75, marsano-berlin.de.
The architect Patricia Urquiola designed this hotel in the former Danish Embassy, near Tiergarten, the city’s biggest and most visited park on Berlin’s west side. “I love what she’s done with the public areas, mostly because of the elegant yet playful way the interior nods to the Berlin zoo, just outside the hotel’s walls,” says Glass. Drakestrassee 1, das-stue.com.
Museum für Fotografie/Helmut Newton Foundation
A few months before his death in 2004, the provocative German photographer Helmut Newton founded this museum in a former Prussian officers’ casino. On view at the institution are works from the collection of the Helmut Newton Foundation as well as a rotation of special exhibitions. An exhibit focusing on the work of the American fashion photographer and painter Saul Leiter and the film director David Lynch debuts on November 30. Jebensstrassee 2, helmutnewton.com.
Chef, Kin Dee Restaurant
Part of the Berlin National Gallery, this contemporary-art outpost is located in a former railway terminus. “From Carsten Höller’s psychedelic-themed exhibition (where visitors can stay overnight in the museum with 12 living reindeer) to Anne Imhof’s groundbreaking performance art, Hamburger Bahnhof never disappoints,” says Kambhu. Invalidenstrassee 50-51, smb.museum.
Julia Stoschek Collection
This private collection created by the art patron Julia Stoschek focuses on conceptual video, film projection and computer- and internet-based works spanning the past five decades. “The building’s industrial setting (it was formerly the Czech Cultural Center of East Germany) and unfinished mazelike interiors alone are worth the visit.“It’s a fitting atmosphere for Stoschek’s nonconformist curatorial concepts, which use art to create narratives with social importance,” says Kambhu. Leipzigerstrasse 60, jsc.berlin.
Cafe Einstein Unter den Linden
The landmark-strewn avenue of Unter den Linden is not known as a culinary mecca. This restaurant, an airy oasis beloved for its excellent schnitzel and dapper waitstaff, is an exception. “Chef Sigi (a.k.a. Siegfried Danler) is one of the best in Berlin,” says Kambhu. “I love his duck with red wine cabbage and the knödel (boiled dumplings) with vanilla cream.” Unter den Linden 42, einstein-udl.com.
These pop-ups appear around Berlin at various locations. “If you are lucky enough to visit Berlin while the chef Ash Lee’s ChungKing Noodles pop-up is in town — go!” says Kambhu. “Lee’s spicy, numbing, aromatic and hearty noodles are so addictive, and a testament to Berlin’s currently changing food scene.” Check ChungKing Noodles’s Facebook page for pop-up locations.
“Space 31 looks and feels like an artist’s studio,” Kambhu says of this Charlottenburg performance-and-retail space where you’ll find fashion-centric exhibitions and collaborations between artists, designers and its founder, the fashion designer Nhu Duong. Past exhibitions have included “Body Unconscious,” a curated mix of archival pieces from Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Junya Watanabe; and a capsule collection and listening party for Bao-Tran Tran (a.k.a. Mobilegirl), an electronic music artist. Kluckstrassee 31, space-31.com.
“At this market in Kreuzberg, you can find organic vegetables, fruits, herbs and even flowers from German farms,” says Kambhu. The large, warehouse-style space also hosts events, many of which aim to raise awareness of sustainable nutrition and consumption. There are also organic farming classes and Street Food Thursdays. “I love visiting to see what’s in season, discover new, local German producers and get inspired for my own work.” Eisenbahnstrassee 42/43, markthalleneun.de.
This bar and restaurant used to be a pharmacy, and the interiors from its old life — including apothecary cabinets and old tiled floors — are still intact. It’s a popular dinner spot, with plenty of seasonal dishes like a spring asparagus salad with spinach, radish and scallions. Oranienplatz 14, ora-berlin.de.
Serhat Isik and Benjamin Alexander Huseby
Designers, GmbH Clothing Line
The huge, Nazi-constructed airport straddling the inner-city areas of Neukölln and Tempelhof was closed for many years and has been repurposed as a public park, with areas for sports, dog runs and community gardens. “We use it for daily walks,” Isik says. Tempelhofer Damm.
Hidden away in a backyard in Kreuzberg, this wholesaler of Ayurvedic herbs and spices serves affordable, all-vegetarian thalis (a selection of various Indian dishes on a single plate) for lunch every day. Adalbertstrasse 5-8, cosmoveda.de.
Opened in 1914, the Stadtbad Neukölln public pool was designed by the architect Reinhold Kiehl, and its decorative elements appear much the same as when it opened. “It’s a rather opulent version of your typical German sauna, and like most public baths in Berlin, this one is very clean and well-kept,” says Huseby. Ganghoferstrasse 3, 49-30-68-24-980
Hallmann und Klee
“Deep into Neukölln, this restaurant serves the only properly prepared scrambled and poached eggs in Berlin,” says Isik. The charming space includes vintage-style tables, mismatched chairs and wood plank floors, and is known for its excellent breakfasts. Böhmischestrasse 13, hallmann-klee.de.
A short walk from Tempelhof Field in Neukölln, this tiny and unassuming bakery boasts a wonderful older Danish “backmeister” (baking master). “We live for her straight-out-of-the-oven laugenecke, which is something between a warm, flaky croissant and a salty pretzel,” says Huseby. Schillerpromenade 25, 49-30-62-98-48-46
“We are always a bit nervous about talking about clubs and parties in Berlin, because press can often destroy the underground feel that makes many of these parties special,” Isik explains. Thankfully, Cocktail d’Amore’s huge space and tough door policy means that the party never feels too touristy or overrun, even as it has gained popularity over the years. Each party runs for about 30 hours, from Saturday night to Monday morning, and in the summer, visitors can dance outside next to the Neukölln Canal.” Sonnenallee 221. Check the Facebook page for event dates.
Soviet War Memorial
This staggering monument in Treptower Park commemorates the death of Soviet soldiers at the end of World War II. A pair of massive sculptures of Soviet flags made of red granite sit near the star monument. “The statue itself is of a handsome hunk holding a child and sword while stepping on a crushed swastika. Subtle,” says the Huseby. Puschkinallee, Treptower Park.
Co-Founder, Sprüth Magers Gallery
Known for its coffee, the Barn also serves a variety of equally perfect teas, juices, cakes and sandwiches, and is a magnet for the neighborhood’s upwardly mobile locals, who come here to meet friends and kill time. Owner Ralf Rüller, a former investment banker, “is the ultimate coffee perfectionist, and his delicious croissants are so in demand that they can only be bought two at a time, to prevent them from running out too quickly,” Magers says. Auguststrasse 58, thebarn.de.
A must-see for history and architecture aficionados, this wide boulevard was conceived by the architect Hermann Henselmann, and is where the East German government used to conduct their annual parades. “It was a present from the Soviet government and is wide enough to easily run tanks through,” she says. It’s also a well-kept example of Stalinist architecture, with building facades completely covered in porcelain tiles manufactured in Meissen.
Le Petit Royal
Magers’s favorite dishes at this Charlottenburg spot include the fennel salad, the lobster bisque and the organic steak. “Jeanne Tremsal, who runs the place, is the most wonderful hostess in Berlin,” Magers says. “She’s also an actress and knows everything that is culturally happening in this city, and can give good advice to the art savvy customer.” Grolmanstrasse 59, lepetitroyal.de.
Ernst was conceived by the 23-year-old Canadian chef Dylan Watson-Brawn, who began his career at 17, apprenticing in Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo, as well as Noma in Copenhagen and Eleven Madison Park in New York City. “He’s been running a supper club in his Wedding apartment for two years,” says Magers. “It seats only 12 and is a truly wonderful experience.” Gerichtstrassee 54, ernstberlin.de.
This Charlottenburg furniture shop specializes in midcentury design. “Hans-Peter Jochum and Jett Rodgers sell the best modern furniture in town and are the most knowledgeable people when it comes to design,” Magers says. “It is wonderfully entertaining to talk to them.” When you’re done shopping, head next door to Espressobar, an excellent bakery and cafe for post-browsing refreshment. Mommsenstrassee 3, jochumrodgers.de.
“Many restaurants in Berlin claim to serve the best schnitzel,” Magers says of the fried, thin veal cutlet that’s one of Germany’s most famous dishes. “But Engelbecken is actually the best — and it’s organic. The pork roast (also organic) is a must-try, as well. It’s usually crowded, so best to make a reservation.” Witzlebenstrasse 31, engelbecken.de.