New Year’s in Berlin – part II
So to follow my first impressions and part I post, here’s the nitty gritty of what to see, do and eat in Berlin.
What to see
If you’re planning on heading to Berlin for New Years, it’s best to allocate a few days to sightseeing, depending on what you want to see. For me, I wanted to keep it light and simply walk around and explore the east of Berlin, rather than hit up all of the tourist areas and museums. I did make it to the Brandenburg Gate on New Year’s Day, but it’s not really worth going to unless you’re going on a walking tour. If you do just one touristy thing though, make it the Berlin Wall. We headed to the stretch where the East Side Gallery is, where the east side of the wall doubles as an art gallery while the west side is haphazardly covered in Graffiti. Even if you can’t make to the wall, street art and graf is everywhere in the east.
Where to stay:
Considering I’d never been to Berlin and the friend I was travelling with hadn’t been in years, we really fluked our accommodation. Even more so considering we booked at the last minute. After a bit of research I decided on an Air BnB apartment in Mitte and it truly was the perfect spot to stay in. Not only was the price fantastic value but the area would have to be the best to stay in Berlin. We were able to walk pretty much everywhere, especially for nightlife and restaurants. While an Air BnB place might not be suited to everyone, I would also recommend the Hotel Ibis located across the road as well as the Circus Hostel, located at the major intersection nearby. For something a little more trendy, I loved the look of Casa Camper, an uber cool boutique hotel found just nearby.
Where to eat and drink:
For our first night in Berlin we hit up the iconic White Trash Fast Food joint, just a short walk from where we were staying. It might sound strange to have American food in Berlin, but trust me, this place is the cat’s pyjamas and a great introduction to the wonderfully eclectic east Berlin scene. DO be sure to book ahead as this place is always busy and be sure to leave room for dessert – the sundae’s will blow your mind. DON’T after a shot of tequila and two cocktails start thinking about what you would get if you were to ever get a tattoo – there’s a tattoo parlour dangerous located onsite.
The next morning we enjoyed a buffet breakfast Berlin style at the cheap and chic Berlin Theke. Not your usual eggs and bacon buffet breakfast of course, the buffet here was more like something you might catch Gwyneth Paltrow faux laughing beside. Yes hunni, Berlin is all about the cheese and cold meats and boiled eggs. My my!
This photo was taken just downstairs from where we were staying with the uber popular bar Cosmic Kaspar on the right. Whatever time of day we were walking passed, it was also packed. On New Year’s Day morning there was also a drag queen manning the door so that’s always a plus too. Well worth stopping by for a cocktail.
If you’re looking for something more urban, then Yaam is about as urban as I think you’re going to get. We magically stubbled upon it when walking back from the East Side Gallery part of the Berlin wall and were utterly amazed. Part skate park, market, bar and outside dance floor, this colourful Jamaican themed area is the movie Cool Runnings personified. Wonderfully vibrant and charming and yet strangely out of place.
For New Year’s Eve celebrations, or Silvester as they call it in Germany, we walked from our apartment to Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg, stopping off along the way for some food and shots. While the walk wasn’t far, it was a little freaky with firecrackers and fireworks were being set off EVERYWHERE! I look back and giggle now but our squeals at the time were very much from tipsy fear. Expect loud bangs everywhere and it’s good advice not to wear anything flammable – firstly because you’re better than that and secondly, you never know when a firework may be coming at you.
Not being techno fans nor a fan of big crowds we chose to avoid spending the night surrounded by sweaty shirtless gays at super famous Berghain or fighting the crowds to see the fireworks at Brandenburg Gate. Instead we opted to spend it at Kulturbrauerei, a building complex that was originally a brewery and now holds a number of bars and clubs. Our thinking was, the more options the better. And we were right. Not only did the area have a beautiful courtyard and fireworks display, but the plentiful music options gave us a fantastic soundtrack to ring in the New Year. I can’t help but feel like the DJ specifically had me in mind when he played Sean Paul ‘Get Busy’ as the first song of 2014, followed up by Jagged Edge, Biggy, Outkast and pretty much everything else on my iPod. Well played.
The morning after was always going to be a hard one but it was made less so thanks to Barcomi’s in Mitte. Considered to put on one of the best brunches in the city, Barcomi’s is a great place to visit whenever you’re in town. It was made even sweeter though on New Year’s Day when much of the city wasn’t open – not to mention their English menus which made easier thinking while hungover. The hardest part was choosing just what to have. Their pastries are legendary but then again…. cheese. In the end I opted for both sweet and savoury. That’s what a balanced diet is right?
When we were in need of a coffee and sit down before or after a big day our go-to St Oberholz, a cafe located across the intersection. With a happening clientele, design magazines on hand, free wifi and a soundtrack that included LL Cool J and Snoop (once again, who’s been looking at my iPod), it was a perfect spot to people watch and get warm. It doesn’t offer table service though so my advice would be to skip it if it’s busy/your hungover and come back when there’s less of a crowd.
Where to shop:
I wasn’t there for long so shopping wasn’t really a priority for me, but I did spot some fantastic stores. Japanese designers were surpisingly really common to find in Mitte so if you’re looking to stock up on your Japanese denim (below) or Yohji (sold at the Happy Shop, second below), this hood is the place to do it.
If you’re on the hunt for vintage, then Humana is the place to be. We stumbled onto this huge building by accident and when we saw the sight for second-hand we thought it must have been second-hand cars it was so big. You should have seen my face when my eyes realised it was second-hand clothes – like some sort of apparel mirage in the distance. As the size suggests, this is the kind or place you need to dedicate an hour or so to dig for treasure. So if you’ve got the time, it’s worth the wait.