Berlin is one of Europe’s most popular cities attracting students, backpackers and expats from all over the world. Being the party capital of Europe, most people put testing the city’s nightlife at the top of their Berlin itinerary. Then there’s the fascinating culture that visitors simply can’t miss; the museums, the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust Memorial, the Brandenburg Gate and more. However, once you’ve ticked off all of the main sights, you need to make time for the more underrated things to do in Berlin: doing what the locals love to do. There’s way more to the German capital than just clubbing and history. The cutting-edge city excels when it comes to innovation and events, the underground scene is epic and the arty landscape makes it one of the hippest cities to visit this year. You just need to know where to go.
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THE COOL COFFEE HANGOUTS
Berlin is famed for its high-quality coffee, something the city is totally underrated for. Just walking around the city you’ll notice plenty of trendy coffee shops and roasteries buzzing with locals stopping by for their caffeine fix. These laid back coffee shops are hot on minimalism, strong on caffeine and brew one hell of a cup of coffee. With all of the Aussie and American expats in the city, this style of contemporary, cool coffee shop has been popping up all over Berlin over the past few years. Head to the coolest coffee shops in Berlin during your trip to experience the city’s hip coffee culture. We recommend Father Carpenter, Distrikt, Chapter One, Companion and The Barn. Expect a strong roasting game and experienced baristas at each!
SWIMMING IN THE SPREE
On hot days in Berlin, it’s tempting to jump into the River Spree to cool down after walking around in the urban heat. But don’t do that - the river is way too polluted and unsafe for that. Instead, just jump into the swimming pool inside the river! Badeschiff is a floating public swimming pool built inside the Spree so that people can cool off and go for a swim in the summer. Pretty cool. So you are technically still swimming in the Spree, just in clean, sanitary water instead. Since Berlin has no seaside, the city brought the seaside to the Spree. Next to the pool, you’ll find an urban beach with sand, a beach bar, sunbeds and a chilled out deck. What more could you want on a hot day than cocktails and a dip in the pool?
THE CITY’S ASIAN FOOD SCENE
Don’t just stick to German food while in Berlin. The city excels at producing worldwide cuisines, particularly when it comes to Asian food. The German capital has some real hidden gems serving up traditional Vietnamese food, Japanese, Thai, Korean and more. Make sure to test some of the best Asian restaurants out while in the city. (which are also affordable) so you can take your tastebuds to Asia.
A BREATH OF FRESH AIR IN GRUNEWALD FOREST
A little out of the city centre on the west side of Berlin lies Grunewald Forest. This beautiful forest is over 3000 acres of lush greenery, the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Berlin. Grunewald Forest makes for the perfect afternoon bike ride and picnic so if you’re an outdoors lover, make sure to take a trip here. About a 35-minute train journey out of Mitte, get lost down the tree-lined paths, climb up the hills and explore the abandoned trails. The forest is home to sparkling lakes where locals swim in the summer or sunbathe. This is a lesser-explored part of Berlin by tourists but we recommend visiting because it’s remained pretty much untouched when the rest of Berlin was urbanised and expanding. The forest does not feel like an urban forest at all, but a real retreat.
EXPLORE THE LIVE MUSIC SCENE
One of the most underrated things to do in the city is to see a live music show. Berlin’s underground music culture is one of the best in Europe with live music events, DJs and shows taking place pretty much every night. If you want to get a real feel of the talented musicians and bands that the modern, multicultural city has to offer, then head to some of the under-the-radar places where the young locals hang out. We recommend Quasimodo, Junction Bar, Belushi’s, S036, Zig Zag Jazz Club and Hangar 49. Music is a massive part of Berlin’s overall cultural experience so to get a true feel for the city, see what’s on at some of these venues.
GO TO A BURLESQUE SHOW
Burlesque is actually a massive thing in Berlin, an experience that backpackers often miss out on because it’s less talked about. But did you know, burlesque and cabaret has been a huge part of Berlin’s dance culture since the Weimar era? There’s even an annual Burlesque Festival that takes every October. Berlin plays host to many fantastic burlesque shows which you must make time for while in the city. Eccentric, lively and promiscuous, burlesque shows in quirky, cool bars has become a regular fun night out for Berliners. Head to Prinzipal, a stylish speakeasy bar hidden away in Kreuzberg for some amazing weekly burlesque shows. This bar also serves up some of the best cocktails in the city.
INSIDE THE REICHSTAG DOME
The Reichstag is the seat of German Parliament so it’s a pretty important building in Berlin. Most people go to see the Reichstag but don’t actually go inside, but we recommend taking a look inside the Dome. The Reichstag glass dome is incredible on the inside and out so head up to the roof terrace for spectacular views of the Berlin Parliamentary buildings. The really cool thing about going inside the dome though is that you can look down and watch politicians make decisions for the country right beneath your feet. Pretty underrated. Open from 8am - 9.4pm every day, you can book online in advance.
BRUNCHING IN STYLE
Brunching and healthy eating has become a popular concept in Berlin over the past few years with more and more hipster cafes and small local restaurants serving up healthy brunch menus (that won’t break the bank). Think green smoothies, healthy bread, eggs, vegan sweet treats and avo galore. so you can experience a proper Berlin brunch!
CONTEMPORARY ART AT ITS BEST
Berlin is known for pushing boundaries and breaking the rules when it comes to contemporary art. Since art plays a massive part in Berlin’s overall cultural landscape, there’s no better way to get to know the city than heading to a few of the galleries and museums. There are so many incredible contemporary art spaces around the city that you should explore including the Contemporary Fine Arts (CFA), Eigen + Art, König Galerie, Capitain Petzel, KW Institute for Contemporary Art and the Sammlung Boros (although there are many more too). Contemporary art in Berlin is perhaps one of Europe’s best examples of expressive art so this is why we think it’s so underrated!
You’ll also notice that the street art culture in Berlin is huge. Head to the Urban Spree gallery in Berlin-Friedrichshain that houses the best street art, graffiti, screen prints and work from contemporary artists. Here you can also take part in DIY workshops, watch live indie music and grab a coffee in a cool, arty space.
VIEWS FROM THE TV TOWER
People walk past Berlin’s iconic TV Tower, also known as the Fernsehturm, every single day. But we recommend actually heading up there to the observation dock to get the best 360-degree panoramic views of the city. This significant building plays a massive part in Berlin’s cityscape, you can even see it from Museum Island. While this might seem like a more touristy thing to do in Berlin, you’d be surprised how many people visit the city without realising you can actually go to the top! And the views really are incredible. It’s €16.50 to get the top, but if you’re a student, you can get 20% off.
GO TO THE CINEMA DURING A FILM FESTIVAL
There are always some cool film festivals going on in Berlin. Cinema lovers need to look for any film festivals taking place when they visit the city because they’re always amazing and totally underrated. The biggest has to be Berlinale, a world-famous event that showcases the very best of international cinema every February. There’s also the Berlin International Film Festival, the Achtung Berlin Film Festival and the Berlin Independent Film Festival (that celebrates low budget cinema at the Babylon Cinema). The films showcased at these festivals are always amazing, diverse and combine a variety of cinema such as documentaries, short films, feature films, international cinema, budget films, LGBT cinema and more. In the summer, a new trend is open-air cinemas that pop up around Berlin - try the one in Potsdamer Platz!
THE FREE THINGS TO DO!
If you’re in Berlin on a budget, don’t underestimate the free things to do in the city. There are so many cool things you can do in Berlin that won’t cost you a penny and will really add to your overall enjoyment of the trip. The best things in life are free right? We’ve rounded up the best free things to do in the city, just don’t forget to thank us!
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Standing tall above the trees in Grunewald Forest is one of the many cool . Teufelsberg was built in the 50s right after World War II as a listening station for the Americans during the Cold War until 1989. The spies would listen in on and block communications coming from the east, while civilians and the enemy were under the impression it was merely a weather station. Now, it's completely disused but remains standing as an incredible street art gallery with some of the best views in Berlin, known by all Berliners but still a little off-the-radar for those visiting the city.