I guess this should have been titled ‘24 hours in Berlin‘, or ‘Postcard from the bleeding edge’ – but I digress. Berlin’s cutting-edge Mitte district was surely designed with properly Germanic Wanderlust in mind: grand boulevards march between Bauhaus-era bastions of urban architecture and proud public squares; traditional courtyard blocks have been transformed into a warren of chi-chi shops, clubs and bars (Hackeschen Höfe is Germany’s biggest and, goes without saying, coolest); and there are enough fashion-forward boutiques and streetwear outlets lining the side roads to keep your browsing interest piqued for days.
Is Berlin romantic? Not in the way that Paris or Rome are, perhaps, but here is a city that’s achingly hip (witness creative collaborations housed in shipping containers), packed with history, has galleries and museums to rival Europe’s top destinations, and a population that’s passionate about style (and knows where the party is).
All this pleasingly anarchic energy is presided over by the towering 200m-high Fernsehturm, from the top of which you’ll get an incredible panoramic eyeful of the city. It’s open till midnight, making it the ultimate post-prandial proposal platform. Now, here are some more dirty-weekend destination details to get your appetites going:
– On Torstrasse Miss Whiplash and her consort (Mr E Marks?) or diehard fans of Cabaret will want to strut their stuff down to TO.mTO at number 22 (+49 (0)30 9700 4733), a corset-maker who’ll whip up bespoke burlesque basques at the drop of a skirt; never mind unleashing your inner Dita, these risqué little numbers are all about restraint. Further down the road, on the same side, you’ll find SoTo at number 72 (+49 (0)30 2576 2070), Philip Gaedicke’s fantastic menswear boutique: pick up a few of his cool Japanese imports and leather accessories for your Mr Smith and he’ll be eternally grateful.
– On and around Münzstrasse Italian womenswear boutique Salotto at 11b (+49 (0)30 2472 4014) has a carefully edited selection of feminine floral prints and on-trend casual wear; next-door is jewellery shop Ola (+49 (0)30 2008 9244), where there are plenty of pretty semi-precious pieces (we love the chunky rings and mosaic-work). At number 19, American Apparel waves the flag for the edgier big brands that have muscled in on Münzstrasse – other labels to love along this patch of pavement are Acne (no 23), Gas and Cos. On-the-pulse style curator Andreas Murkudis has a clutch of stores on this block: AM1, AM2 and AM3 stock must-haves from Maison Martin Margiela, Sophia Kokosalaki and Balenciaga, as well as pieces by his brother Kostas, formerly a designer at Helmut Lang, plus interiors and accessories.
– In Die Hackeschen Höfe Just inside the complex from Sophienstrasse in Hof 7 is Levy’s Contor, a sweet little toyshop selling hand-crafted wooden whatnots, thingummies and whirlybobs that’ll keep your Kinder entertained far longer than the classic egg-shaped Surprise. Fashionistas will want to head straight to the BFN concept store in Hof 3: a repository of up-and-coming cool from Germany and beyond that will have you rifling the rails in glee.
MITTE’S TOP TABLES
The Fernsehturm restaurant (Telécafé) and bar is up there among dining experiences – perfect if you’re the type who takes the phrase ‘top tables’ seriously. Otherwise, book well ahead for a perch at petite French fancy Bandol sur Mer on Torstrasse (+49 (0)30 6730 2051) – try the snails, foie gras or speciality Irish entrecôte. There’s a Berlin outpost of Cecconi’s opening next month in the ground floor of Soho House Berlin which we’re sure will become a prime pitstop for peoplewatching-with-pasta. For table-hopping, trendy types need look no further than the hotel’s House Kitchen; however, if your nightlife ambitions stretch beyond Soho House, try Week-End, a hip club taking up two floors and the rooftop of a nearby residential block at 5 Alexanderplatz.
REST YOUR HEAD
For music promoters and media’s movers and shakers, the only real choice is not which hotel to book, but which room to book at magnificent member’s club Soho House Berlin. The DJs they are here to promote are probably enjoying a lock-in at minimalist musical mansion Lux 11, under the wing of hotel manager and club maestro Dirk Dreyer.
And finally, no blog post by me could ever be complete without a mention of superior coffee. So here’s a quick rundown of caffeine purveyors great and small: Oliv Café at 8 Münzstrasse is a homely hidey-hole where you’ll find Berlin’s special brand of super-milky latté as well as well-rounded espresso. If you’ve time, wend further afield and seek out Strandbad-Mitte at 16 Kleine Hamburger Strasse (+49 (0)30 2462 8963), a great little brunch spot with fantastic coffees and laid-back local clientele. Alternatively, try authentic Asian teehaus Chén Chè on Rosenthaler Strausse (+49 (0)30 2888 4282).