Berlin: edgy and urban

Post written by Laura

Berlin has been the capital city of Germany since the reunification of the country in 1990. During the Cold War Germany was divided into East and West with West being formed by the Western Allies (the US, UK and France) and the East being a Soviet state.

Berlin Wall

Construction of the infamous Berlin Wall began in 1961 when East Germany put a physical divide through the middle of the city. The only access between the two was through checkpoints, the best known being Checkpoint Charlie. The Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989 as the Cold War ended and most of it has now been demolished.

Berlin Wall: Zoe at East Side Gallery

Over recent years Berlin has attracted young people, international artists and entrepreneurs giving the city a young and arty vibe with a clubbing party city reputation.


I spent 3 nights in Berlin with my daughter Zoe… this was my third visit to the city and having visited many of the major tourist sights on previous occasions (for example going to the top of the TV tower in Alexandetplatz, taking a boat trip on the River Spree and seeing Check Point Charlie and the Brandenberg Gate as part of a hop on off bus tour) this time we were keen to explore the urban bohemian side of Berlin…

Welcome to the Friedrichshain district!

Formerly in East Berlin this cool, chilled and laid back area is crammed full of vegan cafes and shops selling vintage and second hand clothing… while Zoe was rummaging around in one such shop I sat on a sofa listening to the tones of Morrissey as The Smiths ‘Hatful of Hollow’ added to the vintage vibe. In fact I was nearly transported back to the Kings Road circa 1984…

Locals and tourists alike relax drinking coffee and eating cake in the open air cafes during the day and sampling some of the many cuisines later on.

RAW Gelände A ‘cultural centre’ in Friedrichshain… within Raw Gelande is a skatepark (Skatehalle) and climbing wall as well as bars, clubs and cafes. And a Jamaican food stall selling jerk chicken and sweetcorn patties.
Recycled furniture
Raw Gelande

According to Lonely Planet this place has been a “thriving offbeat sociocultural centre for creatives of all stripes” since 1999. The raw edgyness of this place and scruffy street art/graffiti in particular reminded me of Valparaiso in Chile!

Seating made from recycled materials in Holzmarkt

Also in the Friedrichshain district on the banks of the River Spree is Holzmarkt, a regeneration project of cafes and bars where the tables and chairs are made from recycled materials and scrap wood. Kids play areas are adjacent to the bars… and the cake shops! We stumbled across it in the morning when only a few bars were open… later in the afternoon the place was teeming with locals, tourists and families. 

A large section of the Berlin Wall remains at East Side Gallery, a collection of 105 paintings. These are on the east side of the wall and were painted in 1990 by artists from around the world. Over the course of 20 years the paintings became damaged by erosion and graffiti however they have been restored since 2009.

 The mural above with German and Soviet politicians kissing is one of the most famous of the wall. 

River Spree from a skybar on Mercedes Benz Platz
Mercedes Benz Platz

Just across from East Side Gallery is Mercedes Benz Platz home to two huge arenas where concerts and sporting events take place. This square is lined with open air cafes and bars making it a pleasant area to sit and chill with a glass of wine. And for great views of the River Spree, you can make your way up to one of the sky bars!


We stayed in the H2 Hotel which had a great location next to Alexanderplatz and walkable to Holzmarkt, East Side Gallery and the Friedrichshain district.

Alexanderplatz is a large traffic free square and with major transport links and over 360 000 daily visitors is a central hub of the city. Often simply referred to as ‘Alex’ the square was named after the Russian Tsar Alexander I.

For 360 degree panoramic views you can be whisked to the top of the 368 meter high TV tower. 
Alternatively you can get views from the top of the 150 m high Radisson Park Inn where 4 euros charged to enter the open air lounge.
Jewish memorial

We visited the moving yet quite spectacular memorial to the 6 million Jews who were murdered by Hitler during the Second World War.

Brandenberg Gate
Finally a quick mention of the Brandenburg Gate which is probably Berlin’s most famous landmark. During the Cold War this 200 year old monument symbolised the division of Berlin but is now the gate of unity and peace.

Summary: whether you visit Berlin to tick off the major sights, do some shopping or absorb yourself in the arty district, one thing is for sure… you will not get bored!

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