Berliners love to describe their city as “poor but sexy”, and personally I have to say I agree. It’s rough and gritty to the point where it’s almost ugly, and yet somehow Berlin still manages to keep a sex appeal with which it seduces everyone who pays the city a visit. There is a lot to say about Berlin, and few people leave the city without an impression. So book your trendy Berlin hotel and discover the good, the bad and the ugly…
The good when staying in Berlin
Berlin is a melting pot of cultures from all over the world, so much so that most people living there describe themselves as Berliners rather than Germans. Being a Berliner has nothing to do with where you’re from, but where your heart is – the famous phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner” is one that stands close to the peoples’ hearts.
Thanks to its great mix of cultures, you can really indulge in all kinds of foods from every corner of the world when you stay in Berlin, whether you fancy Ethiopian, Vietnamese or Turkish – you’re likely to find them all on the same street. While there are some truly great museums and attractions, the real Berlin is in the streets; in murky bars, one of kind shops and graffiti-covered lanes. The best way to capture the city is to simply wander the streets and soak up the atmosphere. Best of all, it’s one of those cities that you can go back to over and over, because new galleries, bars and shops pop up all the time so there will always be new things to see and do when you return!
Berlin is a huge city divided in smaller districts, each with its own charm and style – they actually feel more like small cities of their own! But because the city covers such a vast area, unless you really make an effort to go out of your way and explore other areas, chances are you will find yourself only exploring the district you’re staying in. Even locals rarely leave their own neighborhood – after all there is no need to when you have everything you need at your doorstep. But since these different areas of Berlin are so different from each other it’s really worth making that little extra effort to explore them all!
What is good about a place is often also the very same reason why some things are not so great – stay in Berlin and you’ll see it’s a changing city, and things are happening rather quickly. We got the impression that the locals weren’t the type of people who dwelled in the past, but really wanted to push the city forward and reinvent themselves – while still keeping the city’s identity intact. But growing from being an overlooked place by tourists into one of Europe’s top three most visited cities makes this a bit challenging. In just a decade Prenzlauerberg has gone from being one of the poorest (and cheapest) areas in Berlin to the most expensive and desirable one to live in. However, change is inevitable, and not knowing what Berlin will be like five years from now also adds to the excitement.
Berlin isn’t known to be a beautiful city, in fact it can be rather ugly – but the rough ugliness is what makes Berlin so charming, and the graffiti covered walls and rundown buildings are part of the urban beauty of the city. You can walk past a beautiful 19th century building with a view over a camping ground where families live in broken down campervans from the 80s – contrasts to the extreme.
It’s kind of strange how a city can be so beautiful and so ugly at the same time, but for me that is one of the very reasons why I love staying in Berlin!
All words and photos by As We Travel