My Berlin Blog

In-depth reviews and articles about this unique city.

Berlin Zoo

Berlin Zoo is the oldest zoo in Germany, with a unique history. It is also the most species-rich in the...

The PalaisPopulaire

Deutsche Bank has opened a new exhibition and event space on Unter den Linden in a seriously prime location...

Berlin’s ‘Jewish Switzerland’

The story of Jewish Berlin will be forever tragically linked to the Holocaust....

Dream Garden Café

It’s been a long hot summer in Berlin and cafés with shaded terraces and gardens are in high demand. A great...

Romantic Art and Wanderlust

Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie is an exquitiste three-storey showcase of 19th Century European art. It is...

The Ku’damm’s grandest café

The long, grand boulevard of the Kurfürstendamm, referred to by Berliners as the Ku’damm, dates back to 1542...

Berlin Zoo

Berlin Zoo is the oldest zoo in Germany, with a unique history. It is also the most species-rich in the world and the most-visited zoo in Europe. The 86-acre site next to the Tiergarten park has an abundance of trees and greenery; the animal houses are architectural...

The PalaisPopulaire

Deutsche Bank has opened a new exhibition and event space on Unter den Linden in a seriously prime location next to the Staatsoper and opposite the Neue Wache. According to its creators, it is a ‘new and innovative concept intended to give as many people as possible...

Dream Garden Café

It’s been a long hot summer in Berlin and cafés with shaded terraces and gardens are in high demand. A great location for fine al fresco food and drink is the Königliche Gartenakademie (Royal Garden Academy) in Dahlem, just a five-minute walk from the Berlin...

Romantic Art and Wanderlust

Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie is an exquitiste three-storey showcase of 19th Century European art. It is also one of the German capital’s iconic buildings and part of the ensemble of the five fabulous museums on the island in the River Spree. The great Prussian...

Meander through Moabit

Surrounded by waterways, Moabit is a diverse neighbourhood to the north of the Tiergarten and the Reichstag. Barely off the main tourist track, it has managed to keep below the radar and is a great place to be among Berliners without having to go too far afield. There...

The Beauty of Berlin

Berlin is not among the prettiest cities in Europe, at least not on the surface. But it is undeniably one of the most fascinating. Much of its beauty lies entangled in history and drama and its inherent determination and generosity of spirit has brought it into the...

Best lunch in Bergmannkiez

Saturday was bitterly cold in Berlin, but with bright sunshine. For lunch, we headed off to the beautiful Bergmannkiez. In this gentrified neighbourhood of multi-cultural Kreuzberg there are endless colourful restaurants, cafés and small shops to dive into - not to...

Russian Berlin

Russian Berlin - Berlin’s relationship with Russia is unique. There are now an estimated 300,000 Russians living in the German capital, many of them Russian-Germans who arrived after the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union. One hundred years ago, in the wake of...

My Berlin

I was recently interviewed by the magazine 'Where Berlin' which is circulated to a number of hotels and available to pick up at Tegel and Schönefeld airports. The article appears in the September issue. You can read the interview by following opened this pdf file: MY...

Back in the GDR

The Stasi - Berlin is a city with a fearful past. But it doesn’t keep its skeletons in the cupboard; it bares its soul and share its shame. Countless museums and memorials bear witness to its willingness to confront a catalogue of 20th Century crimes. And it’s not...

Meet me at Dussmann

Dussmann das Kulturkaufhaus. Berlin may be famed for its dark history and decadence, but it also has a reputation as a city bursting with culture. Music, literature and the arts have always flourished in Berlin and never more so than in its current 21st Century,...

Great Theater – with English surtitles

Great Theater - with English surtitles, world class drama in Berlin. If you love the theatre but don't speak German, you can still enjoy world-class drama in Berlin -  with the help of English surtitles. The German word for theatre is spelt ‘Theater’ – and can be...

Underneath the Arches

I am in love with Berlin’s elevated railways. These lines are such a joy to ride for the wonderful urban views they offer. The Berlin Stadtbahn (city rail) was completed in 1882 and runs east-west right through the city centre. It is a major visual presence in many of...

Music for the Thinking Ear

Last week I experienced Berlin’s new concert hall, the Pierre Boulez Saal, and fell in love with this fabulous addition to the city’s music scene. It is the brainchild of pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, who wanted to create a performance space and a music...

Pulse of Europe in Berlin

Last Sunday, I joined some Berlin friends at the Pulse of Europe demonstration on Bebelplatz, on Unter den Linden. This square, which was called 'Opernplatz' before the war, has a dark history. It was where the Nazi 'Burning of the Books' took place on May 10th 1933 -...

A Traditional Treat

‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ is one of the best traditions in the German-speaking world. To translate it just as ‘coffee and cake’ is about as accurate as describing English ‘afternoon tea’ as a hot drink with a sandwich. Both ceremonies are social rituals. Starting at about...

A Sunday of Films and Fools

Mid-February is a great time to visit Berlin, with the Berlinale film festival plus a carnival to beat the winter blues. And it's all wrapped up a week before the Oscars in Hollywood and the carnival celebrations in the rest of Germany. Just like Berlin to be ahead of...

Two hidden Italians

I have always thought that Berlin’s free spirit has something Southern European about it. Maybe it's because of the huge number of immigrants who have come to Berlin from around the Mediterranean and the general feeling of live and let live. Berliners also love to...

Book ahead for Boros

In a city where so many buildings were devastated in war or destroyed in its aftermath, it is incredible to find in its very heart an edifice that has not only survived intact, but which has become the perfect fusion of history and modern art. This massive, ugly,...

A Tip-top Night Out

For the final blog of 2016 here is something joyful – a recommendation for a tip-top night out to a Berlin comic operetta; something to lift the spirit and warm the soul. It is dedicated to those people who were tragically involved in the terrible Christmas market...

City Centre Magic Christmas

Last December I wrote about two fairy-tale Christmas markets on the outer edges of West Berlin. For this year, here are four city centre markets with great atmosphere and historic charm. The setting is a key factor and even without the merest sprinkling of snow, these...

An Object Lesson

Das Museum der Dinge is a fascinating treasure-trove. Its name translates into English as ‘The Museum of Things’ and its nearest equivalent in London is the Design Museum. The collection was started in 1970 by the ‘Werkbundarchiv’, (the archives of the German...

Bunker Art

Bunkers and Berlin are synonymous. Designed to protect people or valued materials from falling bombs, during World War II there were bunkers of every kind all over the city. When the air-raid sirens started to wail, making it in time to the nearest bunker was often a...

Market and Mutter

Saturday is a great time to do a Berlin market. The largest ‘Wochenmarkt’ (‘weekly market’) is the Winterfeldtmarkt in Schöneberg, the district where Christopher Isherwood of 'Cabaret' fame used to live and still the soul of the Berlin gay and lesbian scene. It’s an...

Tegel and Humboldt

Most visitors to Berlin associate Tegel with the name of the main airport. But for Berliners themselves, it has always been an area on the north-west outskirts of their city famed for its beautiful lake and dense forests. In 1793, a vicar who fancied himself as a poet...

Railway Triangle Park

With its vast tracts of forests and parks, Berlin has always been a green metropolis. Now the city centre has a growing number of urban oases created out of wasteland (‘Brachland’) left behind by wartime destruction or the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. One of the...

History set in stone

I hope that last week's blog about Spandau has encouraged you to visit this special part of Berlin. From now until the end of 2019, the wonderful Spandau Zitadelle has a stunning new exhibition. One of its huge neoclassical barrack buildings has been beautifully...

A Poignant Wilderness

The Jewish Cemetery in Berlin-Weissensee is one of the largest and most beautiful Jewish cemeteries in Europe. Earlier this month, I was strolling along its many sun-dappled paths together with Berlin friends. Stopping to read the inscriptions on the headstones, we...

Flying the Flag for Europe

When I landed at Berlin Tegel airport last week, a huge poster caught my eye: ‘Erlebnis Europa - Europa Experience’, advertising a new permanent interactive exhibition in the European House. ‘Discover the European Union in a completely new light!’ was the poster’s...

A Private Collection

In recent years, Berlin has been much vaunted as ‘poor but sexy’. This reputation has attracted the young, the arty and the creative from all corners of the globe. For tourists, street art tours are all the rage. But now an increasing number of private collectors are...

Memento mori

A walk through a cemetery during Easter week is the perfect combination of place and time. In Berlin there are over 230 graveyards, all with their own distinct character and most of them well worth discovering. I have described a few of my favourites in a previous...

Simply Snug

The 2016 Berlin Film Festival (‘Berlinale’) opens this week and the capital will be full of film tourists. Last March I posted a blog ‘Berlinale City Break’ explaining how to get last-minute tickets and suggesting a few cool places to eat. For this year, why not...

Where we are now: Berlin 2016

This is the first post of 2016 so I wish all readers, ‘einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr'. In English this translates as, ‘Slide well into the New Year’. In icy weather, this could be taken quite literally and this week temperatures in Berlin are due to fall even...

Fairy-tale Christmas markets

For Christmas markets with authentic atmosphere and fewer tourists, it’s best to escape the city centre and head for the Berlin ‘countryside’. Public transport links are so good that most are easily accessible by train or bus. Last weekend I visited two of my...

From the quaint to the quirky

There has never been a shortage of bars in Berlin. Here are two with serious historic pedigree in Prenzlauer Berg, only a couple of tram stops from Alexanderplatz. Try them both on the same evening for the consummate ‘Berlin Feeling', and combine tradition and...

A Christmas Treat

The Advent atmosphere is in full swing in Berlin. Bright white lights sparkle in the trees and shop windows glitter with gold and silver. Over 60 Christmas markets are on offer. From the grand and gaudy, to the fairy-tale or funky, the urban or eco, there is something...

Olympian Ghosts

Berlin is vibrant and contemporary, but it is also a city of ghosts. History hides in every corner and in some places it parades in the open. Last week I took a walk in the ‘Olympiapark’ and the past accompanied me every step of the way. It was a cold, grey day and...

Good Food and Cheer

Berlin café society may have a cool reputation but it has a warm heart too. And in misty November when the days are suddenly shorter and you need to kick back and feel mellow, every Berlin neighbourhood has somewhere that fits the bill. If you’ve already tried the...

The Spy who came in from the rain

Berlin’s city centre is full of trees. In autumn they turn every possible shade of yellow, orange and red and drop their leaves to form copper-coloured carpets. An idyllic scene under blue skies, but not so great in the rain, when the pavements and cycle paths turn...

An apartment in Berlin

Apartment hotels are more and more in demand - the perfect solution for people who want to be independent and have plenty living space when they are away from home. Most Berliners live in apartments - so why not visitors as well. And it’s not as expensive as you might...

Young Berlin

October half-term is fast approaching, a time when many school trips and families head for Berlin. The weather is usually perfect for sightseeing – still warm enough for boat trips, and the parks and woodland are ablaze with autumn colour. In ‘Berlin Unwrapped’ and on...

Putting Moabit on the map

If you look at a map of Berlin, the district of Moabit is pretty central. In the aerial photo below it takes up most of the top right-hand corner. You can clearly see the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) and the green areas of the two Moabit parks, the...

Not just a walk in the park

There are so many parks in Berlin. The oldest, largest and most famous is the Tiergarten, stretching two square miles from the Brandenburg Gate to Ernst-Reuter-Platz and providing the green lungs for the city centre. It’s a fabulous park, once a royal hunting ground,...

The History Garden

A secret garden, only a stone's throw from the main railway station - what could be more typically Berlin. Berlin Hauptbahnhof (main station) is impossible to miss. A ‘cathedral’ of glass and steel, it flanks the new government district in front of the Reichstag and...

Beautiful Backwaters

It’s surprising how few tourists venture on to the waterways of East Berlin and beyond. And yet they are so easily accessible. Last week I took a boat trip from Köpenick to Woltersdorf and escaped from the unbearable heat of the city centre to paradise. It was a...

A light lunch or a summery supper

Fancy a light lunch or a summery supper? SaLa is a family-run Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant at 62, Leibnizstrasse, moments from the Ku’damm in Charlottenburg. It opened last summer and has quickly established a loyal and regular clientele. Hardly surprising, as the...

Step back in time, to the music

Want to catch that unique Berlin feeling? Then head straight for Clärchens Ballhaus. This legendary dance hall and beer garden was first opened in 1913 and has survived two World Wars, life behind the Berlin Wall and all the rebuilding and reshaping of the German...

The Sunny Side of the Spree

One of the best things about Berlin is all the water - especially in summer.  And I don’t just mean the rivers and lakes on the outer edges. There’s plenty of it in the city centre too. In fact, there are apparently 960 bridges in Berlin, more than in Venice. Last...

Day Trip to Wannsee

As if it were some kind of magic castle, Berlin is encircled by lakes and forests. Its outer edges offer endless possibilities for easy day trips. Just jump on the S-Bahn and in a matter of minutes you can be whisked out to sparkling waters and blankets of green. One...

Divine Decadence

The iconic film ‘Cabaret’ was released in 1972, two years before I first set foot in Berlin. I watched it over and over again, completely mesmerised by its seductive picture of bohemian life in 1930s Berlin. Sally Bowles, the film’s heroine, was a fictional character...

Just the two day ticket

An aerial view of the historic centre of Berlin Last weekend I showed a friend around Berlin on an impromptu first visit. We had wall-to-wall sunshine, managed to see most of the main sights and caught the Berlin feeling. It didn’t break the bank either.  The 48 hour...

Berlin Summer Preview

Spring comes suddenly in Berlin, but it feels more like summer. The car roofs are down and it’s time for a barbecue, drinks outside and the first boat trip of the year. Last weekend the Berlin Tagesspiegel captured the scene perfectly. Here is a taste of the city...

Bonhoeffer’s Berlin

Today, April 9th 2015, marks the 70th Anniversary of the execution of the famous German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, sentenced to death by Hitler for his role in the German resistance movement. Through his actions and writings Bonhoeffer called for Christian...

‘Potse’ Parlour

  The Joseph-Roth-Diele is always perfect for a weekday lunch or dinner. With its stone-tiled floor, dark wood panelling and old-fashioned furniture you would think this café bar was a pre-war Berlin haunt. But this is new nostalgia. It only opened in 2002 and is...

Hot tickets

For fans of classical music, a trip to Berlin wouldn’t be complete without tickets to hear the Berlin Philharmoniker. Ranked second last year in the World’s Best Symphony Orchestras, the Berlin Philharmonic - as they are generally referred to in the English-speaking...

Berlinale City Break

A visit to the Berlin Film Festival is a must. What better way to lift the spirits in the bleak mid-winter. Online tickets go on sale at the beginning of February, but there are always some available a couple of days in advance at the box offices. On the last Sunday...

Berlin never forgets

In Germany, Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January is known as ‘Der Tag des Gedenkens an die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus’ which translates literally as ‘the day of remembering the victims of National Socialism’. But in Berlin, where there are so many moving...

A warm welcome in the Weinstuben

For the first Berlin Unwrapped blog of 2015 here is something really special -  a traditional pub/restaurant dating back to pre-war Berlin. As its name implies, the Kurzpfalz-Weinstuben specialises in food and wine from the Rheinland-Pfalz region of South Germany,...

Merry Christmas Markets

A German Christmas is something special and Berlin rises to the occasion every year. Throughout December thousands of trees across the city are bedecked with sparkling white lights and the two grand avenues of East and West Berlin, Unter den Linden and Kurfürstendamm,...

Tiptoe through Treptow

When the weather is damp and depressing, nothing beats a good walk to fight the blues. The legendary Berliner Luft never disappoints – even in the drizzle. It must be something to do with all the forests and lakes that encircle the city and breathe into the...

The Lightness of Balloons

In true Berlin style, the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Wall was one big people's party. The balloons of light were the most wonderful way to mark this event; a truly inspirational 'installation'.  Like smooth round angels they floated upwards, as free as the...

Berlin Foto Fest

This autumn Berlin has turned into one large photographic gallery as it hosts the 6th European Month of Photography - a festival that takes place every two years in different places across Europe. From 16th October until 17th November (and in many cases beyond this...

The Great Berlin Cake Off

'The Great British Bake Off' now has a German version -  'Das Grosse Backen'.  It proved so popular last year that the second series has been moved to a prime slot and starts next month in the run-up to Christmas. Cakes have always been one of Germany's favourite...

Classical Cool

When it comes to shabby chic, Berlin takes all the prizes. But it's not just cool clubs, hotels, restaurants and bars that have moved into old warehouses and factory buildings. Fans of classical music have their own alternative scene at the Piano Salon Christophori, a...

Kreuzberg al fresco

The heatwave may be over for the moment, but the sun's rays are still warm and when the big Berlin skies are clear eating outside is awlays the best option.  And where better to choose than chaotic Kreuzberg, where people-watching is at its most colourful. This...

If you go down in the woods today…

This week’s blog was originally written in German by Dorothea Lehmann and was inspired by a recent visit to the Grunewaldsee, a beautiful forest lake and one of my favourite places to go walking in Berlin. I have given my version of her text in English, but also...

Moonlit Movies

It has been a long, hot summer in Berlin and the Freiluftkinos (literally, ‘free air cinemas’) have been doing a roaring trade.  Nothing beats sitting under the stars watching a good movie.  And the great news for English speakers is that many of them are shown in the...

Join the locals at Rüdi

Berlin’s vitality is best discovered in one of its Small Worlds (described in some detail in ‘Berlin Unwrapped’).  The word often used to describe one of these city neighbourhoods is a ‘Kiez’. It implies an area with positive vibes, where local inhabitants get...

Let’s get into Mitte…

Berlin’s night-life is legendary. And after a day on the tourist trail and a good meal out, what could be nicer than some music and dancing? But you don’t have to go clubbing until sunrise or hit the fashionista bars to be part of the after-dark scene. If you fancy...

Berliners escape to their colonies

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon in a Berlin ‘colony garden’. It was the perfect escape from the concrete and heat of the city centre – and almost on the doorstep.   Most Berliners live in apartment blocks and many of them have neither balconies...

Cranes and Pipes over Berlin

 One of the most famous quotes about Berlin is that it’s ‘a city condemned forever to becoming and never to being‘. And this summer is no exception. There are cranes hovering over the entire length of Unter den Linden and Karl-Liebknecht Straße between the Brandenburg...

Ratatouille in Berlin

Tonight Germany has just beaten France in the World Cup and Berlin is one big noisy party.  But in truth the Berliners love France and all things French. In1700 over a fifth of the population of Berlin were Huguenot immigrants and they had an enormous  influence on...

A book for Berlinophiles

Berlin is now a city where everything seems possible and yet its past is barely credible. ‘Imagine a City’ by Rory Maclean is a biography of Berlin told through the lives of 23 Berliners. It is a combination of fact and fiction, a roller-coaster ride that captures all...

Walking with Angels

Ever since Wim Wenders' 1987 film, 'Himmel über Berlin' ('Wings of Desire') I have been looking for angels in the Berlin sky. Some actually appeared sitting on top of buildings for the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Wall. You can also try communing with them in...

Cool hotels for a hot weekend

A cool hotel is a key ingredient in a successful city break in more ways than one, especially at the moment when the temperature is hitting 30° in Berlin. I am always being asked if I can recommend places to stay - so if you don’t want to do your own trawling through...

Freedom Field

Last Sunday wasn’t just European Election day in Berlin – Berliners were also voting in a referendum about proposed housing development on the site of the former Tempelhof airport (which ceased operations in 2008). 65% of voters decided to keep the ‘Tempelhofer...

Bowie in Berlin

If you missed the Bowie exhibition on last year at the V&A in London - be sure to see it in Berlin at the Martin-Gropius-Bau from 20th May until 10th August. I loved it in London and will definitely go again in Berlin, a city which made such a lasting impact on Bowie....

Schlüter’s Beautiful Baroque Berlin

Andreas Schlüter (1684-1714) was the ' Schloss Baumeister' (Palace Master-builder) who was largely responsible for transforming Berlin from a provincial medieval city into an impressive baroque royal capital. If you are in Berlin over the next few weeks you still have...

Eating out all day ‘im Freien’

One of the best things about Berlin is the incredible choice of cafés and restaurants that spill out on to the street once it’s warm enough to eat outside. In summer it seems as if Berlin was designed solely with this purpose in mind. The pavements are wide enough to...

‘Our Schadow’ and ‘Heavens, Berlin!’

There are currently two excellent exhibitions worth catching at the Ephraim-Palais until 17th August. For the princely sum of five euros you can feast your eyes on the classic sculptures of Johann Gottfried Schadow (1764-1850) and gaze at the surreal sky-filled...

Shopping with Angela

I always head to KaDeWe if I need a new pair of shoes. There is a vast selection, the staff are really helpful and the prices are no higher than anywhere else. In fact they are considerably lower than in some of the innocent-looking little boutiques in trendy Mitte....

Recent Blog Posts

Monthly articles, tips and discoveries from beautiful Berlin.

The PalaisPopulaire

Deutsche Bank has opened a new exhibition and event space on Unter den Linden in a seriously prime location next to the Staatsoper and opposite the Neue Wache. According to its creators, it is a ‘new and innovative concept intended to give as many people as possible...