Take a weekend in . . . Berlin
Now the tech firms are in town, Berlin is cooler than ever – but everyone can have fun here, not just 20-something hipsters
Katz Orange, a restaurant that opened in Berlin’s Mitte area last year. Photograph: Djamila Grossman for The New York Times
A visitor passes the sculpture “1st Body” (2013) prior to the opening of the “Kapoor in Berlin” exhibition at the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin. Photograph: Adam Berry/Getty Images
Berlin, which has been Germany’s modern capital for only 23 years, has reached a coming-of-age moment. As it attempts to evolve from a city that relies heavily on government support to one with sustainable industries, such companies as Google and Etsy have opened offices, joining technology start-ups SoundCloud and ResearchGate, giving credit to the hype that Berlin is becoming a contender for Europe’s Silicon Valley.
The city’s Wild West energy and landscape is also changing. Certain areas, such as Mitte and pockets of Kreuzberg and Neukölln, are transforming faster than it takes to say “fair-trade organic coffee bar”.
Berlin still boasts a legendary nightclub and art scene, but now it seems that every two weeks, a grown-up cocktail bar or restaurant opens up in Mitte, the neighbourhood of choice for Berlin’s global professionals.
Not long ago even the gentrifying parts of Neukölln were too gritty for most tourists, but these days, even less adventuresome travellers will be charmed by the shops and cafes popping up along its streets. Nowadays everyone can have fun in Berlin, not just 20-something hipsters.
1 Old school is new school
In the early 1990s, soon after the Berlin Wall came down Auguststrasse, in the fashionable neighbourhood of Mitte, was the street where pioneering art gallerists set up shop. Over the years, the lane of cafes and galleries became a bit stale. Last year, gallery owner Michael Fuchs brought fresh life to the street with the reinvention of the Ehemalige Jüdische Mädchenschule, a former Jewish girls’ school, now a complex of cafes and galleries.
It includes Eigen+Art Lab on the third floor and Fuchs’s own space, which will be showing works from Johannes Albers and Douglas Gordon. After taking in the art, grab a glass of crémant at Mogg & Melzer, an intimate modern deli on the ground floor, or a bourbon sour at the Pauly Saal Bar, a stylish space with emerald green walls and a glossy wood bar.
With the Mitte crowd
Katz Orange, which opened last year on a courtyard that’s part of a historic brick brewery building, serves a mix of vegan and organic meat dishes such as lemon potato mash served with porcini mushrooms and artichokes (€19) and short ribs glazed with soy sauce and ginger (€22). The Pantry, an intimate living room of a space on the far north end of Friedrichstrasse, manages to tick almost all of the boxes, from chic but cozy design (giant caramel-toned leather sofa seats, a wall of gold tiles and natural wood floors and tables) to tasty upscale Iberico-Asian dishes such as beef tataki (small portion, €12).
By day, the Monbijoupark is a small green oasis in the hectic heart of Mitte. Recently, the surrounding area became the place to go at night, thanks to three new watering holes. Those looking for gold, glamour and the perfect cocktail should head to TheLiberate, which might as well be called The Liberace, with its interiors of quilted bronze banquettes, black-and-gold wallpaper and crystal chandeliers.