Less than a generation since reunification and the German capital city has already re-established itself as one of Europe's most attractive cultural centres. Berlin is filled with historical and cultural monuments, buildings and tourist attractions to spare and a good walking or bike tour through the central Mitte district will make you an expert in no time flat. For many travellers and backpackers, however, what draws them to the city is rather the youthful, energetic atmosphere and the laid-back artistic vibes. Here are a few alternative destinations to explore for those seeking a more unique and authentic Berliner experience.
German food is generally not held in very high regard throughout the world, and, sadly, for good reason. While sausages, bread rolls, pretzels and potatoes, mainstays of the national diet, are certainly delicious, they're not exactly the most exciting or exotic dishes you can imagine. In recent years, however, Berlin has set out to revolutionize that conception by injecting a dose of flavour and excitement into the local culinary scene. Markthalle Neun's Streetfood Thursdays is the perfect example of such efforts. The gathering of nearly 50 vendors and chefs offering varieties of cuisines ranging from Nigerian to Italian and American to Korean deliciously showcases all the increasingly multi-cultural city has got to offer. With small dishes ranging from 2 €-5 € in price, it's tempting to try them all. The Big Stuff Smoked BBQ and the Bavarian Kässpatzen from Heisser Hobel are both scrumptious options.
Located smack in the middle of Treptower Park, about five minutes by foot from the nearest subway station, Spreepark is a long-abandoned gem of East Berlin's entrancing past. Following a series of accidents and a Peruvian cocaine-smuggling scandal, the park has been left to decay over the course of the last few decades, giving it a bit of an end of the world/zombie apocalypse sort of vibe. Though the false lakes are filled with decades of stagnant water and the wooden platforms rotten and precarious, the rides themselves seem to remain in some kind of working condition, with the giant ferris wheel eerily spinning in the breeze. Guided tours are available in German, led by the daughter of the previous owner, but the fences surrounding the park are in shambles and the adventurous explorer would not have too much difficulty sneaking in. (Not that www.jasmerah.net would ever recommend such blatant disregard for the law!)
Don't get too turned around as you venture into this grungy little Kreuzberg bar and live music venue. The first thing you'll surely notice is the tables and stools and armchairs meticulously attached to the ceiling – they've even got an ashtray with cigarettes carefully stuck to the tabletop. Well loved by locals and visitors alike, Madame Claude, is well situated in a hip and vibrant neighbourhood, making it the perfect place to grab a drink with friends after dinner or before a wild night out on the town.
This tiny museum in central Berlin is quite far off the beaten path as far as attractions go. Though the Ramones may never even have lived in this city, their greatest fan certainly did and he collected just about all the memorabilia you could ever imagine to the point that the walls of his home were plastered from floor to ceiling with everything from ticket stubs to concert posters and rare photographs. Eventually his girlfriend got fed up and demanded that he transform his impressive collection into the museum we know and love today. Entrance costs only 3.50 € and that's for life. So if you're looking for an odd little detour on your tour through the city centre, make sure to hit up Berlin's most peculiar museum.
As a world-renowned clubbing destination, Berlin certainly gets its fair share of party-tourism with people from all over the world bopping through town for a sleepless weekend of drinking and dancing to the never-ending electro beats. As a result, just about everyone in Europe has heard of the famed Berghain and the summer's Club der Visionnaere is basically packed with tourists from mid-May until its closing. A little bit lesser known, but infinitely cooler is every Berliner's favourite, Sisyphos, a club hiply adorned with disco balls, false flowers, kitschy lampshades and vintage sofas. A former dog-cookie factory, the sprawling location and eclectic decorations make it the perfect place to dance the night (and morning) away. Selectively open on various weekends throughout the year, make sure you check their website before making the (totally-worth-it) trek out to Lichtenberg.