German freelance TV journalist and travel blogger Yvonne Zagermann has lived in Berlin for the last two years — the realization of a dream she’s had since first visiting as a teenager. “This city doesn’t expect anything from you but to be yourself,” she says. Check out Yvonne’s advice for getting the most out of Germany’s sleek-yet-gritty capital, then add your own tips and top picks in the comments section below or on our Travel Favorites site.

Learn more about Yvonne and read about her travels in German and English on her Just Travelous blog and follow her on Twitter @JustTravelous.

Berlin is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is Golzo in Goltzstraße, because it’s my favorite café in Berlin and everything in this city starts with a coffee.

When I crave currywurst (curried sausage) I always go to Konnopke’s at Eberswalderstraße where you get the best currywurst in town.

To escape the city I head to one of the many lakes around Berlin. Just hit the road and you’ll find one in a half hour or less.

One of the many lakes around Berlin.

If I want to spend my day with hipsters, start-up evangelists, and free WiFi, I go to St. Oberholz at Rosenthaler Platz.

For complete quiet, I can hide away in my own neighborhood, the Bavarian Quarter. When I open my window I hear birds chirping and bunnies scampering across the lawn. One time I even spotted a hedgehog.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with the guards at Checkpoint Charlie or in front of Honecker and Brezhnev kissing at the East Side Gallery.

Photo op at the East Side Gallery.

If you have to order one thing off the menu from Borchardt it has to be schnitzel — and keep your fingers crossed for one of the many celebrities who have been here before like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vivienne Westwood, or Robert de Niro to show up.

The Garage is my one-stop shop for great vintage clothes.

Locals know to skip Charlottenburg and check out Neukölln instead.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to Mustafas in Kreuzberg, where you get the best kebab in town for €2,50. You will have to stand in line for about 20 minutes here but it’s worth it.

For a huge splurge I go to the Ono Spa in the Mandala hotel and treat myself good with a Thai Yoga massage.

Photo ops in my city include the Brandenburg Gate, the TV tower. The best vantage points are on top of the Park Inn Hotel at Alexanderplatz.

If my city were a celebrity it’d beMadonna in the early 90s: sexual, provocative, rebellious — while at the same time beautiful and glamorous.

TV Tower = a great place for photos.

The most random thing about my city is the fact that it’s the only capital in the world where a water plane is allowed to take off.

My city has the most hipster men.

My city has the most hipster women.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves open air karaoke in Mauerpark.

My city’s best museum is the Jewish Museum Berlin with a building designed by Daniel Libeskind. But I also like the Currywurst Museum near Checkpoint Charlie.

Find a diamond in the rough at the Mauerpark flea market.

My favorite jogging/walking route is Kastanienallee in Prenzlauer Berg where you’ll find lots of vintage and designer stores and cute cafés. It’s also the perfect place for people watching — that’s why it’s called “Casting Alley.”

Shopping, drinking coffee, and watching-people count as a sport, right?

For a night of dancing, go to subway station Kottbusser Tor or Schlesisches Tor for a spontaneous dance party. Or, for live music, check out White Trash in Prenzlauer Berg.

Burgermeister, next to Schlesisches Tor, is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read sugarhigh. To find the club that fits your style check the clubmatcher.

You can tell a lot about my city from standing on the Oberbaumbrücke (the bridge Lola keeps running across in Run Lola Run) and just watching people. Look to the right and to the left from the bridge over river Spree.

You can tell if someone is from my city if he’s carrying a bottle of Club-Mate and a canvas tote bag.

In the spring you should explore Berlin’s many flea markets to find great vintage clothes, furniture, books, and local art.

Don't miss the Christmas markets.

In the summer you should go for a swim at the Badeschiff and party the night away in the many open-air beach clubs you’ll find there.

In the fall you should fly a kite. Also, don’t miss the Festival of Lightswhere illumination artists light up historic buildings and other important landmarks in a spectacular show.

In the winter you should wear hiking boots (the sidewalks may be icy), check out the many Christmas markets, and have a mug of Glühwein (mulled wine).

A hidden gem in my city is the abandoned amusement park Spreepark. You can go on a guided tour on weekends.

Abandoned ride at Spreepark. (Nina Huepen-Bestendonk)

For a great breakfast joint try Entweder Oder in Prenzlauer Berg and order the Oderberger Spezial (it feeds two).

Don’t miss the Berlin Festival at the abandoned Tempelhof Airport in September.

Just outside my city, you can visit Potsdam with its famous Sanssouci Palace.

The best way to see my city is by bike. My tip: buy one at one of the many flea markets and resell it before you leave. If that is too much action for you, hop on the bus 100 (or at night 200) to get a tour around the city for €2,30.

If my city were a pet it would be acat: mostly grey but with a mythical beauty and a strong mind. A pet that’s not expecting anything from you but for you to be yourself.

The terminal at Tempelhof Airport.

If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live at a beach in Thailand running a coconut bikini company.

The best book about my city is Berlin Blues. It’s about Frank Lehmann, nearly 30, who lives in Berlin-Kreuzberg and struggles with his everyday life in 1989, the year the wall came down.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “Berlin” by Fischer Z.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the Berlin Zoo (the famous polar bear Knut’s birthplace), where you can see cute baby animals. It’s also the oldest zoo in Germany.

A mayor saying “it’s poor but sexy” about his city could only happen in my city.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because it’s Berlin, the alternative heart of Europe with more bridges than Venice.

All photos by Yvonne Zagermann except where noted.

[See also: National Geographic's Berlin City Guide]

Comments

  1. Katy Nikolaou
    http://tripandtravelblog.com/
    June 16, 10:54 am

    Hi there,
    Nice tips – I visited Berlin January (God I will not do that again). I have to say it was quite warm during the day but when you wake up in the morning it is like -3 C and you can barely walk. I loved the The Memorial Church (Gedächtniskirche) & the Victory Column (Siegessäule)
    Cheers,
    Katy

  2. […] Yvonne’s Berlin […]

  3. Ivan
    April 4, 2013, 6:19 am

    Berlin is a really wonderful time! I started my trip with a food tour of Kreuzberg http://www.eat-the-world.com/en.html, then made our way across the Oberbaum to Warschauer Straße where nightlife is at its peak. I can’t remember anything else after.

  4. [...] Yvonne’s Berlin (Germany): Explore Berlin’s many flea markets to find great vintage clothes, furniture, books, and local art. [...]

  5. [...] Yvonne’s Berlin (Germany): The Berlin Zoo (the famous polar bear Knut’s birthplace), where you can see cute baby animals. It’s also the oldest zoo in Germany. [...]

  6. [...] Yvonne’s Berlin (Germany): The Jewish Museum Berlin with a building designed by Daniel Libeskind – but I also like the Currywurst Museum near Checkpoint Charlie. [...]

  7. [...] I Heart My City: Yvonne’s Berlin Posted by I Heart My City on April 18, 2012 (8) More » I Heart Berlin souvenir. (Photo: Yvonne Zagermann) [...]

  8. Andrew
    http://www.groundedtraveler.com
    May 11, 2012, 5:15 pm

    Ive been to Berlin a few times and really liked it. I definitely need to find the open air karaoke park though.

  9. Linda @EcoTraveller
    Australia
    May 2, 2012, 12:07 am

    What a great mini guide! I’ve *almost* been a few times. Will get there eventually, I guess. Looks fab.

  10. Alexa Meisler
    http://www.52perfectdays.com
    April 30, 2012, 4:18 pm

    Amazing post. I’ll be sure to buy the Berlin Blues to get myself acquainted before I head to this wonderful city of yours.

  11. Laurence
    http://www.findingtheuniverse.com
    April 30, 2012, 11:20 am

    I had an incredible time in Berlin, the few days I was able to visit. I took a tour of the street art which was absolutely brilliant. Photos from my time there are here: http://www.findingtheuniverse.com/2010/10/alternative-tour-of-berlin.html

  12. Alexander
    April 21, 2012, 11:29 am

    Great city!
    Read top10 places to visit in Berlin at http://travel-europe-eu.blogspot.com/

  13. Mose - Tipsy Pilgrim
    Paris
    April 21, 2012, 7:17 am

    I was there a couple of weeks ago and discovered one of Berlin’s more amusing traditions that you really should have mentioned — street- and u-bahn-drinking:
    http://www.tipsypilgrim.com/blog/drink-proudly-on-berlins-streets-and-trains-especially-if-yo.html

    I definitely second the bike recommendation. Berlin tends to be cheap in every way except for the public transport, and used bikes can easily be bought and resold.

  14. Pete
    Turkey
    April 19, 2012, 2:40 am

    Berlin has been our radar for a LONG time, but we just haven’t made it there yet. So many travelers rave about the city. We are dying to make it there.

    My wife is meeting Yvonne this weekend at TBU in Umbria and I can’t wait to hear all about it.

    Pete
    http://www.hecktictravels.com