Having just returned from Berlin for the second time in less than two years, I’m even more determined to make this fabulous city my home one day. In many ways, Berlin reminds me a lot of New York. It has the same contagious energy that lures people (like me) back time after time. Yet, Berlin has a few things that New York lacks and its these differences that makes the biggest impact. Firstly, the variety of green spaces really help to balance out the more urban areas. Secondly, there are also far fewer people here, but that’s true of almost any city.
The most fascinating aspect about Berlin, at least in my opinion, is that it is in constant flux. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and you can feel the excitement in the air. Furthermore, new developments like Bikini Berlin in City West are revolutionizing the way travelers interact with the city. Regardless of your travel style, here are five urban and green spaces to find inspiration during your visit.
For creative writing inspiration, go to the Fairy Tale Fountain
The Fairy Tale Fountain (or Märchenbrunnen) is something that feels like it’s literally out of…well, a fairy tale. Located in the Volkspark Friedrichshain park, this hardly your typical watering hole. For anyone who is remotely interested in creative writing, stumbling upon this fountain may very well become the highlight of your trip. See if you can guess what fairy tales are represented in stone sculptures. A few, like Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood are fairly obvious but there are a few that aren’t as well-known, at least by American standards so take your time. Our group passed through this area on our bikes but I could have easily stayed here all afternoon. If you’re ever looking for a peaceful spot to read a new book of perhaps write one of your own, this is the perfect place.
For innovation inspiration, go to St. Oberholz
I’ve worked with a few companies based in Germany so naturally, I was curious to see what the start-up scene is like in Berlin. While there are a few co-working spaces throughout the city, St. Oberholz seems to be the “it” hub for innovative tech companies. Conveniently located in the trendy Mitte neighborhood, this joint serves multiple purposes. On the ground floor is a restaurant and cafe, with tables and desks lining the walls. Upstairs is where the real co-working area begins. The space is open 24/7 and there’s even a conference room for weekly meetings. Finally, in the event that you are super lazy or simply too smitten with Mitte to leave, you can live in the building as well. I’m sure this is rather appealing to start-ups because they really do work round the clock.
For introspective inspiration, go to the nearest courtyard
Berlin is a city filled with courtyards so if you’re ever needing a few minutes of solitude, just slip into the nearest one. Sure, courtyards are technically designated for residents who live in the apartments surrounding them but it’s completely fine to pass through and wander around. From my experience, Berliners are generally friendly and won’t mind you stepping on their turf. This particular courtyard is in the revamped Kreuzberg neighborhood and it is one of my favorites. Another way to experience one of Berlin’s courtyards is to make a meal of it. I recommend heading to Katz Orange because the food is delicious and they have outdoor seating. Perhaps the most famous cluster of courtyards are The Hackesche Höfe in the center of Berlin. Here you can walk through eight interconnected courtyards.
For alternative inspiration, go to Görlitzer Park
Kreuzberg is easily one of Berlin’s most beloved neighborhoods and it deserves every and all praise. So many things intrigue me about this area – everything from the architecture to the street art screams creativity and there’s always form of art taking form. Görlitzer Park has something for everyone. There is a children’s farm and playgrounds for kids and hip bars and outdoor seating areas for adults. Plan to come here on a warm day and pack a picnic to share with friends. Like many popular public parks in cities around the world, this might not be the best place to hangout after dark. The park was once an old railway station so it’s thrilling to see how much it has changed over the years. That being said, it has a gritty appeal, thanks to the graffiti-covered walls.
For design inspiration, browse through Bikini Berlin
Exploring City West was a mostly new experience for me and at times, I didn’t even feel like I was in Berlin. Unlike the hipster neighborhoods of Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg, City West caters to a more upscale crowd. Our hotel overlooked Bikini Berlin on one side and Tiergarten park and Berlin Zoo on the other, providing quite the view. I thought people were joking when they said that you can see the monkeys from the hotel but that’s completely true and undeniably awesome. Anyway, Bikini Berlin is situated right beside the hotel and houses some of Europe’s top design brands. On the top floor is an outdoor bar and meeting space, which also overlooks the monkeys and on the lower floors there are galleries and shops selling designer duds and items for the home.
For anything else, head to Prenzlaur Berg’s secret garden
If you’ve read even a few posts from my adventures abroad, you’d know that I find cemeteries to be extremely peaceful places. So technically this is a cemetery and not a garden but it sure feels like one. This particular cemetery, which is actually three packed into one: Georgen-Parochialgemeinde, St. Nikolai and St. Marien, was closed in 1970 and reopened in 1991. Many of the graves have since been restored yet it still feels frozen in time, almost as if you’ve stumbled upon something secret. I spent a few minutes walking through the area and could have easily gotten lost not only in direction but in thought. This is a great retreat right in the middle of the city center. It’s also very close to the Fairy Tale Fountain so try to squeeze them both in while you’re in the area, either on foot or by bike.
This trip was hosted by Visit Berlin. All opinions are my own. I stayed at 25hours Hotel Berlin during my stay and toured many of these spots with Berlin on Bike. I reached Berlin from Hamburg via Rail Europe‘s German Rail Pass.