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Guide: What to see and where to eat in Berlin

Sightseeing on an empty stomach is no fun, here’s our guide to the best restaurants and cafes around Berlin's most popular tourist sights.

Sightseeing and Schnitzel in Central Mitte

Brandenburg Gate is probably Berlin’s most recognisable sight. Its imposing arches topped by the iconic chariot drawn by four horses leads deep into the enormous Tiergarten park on one side and down the grand Unter den Linden (under the linden trees) Boulevard on the other. On the edge of the Tiergarten is Germany’s parliament building, the Reichstag. Atop of this historical building is a modern glass dome that’s open to the public and offers up 360 degree views of the city (but you need to pre-register). Wander down to Checkpoint Charlie for a look at the old crossing between East and West Berlin. For a traditional German meal try the historic Lutter & Wegner restaurant beside the Gendarmenmarkt square. Choose a table in the casual wine room or the join Berlin’s business men and woman lunching in the formal dining room. It’s a charming restaurant with blackboard menu and perfect for schnitzel and a German beer or glass of wine from the large wine list. For a drink try the Rooftop Terrace at Hotel de Rome.

Central MitteLutter & Wegner

Shopping and Eating in Trendy Mitte

Once part of East Berlin, Mitte’s cheap property prices and central location (mitte is German for ‘middle’), made this the ideal spot for young entrepreneurs to move in. Wandering around the streets you’ll discover small boutique shops, plenty of restaurants and small bars. Its popularity hasn’t gone unnoticed and many international clothing brands have also moved in making Mitte Berlin’s shopping centre. During a shopping break you can lunch at one of our favourite small restaurants, the Chipperfield Kantine. Open only during weekdays for lunch, Chipperfield is a rather trendy architectural firm and Chipperfield Kantine is the staff canteen they’ve opened up to the public. The ‘well designed’ menu includes some hearty German fare but also light lunches and salads. It’s very modern German food served in a restaurant fitting its parentage. Guests are seated on long tables with other diners and Chipperfield staff on their lunch break.

Chipperfield KantineChipperfield Kantine

For Asian inspired burgers turn to Shiso Burger. Inspired by Taiwanese bao, these little burgers mix up east and west in tasty combinations like marinated beef, lettuce, red onions, chilli mayo, Korean, chilli paste and teriyaki sauce. Berlin has a very large Vietnamese community. Migration from Vietnam was actively encouraged from both East and West sides of the wall and many of these migrants and their children have opened up restaurants in the city. To experience the best of these go to District Mott for noodle soups and Vietnamese sharing plates. Mogg are famous for their pastrami sandwich and rightly so. Equally good is their coffee. They’re located in a converted Jewish girl's school building and share the space with an art gallery and the Michelin starred Pauly Saal. For specialised coffee roasters try Barn Coffee Roasters, or if you can’t decide between coffee or beer then head to Kaschk for both.

District Mott's Pho and Mogg's famous pastrami sandwichDistrict Mott's Pho and Mogg's famous pastrami sandwich

Shopping and sightseeing in West Berlin

During a World War 2 bombing raid the Kaiser Wilhelm Church church suffered a direct hit to its spire, knocking the top half clean off and leaving a gaping hole. This earnt it the nickname the ‘Hollow Tooth Church’. The old damaged church has been maintained as a war memorial and a newer more modern church has been built alongside. It’s a powerful visual reminder of Berlin’s turbulent ride through the twentieth century. Across the road from the Hollow Tooth is ‘Bikini Haus’, a mid-century industrial building that’s now home to modern boutique designer stores and clothing brands. It also houses the trendy 25Hours Hotel, our favourite big hotel in Berlin. The cafe at reception serves a pretty good coffee, but the real attraction is the Monkey Bar on the roof where guests can get a drink and look down on the zoo in the Tiergarten. Yes you can actually see monkeys. West Berlin is also home to Europe's largest department store Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDaWe). Originally opened in 1907 it’s still a very popular shopping spot for Germans and the 6th floor has a collection of open kitchen eateries serving everything from oysters to potato pancakes. If you’d like to try Berlin’s favourite street food, the currywurst, then look for the Witty’s stall on Wittenbergplatz Square, serving tasty organic sausages.

West BerlinWitty's Organic Wurst and KaDaWe Food Court

Brunch and Walk Along the Wall in P’Berg

Prenzlauer Berg (P’berg for short) is a nice area to stay as it’s close to Mitte but a little quieter, but even nicer is that it’s home to our favourite little hotel in Berlin, the boutique hotel Linnen. Start the day with brunch at Engelberg, with a mix of the usual breakfast offerings and some German classics, our favourite being the Munich style weisswurst (white sausage). Alternatively for something very casual try Konnopke's Imbiss for currywurst. Afterwards head down the road to Bonanza Coffee Roasters for one of Berlin’s best coffees. Now you’ve eaten and gotten a caffeine fix, walk from here down to the Berlin Wall Memorial. The wall has mostly been removed and replaced with information boards and artistic installations and it now forms a kind of walking museum park land. It’ll take between 20 minutes or an hour if you stop to take in the sights. The Memorial Museum has more information and a tower from which you can look down on a preserved section of the wall. For a quick burger lunch nearby try the Icelandic based Tommi’s Burger joint.

Prenzlauer BergWeisswurst at Engelberg

Street Food and Drinks in Hipster K’Berg

Once Mitte got too expensive the hipsters started to move west into Kreuzberg. This neighbourhood has a strong foreign population with around ¼ being from outside of Germany. Some refer to the area as ‘Little Istanbul’. That dynamic is changing but it’s still one of Berlin’s more diverse neighbourhoods. The main foodie attraction is Markthalle Neun, a farmers’ and producers’ market. Aside from fruit and vege, and there are a few stalls selling everything from sausages to bao. Thursday night is street food takeover night and the whole market is converted into street food stalls. If you’re a craft beer fan then check out Hopfenreich nearby. It’s a cosy bar with over 20 craft beers on tap from around Europe. If you feel like something stronger (and are still hungry) then head to Bourbon Dogs for a hot dog and a bourbon cocktail.

Markthalle NeunMarkthalle Neun and Craft Beer at Hopfenreich

Also in K’Berg is the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall converted into an open air gallery. Originally painted in 1990, the 100 or so paintings that line it have undergone restoration work over the last 10 years. Most of these works carry a theme of unity and freedom in direct reaction to the fall of communism in Germany. For a quick bite before or after walking the wall we suggest Berlin’s best burger joint, the famous Burgermeister. Possibly, just possibly the best burger in Europe. For a longer more substantial lunch try the restaurant in the Michelberger Hotel. The menu is very a modern take on German food from an Irish chef Alan Micks who in a lived and who once worked in Auckland for a while.

East Side Gallery and BurgermeisterEast Side Gallery and Burgermeister

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