The German capital has undergone a huge amount of change in the last 25 years and even a fairly up to date guidebook can struggle to give you the lowdown on the best area to stay. Being such a large city it’s impossible to recommend a ‘best’ area that will appeal to all visitors. The ‘hip’ area of the city changes regularly and if you’re not careful you can end up partying on your own in a newly gentrified area for families or trying to kick-back and relax above Berlin’s hottest new nightclub. So here’s a brief (and hopefully current!) rundown of the best areas to stay (and visit!) in Berlin.
As central as it gets and home to many of the city’s most famous landmarks Mitte is an excellent option if you only have a day or two to spend in Berlin. It is however, like most city centres fairly expensive. Even a basic chain hotel here will set you back around €80 a night in low season.
Alternatively Mitte is home to a range of reasonably cheap and surprisingly well equipped youth hostels. Many have private en-suite rooms from as little as €30 and will also offer free wifi, breakfast and common rooms where you can meet other travellers.
However the biggest problem with Mitte is that it could be pretty much anywhere in Europe. Lose the Berlin landmarks and you could be in Frankfurt, Stockholm or London. The ‘real’ Berlin is not an easy thing to find as the city’s history makes it an international melting pot by nature but whatever the real Berlin is Mitte probably isn’t it.
If you’re looking for the Berlin of legend with its rich mix of nationalities and alternative culture then Kreuzburg is the place to start your search. Home to the Turkish district Little Istanbul and a huge variety of cafés, restaurants and independent boutique shops you could have a perfectly pleasant stay in Berlin without ever leaving the area and should definitely make sure it’s on your list even if you’re not staying here.
The recent gentrification of the area has significantly pushed up accommodation prices and it’s difficult to find anything for less than around €80 a night. Youth hostels are a bit thinner on the ground here than in Mitte but they’re there if you look hard enough!
The true home of underground Berlin (at least at the moment!) Prenzlauer Burg is busy, loud and in your face but if this is your sort of thing you’ll never want to leave. Don’t stay here if you’re looking for a quiet visit as the streets remain packed and noisy well into the early hours. Many clubs here don’t advertise (that would attract tourists…) so keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter if you want to know what’s happening. Accommodation rates here are very seasonal. Visit in the height of summer (when Europe’s students descend on the place) and you’ll see little change from your €100. Visit in December and hoteliers will be desperate to get their hands on your €50.
If you want to experience all that Prenzlauer Burg has to offer but would rather retire somewhere a little quieter once it’s time for bed then consider staying in neighbouring Weißensee. The laid back residential area is popular with young families and well connected to the city’s main airport at Tegel. If you’re looking for a relaxed holiday but still fancy being able to access the buzz and excitement of a major cultural capital then continue Treptow. Lying in the former east Berlin it still retains some of its former cultural heritage but has been gentrified and improved in most places. Do double check reviews on sites like TripAdvisor before choosing where to stay. The district is also very close to the city’s Schönefeld airport which is handy if you’ll be arriving in the city late at night or leaving early in the morning.
Wherever you choose to stay be sure to visit as much of the city as you can so you see the full range of cultures, people and places that make Berlin the exciting, unique and sometimes baffling melting pot that it is and if you don’t like where you stay be sure not to write the city off there’s almost certain to be an area for you somewhere.