“Poor but sexy” – this is how former Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit famously described the German capital almost two decades ago. Rents were low, parts of East Berlin were completely abandoned and the city was embracing its reputation as the place to be for artists.

While the artists stayed, today the neighborhoods have changed. Berlin became a modern multicultural city, with artists hanging out with young start-up executives, cool hipster vibes by day and an incredible nightlife when the sun goes down. Berlin might not be poor anymore, but it's definitely still sexy.

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Here are the best neighborhoods to explore on your visit to Berlin.

Sunlight streaming through the Brandenburg Gate
Sunlight streaming through Brandenburg Gate © Noppasin Wongchum / Shutterstock


The best neighborhood for immersing yourself in Berlin's history

Destroyed and reconstructed several times, Mitte is the pulsating heart of Berlin. This is a must-visit area for first timers, and you can easily spend a full day touring the exact locations where some key moments of 20th-century history took place.

Start your day at the Brandenburg Gate and follow the path of the Berlin Wall. Visit the powerful Holocaust Memorial, pass by Checkpoint Charlie – the former crossing point between East and West Germany – and learn more about the Nazi atrocities at the Topografie des Terrors.

After that recap on world history, venture into the German Reichstag, one of Europe's most iconic buildings. Remember to book your free admission ticket ahead of time on the official Reichstag website to ensure a smooth visit.

Continue your journey with a stroll along Unter den Linden, where trendy cafes, art galleries, designer boutiques and historical buildings await. Another option is taking a relaxing walk east along the Spree river, where you can see some of the most striking modern architecture in the whole city. 

If you manage to reach the TV tower and feel like you've seen it all, you've truly experienced the essence of Mitte.

Rows of tables are covered with items for sale at a flea market in Mauerpark, Berlin. People are lined up looking at the goods for sale.
Hunt for bargains at the bustling flea market in Mauerpark © hanohiki / Shutterstock

Prenzlauer Berg

Best neighborhood for trendy cafes and and charm

Though Prenzlauer Berg is largely known for being a family-oriented neighborhood, it remains a great example of why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. This Berlin district exudes a boho-chic, laid-back atmosphere, making it a magnet for artists, musicians and young professionals. Its picturesque cobblestone streets are perfect for wandering around and taking pictures, while its diverse array of vintage shops and cozy bookstores make for an ideal rainy-afternoon outing.

If you're a foodie, Prenzlauer Berg won't disappoint. Its streets are lined with hip restaurants representing cuisines from around the world, while charming cafes offer countless options for personalized coffee experiences.

If you find yourself there during a summer weekend, a Sunday trip to Mauerpark should be your top priority. Even if it means missing your train, grab some Späti beers and immerse yourself in the park's bustling flea market, where you can hunt for bargains.

Inside the park, check out one of the many buskers showcasing their talent, and, if you're brave enough, sing your favorite song in front of hundreds of people at the Bearpit Karaoke Show, one of the largest open-air karaoke shows in the world.

An old Trabant parked in front of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery
"Kreuzhain" blends edgy vibes with an eclectic mix of cultures © canadastock / Shutterstock


The best neighborhood for exploring alternative culture

Although these are two completely different districts, we Berliners consider them one. Known as the epicenter of alternative art and culture in Berlin, "Kreuzhain" is more than just a neighborhood. It is an area that seamlessly blends edgy vibes with an eclectic mix of cultures. From the colorful graffiti-covered walls to the vibrant bars and clubs along Simon-Dach-Straße, this district is a haven for artists, musicians and those embracing alternative lifestyles.

Interwoven through its streets are secondhand shops, independent bookstores, captivating street art and lively bars, all of which contribute to the unique charm of this area. Whether you're trying a doner kebap (Berlin's unofficial dish), strolling along the East Side Gallery or enjoying "Späti beers" at Görlitzer Park, you can expect to encounter people from diverse religions, social groups and nationalities.

Once the sun sets, life in Kreuzhain takes on a new energy. Vegan cafes and vintage shops may close, but techno clubs and alternative bars come to life. The party never stops in this part of the city, with clubs like Crack Bellmer open every night and legendary venues like Watergate or Salon zur Wilden Renate occasionally hosting weekend-long parties. Kreuzhain is a place to feel alive, and if you find yourself bored, you're certainly bored of life itself!


The best neighborhood for a bohemian experience

From once being one of the most dangerous districts in Berlin to becoming the go-to area for every Berliner, Neukölln is a microcosm of the city encapsulated within a single district. With its cobblestone streets and charming boutique shops in Rixdorf, as well as the vibrant energy of Weserstraße, Neukölln pulsates day and night, never ceasing to captivate.

The streets of Neukölln are also a treasure of international flavors. Restaurants, cozy cafes and trendy bars line the bustling streets, satisfying any craving you might have. Whether you're yearning for Middle Eastern delicacies, Vietnamese street food or traditional German dishes, Neukölln caters to every palate.

Additionally, Neukölln boasts a thriving arts and cultural scene. Independent art galleries, offbeat music venues and alternative performance spaces have found their home in this district. 


The best neighborhood for an upscale experience

Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf doesn't feel like Berlin, and that's precisely what makes it so appealing. Say goodbye to streets covered in graffiti, €5 kebabs and hipster vibes. Charlottenburg is the must-visit area for those looking for a more upscale vibe. With high-end boutiques and elegant baroque buildings overlooking quaint alleyways, Charlottenburg has gained recognition as the posh side of town.

But don't let the fancy cars and luxury brands overshadow its charm. This neighborhood is home to the Charlottenburg Palace, a baroque palace from the 17th century, with one of the most gorgeous landscaped gardens you will find in the city. For art enthusiasts, the C/O Berlin and the Helmut Newton Foundation are exceptional places to spend an afternoon immersed in creativity.

Finally, if you're a night owl, indulge in one of the Asian restaurants along Kantstraße, and you'll soon forget you're in Berlin. Alternatively, cap off your day with a sophisticated cocktail at the Hat Bar Berlin, a cozy lounge that features nightly jazz performances, creating an intimate and unforgettable experience.

Two people cycle through Tiergarten Park in Berlin
Tiergarten Park is a massive forest in the heart of the city © Shutterstock / rawf8


The best neighborhood for escaping the bustling city

While Berlin’s hectic and fast pace is exciting for some, it can get a little overwhelming for others. Luckily, Tiergarten offers an oasis of relaxation and peace.

Forget Berlin’s busy streets, constant traffic and chaotic urban life, and simply lose yourself in this massive forest in the heart of the city. Take a leisurely bike ride through the park, indulge in a peaceful picnic in the company of foxes and squirrels or explore the park's cultural attractions, such as the renowned Berlin Zoo and the iconic Bellevue Palace.

Tiergarten is not just a big park, however. Climb up the 270 steps to the top of the Victory Column to get some of the best panoramic views of Berlin, or pass by Bellevue Palace, the official residence of the President of Germany – even though you are not allowed to go in, it is still worth a quick visit.

Loving the charm of Tiergarten? Finish the day at the lakeside Café am Neuen See, a quiet beer garden located next to an artificial pond. If you're lucky, you might see one or two foxes wandering around on your way home.

This article was first published Jul 16, 2021 and updated Aug 29, 2023.

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