“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.

Today, while the artists stayed, 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 is definitely still sexy.

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

An external view of Schloss Charlottenburg with clear blue skies above it
Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin © Jon Davison / Lonely Planet


The best neighborhood for entertainment and shopping

As the former city center of West Berlin, Charlottenburg has always been a cultural hub for entertainment and a must-visit area for those looking for a more up-scale vibe. With high-end boutiques and elegant baroque buildings overlooking its quaint alleyways, Charlottenburg has gained recognition as the posh side of town.

And while fancy cars, luxury brands and classy restaurants dominate the neighborhood, there is history too, with some of Berlin’s best museums like C/O Berlin and the Helmut Newton Foundation located here – both excellent ways to spend the afternoon.

Finally, a visit to Charlottenburg isn’t complete without a stop at the Schloss Charlottenburg, a baroque palace from the 17th century, with one of the most gorgeous landscaped gardens you will find in the city.

Two people cycle through Tiergarten Park in Berlin
View of two people riding bicycles through Tiergarten Park, Berlin © Shutterstock / rawf8


The best neighborhood for relaxation

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.

However, Tiergarten is not just a big park. 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 the 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 are lucky, on your way home you might see one or two foxes wandering around.

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

Regierungsviertel (Government District)

The best neighborhood for architecture, culture and history

Berlin’s Regierungsviertel is a neighborhood steeped in German history. Destroyed and reconstructed several times, you can easily spend a full day touring the exact locations where some key moments of 20th-century history took place.

Follow the path of the Berlin Wall and visit the former East/West Germany crossing point at Checkpoint Charlie, or learn more about the Nazi atrocities at the Topografie des Terrors.

Further along the path enter the immersive, and powerful Holocaust Memorial, walk through the iconic Brandenburg Gate and enter the German Reichstag (book ahead for a free admission ticket on the official website of the Reichstag). If you need a break from modern history take a relaxing walk east along the Spree river, where you can see some of the most striking architecture in the whole city.

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.
People on flea market at Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg © hanohiki / Shutterstock

Prenzlauer Berg

Best neighborhood for local life

Though Prenzlauer Berg is largely known for being a family-oriented neighborhood, it remains a great example of why not to judge a book by its cover. This part of Berlin hides some of the most exciting experiences once you scratch the surface.

Its picturesque cobblestone streets are perfect for wandering around and taking pictures, while its diverse variety of ice cream shops, healthy cafes and international restaurants makes it a great place to go if you are a foodie.

If you find yourself there during the weekend, a trip to Mauerpark on Sundays should be your top priority. Get some “späti” beers and seek out a bargain at the park's large flea market.

Inside the park, check out one of the many buskers showcasing their talent and, if you are 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.

Panoramic view of Berliner U-Bahn with Oberbaum Bridge in the background in golden evening light at sunset, Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg
Panoramic view of Berliner U-Bahn with Oberbaum Bridge in the background in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg © canadastock / Shutterstock


The best neighborhood for bohemian vibes

Considered to be the epicenter for alternative art and culture in Berlin, Kreuzberg is more than just a neighborhood. Being from Kreuzberg means having a certain rebellious identity, which has always been synonymous with Berlin itself.

Interwoven through its streets, second hand shops, independent bookstores, colorful street art, and vibrant bars are what makes Kreuzberg so special. Whether you are trying a Doner Kebap, Berlin’s unofficial dish, walking along the Landwehr canal, or drinking some beers at Görlitzer Park, expect to see people from all religions, social groups and nationalities passing by. Kreuzberg is a place to feel alive, and if you are bored of Kreuzberg, you are surely bored of life!

An old Trabant parked in front of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery
An old Trabant parked in front of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery © canadastock / Shutterstock


The best neighborhood for techno-clubbing

Linked to Kreuzberg by the castle-like Oberbaum Bridge over the Spree River, Friedrichshain is today one of the most dynamic and trendy neighborhoods in Berlin.

During the day, try new foods around Boxhagener Platz, enjoy a cold drink at Holzmarkt or YAAM, or walk along the East Side Gallery, a 4318-ft (1,316m) stretch of the Berlin Wall that has been transformed into the longest open-air gallery in the world.

Once the sun goes down, life in Friedrichshain transforms. Healthy cafes and boutiques close, while techno clubs and alternative bars open. The party never stops in Friedrichshain, as several clubs such as Crack Bellmer are open every night, while other legendary venues like Berghain or Salon zur Wilden Renate sometimes have parties that last the whole weekend, non-stop.

You might also like:

Top 20 free things to do in Berlin
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