Berlin, what with its ability to ever reinvent itself, has an eternal sense of cool. World-class cultural institutions and grand European hotels coexist with an eccentric creative scene and an innate way of challenging authority (or at least preconceived notions). Dining and drinking establishments, too, can be somewhat divvied up into an old and new guard — sleek, fancy restaurants sit next to crumbling ingredient-driven restaurants, while Old World cocktail dens oppose über-clubs filled with techno music. Whether you’re walking through Berlin-Mitte, a hip artist hub, or taking in a show at the stunning Komische Oper, Berlin has more than enough to delight, if not shock, every sense.
Breakfast: Café Einstein is a Berlin institution that has spawned a small chain of cafés around town, but the original location on Kurfürstenstraße oozes old-fashioned charm and character, is always buzzing with Berliners, and happens to serve what some consider the best apple strudel in town (pictured). They serve fantastic coffees and pastries from 8 a.m. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/boutmuet)
Lunch: I Due Forni is what you get when you mix the brazen nature of the city’s up-and-coming food-makers with the blank canvas that is pizza. It’s a chaotic, but intimate (and punk-rock-loving) space that’s always loud. Not really a cushy experience, but the pizza, with an amazing array of wild toppings, is well worth any trouble. Just don’t go expecting any white gloves.
Dinner: Run by one of Germany’s most celebrated chefs, Thomas Kurt, E.T.A. Hoffmann is modern fine dining with none of the slick pretension or the hefty price tag. It is a testament to the joys of good food and a warm, inviting atmosphere. Think cheese dumplings with chanterelles in cream, duck liver terrine, and a sea bream prepared with truffle risotto and cabbage. They’ll pair your meal with their fantastic wines, on request.
A trendier dinner choice, Hartmann’s is still more focused on the food than its scene. Seasonal and creative a la carte and set menus offer items like a confit lobster with red lentils and smoked suckling pig cheeks with watercress. In warmer weather, diners spill out onto the lovely patio.
Afternoon snack: Women should be adamant about having one afternoon of any Berlin trip to themselves, if for no other reason than to visit Berlin’s first Hamam, which serves authentic Turkish tea to women in the relaxing room post-massage and sauna. Or stick with co-ed afternoon activities at the Arena Badeschiff Berlin. In the summer, these are swimming pools situated on the river Spree with a cocktail bar and live music (pictured). In the winter, they get roofs and become saunas and indoor, heated pools with warmer beverages on offer. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/nicoaracena)
Drinks: Berlin has had, like most major cities around the world as of late, a classic and modern cocktail boom. And CSA Bar is the perfect place to discover the scene. A super chic, minimalist room (that was once the office of Czech Airlines) is the backdrop for stylish patrons sipping on off-the-menu cocktails.
For a night of unabashed fun, go dancing at the incredibly old school Clärchens Ballhaus, which has been hosting parties since 1913. Not filled to the brim with the high heel-clad jet set, this place is perfect for anyone itching to cut up a rug to something other than techno. You can also stop by for a quiet lunch during the day, but the time to go is when the sun’s gone down.