Here's how to avoid getting spat on by the locals in the German capital.
(All photos by Grey Hutton unless otherwise stated)
The German capital is one of the planet’s great party cities, where your every dream and darkest desire has been turned into a three-storey nightclub with a merciless door policy. Sadly, everybody in the world knows this, so the only thing worse than the stupid fucking queues outside the clubs are the infuriating tourists within them. Here’s how to avoid pissing off the locals and convince everyone that you're ein Berliner.
Jump to sections by using the index below:
– WHERE TO PARTY
– WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?
– POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
Legacy of the Squatters | May Day, Refugee Strikes and Neo-Nazis | Berlin's Immigrants
– WHERE TO EAT
– WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?
– WHERE TO DRINK
– WHERE TO STAY
– LGBT BERLIN
– WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU'RE SOBER
– HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP
– HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST
– PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID
– TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES
– A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF QUESTIONABLE LOCAL MUSIC
– VICE CITY MAP
WHERE TO PARTY
Look. Everyone knows Berlin is basically the best place to get fucked up in Europe, which means you probably shouldn’t bother waiting for the weekend. In fact, avoid the weekend – it sucks, and getting into anywhere is basically World War Z. Wednesday and Thursday are the nights you should save yourselves for.
You’ve heard of Berghain, right? Well, it’s almost as well known for its bouncers as it is for its dancefloors, so a three-hour wait on a Saturday night could well end in you being turned away with a simple: “Nein.” And there's no getting around that nein. Rather than risk that, try Watergate on a Wednesday, Stattbad Wedding on a Saturday, Club der Visionäre on a Sunday afternoon and then, if you really must, Berghain on the Sunday evening.
If you do make the effort to go to Berlin’s most famous club, don’t be a tourist. Berghain is not a place to stand around chatting by the bar, so always look ready to dance, because the bouncers aren’t just being dicks, they’re there to separate flies on the wall from real techno heads.
The same principle applies to mementos; don’t waste any time on your phone or taking pictures at Berghain, just lose your shit on the dancefloor. When you do eventually leave, don't wash off your stamp, as a faded mark from the night before helps your case if you try to get in again the following night – although you will have to pay again. Most importantly of all, always bring cash. They don’t accept credit cards and there’s no ATM inside.
Friedrichshain is generally the area where techno heads like to hang out, and one of the best Berghain alternatives can be found at the formerly illegal ://about blank near Ostkreuz. Just leave your camo parka, IDF beret and Swiss Guards smock at home, as they won't let you in if you’re sporting any sort of institutional insignia.
You’ll find pretty much everything in Friedrichshain, from good value warm-up bars such as Süß. War Gestern and Sanatorium 23, to smaller clubs, like Rosi's, Suicide Circus and Salon Zur Wilden Renate.
Another decent Berghain alternative is Tresor, a big place across the Spree river. Club nights don't go on as long as they do at Berghain, but the place is just as big, it has great bookings and the ground-floor club OHM is also pretty great.
Avoid Matrix and Speicher, unless you're a teenager, into R&B or generally don't have very good taste in music. These are shitty tourist traps for shitty tourists. Finally, if you know the difference between house and techno and you aren't a forum shut-in, it's pretty much obligatory that you check out any Source Material party that takes place during your stay. Affiliated with the record label White Material, and overseen by residents DJ Richard and Mo Probs, they always have a cool headliner and have the added bonus of not just attracting lonely young men with RSI neck problems and stylus collections.
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?
Contrary to popular perception, we’re not all constantly on E. In fact, there’s loads of other stuff we’re on as well.
Smoking weed isn’t much of a problem in most neighbourhoods, but generally the most liberal of these are Kreuzberg-Friedrichschain and Neukölln. Kreuzberg's mayor Monika Hermann has even begun making plans for Germany's first "coffee shop" in Görlitzer Park.
Generally, drugs like MDMA, pills, coke and speed are tolerated in clubs, however most people make sure they're well hidden before they get to the doorman as these guys are thorough in their frisking and anything found is generally thrown in the bin. Some drugs are really not tolerated by anyone though, especially if they can be used to spike people’s drinks or overdosed on easily. In fact, anyone caught with GHB you will not only be thrown out, but also branded with a house ban, known as a "Hausverbot", which usually lasts a year. Lord knows how they police this, but they do. It might seem surprising when you see the drug zombies floating around many of our clubs, but there is also very literally zero tolerance for people who are too fucked inside clubs and they tend to get kicked the fuck out.
Anyone who finds themselves in possession of some dodgy looking pills might benefit from checking out this site.
In some European cities it seems to be OK to do drugs in parks, but here people are very wary of the police. One can be stopped and searched if they’re looking particularly shifty or fucked. Undercover cops in clubs are not that rare but they’re mostly there for the dealers. With harder drugs, people can be prosecuted even if it’s just for personal consumption.
(Photo by Alex Young)
POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
LEGACY OF THE SQUATTERS
In the 90s, the chaos that was freshly re-unified Berlin made it a squatter’s paradise. There were plenty of empty buildings, the owners of which were often unknown, and the authorities were indecisive. Residents were also largely supportive of the squatters’ goal to defend the existing buildings against the city government’s harebrained urban development schemes. In its heyday, the Berlin squatter scene occupied at least 120 buildings, which it defended in a number of ferocious street battles with riot police.
But as Berlin’s appeal grew, so did the pressure on squatters created by real estate developers and politicians eager to improve the city’s image. As a result, most squats were either dissolved or legalised during the late-90s. When the last real squatters of Berlin were evicted from Brunnenstraße 183 in 2009, the movement ended with a whimper. However, the squats have left their mark on Berlin’s urban culture, and a number of the legalised collectives have since been converted into alternative cultural centres you can visit – be it for a cheap meal, an underground art show or a drawn-out discussion of Gramsci’s theory of hegemony as applied to the NSA’s surveillance mechanisms.
Former squats turned cultural centres include the Schokoladen in Ackerstraße 169, a venue that hosts readings, parties and concerts every other day, with a line-up of bands that varies from great one day to utter shite the next. Also worth a visit are the Volksküchen – or “peoples’ kitchens” – where many of these collectives dish out homemade food for either very little or no money. The collective Køpi137 show movies on their impressive screen and will even feed you on certain nights. So does the Filmrisz in Friedrichshain. A good list of these kind of events can be found at www.stressfaktor.squat.net. Be warned, though – turning up as a group of well-dressed, English-speaking strangers looking to “slum it” by going a night without WiFi is almost guaranteed to rub people up the wrong way.
If you’re looking to brush up your dialectic skills, head over to the Liebig34, an “Anarcha-Feminist, FLT Collective and Social Living House-project” in a former squat in Friedrichshain. The community is entirely devoted to the “everyday advancement of the deconstruction of pre-determined roles and behavioural patterns“, especially concerning gender, and includes a (free) bike repair shop and an anarchist reading room. They’re apparently looking for new roommates at the moment, which could be an interesting experience – although you won’t be allowed to live there if you’re a straight man.
Finally, a truly authentic experience of the old squatter mentality can still be found in a house on Brunnenstraße 7. Here, you have to pass into the back courtyard, where lots of graffiti should alert you to the fact that the inhabitants do not like you because you are a tourist (refugees are welcome, though). If you stick around long enough, one of them might stick his head out the window to shout abuse and throw something at you. To make him really angry, take a selfie in front of the graffiti and then inadvertently leave your latte cup from the nearby Cafe Oberholz on a doorstep.
Just kidding – you should, for the sake of humanity, leave them alone, because it’s not a fucking zoo. Do you want people to come to your house and take pictures of you and your family? Didn’t think so.
POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
MAY DAY, REFUGEE STRIKES AND NEO-NAZIS
Protests are an integral part of Berlin culture. On any given day you can run into a group of people protesting against everything from NATO’s handling of the Ukraine crisis to dolphin fishing. Even before Berlin regained its status as Germany’s capital in 1999, the fact that it was a Western enclave in the middle of the Soviet sphere of influence gave rise to a lot of political tension, the main outlet of which were the 1st of May demonstrations. For years, these demonstrations regularly embroiled the Kreuzberg district in chaos, with left-wing protesters and riot police locked in a kind of ritualised dance of rocks, batons, pepper-spray and torched automobiles.
In recent years, a new police tactic of encouraging a far-flung street festival has had some success at containing these clashes, which has meant that May Day now has more in the way of spontaneous street raves and micro-brewed beer, and less in the way of capitalism-crushing class struggle. It’s still fun to check out, though.
About two years ago, Berlin also saw a new kind of protest emerge: the “refugee strike”. This is when a group of asylum seekers squat on a public square or go on hunger strike in order to protest against Germany’s asylum policy. This form of protest has forced Berlin authorities to make some difficult decisions – they've permitted a large group of refugees (and anyone else who wants to, really) to squat in an abandoned school in Kreuzberg, but cleared a protest camp that had occupied a large square in the neighbourhood after a year and a half. So far, the protest has achieved few tangible results, but it has managed to keep asylum seekers in the German news.
A group that regularly tries to exploit this situation is Berlin’s small but staunchly dedicated branch of the far-right party, NPD. Every other week they announce a demo protesting “asylum abuse” or “parasitism” by foreigners, which is usually attended by between 15 to 100 goons and around 20 times that number of antifascists, residents and immigrant associations. Usually, the head moron gives a speech to the supporters, journalists and policemen that surround him, while the anti-protesters try to block their route, clash with the police or organise spontaneous street festivals. This sort of thing can be fun, as long as you keep the police line between you and the fascists.
POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
Berlin is a city of immigrants, with 29 percent of the population having some sort of immigrant background. As in many other cities, different groups tend to cluster in different neighbourhoods.
By far the biggest group are the Turks (5.5 percent of Berlin’s population, although many of them are technically Kurds). They began arriving in Germany after an agreement with Turkey in the 1960s, when the booming German industry cast around for cheap labour that would sustain growth without raising wages. Like the Italians before them, most of these “guest workers” ended up staying, and although acceptance by Germans has improved, discrimination is still an everyday occurrence. While there are now a number of politicians and journalists of Turkish background, very few have managed to gain a place in the upper echelons of industry or finance. Nevertheless, few Berliners today could imagine their city without the Turkish influence. The biggest Turkish populations live in the Kreuzberg, Neukölln, Wedding and Moabit neighbourhoods.
A smaller but still visible minority are the immigrants of Arab origin, many of whom are Lebanese Shiites, Kurds or Palestinians who fled the civil war in the 1980s. As the German government refused to recognise many of them as refugees, quite a few have languished in a state of perpetual unemployment and failed integration, which has led some to turn to organised crime. The combination of their being Muslim and from large families has made them regulars in fear-mongering tabloid op-eds about “criminal Arab clans”, which has helped foster a great deal of prejudice towards Arabs in Berlin. By far the most Arabs live in Neukölln, where 80 percent of the teenagers have an immigrant background.
After the Turks, the second largest group are the Poles, as well as many Serbs and Russians. Since many Berliners are used to Eastern Europeans from when they were all part of the "Eastern Bloc", people aren't too prejudiced towards them (besides a lot of Germans remaining convinced that Poles are wonderful car thieves).
Immigrants from Western European countries like France, Spain, Italy and the UK make up around 3 percent of the population and face much less prejudice than other groups. Their biggest problem is being perceived as annoying hipster tourists who drive up rent prices and clog up the line in front of Berghain.
(photo by Gergana Petrova)
WHERE TO EAT
Pflügerstraße 11 12047 Berlin
Delicious vegetarian Mexican food in a nice, cosy atmosphere. Also, if you hate animals so much you can’t even bear to eat their by-products, you have the option of going vegan. The one downside is that it's pretty small, so it's always crowded.
Behrenstraße 55 10117 Berlin
Cookies is one of Berlin’s most renowned clubs – it's pretty much seen it all. Literally on top of the club is this restaurant. It’s expensive, but worth it if you like good vegetarian food and spotting minor vegetarian celebrities.
BBI Berlin Burger International
Pannierstraße 5 12047 Berlin
Like the entirety of the UK at the moment, Berliners basically eat nothing but burgers (don’t get too snobby; while it’s nice to occasionally eat something that doesn’t stop your heart stone dead, burgers are pretty fucking nice). The best place for a patty and a bun in Berlin is BBI. It’s small but has everything a good burger place needs: an amazing kitchen, seating on the street and a serviceable toilet.
Grimmstraße 30 10967 Berlin
There are actually three of these hectic pizza places dotted around Berlin – one in Prenzlauer Berg (I Due Forni), one in Friedrichshain (Il Ritrovo) and this one, which is our favourite. This is partly to do with the beautiful patio area, which looks out over the canal. It's super loud, the waiters are dicks and on weekends you sometimes have to wait an hour to get your food, but it’s all worth it for the delicious pizza, pasta and antipasti.
Vatos Tacos Taco Truck
Ritterstraße 26 10969 Berlin
This is a food truck, so giving you directions is kind of pointless. But if I had to bet, I’d wager you’d find it on Ritterstraße. And it’s worth it if you do because it’s got the city’s best quesadillas and burritos, served with meat, vegetarian or vegan options.
WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?
Berlin is home to the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey. This is bad news for racists, but good news for normal, nice humans with stomachs, because there’s an abundance of the best Turkish food outside of Turkey in every price range, ranging from döner kebab (invented in Germany) for €1.50, all the way up to high-end cuisine.
Club-Mate is essentially Red Bull for arty German hipsters. It’s basically a bitter-tasting, caffeine-loaded iced tea, and everyone mixes it with vodka. However, because arty German hipsters drink it, arty German hipsters now also take the piss out of it. But you shouldn’t care if people think you're lame for breaking some obscure social rule about drinking a bottled drink – you’re a tourist, you’re always going to be the lamest person in the club.
There are a million places all over Berlin that sell the famous Currywurst. It’s basically a pork sausage, with or without skin (known as “darm”), which is then chopped into pieces and covered in a homemade blend of ketchup and curry powder. About as good for your gut as you’d imagine.
Bar Food Vendors
These guys travel around all the bars and work the queues of clubs, selling delicious snacks out of their little baskets. It’s usually handmade sandwiches, pakoras and other finger food. They’re not cheap, but they’re there.
Look, I know that recommending you a baked potato sounds stupid, but honestly this is banging. Plus, this is a special kind of delicious baked potato from Eastern Europe or Turkey (apparently no one knows for sure).
WHERE TO DRINK
In Neukölln, a neighbourhood in south Berlin, the best place to get drinks is Das Gift – a typical Berliner bar, known to the locals as Eck-Kneipe, where you can get good, cheap draft beer. And like any typical Berliner bar, it’s run by a Scottish alt-rock titan – Barry Burns from Mogwai and his wife Rachel. The pub next door is run by the bassist from Arab Strap and The Jesus and Mary Chain have a falafel cart outside.
A lot of people say the area around Mitte is dying or becoming too overrun by tourists, but firstly you are a tourist, and secondly – frankly – it’s still perfectly nice. Avoid Rosenthaler Platz and instead head to a side-street like Auguststraße, which will lead you to Hackbarth’s on Auguststraße 49a. This place is perfect for a drink before dinner.
Kreuzberg is always worth a visit for its restaurants, and if you’re around here for a drink we’d recommend checking out Bellman’s on Reichenberger Straße 103. It’s open late, sells alcohol and I’ll probably be there, so say hi.
If, like a 16-year-old, you prefer to do your drinking in the park, head to Volkspark Friedrichshain. It’s huge and full of beautiful spots to watch the day go by from, in particular the Brothers Grimm-themed fountain (which is also a great place to meet unpleasant teenage drunks).
There’s a lot of buzz around Schöneberg being Berlin’s next big thing, which is weird because it's always been great. Recently, a host of new galleries have moved into the area so you can see some great art during the day before visiting Café Einstein, the most beautiful coffee house in town, then head to Victoria Bar to get pissed on nicer cocktails than the place's British name would seem to suggest.
Charlottenburg is actually one of the city’s most beautiful districts, if you ever get off the Highway of Hell that is Kurfürstendamm, Berlin’s busiest shopping corridor. On the streets nearby you’ll find plenty of high-end bars, like the Paris Bar, and shops that people who hate hipsters hate, like the Bikini Berlin concept store, where you’ll find the latest collections from underground Berlin designers. That said, if you’re not loaded, Charlottenburg may as well be a museum; your best bet is to just buy some tinnies and stare at the rich and wonderful.
WHERE TO STAY
If you want a safe bet for a cheap and fun experience in Berlin, look no further than the A&O Hostel at Köpenicker / Ecke Adalbertstraße (from €9, or about £7, per night for a dorm bed). This is where the human detritus from every country on earth washes up, and locals call it “the trailer park of tourists”. It ain’t pretty, but if you enjoy the disgusting melting pot of hormones that is Generation EasyJet then you’ll love it.
Another cheap option is to find a Pension, which is the German equivalent of a B&B and is typically run by some old people you have practically nothing in common with beyond a groundless belief that Berlin isn’t as fun as it used to be. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer left in the city itself but if you can find one online, it’s worth a punt.
If you’ve tricked someone into coming to Berlin who’d much rather be camping, check out Hüttenpalast on Hobrechtstraße 65-66 (from €55, or about £44, per night for an indoor caravan). They have indoor caravans and wooden huts to give you all the fun of the great outdoors while still being located in party-friendly Neukölln, where the wild things are.
If what you really want to do while you’re in Berlin is sleep with someone in a band, try the Michelberger Hotel on Warschauer Straße 39/40 (from €80, or about £64, per night for a room). This is where shitloads of DJs and other tarts stay when they come through town. If you don’t have a record label or club picking up your tab, you can just go next door to the more reasonably priced Industriepalast Hostel on Warschauer Straße 43 (from €20, or about £16, per night for a dorm bed). That one's also a decent bet if you're more into support bands than proper rock stars. If you don’t get lucky, Berghain is only a five-minute walk away.
One of the better – but pricier – hotel options is the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin (From €155, or about £124, per night for a room). The design is great, the views are fantastic and it's right next to Bahnhof Zoo – which you should check out anyway, both because of the whole Christiane F thing and because it's a great alternative to spending all of your time in Kreuzberg.
(Photo by Chris Bethell)
Berlin has the largest gay population in Germany, so it tends to be pretty welcoming. There’s a gigantic pride parade in summer, called Stonewall CSD (Christopher Street Day), as well as a less publicised demo, usually on the same day. There are different street fairs, like the Motzstraßenfest – which is kind of like a non-moving pride parade – and more fetish-based fairs, some of them around Easter and some during the summer, where you’ll find all the sexy cops, fire-fighters and dildos your heart could possibly desire.
The gay club scene is huge and there are scores of places that cater to every kink imaginable. It ranges from hardcore sex places with darkrooms, alternative queer parties for every persuasion and really big circuit parties for the tank-top muscle crowd. Berghain itself has Laboratory on its premises – a pretty hardcore gay sex club with changing party themes, including slime and scat. If that’s your thing.
Then there are the open-air venues. Almost every single one of the lakes around town has a gay beach, and almost all of Tiergarten (the gigantic park in the middle of the city) is the city's traditional cruising area.
In Schöneberg, centred mostly around Nollendorfplatz, you’ll find gay bookshops, pharmacies, clubs, bars, cafés, clothing stores and everything else. The rest of the city is also pretty liberal, although homophobia is sadly still present. There were 290 incidents of homophobic violence in 2013 alone, and it’s not unknown for a gay couple to be attacked for holding hands in public. Police are pretty well versed in coping with homophobic idiots, and there are quite a few organisations that can assist you if you're a victim of homophobia during your stay.
WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU'RE SOBER
If you’re just looking for good drinks in a chilled spot, check out the New Theater. It’s a bar and DIY theatre space, which sounds pretty awful, I know – but if you’re lucky enough to be in town while they’re hosting a play, it’s a must-see. The bar is run by artists Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff, and is the perfect place to mingle with young artists and theatre lovers.
Berlin Community Radio
For the incredibly lazy among you, you technically don't even have to leave your bed to keep in the party loop – just tune in to BCR (Berlin Community Radio), who will play you great music, introduce you to the city’s subcultures and point you towards that evening’s best parties and events.
Insel der Jugend (Isle of Youth)
When you need to get away from the heart of the city for a bit, the Insel der Jugend is an ideal place to enjoy the river Spree and remember that there’s more to Berlin than techno clubs and nightlife.
A great little first-floor bar at Kottbusser Tor. It can be tricky to find the entrance (it’s the first set of stairs after the photo-booth), but it’s worth seeking out as it offers a great bird’s eye view of drug deals and the occasional riot.
Grunewald Forest and Lake
When you’re really tired of the city, catch a train to Grunewald. Yes, it might be a haven for the obnoxious rich, but you’d have to be really bitter not to admit that it’s fucking beautiful. You can walk through the woods in solitude or stroll around the lake, which – being somewhere populated by wealthy people used to getting whatever they want – even has designated beaches for dogs.
Spreepark at Plänterwald
No longer that secret, but still worth seeing, the Spreepark used to be the only amusement park in East Germany but had to close in 2001. In 2002, the former operator took a bunch of the attractions to Peru to open a new park, but went bankrupt there as well. Then he was busted trying to smuggle 180 kilos of cocaine back to Germany. He's completely inept, basically, but he did leave some abandoned attractions behind, like a tiny choo-choo train you can ride around in. Take a guided tour or just jump the fence and explore it on your own if you're the type of person whose heroes have all climbed The Shard.
A great hackerspace in the middle of Berlin where some serious Club-Mate consumption has been going on for years. These nerds have been programming all sorts of stuff that we’ll never find out about because they're hoarding it all away inside the mothership they’ve built themselves.
(photo by David Georgi)
HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP
It’s true that Berlin’s crime stats have been on the rise, but it's not like the average Berliner spends their life in constant fear. The capital’s crime rate might be higher than in cities like Munich or Stuttgart, but, compared to other places in Europe, Berlin is still a safe option, and tourists rarely feature among the victims of local street crime. Still, as in any big city, there are bound to be a couple of dicks, and it is Germany, so there might also be a cannibal living under your hostel.
Here are some basic life rules that also apply in Berlin: Don’t leave your smartphone or handbag lying around on the table. Don’t linger in deserted underground stations at night if you don’t necessarily have to. Don’t chant "Three Lions" in the street. Don’t use unlicensed taxis. Don’t be an idiot.
More specifically: On weekends, trains run all through the night, and there have been some violent attacks on innocent travellers in tourist hotspots like Alexanderplatz or Friedrichstraße recently. However, these kind of attacks happen very rarely and shouldn’t keep you from using public transport or visiting the places you want to see. Aside from the muggers, you'll find people on Kurfürstendamm or Tauentzien inviting passers-by to play the old shell game – which is, of course, a complete scam.
However, the most widespread type of crime in Berlin – and possibly the whole of Germany – is bike theft, which occurs most frequently in the trendy neighbourhoods you’ll probably be hanging out in: Mitte, Kreuzberg, Neukölln. Make sure you don’t leave your bike standing in the street overnight as you’re likely to find it gone or stripped of its wheels the next morning.
(photo by Theo Cottle)
HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST
Berlin hostel are where tourists from all over the world come to perfect their antisocial behaviour. The smell of trash and rotting döner wafts around them like a 500-metre halo of ill health.
Tourists also seem intent on giving us cancer. They want so badly to identify with the peasants who lived under Erich Honecker’s Communist regime that they sign up for “Trabi Tours” in their droves – the Trabi being probably the worst car ever designed by a German. It was made out of plastic, the engine was useless and burned leaded petrol, and people in East Germany had to wait for up to eight years to get their hands on one of these “vehicles”. Of course, Germans learned from their past and nobody drives these pieces of shit any more – but tourists love them and rent them out so they can drive aimlessly around town while pumping carbon dioxide into the lungs of pedestrians. If you manage to avoid being hit by one or choking to death on the fumes, the climate change they're helping to bring about will eventually wipe us all out anyway. Please don’t encourage this sort of behaviour, the only things worse are the booze bikes.
PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID
Drug zombies are only partly human. They lost their humanity somewhere during the three-day bender that Berliners call the weekend. They spend the night hiding in clubs, but creep out during the day looking for more drugs or a bottle of Club-Mate to keep them going. They foam at the mouth, collapse in parks like Hasenheide or Görli and won‘t ever stop dancing, even if all they’re doing is typing the wrong PIN into a cash machine over and over again.
Sadly, just because the war is long over, it doesn‘t mean the dumbest of all Germans have completely disappeared – they’ve just moved a little further outside the city centre, to places like Friedrichsfelde or Köpernick. Frustratingly, they’ve also learned to blend into their surroundings, so they won’t necessarily be skinheads in bomber jackets any more. The best way to recognise them is by searching for a crushing aura of total failure.
Random Youth Gangs
Young, angry, bored: the perfect combination. Usually they hang out in groups of four at subway stations around town and wait for the perfect moment to give someone a kicking in front of the CCTV. Media reports have called the rise of youth violence in Berlin’s subway stations “alarming” and “totally irrational”, so don’t hang around on your own and don’t flash your expensive smartphone around.
Potsdamer Platz – Mitte
They took the great No Man’s Land. They destroyed Tresor, a techno institution. They bulldozed everything else that represents Berlin’s history. What we got instead is a cold, sharp and clinical attempt at a skyline, characterised by pointless skyscrapers and really bad Feng Shui.
It’s a shitty little hut with fake soldiers who want to get paid every time you take a picture with them. That should be enough to put you off.
This is the most overrated bullshit place in the whole city. Still, you won’t be able to escape it because the odds are that there will always be at least one person in your gang who, for completely unfathomable reasons, loves flea markets or karaoke. It’s supposed to be a cool place where thousands of hip young people go on Sundays. The truth is it’s crowded, dirty, expensive and all the locals hate going there, like Camden.
TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES
Mercifully, given that most of Berlin's young visitors surrender the ability to walk in a straight line halfway through their second day, a simple 10 percent should see you right pretty much everywhere.
Hello – Hallo
Goodbye – Tschüs [pronounced: "Ch-eeuus"]
Please – bitte
Thank you – danke
Where is Berghain? – Wo ist das Berghain?
Where can I get drugs around here? – Wo gibt es hier Drogen?
[Screamed by a bouncer] Please form one queue! – In einer Reihe anstellen!
A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST FOR BERLIN
This is a playlist of shit you might hear when you're out and about. This does not necessarily reflect the tastes of the VICE Germany office. But whatever, I think it's worth you hearing some German rap before you arrive, even if it's just so you have something to talk about in the smoking area outside Das Kool Klub.
VICE CITY MAP
Farewell then, see you in a three-hour queue outside some techno temple of doom.
Lots of love