Honestly, I can’t believe I waited so long to visit Berlin. Sure, Rome is more romantic and Paris is more conventionally beautiful, but it’s been a long time since I visited a European city—or any city for that matter—as edgy and exciting as Germany’s capital. We all know its dark history spanning most of the 20th century, from the WWI and WWII up until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but today the city is the nexus of Europe’s art world, a paradise for thrift shopping, and an emerging culinary capital to rival Copenhagen. Germans mix with expats and immigrants, including a large Turkish population. The public transit system—which consists of the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams, and buses—is extensive and reliable. It’s one of the few cities where it’s both affordable and exciting to be an artist and one of the most progressive cities in Europe.
The more I wandered Berlin’s streets and peeked inside the courtyards of its historic buildings, the more fascinated I became. The city wears its scars on its sleeve, yet it’s extremely forward-thinking. In posh Mitte, a building’s graffiti-covered exterior might hide a Michelin-starred restaurant or art gallery. Orianenstrasse in Kreuzberg is lined with indie and vintage clothing boutiques. You’d need weeks or months to truly get to know Berlin, but if you only have a few days, this guide is a good place to start.