What you must know before visiting Berlin

The important and fundamental thing about Berlin is to be different, bold, to be ahead of time, shocking and out of the box. It is hard to find a "standard" young Berliner. Standard in the aesthetic sense, so to speak. Better yet: their pattern is the type that has no judgment, each individual express himself as he wants in his own way, and the more different the better. You get a great sense of freedom when walking the streets of Berlin. It seems that the postwar mentality - of change and breaking rules and standards, mostly - is still very much alive in people's mindsets. And there is room for everyone to manifest their creativity, and people encourage each other.

I guess that in order to really get to know Berlin you must first understand another fundamental aspect within society - go on to explore the rest of Germany to see how different Berlin is from the rest of Germany. And have in mind that Berlin is a city with two facets: in winter we come across a denser atmosphere, few people on the streets, the number of tourists decreases a lot, it almost always snows, and the transgender, bohemian and punk scene is still there but shy. When the weather gets warmer, you can see a fully alive, high-spirited city full of people on the streets, cool neighborhoods “wake up”, parks flourish and become a meeting place, the famous beer gartens become crowded.

Train station in Berlin

Far from being an obvious finding because in Berlin the contrasts are greater. There is summer and winter in New York, Paris, Barcelona, Milan, Tokyo, and so on. But nothing compares to the change in behavior that is perceived when experiencing Berlin in these two seasons. It is a change in behavior not only in people's moods but in their attitudes, which reflects in the way they engage with the city.

It is as if people hide in their homes in winter: even on New Year's Eve, when it is expected an overwhelming amount of tourists (such a common scene in world capitals), in Berlin is the opposite. Hipper neighborhoods with the most obvious urban and transgender creative scene, such as Kreuzberg and Neukölln, seem to be almost closed in winter, and there are few cool places open. But in the summer you see people on the street all day because it dusks after 9 pm. And much more likely, of course, to find a plethora of cool bars, cafes, nightclubs, galleries and shops unlike anything else in the rest of Germany. The truth is that you can have a lot of fun and enjoy Berlin when it’s cold and I would never discourage people from having this experience - it has a dark beauty under the berliner snow! - but nothing compares to sunny happy summer days.


Advertising on the streets of Berlin
Drinking beer at a bar in Berlin
Inside the MarktHallen in Berlin

Some tips that I think are important before you visit:

How to get around: The underground train lines are great as they take you all over the city; Getting around Berlin is easy. You have to buy the ticket - whether daily, weekly, monthly - but never forget to validate it in one of the little machines near the boarding platform. Don’t be fooled when seeing Berliners get on the train without stamping the ticket; many do not pay, but at any moment police control check people’s tickets, one by one in the wagons. If you are caught without a ticket, the fine is very expensive and the embarrassment is not worth it;

Living cost: Almost everything in Berlin is cheap. You eat and drink well with little money (of course, it depends on how demanding you are with food). But if you want a lower cost trip, you will find good and very cheap beers. And there is always that typical “curry worst” sausage to satisfy your hunger. The city does not have a consumerist spirit, so go with the intention of absorbing this fascinating culture and less with the spirit of spending;

New Year's Eve: If you decide to spend New Year's Eve there, don’t waste your time with activities such as seeing fireworks at the touristic Brandenburg! Ask a local acquaintance or friend which is the most typical bar or restaurant he knows and where he himself would go for dinner, for example. The chances of meeting really nice people in these "ordinary" places are great and the coolest people are either huddled in these more rustic places and off the tourist trail, or in their own homes. Stay with the first option if you are new in town, trust me, you will have loads of fun;

Restaurants: do not be fooled into thinking that in the summer, the fact that the city is so alive and awake, you will find good restaurants to eat as late as you find bars to drink. To eat well at night, you should arrive at 9 PM the latest. After that only if you book a table. And yet, the manager will ask you, even politely, to pick your order quickly because the kitchens of these establishments close early. On the other hand, if you go out to drink, you can drink until late hours;

Winter tip: when it’s cold, you don't see a living soul in the city parks. It's really kind of depressing to walk through them. There are no flea markets, neither food trucks nor musical performances. Try to explore alternative activities especially the ones indoor.


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