There’s more to being a hipster than black-rimmed glasses, ironic tattoos and listening to bands no one has ever heard of. It’s also being a leader of the latest cultural trends, having an appreciation for art and creativity, and budget traveling. In Germany’s capital, considered a hipsters’ mecca, there’s nowhere better to travel like a hipster. (Tattoos not required.)
Mein Fern bus offers great fares around Germany. From many places, you can get to Berlin for 25 euros each way. A long bus ride at 9 hours, but if you can spare a full day of travel, it’s worth it. Games, books, snacks, naps and beer.
Where to stay
Berlin has affordable accommodations throughout the city via hostels or Airbnb. For the true budget traveler, there’s couch surfing, which offers you a free place to stay, and most of the time a knowledgeable local too!
The most popular neighborhoods in Berlin are: Mitte, which is considered the city center and is close to most popular monuments. Prenzlauer Berg is known for its organic restaurants, architectural design and outdoor parks. Charlottenberg is more of a family neighborhood with upscale restaurants and shopping. True hipsters will really enjoy Kreuzberg, which is notorious for its edgy collection of street art, eclectic cuisine, urban coffeehouses, and trendy bars. X-Berg, as the locals call it, offers a unique culture and style the hippest of the hip will love.
What to do
Berlin is full of free and almost free attractions, so pull on your plaid shirt, lace up your chucks and get ready for some budget-friendly sites.
The most iconic landmark, the Brandenburg Gate is a must see as the symbol of German reunification. It also happens to be where Sandeman’s Free Walking Tours begin. These walking tours are led by passionate locals around the city, showing you the most famous sites while giving a rich history of Berlin. The tours are completely free, with the request of a tip at the end. While on the tour, you will walk through the harrowing Memorial to the Murdered Jews, see the site of Hitler’s former bunker, the TV tower, the Gendarmenmarket and the lavish Berliner Dom, an Italian Renaissance church. Walking the city allows you to dive into the culture and understand its turbulent past.
If you want a more urban tour of the city, Sandeman’s also offers an Alternative Tour. This tour takes you to the famous East Side Gallery, Berlin’s memorial to freedom. The longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall is an open-air gallery where artists have decorated the wall with messages of peace. The tour dives into Berlin’s vibrant street art scene, through urban nightlife districts and conflict zones, and allows you to understand Berlin’s past controversy, gentrification, protests and riots.
The Reichstag, home to Germany’s parliament, is a free attraction. If booked ahead of time (or hope for no-shows) you’ll be escorted up an elevator to the rooftop terrace where you’ll be greeted with phenomenal views of the city and an up-close look at the glass dome of the historical building.
The Topography of Terror is a free indoor and outdoor history museum and is the former site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters. The museum, which documents Nazi crimes, is one of the most visited places of remembrance in Berlin.
Checkpoint Charlie was the best-known border crossing between East and West Germany during the Cold War days. There was much debate on whether it should be left in place, but it remains for its large historical and emotional resonance for Berliners and visitors. Avoid scammers charging to stamp your passport.
What to eat and drink
Berlin is home to many food markets. One of the most famous, Kollwitzplatz market in Prenzlauer Berg offers organic butchers, sweets, clothes and specialty items like hand-made pasta, gourmet chocolates and homemade oils. The Turkish market is held along the canal in Kreuzberg and is perfect for sampling street food and perusing Turkish fabrics and clothing. Markthalle Neun is a foodie heaven every Thursday where creative dishes try to prove Berlin has more to offer than currywurst.
Bear Pit Karaoke has skyrocketed in popularity the last five years. Held every Sunday from spring to late fall in Mauerpark, you can watch the brave sing in front of thousands of people in the stone amphitheater. After karaoke, give your ear buds a rest and check out the flea market also located in Mauerpark. Find new and vintage fashions, souvenirs, antiques and knick knacks.
If you’re interested in music that’s a little more professional, musicians have organized Lunchkonzerte or lunchtime concerts. They feature musicians from the Berlin Philharmonic that play in the foyer of the hall for free. They’re perfect for the music loving tourists looking to take a break from the sights. Waldbühne is a giant coliseum in the heart of the woods, making it one of Berlin’s favorite open-air locations. Go here for concerts, movies and stargazing. For a true hipster experience, check out White Trash Fast Food. It’s a den of burgers, booze, tattoos and bands. Delicious food, cheap drinks and amazing live music — they even feature lunchtime sets.
It’s no secret that Berlin’s nightlife is some of the best in the world. It has a reputation for parties, dancing and clubbing. In Berlin, you can find a club for almost any interest and budget. Hipsters in particular will dig Watergate, Magnet Club, Bi Nuu and Lido, but you don’t have to pay to dance. Dance for free in the U-Bahn (subway station)! While these subway dance parties happen all over town, the Schlesisches Tor in Kreuzberg is one of the most popular.