It’s hard to imagine that just 25 years ago, Berlin was a city split in two by the Berlin Wall. Families and friends were divided overnight by the communist regime. I’ll never forget the celebrations as The Wall came down in 1989. A whole new era was about to begin and since that time, Berlin has emerged from its turbulent past become one of the most tolerant, cultured, and coolest cities in all of Europe.
When we visited Berlin, we could feel the energy in the air. This is a city ready to make its mark. It’s a city attracting artists, writers, and entrepreneurs taking advantage of a society in its infancy. There’s opportunity waiting to happen around every corner and even tourists are seeing the advantages of getting to Berlin while it still has that edgy vibe. Here are our top reasons why Berlin is cool.
It’s affordable. As the rest of Europe’s accommodation and living costs skyrocket, Berlin still has affordable hotels and everyday expenses. You don’t have to worry about breaking the bank when visiting Berlin, but you will still have all the conveniences and beauty of any other city.
The U-Bahn is an excellent Transit System
It has an excellent transportation system. You don’t have to worry about spending a fortune on taxis when traveling in Berlin, as the city has an excellent transportation system. The U-Bahn will get you to where you are going quickly, conveniently and affordably.
It boasts great nightlife. Berlin probably has one of the most lively nightlife scenes in all of Europe. The city is known for having everything from techno dance clubs to indie rock bars. We frequented some spots in the artsy and bohemian district of Kreuzberg, but other areas include the chic area of Torstrasse in the clubbing district of Mitte, and the historic Nollendorfplatz in Schöneberg (the oldest gay neighborhood). Did we tell you that drinks are cheap in Berlin? And you don’t have to worry about dress codes here; everything goes!
Viewfinder Tip: When taking the U-Bahn, look for the free Berlin Wall memorial, ‘Border Stations and Ghost Stations in Divided Berlin,’ at Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station.
It sponsors fantastic festivals. Berlin knows how to party, and there is a festival here every month of the year. Perhaps the most notable is the Berlin International Film Festival. Berlin has long had a strong film industry; before World War II, Berlin’s movie business may have rivalled the Hollywood of today. With the fall of the wall, the Berlin Film industry has experienced a renaissance as a popular filming location for such films as Inglorious Basterds, The Reader, and Valkyrie.
It has great architecture. We often had thought of cities such as Paris and Rome as the architectural capitals of Europe, but Berlin has grand and beautiful architecture of its own. The Brandenburg Gate, built in the 18th century, was modeled after the Acropolis in Athens. It is the city’s most important monument, symbolizing more than 200 years of history. The TV Tower is Berlin’s answer to the Eiffel Tower in Paris and The London Eye. It’s a modern structure standing 1,071 feet, and can be seen from several different vantage points. As one of the European Union’s tallest structures, the TV Tower offers superb views of the city.
Art is everywhere in Berlin
It has rich history. Berlin has a long history dating back to the 13th century, but is best-known for its notorious role in World War II. Berlin housed the headquarters of Hitler’s Third Reich, the Gestapo and the SS. Instead of sweeping its history under the rug, the city has built memorials to honor those who suffered. There are portions of the Berlin Wall still in tact and there are monuments around the city commemorating the struggles that the city has faced. One of these is the striking Holocaust Memorial, which comprises 2,711 concrete pillars. At the Brandenburg Gate you can join a free communist walking tour to learn about the history of pre- and post-WWII Berlin. What did we love the most? The fact that they paved over the bunker where Hitler committed suicide and there are no signs or markers showing it.
The art scene is flourishing. Berlin is a city of living art. Because living here is so affordable, artists are attracted to coming and kickstarting their careers. The bohemian crowd that squatted in abandoned apartment buildings near the Berlin Wall during the Cold War has grown into a thriving professional artist community. Graffiti artists are commissioned to create works of art on sides of buildings, and unique gallery spaces can be found throughout the city.
If you want to visit an affordable and cosmopolitan European city that mixes roughness around the edges with a whole lot of flavor and color, Berlin is the place to be. What are you waiting for? Get to Europe’s coolest city before everyone else discovers it.
What do you think is Europe’s coolest city?