On the surface, and neighborhood-dependent, Berlin is both gritty and gorgeous. The city’s radical history leaves signs of wear; its memorials and restorations exemplify resilience. Today, Berlin is a cultural hub and creative hotspot celebrated for its nightlife, startup scene, architecture, and arts and entertainment. From picturesque neighborhoods and urban art spaces to historical sites and sprawling green spaces, Berlin is a truly unique city that can only be described through experience. As I’ve come to know the city over the past two years, Berlin is vibrant, eclectic, and delightfully unusual.
6,000 kilometers away from Vermont, and culturally different in so many ways, Berlin, above all else, feels like home. Apart from my edible, wearable, and Sephora-provided desires that can only be fulfilled in the US, the one complaint I have about Berlin is the airports. I mean, seriously, Schönefeld, SERIOUSLY?
With so much to love, it was difficult to compile a complete list of Berlin’s best offerings, but here it is, my favorite things about living in Berlin:
1. Plant-based restaurants
Berlin was named the #1 vegan city in the world in 2017, and #2 in 2018 (bumped by London), and it shows. The vegan offerings are unlimited and delicious, and even non-vegan restaurants almost always have a decent variety of veggie dishes. A few of my favorite spots with vegan options are: Sotto, Superfoods & Organic Liquids, MANA Food, Night Kitchen, AtayaCaffe, Flop Cafe, and momos.
2. Green spaces
There is so much greenery in Berlin. Big parks, small parks, an entire forest — all perfect for running, biking, leisurely walks, and summer BBQs.
Berlin boasts one of the best club scenes in the world, and every night holds endless opportunities for dance parties, live music, and most any type of entertainment (fetishes included). And the variety of drinking establishments is unbeatable — local Kneipes, wine bars, craft breweries, exclusive clubs, pubs, and bars of all sorts, you name it.
Markets of all varieties are incredible here. On the weekends there are farmer’s markets and flea markets across the city, market halls like Markthalleneun and Arminius-Markthalle are open daily, and then there are seasonal gems like Thaipark.
5. Berliner Weisse
A tart and funky beer, somewhat like a beer-y kombucha, is a sure favorite of mine. The best ones I’ve had are by Schneeeule and Vagabund, when they still carried Zombie. There is also Geueze, which is Belgian sour beer, and Oude Geuze Boon is as good as it gets.
A stronger Bloody Mary…in a shot. And it’s everywhere. Yep. Game changer.
7. Eco-friendly and zero-waste culture
In addition to the popularity of things like a plant-based diet, composting, recycling, and biking, many Berliners make informed and sustainable purchasing decisions. There are consignment stores and ethical boutiques everywhere, shops like Original Unverpackt allow for zero-waste bulk shopping, and even dm, the beloved drugstore chain, sells bar shampoo, bamboo toothbrushes, and zero-waste deodorant.
8. High quality of living
Berlin manifests a sense of freedom and peace of mind that I think is quite unique for large metropolitan areas. Contributors include a flexible work environment and work/life balance, affordable cost of living, travel connectivity, green spaces, and access to leisure, cultural, and education opportunities.
9. Efficiency of German grocery stores
There are no human hands that move faster than that of a German supermarket checkout employee. It was very stressful at first, thankfully I’ve since improved my bag packing strategy.
10. Interior design shops
Berlin is a city of cutting edge art and design, and it has the best interior design boutiques and home goods stores, many with a Scandinavian influence. Favorites include Hay, 10119 Design, Äventyr, Bolia, Hallesches Haus, Golden!, Granit, Küchenliebe, and Hausen.
11. Music scene
Berlin is always a tour stop, there are incredible venues for both underground and major artists, and concerts take place every night.
Having a balcony in New York means hitting the housing Powerball jackpot. Having a balcony in Berlin, however, is the norm.
14. Asian markets
For all of your sushi, sake, and exotic fruit needs. They have fascinating and authentic products that cannot be found at other stores, and they are the only places here in which I’ve found brown sugar. I’m a big fan of the Vinh Loi-Asia Supermarket off of the U6 Seestraße stop in Wedding, and there is another location in Schöneberg at Wittenbergplatz.
15. Turkish markets
Never have I ever consumed so much tahini in my life. Berlin has the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey, and with Turks come specialty markets overflowing with fresh produce, Turkish delicacies and spices, olives and dips, breads and cheeses, and, of course, tahini.
16. Affordability of wine
If I haven’t already driven this point home, really good wine is so affordable. The decisive end to bottom shelf magnums.
17. Christmas markets
A seasonal appeal, Christmas markets pop up across the city starting in November and ending in early January. Go for the Glühwein and stay for the enchanting atmosphere. The Schloss Charlottenburg, Gendarmenmarkt, and Kulturbrauerei locations are particularly beautiful, but all have something special (and at the very least, Glühwein) to offer.
18. Vietnamese food
With a big Vietnamese community, Berlin has an extensive array of Vietnamese restaurants. My neighborhood favorites are PHO – Noodlebar Mitte (now with a new location in Kreuzberg) and +84, and I also love 1990 Vegan Living, Soy, New Day Vietnam Heritage Food, and Cao Cao.
The entirety of Berlin is connected by bike paths and bike lanes, which make for smooth commutes and leisurely rides alike.
20. Public drinking
You can drink in public, therefore, you do drink in public. Coming from New York, this was weird at first, but I was quick to adapt.
21. The ease of travel across Europe
By bus, train, car, or plane, all European countries are quick, easy, and affordable to reach.
Berlin summers are feel-good in every way, and greatly enhanced by the numerous lakes located both within city limits and just outside in surrounding Brandenburg. I’ve yet to see them all, but my absolute favorite is Liepnitzsee. It’s a bit farther that most (approx. 1.5 hours by public transpo), but the crystal clear, turquoise water and sandy beaches are worth the trip.
23. Movie theatres
I especially love going to the movies since moving to Berlin because it is one of the only experiences here that reminds me of the States. Two hours of uninterrupted Hollywood production is not only entertaining, but oddly calming. The real highlight, though, is the uniqueness of Berlin’s theatres. Of course there are the massive cinematic complexes like Cinestar, but there also one-of-a-kind cuties like Hakesche Höfe Kino, Delphi Lux, and Kino Zukunft.
24. Everyone speaks English
A blessing and a curse.
25. International Women’s Day
Berlin has officially declared International Women’s Day to be a public holiday!
I asked around, and here are a few things that friends love about living in Berlin:
- Cheap amazing food
- All the food
- Efficient and reliable public transpo
- International atmosphere
- Parks and lakes
- “Live and let live” attitude
- Summer in the city
- Live music
- Späti culture — ability to grab a beer or snack at any hour of the day
- Affordable culture
- Nice place for long walks with friends
- Welcoming — Berlin unites different people and gives a feeling that it’s home, no matter where you come from
- Accepting — No judgments, you can express yourself freely and without fear
- Spätis — you can buy alcohol 24/7
- International Women’s Day! Only in Berlin is it an official holiday