Hot Spots

10 Things Not to Do in Berlin

by Ralph Martin

Don't…
Hang out at Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Platz was the busiest intersection in Europe—home to the continent's first traffic lights as well as legendary cafés where poets and revolutionaries mixed—before it was flattened at the end of World War II. Now rebuilt with much pomp and flash, the Platz is a perfect example of how not to do urban renewal. Chain stores like H&M and Zara and movie multiplexes dominate at street level. The architecture is a mess of compromised designs by top architects including Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, who planned thrilling buildings that were then turned over to lesser local talents and built for lower budgets. The result pleases no one except the truant schoolchildren who hang out at the Arkaden mall. Otherwise, locals avoid Potsdamer Platz like the plague—as should you.

Instead…
Discover the real neighborhoods

There are several neighborhoods with a concentration of great one-off shops and restaurants. Mitte is a prime example of a revitalized city center, with a mix of old and new architecture that is constantly evolving. The warren of streets bounded by Rosa Luxemburg Strasse on the south and Torstrasse on the north is home to countless great boutiques, such as the milliner Rike Feurstein and hipster eyewear designer Mykita. The main thoroughfare, Friedrichstrasse, has a lock on chic eats, with Grill Royal and Borchardt topping the list of places to see and be seen. For contrast, the largely unrestored side streets of West Berlin provide a time-capsule picture of old wine shops and small merchants. The Café Einstein on Kurfürstenstrasse in Schöneberg, with its antique gilt mirrors and leather banquettes, is straight out of a Christopher Isherwood story, and the Paris Bar (pictured), on the Kurfürstendamm draws affluent locals to its smoke-filled space.

Next: An international appetite >

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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