Where to stay?

Michelberger Hotel

Warschauer Straße 39–40, 10243

Delightfully squishy bedding; tick. Sauna; tick. Breakfast buffet laden with a mix of local produce and dishes made with ingredients from the hotel’s own farm; tick. When it comes to the boutique hotels of the world, the independently owned Michelberger is truly up there with the best of them. The light-filled rooms are characterised by pale woods, lofty ceilings, terrazzo floors, and the sweet orange scent of the hotel’s bespoke-made bath products, and every corner sings of a distinct brand personality – even the TV has been specially programmed (at the time of writing, the ‘Eternal Loop’ channel plays the Big Lebowski, presumably on repeat). Beyond the rooms, you really shouldn’t miss the Michelberger’s restaurant, which again showcases seasonal farm produce; nor the bar/cafe area, which in the mornings serves “adaptogenic coffee” (enriched with herbs and mushrooms designed to support your nervous system), and in the evenings offers a banging wine list to boot. 

From £108 per night for a single room, not including breakfast; michelbergerhotel.com

Hotel Oderberger

Oderberger Str. 57, 10435

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You’d be forgiven for thinking the grand façade of the Hotel Oderberger is a former palace, but this gargantuan building is in fact a former Stadtbad, or public swimming pool. These days you’ll find 70 sleekly outfitted, high-ceilinged, wooden-floored bedrooms here, each unique in layout thanks to the careful restoration work that took place in the 80s, as well as an industrial-chic restaurant in the building’s former boiler room. The hotel tips you right out into the streets of Prenzlauer Berg, one of former East Berlin’s most gentrified neighbourhoods (ergo plenty of hip restaurants and bars to wet your whistle), but the real draw is the historic pool, with vaulted ceiling and arched columns. Downstairs there’s even a small but perfectly formed sauna (be warned, this is Germany, so nudity is encouraged). Pro tip: you can enjoy the pool without being a hotel guest for just £8. 

From £254 per night for a single room, not including breakfast; hotel-oderberger.berlin

Wilmina

Kantstrasse 79, 10627

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Gardens abundant with delicate flowers, light-filled rooms, and communal spaces that encourage social interaction cleverly disguise newcomer Wilmina’s past life as a former women’s prison in Berlin’s western Charlottenburg neighbourhood. The building is hoovering up awards for its design by Grüntuch Ernst Architects, and when you’re sitting on its rooftop terrace it’s not hard to see why. The entire space exudes peace and tranquillity, helped along by a 30-foot pool, sauna and extensive massage programme. Stay at the hotel and you’ll find yourself in prime position to explore Kantstrasse, known for its Asian restaurants (Lon Men’s Noodle House is a particular favourite, as is the slightly higher-end Madame Ngo), but if you don’t want to venture that far, Loris, the hotel’s own bar and dining space, offers a contemporary take on German cuisine with local produce.

From £138 per night for a double-occupancy room, not including breakfast; wilmina.com

Where to eat?

Kramer

Pannierstraße 41, 12047

‘Open-fire cooking’ is the kind of over-hyped food that has the jaded cynic rolling their eyes, but phwoar, the food at Kramer is good enough to make you take it all back immediately. Whether you’re eating the sweet, smoky, and zingy chargrilled pineapple ceviche, served with aged tiger’s milk (a Peruvian marinade made with coconut milk and lime juice), or the Ibérico short ribs, also cooked over the wood-fired grill, served with a sauerkraut-adjacent cabbage dish, every dish is brilliantly balanced, in a way that’s both satisfying but leaves you hungry to try everything else on the menu. The entire place smells absolutely gorgeous, thanks to an incense-like type of wood burning on the grill.

kramerberlin.com

Rekorder

Chamissoplatz 4, 10965

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You have to hand it to Berlin: it knows how to do ‘cool’ properly. One of the city’s up-and-coming places to eat is Rekorder, which shares both space and name with a cooler-than-thou independent film and photography production company. The restaurant/cafe is located in the company’s own gallery space, which displays only one photograph for weeks at a time, designed to create a connection between the piece and the viewer. While we can’t vouch for the effectiveness of the creative concept, we are sure that studying a photograph while sipping a chilled glass of sancerre and stuffing our face with lobster rolls and plates of brie de Meaux certainly helps.

rekorder-galerie.de

Anima

Mühlenstraße 61-63, 10243

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Sitting cheek by jowl with a vibrantly painted section of the East Side Gallery (a surviving section of the Wall that’s been repainted by artists), Anima is the on-site food and drink offering at apart-hotel Locke Living’s Berlin outpost. This cafe, cocktail bar, and restaurant nods to Japanese listening bars, complete with a top-line sound system taken from a 1970s Japanese cinema. Fluffy pink chairs, and plenty of greenery set this space apart from Berlin’s characteristic monotone colour palette. At the same time, a well-considered menu offers doorstop wedges of springy bread, served with a burnt butter that tastes almost like popcorn, and umami-packed mushroom ravioli made with delicate slices of celeriac rather than pasta. Check their events in advance: Anima often hosts dedicated evenings bringing together the food, music and drinks under one theme. Locke at East Side Gallery.

@anima.berlin

What to do?

Paddle around Pickle Town

Spreewald Gurken, or pickles, were an East German delicacy, and their salty, crunchy goodness proved so popular they lasted longer than the GDR government. In fact, they’re so sought-after that an entire tourism industry exists around them in the Brandenburg town of Lübbenau (commonly known as Pickle Town), less than an hour by train from Alexanderplatz. An outing to the Spreewald’s Unesco-recognised biosphere is one of Berlin’s favourite ways to escape the city’s relentless heat and humidity in the summer. Hire a punt or a kayak to take you along the area’s canals, snacking on pickles purchased from the pickle vending machines as you go; hike leisurely through the forests; and visit the local museum. Spoiler: it talks about, yep, you guessed it, pickles.

Cycle the Mauerweg

In 2006, the former route of the Berlin Wall was turned into a 100-mile cycle and hiking path. You can tackle it over several days or cherry-pick a section of the well-signposted route for a day or even just an afternoon, depending on your inclination and energy levels. One of the most popular sections starts at Potsdam’s Griebnitzsee S-Bahn station, easily reached from central Berlin on the S7 and S1 train lines (bikes are welcome, but be sure to buy the right ticket – or you can rent a bike right by the station). Set out north from there and you’ll cross Glienicker Bridge, pass through the Cecilienhof Palace, and soak up Potsdam’s Lakes before reaching Berlin-Staaken train station, where you’ll be able to easily get back to the city centre. The 16-mile route shouldn’t take you more than two hours at a leisurely pace, but if you get thirsty, stop off at Meierei Brewery about halfway through for a stein of beer.

berlin.de/mauer/mauerweg

Go on a night out

If all this outdoor activity sounds a little too wholesome, Berlin is well-known and respected for another kind of boundary-pushing adventure. The city’s newly Unesco-recognised techno scene requires little introduction but to newcomers it can feel secretive and hard to access – mainly because it’s considered a safe space for self-expression, which means people like to keep it away from prying eyes. The unspoken leader of the pack is Berghain, as infamous for its music as it is for its sex-positive attitude and the Lab.Oratory, an even more secret space within its walls where you’ll find adrenaline-inducing activities of all kinds. Elsewhere, KitKat Club is the iconic fetish party, but beginners are just as welcome as experienced veterans. Just looking for a quality, relatively chill night out? Sisyphos is beloved by Berliners and city visitors alike, thanks to good music, a good crowd, and a more approachable entry policy.