I spent five days visiting friends in Berlin last week and walked away from the German capital with a conclusion: If I were to move back to the old continent, Berlin would be my city of choice. It’s definitely, methinks, the coolest capital in Europe. Things I love about it: the laid-back vibe, gritty glamor, creative energy, affordable rents, offbeat characters, down-to-earth bars and cafes…
Here come the highlights of my stay, made possible by my dear Berlin friends who all make me want to move there in a snap:
* Taking in the sunshine one fine afternoon at Görlitzer Park in Kreuzberg, a favorite swath of greenery for a sundry crowd of locals and tourists who congregate here on warm-weather days for a spot of park fun
* Cheap but tasty lunch at Rissani (Spreewaldplatz 4), a no-frills Moroccan diner near my friend’s place in Kreuzberg, where we had copious amounts of schwarma and falafel for just a couple of euros
* A heartfelt talk, glass of Shiraz in hand, with my friend Sol at Fatima’s Hand (Grimmstrasse 23), a cozy basement bistro run by a lovely Turkish woman near the canals in Kreuzberg, which doubles as a hair salon during the day
* A four-hour lunch and chat at Freischwimmer Berlin, a riverside resto and bar, with my fellow Lonely Planet writer Andrea Schulte-Peevers, THE Berlin expert and author of many editions of the Lonely Planet Berlin guide
* Dinner at Il Casolare Trattoria (Grimmstrasse 30) on the canal, a buzzing Kreuzberg institution that serves the city’s best pizza, according to those in the know, at good-value prices (we paid €20 per person for heaps of food, drinks, and dessert)
* Saturday night clubbing till 7am at a secret location I won’t disclose
* A Sunday afternoon browse around the sprawling Mauerpark flea market in Prenzlauer Berg, where I bought a funky wallet, said hello to a friend who was selling T-shirts and caught the evening karaoke in the park – a fun event not to miss!
* Wiener schnitzel at the all-white Schneeweiss in the neighborhood of Friedrichschain, a trendy but non-pretentious spot good for a special dinner out
* Falafel at Mo’s Kleiner Imbiss (Graefstrasse 9) in Kreuzberg, a mom-and-pop storefront where the heavenly sandwich (€4) features a delicious nut paste with ground ginger and pomegranate seeds, grilled haloumi, and nice salad
* The cappuccino at Bonanza Coffee Heroes, claimed by die-hard coffee drinkers to serve the best java in town, and the organic key-lime pie made by my dear friend Sol – make sure you taste a slice!
* Dinner of veggie appetizers, lamb and bison at Cafe Jacques (Maybachufer 8) by the Kreuzberg canal, a candlelit North African resto perfect for a romantic night out and known for its fish and a good selection of wine