Best of 2016: My Personal Favourites in Berlin

My 40th blog post for Central Berlin and my last blog post in 2016. Time for some reminiscence. Not only because it has been a strange and at the same time awesome year, but also because I definitely don’t want to think about the fact that 2017 will have me turning 30. It feels like all of 2016 was spent eating, drinking, shopping and discovering new things – neighbourhoods, culinary highlights, you name it. Below are my 2016 highlights.

Best coffee

I tried the whole Third Wave Coffee thing, but to be entirely honest, I don’t need anything slow-dripping and I don’t want to taste my coffee like it’s an expensive wine (which it could be, judging by the price). I just want a cosy place, a decent cappuccino and a nice piece of banana bread on the side. That’s why Katie’s Blue Cat (Friedelstraße 31, Neukölln) simply has to be on this list.

Best vintage shopping

Now I probably don’t need to explain that vintage shopping is more than just a hobby in Berlin – it’s a lifestyle. But those second-hand megastores or overcrowded vintage-by-the-kilo shops freak me out a little. My vintage shopping is rather coincidental: I love the hip girls at flea markets (Prinzessinnengarten and RAW Gelände are good examples) selling their just-out-of-fashion outfits at more-than-reasonable prices: 2 euros for a t-shirt, 5 euros for a pair of shoes.

Central Berlin Vintage Shopping
Laid-back vintage shopping at the RAW Gelände. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans

Best breakfast/brunch

Leutemanns (Bötzowstraße 23, Prenzlauer Berg) is without a doubt the place where I had the most breakfasts. This delicatessen lets you assemble your own breakfast and offers the perfect laid-back atmosphere – not too trendy, never too crowded. Unfortunately, up until now the love seems to be one-sided, since even after my estimated 230th visit they still don’t recognize me.

That’s why I would also like to mention a runner-up, famous for their epic breakfasts: Spreegold (Hufelandstraße 20, Prenzlauer Berg + 2 other outlets). Slightly less cosy but their pancakes and other brunch dishes are unforgettable.

Central Berlin Breakfast
Brunch at Spreegold. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans

Best lunch

It feels like the lovely lady of Berlin Pho (Lausitzer Straße 6, Kreuzberg) is family. This Vietnamese restaurant is an all-time favourite of mine and all of my colleagues and I have no idea why I’m still looking at the menu every time I visit. Number 57 (Dau Phu Cary, so good) and a lemongrass and lime iced tea please.

Best dancing

I tried some techno and I don’t hate it, but if I want a fun night out with friends I still prefer to go somewhere a little less dark and a little more happy. That’s why I started this year at the former cinema Lido (Curvystraße 7, Kreuzberg) and kept going back there because of the nice indie-electro parties and concerts. In the same category: Rosi’s (Friedrichshain) and Bi Nuu (Kreuzberg).

Best pizza

Will there ever come a day when I’ve eaten enough pizza? No. It might not be the healthiest option – it may even be the least healthy option – but it’s still on my weekly menu. I love Mark’s homemade pizzas and I love the pizzas of the Netto discount chain (seriously, they’re amazing). There’s just one thing that Zola (Paul-Lincke-Ufer 39-40, Kreuzberg) has and my other favourite pizza bakers can’t offer: a great location and an even greater wood oven.

Central Berlin Zola
Pizza at Zola. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans

Best newly discovered cuisine

But there’s more to life than pizza, I know. Next to my weekly dose of Vietnamese I’ve also tried my best to discover new international cuisines. The Georgian specialities didn’t make it to the top of my list, but I love Sudanese falafel with peanut sauce, and nothing is more warming than a good Korean bibimbap.

What I really can’t get enough of, though, is Israeli dishes. There’s hummus, there’s falafel and there’s shakshuka. Café Mugrabi (Görlitzer Straße 58, Kreuzberg) combines all of this with incredibly good bread – and on top of that they offered me free homemade banana-chocolate bread during my last visit.

Central Berlin Best Dishes
Shakshuka and banana bread at Café Mugrabi. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans

Best drinking

I would love to have a regular hangout by now, but I still can’t choose between the many many many bars of Berlin. There’s the craft beer at Straßenbräu (Neue Bahnhofstraße 30, Friedrichshain), the fresh flowers and great long drinks at Das Hotel (Mariannenstraße 26A, Kreuzberg) and the table tennis at Schmittz (Gormannstraße 19, Mitte). But there’s also the festival ambience of Birgit & Bier (Schleusenufer 3, Kreuzberg), the shuffleboards at Kaschk (Linienstraße 40, Mitte) and the lovely Wohnzimmerbar Herman Schulz (Finowstraße 33, Friedrichshain).

Central Berlin Best Drinking
Fresh flowers and candlelight at Das Hotel. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans

Most surprising museum

The DDR Museum is great and used to be my recommendation for everyone who wanted to be introduced to life in the GDR. And then I accidentally found another GDR museum in the Kulturbrauerei (a former beer brewery that’s now a cultural playground; Knaakstraße 97). It has a dacha, a Trabant – with a tent on the roof! – a kiosk and thousands of other items from the former GDR. And the best thing about it: entry is completely free.

Central Berlin GDR Museum
Trabi with tent at the Museum in the Kulturbrauerei. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans

Best quiet moments

Compared to cities like London and New York, Berlin has quite a few quiet places within its boundaries. But sometimes I want a little more than just a traffic-free street or a nice park. That’s why I love the fact that it only takes an S-Bahn ride to get out of the city completely. I spent a night at the castle of Bad Belzig (69 minutes from Alexanderplatz), went urban exploring at a former Soviet base in Vogelsang (90 minutes from Alexanderplatz) and discovered the treetop walk above an abandoned hospital in Beelitz (65 minutes from Alexanderplatz).

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Vogelsang, Beelitz and Bad Belzig. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans