Insider Guide: Berlin City-West
By Lucy Brook, freelance writer and editor
Aside from what you already know about Berlin - the neighbourhood around our new home on the Ku’damm is bursting with life and culture to explore. Traditionally a chic high street shopping district (it was designed based on Paris’ Champs-Élysées), the area is surrounded by beautiful blocks of ornate villa apartments complete with iron-clad doors, soaring ceilings and curved bay windows.
In the more populated areas of Berlin City-West, brutalist and modern cubist monoliths of glass and chrome rub shoulders with neo-classical remnants and tumbledown remainders of the city’s turbulent past. To take it in, make use of the many pay-as-you-go bikes that you’ll find available on most streets, and hop on and off as you please. Here are some of our favourite local hangouts to get you started.
WHERE TO FUEL
Benedict Breakfast, Uhlandstrasse 49, 10719 Berlin (below)
First things first, start off with epic breakfast at Benedicts, no matter the time of day – their philosophy is that breakfast is not defined by when, but rather by what you eat. And there’s plenty to sink your teeth into here. The menu is a true all-rounder, helpfully divvied into sections such as Morning Greens (think Ceasar Breakfast Salad), Vegan Breakfast (try the savoury chickpea pancake with fried onion, corn, tomatoes, herbs and cornichon relish) and the curiously named Egg Balls (according to the chefs, they’re “Benedict’s innovation of the classic egg serving style as omelette balls”). There’s also classic eggs Benedict, much-revered pancake stacks and a plethora of freshly squeezed juices, house made teas and top notch coffee. The décor is uber hip, with green foliage wallpaper, parquet floors, chic subway tiles and, the icing on the breakfast cake, a neon ‘Guten Morgen’ sign suspended above the bar. It’s Berlin brekkie at its best.
Funk You, Bikini Berlin, Budapester Str. 46, 10787 Berlin (below)
Funk You opened in 2011, and was initially an outpost for smoothies and healthy snacks. Its popularity forced it to move to a larger space in 2016, and now its location is as exciting as the food. Nestled in the concept mall, Bikini Berlin, Funk You is parked in front of a huge panoramic window facing the Berlin Zoo, overlooking the monkey enclosure. The ethos here is clean, lean and plant based: juices and salads created with no additives, using superfoods like raw cacao, spirulina, matcha, chia seeds and purple corn. Try the Cacao Flow smoothie with apple, banana, avocado, strawberry and raw cacao, or settle in to watch the swinging monkeys with Morning Glory – a tropical blend of orange, mango, strawberry and matcha. The delicious raw cakes and bars will satisfy a sweet craving and for a more substantial lunch, the sandwiches, wraps and salads can’t be beat.
Die Stulle, Carmerstrasse 10, 10623 Berlin (below; left)
Close to the Tiergarten, Die Stulle is a great grab-and-go spot. Try a sandwich on super-fresh bread baked using a traditional German recipe – we love the halloumi with spicy avocado and tomatoes – or try the classic BBQ chicken burger with paprika salad and braised onions. There’s a vast selection of homemade cakes and the coffee is superb.
Funky Fisch, Kantstr. 135-136, 10625 Berlin (below; right)
New to West Berlin and already a cult favourite, Funky Fisch opened late last year to much fanfare. Created by restaurateur Duc Ngo, who also founded Kuchi and the ever-popular Madame Ngo, Funky Fisch is, as the name suggests, heavily focussed on seafood. Freshly caught seafood is displayed across the restaurant’s sprawling counter, allowing you to choose whatever takes your fancy. Have it however you like it: grilled, steamed, as poke, in a taco or as sushi, and add a colourful array of sides. Don’t miss the tuna poke, or try freshly grilled white fish with house-made estragon-dill-sauce.
Neni Berlin, Bikini Berlin, Budapester Str. 40, 10787 Berlin (below)
One of Berlin’s greatest strengths is its diversity, and its buzzy dining scene is no different. NENI Berlin brings a fusion of Mediterranean, Persian and Austrian flavours to the city, with vibrant share plates, exotic mezze platters and a smattering of specialities, including the delicious Street Food from Tel Aviv dish, featuring a gorgeous baked eggplant, hummus, tomato salsa, tahini and a soft boiled organic egg served in laffa bread. With characteristically trendy interiors and panoramic views over Berlin Zoo, NENI is a popular dinner haunt, so it’s worth booking at peak times.
WHERE TO DRINK
Monkey Bar, Bikini Berlin, Budapester Str. 40, 10787 Berlin (below; left)
You know you’re in good hands when you find a bar with a motto as apt as Monkey Bars’: “Rum = sunlight held together by water”. But whatever your spirit of choice, Monkey Bar has you covered. The menu boasts pages and pages of signature cocktails, quality spirits, wines and non-alcoholic treats (organic fruit tea anyone?), and the setting couldn’t be cooler - located on the 10th floor of the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, where you can see across the city and watch the monkeys at the Berlin Zoo from above (it ain’t called Monkey Bar for nothing!). Try a Vodka Basil Smash (vodka citron, lemon juice, fresh basil, sugar syrup) or a Berlin Buck (gin, pijökel 55, lime juice, spicy ginger lemonade) and kick back on the rooftop before getting your groove on from 8pm. A different DJ or band plays Monkey Bar every night.
The Butcher, Kantstrasse 144, 10623 Berlin (below; right)
Open from 7am every day, all the way through until midnight, (or 2am on Fridays and Saturdays) The Butcher has your back at pretty much any time of day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, or cocktail time. But, with its understated, industrial vibe and excellent drink selection, it’s an ideal spot to start or finish an evening. As the name suggests, food is firmly meat-focused, and you can get arguably one of the best burgers in the city. Nestled beneath the hipster-chic Sir Savigny hotel, the décor is minimalist and Berliner-cool – with the central fireplace giving cosy ambience in the cooler months, and the patio providing a sun-soaked people-watching hangout in the spring and summer.
WHERE TO EXPLORE
Tiergarten Strasse, Des 17. Juni 10785 Berlin (top)
Residents of a city famous for its architecture, from the Brutalist to the neo-classical, need a hit of greenery now and then. Reminiscent of New York’s Central Park, Tiergarten is the place. A manicured wilderness in the middle of the city, in which you can completely immerse yourself, it still feels like Berlin, thanks to graffitied huts, monuments and statues, but it’s also home to more than one million – yes, million –trees. Reforested during one particularly harsh winter when locals were forced to excavate much of the foliage to plant crops and feed the city, today, Tiergarten is described as the city’s “green lung”. Buzzing with joggers, skaters, cyclists and walkers, this once royal hunting ground should be your go-to for a fresh air sweat or a summer picnic.
Tempelhofer Feld, Tempelhofer Damm, 12101 Berlin (bottom)
Tempelhofer Feld did to Berlin what The High Line did to New York – gave back a decidedly urban space to nature. Formerly the Tempelhof airport, it was transformed into a 366-hectare open space when the airport closed in 2008. Located south west of the city, today, the area boasts a six-kilometre cycling, skating and jogging trail, a 2.5-hectare BBQ area, a dog-walking field covering around four hectares and an enormous picnic area for all visitors. If you’d rather someone show you what’s what, join a guided tour, which run for two and a half hours and take you all through the grounds. Or, just pack a picnic and unwind.
Bikini Berlin, Budapester Str. 40, 10787 Berlin (below)
You could never really get bored at Bikini Berlin. The heritage-listed complex seems to have it all, from the iconic Bikini Building, a ‘two-piece’ architectural feat which opened in the 1950s and was nicknamed “Bikinihaus” by the locals, to a chic hotel, cinema, restaurants, bars, shops and, of course, views over the Berlin Zoo. Dubbed the “world’s first concept shopping mall”, the Bikini Berlin development is credited with kick starting the transformation of West Berlin, and also provides a platform for emerging artists. The mall features modular pop-up boxes, where young designers can exhibit their wares. It’s the perfect place to while away an afternoon before dining at Neni and wrapping up with a cocktail at Monkey Bar, which are all in the same, sprawling complex.
WHERE TO SWEAT
Lagoa Yoga, Uhlandstrasse 20, 10623 Berlin (below)
With some of the best teachers in Berlin (including our ambassador Mascha Kuchejda, Lagoa is at the heart of Berlin’s yoga community. With 30 different practitioners and classes offered at all hours of the day, it’s the perfect place for a drop in class or a longer workshop. Start the day with a Vinyasa flow class, or wrap up with an evening Yin or Moonlight practice, try pilates or join a barre class. The beautiful, 700 sqm studio is housed in a gorgeous, light-filled loft with two large studios and, the cherry on top, an exclusive spa area with a large Finnish sauna. It’s the perfect place to recharge your batteries
Ride Berlin, Lietzenburger Strasse 86, 10719 Berlin (below; left)
When you’re not nipping around the streets on your pay-as-you-go bike, or raving into the small hours, make a detour to Ride Berlin. The West Berlin studio is a stone’s throw from the U-Bahn (train) Uhlandstrasse stop, and has classes from 7am to 8pm most days. With a focus on endurance, power and mobility, each class is led by a passionate teacher and set to motivational tunes. It’s the ideal spot for a drop in as everything is provided, including showers, towels, hairdryers and REN skincare.
Sxills, Torgauer Str. 12, 10829 Berlin (below; right)
Founded by Berlin City-West ambassador Alexis Kuraby and fellow sports medicine trainer Cem Tuna, SXILLS is a West Berlin institution, combining sports science with professional training. If you’re in the market for a revolutionary personal training sesh, this is your place, but if you’d rather a group class, SXILLS offers group classes for up to 10 people. The sun-drenched, airy loft space is the perfect spot for an intense, technical workout, under the watchful eye of top-notch trainers and is conveniently located right by the Berlin-Schöneberg U-Bahn stop.
WHERE TO STAY
25Hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, Budapester Str. 40, 10787 Berlin (below)
Funky, stylist and oh-so-hip, the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin is one of our go-to crash-pads in West Berlin. As the name suggests, it’s located in the Bikini Building, with views over West Berlin, the lush expanse of the Tiergarten and the Berlin Zoo. The architects and designers played on the idea of ‘urban jungle’ when creating the space, and it shows. From a jungle sauna overlooking the monkey and elephant enclosures to hammocks in the reception (and some rooms), 25hours is as cool as they come. All guests can borrow new speedster bikes to explore the city, and the hotel hosts leisurely bike tours through the neighbourhood. There’s also a Jogging Corner, with maps of different routes to explore, and don’t forget the restaurants and Monkey Bar’s roof terrace.
Sir Savigny Hotel, Kantstrasse 144, 10623 Berlin (below; top)
Housed in Berlin’s literary quarter in a 19th century heritage listed building, Sir Savigny fuses history with modern hipster chic. Tucked away in the vibrant Charlottenburg neighbourhood, the eclectic hideaway ticks all the Berlin boxes. Quiet and cosy, its 44 rooms come with fluffy signature bedding, a goodie box with Sir Savigny’s personal favourites and the noteworthy ‘Dial-a-Burger’ button. They also feature artwork by local artists and delicious amenities by eco-conscious Amsterdam brand, Dead Clean. The hotel is hop, skip and a jump away from Berlin’s legendary Paris Bar and close to all West Berlin’s top spots.
Hotel Zoo Kurfürstendamm, 25, 10719 Berlin (below; bottom)
A West Side stalwart, Hotel Zoo has been thoughtfully restored in recent years, infusing it with a townhouse elegance while retaining its rich history. Built in 1891 as a private residence, it was converted into an upscale hotel in 1911. After surviving two world wars, it re-emerged in the 1950s as the official hotel for guests of the Berlin International Film Festival – guests included Grace Kelly and Sophia Loren. Today, it’s a swish base from which to explore the neighbourhood, and close to all the must-sees. You’re a 12-minute walk from the Berlin Zoological Garden and an easy four kilometre stroll from Brandenburg Gate