LURE’s Insider Tips for Cracking the Berlin Enigma
OUR TEAM’S FAVORITE BERLIN SECRETS THE TRAVEL GUIDES DON’T KNOW ABOUT.
Dong Xuan Center
Dong Xuan Center is a gigantic Asian market hall, located in an old industrial area deep in former East Berlin’s Lichtenberg district. Throughout its eight halls, you can find all kinds of stuff there: lots of Vietnamese restaurants, Asian supermarkets, gift shops, hair and nail salons, clothing stores, cellphone gadgets, you name it. My favorite pho place is Duc Anh Quan in Hall 3. It may be a bit overwhelming on the first visit, especially if you have never traveled to Asia before. But for me, it’s a bit like "little Vietnam" – I feel at home every time I go there.
Judy Mai, office coordinator
Anomalie Art Club
In a former autobody shop, in an industrial district that’s more sleepy than industrious these days, you’ll find Anomalie – a venue synthesizing Berlin’s eccentricities into one shock treatment. It’s a nightclub, art gallery and gourmet restaurant, and the passion project of four French siblings. Labyrinthine rooms hold modern art and trippy light installations across grungy walls. One minute, you’re at an upscale vegetarian venue draped in white tablecloths, sipping organic wines among artists, activists and their Zen children. The next you’re raging in the techno room in a sea of fishnet-clad club kids. Check their Facebook for a steady stream of 40-hour raves, yoga and who knows what else.
Barbara Woolsey, editor-in-chief
There’s nothing quite like this restaurant in Berlin – it takes the German concept of hausmannskost, or mom’s home cooking in a restaurant setting, and infuses it with recipes from France, Italy and Brazil. The food and wine pairings are sensational, like risotto with truffles and a glass of chardonnay, or grilled octopus with a Bordeaux grape. The twist though is the adjoining bar, Barbobu, which you can enter through the restaurant to enjoy a nightcap or two. On the first Saturday of every month, it’s hip-hop night, featuring a diverse compared to those dressed up for the dinner service. The program also features a ton of live music with a house band and even English-language comedy.
Dirk Walendy, account director
Buried in a cluster of DIY venues, Internet Explorer is Neukölln’s underground solution for those who like dancing, but not with the intensity of a big nightclub like Berghain. Though the venue hosts DJs, it’s also a hotspot for guitar music in a city where techno reigns supreme. Internet Explorer is only open when there’s an event, so you’ll need some luck on the first visit. If you live in Berlin, you should definitely sign up on the email list located at the makeshift bar. Don’t want to stop partying when the show’s over? Pop next door to SOUNDS, the tiny progressive club where you can dance until sunrise with warm people and great tunes.
Joel Thomas, editorial contributor
Upon entering Fitzcarraldo, located in Kreuzberg next to Görlitzer Park, you’re immediately accosted with a mixed crowd of Berliners, queer folk, heteros and cosmopolitans, dancing to trap, then house, then Destiny’s Child. If that isn’t confusing enough, foam showers constantly rain down all night. The mystery doesn’t stop at the first dance floor. There’s a mini bar hidden in the bathroom, and there’s a downstairs area with an impressive film and music DVD collection (available for rent!), as well as a photo gallery, and another dance floor playing 80s and disco. I feel like this place sums up Berlin to the tee: An eclectic and cultured city that embraces all things kitsch and trashy.
Austin Davis, deputy editor
International Congress Center
When I'm feeling moody, I drive to West Berlin and take a walk around the ICC, which I find to be the most fascinating building of a city otherwise not blessed with amazing architecture. Its high-tech style makes it a (slightly less refined?) member of a family of buildings that appeared around the same time elsewhere in Europe – like Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers's Centre Pompidou, or Rogers's famous Lloyd's building in London. Erected in less than four years and with a price-tag of over one billion euros, it was one of the most ambitious projects in the old Republic. Since its inception, modernist architecture contained a promise to humanity: That life can be better for everyone. In a weird twist, 21st-century Berlin decided to build a fake castle. Today it emanates the unspeakable melancholy of a future that never came to pass.
Sebastian Lande, music composer and head of finance
Just past the northern extensions of the U-Bahn lines and through a suburban forest is the cleanest swimming water that I’ve found around Berlin. The area is refreshingly quiet, far from the city roads and train tracks. Instead, its soundtracked by a small ferry, puttering along the coastline and delivering visitors from the shores of the lake to the island in its center. There you’ll find ample swimming nooks, a summery beer garden and a campground for overnight stays. The water is smooth and clear year-round – I try to camp there in the summer and visit again in the winter for a cold-water dip.
Nathan Ma, social media manager
Near to LURE’s office, this is one of our staff’s favorite lunch spots. It’s a Japanese deli selling authentic to-go bento boxes, sushi, ramen, noodle bowls and more – basically like a combini, or the little convenience stores you find all over Japan. There are always good vegetarian and vegan options among the weekly specials, too. Mismatched furniture and a buzzy afternoon crowd keep the vibe cozy. The eatery doubles up as a shop selling Japanese paper, sweets like mochi, drinks, and all kinds of other things that scream, “Kawaii!” After ordering, leave your tip on a tiny mechanical toy that’ll surprise you.
Hugo Heimpel, senior video producer
This open-air cinema is a must to soak up that summer feeling in Berlin. It’s located in the courtyard of the Kunstquartier Bethanien, a beautiful building with a fascinating story. It was commissioned by the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV and served as a hospital and education center for health professionals. When the hospital closed in 1970, it was occupied by squatters but now serves as a cultural and artistic space. In a sprawling garden, framed by big trees and the building’s grand architecture, you can throw down a deck chair or blanket and catch new and old films (often in English, or, if in German, with English subtitles). In the city’s typical community spirit, families, people young and old, and even dogs are all let in on the fun.
Gonzo Rofso, video producer
The Feuerle Collection
Prepare to be intrigued by this fabulous exhibit of imperial Chinese pieces, Cambodian sculptures and contemporary art displayed in a former World War II telecommunications bunker. The Feuerle Collection is available by guided tours to adults only (booked on the website), so it’s a furtive, intimate experience compared to mainstream galleries and museums in Berlin. No matter the work, whether stone furniture from the Han dynasty or wooden Khmer carvings, nothing is labeled – leaving interpretation up to the imagination. Founder Désiré Feuerle intended for the light design to speak a language of its own. The museum also holds yoga, meditation and traditional Chinese incense ceremonies by appointment.
If your hair is getting shaggy and you’re in the mood for being spoiled, head to ticro.de, the Japanese hair salon in Berlin’s upbeat Mitte district. The staff are at the top of their craft, sculpting modern cuts in a minimalistic space that takes you straight to Tokyo – no flight necessary. Ladies, they also do eyelash extensions imported from Japan. The staff is incredibly polite and well-mannered (hallmarks of Japanese culture that really stand out compared to the so-so service one usually gets in Berlin), they are easy to talk to and know how to give a really good scalp massage.