Best for sightseeing: Spandauer Vorstadt
Arcing elegantly above the Spree between Friedrichstrasse and Alexanderplatz, the Spandauer Vorstadt was an eighteenth-century suburb that today serves as Berlin’s primary “downtown” area, and is the heart of the Mitte district.
This is the most obvious area to stay in Berlin, particularly if you’re after a major hotel. There is also a good selection of hostels and boutique hotels here – all within walking distance of many city-centre attractions, and near good eating and nightlife options.
Best boutique: Hackescher Markt. Quirky little hotel on a quiet side street, in the middle of the Hackescher Markt bar scene.
Members-club chic: Soho Berlin. All the Soho House trappings (rooftop pool, restaurant, bars, etc) in a restored Bauhaus building hinting at the faded glamour of the late 1920s.
Best for families: Prenzlauer Berg
If you are going to be in Berlin a little longer than a weekend or prefer a quieter, less touristy but equally happening residential neighbourhood, Prenzlauer Berg is a good choice.
Built in the nineteenth century as a working-class district, the area has seen huge gentrification. Today’s refurbished buildings and handsome, cobbled streets create an attractive Alt Berlin atmosphere beloved by wealthy creative types and middle-class families, who gravitate towards leafy, laidback squares like Helmholtzplatz and Kollwitzplatz.
Apartment stay: Ackselhaus. Offbeat hotel and apartments on an attractive residential street in the heart of the lively Prenzlauer Berg scene.
Elegant and tasteful: Myer’s Hotel. Small upmarket hotel in a renovated nineteenth-century Neoclassical building, with rooms arranged around a glass-roofed courtyard.
Best for choice: City West
Four boroughs make up City West: Wilmersdorf, Schöneberg, Tiergarten and Charlottenburg, known for its wealthy residents and expensive shops.
You’ll find plenty of options in every category here, although it’s a little away from Berlin’s brightest lights, so nightlife is very thin, but the restaurant scene is generally very good and transport links first-class.
Pick of the hostels: Hostel City Bed 2. Western Berlin’s best hostel is scrupulously clean and in a quiet residential neighbourhood.
A step back in time: Hotel-Pension Funk. Interesting re-creation of a prewar flat, with furnishings from the 1920s and 1930s, when Danish silent-movie star Asta Nielsen lived here.
Best for bar-hopping: Friedrichshain
Though part of an ensemble of former East inner-city areas, Friedrichshain has developed a slightly differently mien than that of neighbouring Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg. A magnet for lefties, anarchists and students, it has managed to resist the same levels of gentrification thanks to an organised squatter scene, activist demos and the occasional car-burning frenzy.
It’s most popular for bar-hopping and clubbing, but the area does offer some heavyweight public monuments, the world-famous East Side gallery and the imposing Karl-Marx-Allee among them. It’s also home to – indeed named after – the lovely, sprawling Volkspark Friedrichshain.
Warehouse cool: Michelberger Hotel. Modern, trendy and relaxed haunt with anything but workaday accommodation.
An Ostalgie fix: Ostel. Step back into the GDR of the 1970s amid a haze of browns and oranges at this themed budget hotel a short walk from the Ostbahnhof.