Of all Europe’s capitals, Berlin carries the biggest buzz. In the three decades since it was reunified, the city has developed into a heady meld of grit and glamour that’s vastly different from anywhere else in Germany – or the rest of the world for that matter. Today, this is a city of distinct districts, and deciding where to stay may be your most important choice. While the public transport network is excellent, staying in the area of town that suits you best will make your visit easier. Whatever kind of trip you’re planning, here’s the lowdown on where to stay in Berlin from the new edition of The Rough Guide to Berlin.
Where to stay in the Spandauer Vorstadt
Arcing elegantly above the Spree between Friedrichstrasse and Alexanderplatz, the Spandauer Vorstadt was an eighteenth-century suburb. Today, it serves as Berlin’s primary “downtown” area, located in the heart of the Mitte district. This is a vibrant but touristic part of the city that's dense with boutiques, bars and restaurants. Key insights into Jewish life remain at the Neue Synagoge, the Jewish Cemetery and a trio of museums in Haus Schwarzenberg.
This is the most obvious area to choose when deciding where 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 for boutique chic: Hackescher Markt
Quirky little hotel on a quiet side street, in the middle of the Hackescher Markt bar scene.
Best for a being in the middle of it all: Casa Camper Berlin
The hotel is located in Berlin’s popular Hackescher Markt area and a 10-minute walk from UNESCO Museum Island and the historic Unter den Linden boulevard.
Looking up at buildings in Hackescher Markt © Sergey Kelin/Shutterstock
Where to stay in Prenzlauer Berg
If you are going to be in Berlin a little longer than a weekend or prefer a quieter, less touristy neighbourhood, Prenzlauer Berg is a good place to stay. Prenzlauer Berg might be more residential, but it is equally happening.
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. It is beloved by wealthy creative types and middle-class families, who gravitate towards leafy, laidback squares like Helmholtzplatz and Kollwitzplatz. There are plenty of independent bars and cafés, as well as a buzzy Sunday flea market at Mauerpark.
Best for apartment living: Ackselhaus
Offbeat hotel and apartments on an attractive residential street in the heart of the lively Prenzlauer Berg scene.
Best for tasteful elegance: Myer’s Hotel
Small upmarket hotel in a renovated nineteenth-century Neoclassical building. Rooms are arranged around a glass-roofed courtyard.
Listed buildings in Prenzlauer Berg © Shutterstock
Where to stay in City West
Four boroughs make up City West: Wilmersdorf, Schöneberg, Tiergarten and Charlottenburg. The glittering heart of former West Germany, City West is 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. Visitors in search of a more relaxed trip might be well suited to lodgings here. That said, the restaurant scene is generally very good and transport links first-class.
Best for low-key hostel vibes: Hostel City Bed 2
Western Berlin’s best hostel is scrupulously clean. You'll find it in a quiet residential neighbourhood.
Best for 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.
Lush greenery in Berlin's Tiergarten © Mariia Golovianko/Shutterstock
Where to stay in 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.
The area is most popular for bar-hopping and clubbing – which can be an important factor when considering where to stay in Berlin. The German capital is home to some of the most famous clubs in Europe, and there's a good concentration of them in Friedrichshain. So if you're a night owl, Friedrichshain could be the ticket. But the area does offer some heavyweight public monuments, too. The world-famous East Side gallery and the imposing Karl-Marx-Allee are both found here. It’s also home to – indeed named after – the lovely, sprawling Volkspark Friedrichshain.
Best for warehouse cool: Michelberger Hotel
Modern, trendy and relaxed haunt with anything but workaday accommodation.
Best for an Ostalgie fix: OSTEL - Das DDR Hostel
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.
The atmospheric East Side Gallery © Umut Rosa/Shutterstock
Where to stay in East Kreuzberg
An isolated section of West Berlin throughout the Cold War, Kreuzberg has since grown into one of Berlin’s most colourful districts. It has proved a magnet for left-wing anarchists, the LGBTQ community, turkish immigrants (it’s sometimes called little Istanbul) and, increasingly, hipsters and tourists.
Much of the eastern part of Kreuzberg abutted the wall on the West side and was strongly associated with Berlin’s squatter and anarchist scenes. Though the area has gentrified somewhat since those heady days, it maintains a grungy, vibrant feel. Its energy and atmosphere is fuelled by an ever-expanding series of excellent independent bars, clubs and restaurants.
Best for flashpacking: Eastern & Western Comfort Hostelboat
The hostel boat features cozy cabin rooms with their own bathrooms. There are great views of the Oberbaum Bridge from its spacious deck area.
Best for beatnik beds: Baxpax
Cheerful beatnik hostel in a happening area of Kreuzberg.
Oberbaum Bridge links Kreuzberg with Friedrichshain across the river © Shutterstock
Top image © canadastock/Shutterstock