Berlin like a Berliner: A local guide
As one of Europe's hippest cities for a short break Berlin is the perfect place to experience outstanding restaurants, fantastic al-fresco living and amazing nightlife. Whether you're in the German capital to shop, explore the sights or cycle the wide streets, Berlin is a dream.
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Central and East Berlin may be home to the hipster neighbourhoods, but West Berlin is bursting with a whole host of trendy, upscale and creative places the locals love, from innovative concept malls to charming restaurants with books. Here's how to live like a local in Berlin...
While most of your time will be spent delving into the city life, you will appreciate a warm and sophisticated space to return to at the end of the day and the simply elegant Swissotel Berlin is a hotel that won't disappoint. Located on West Berlin's renowned shopping boulevard, the Kurfurstendamm (or Ku'damm to Berliners), the contemporary hotel combines the best of Swiss and German living in a sleek setting. It features ever-changing art throughout, stylishly modern furniture and top-notch extras which include the DeepSleep Package to ensure you're really relaxed by the end of your trip; Club Lounge access so you can make the most of a private atmosphere; and the Vitality programme to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle through walking tours, light meals and locally-influenced activities like playing Scrabble with the locals or jogging with the general manager.
Swissotel Berlin's Classic Rooms provide a sanctuary from the buzzing city below, with its glamorous views of Berlin through huge windows, enormous marshmallow-style beds that you will love sinking into and stylish decor, as well as all the essentials such as a flat-screen TV, Nespresso machine and soundproof windows and walls. It is the ideal base for exploring West Berlin's appealing neighbourhoods.
With incredibly wide streets and some 500,000 people riding their bikes every day, getting around Berlin on two wheels is a highlight. Do it in style on a retro-chic electric bike from Ego Movement Bikes, which you can hire via Swissotel Berlin. The bikes combine classic design with modern technology and offer a terrific way to explore Berlin like a city dweller. Start by cycling through glorious Tiergarten, Berlin's answer to Central Park, where you will meet locals out for a stroll, having family picnics and just relaxing in one of the city's loveliest spots. In the heart of the park next to a picturesque pond lies Café am Neuen See, a wonderful restaurant that is packed year-round and ideal for a spot of breakfast, lunch or a beer.
Next, head west towards the flea market on Fehrbelliner Platz (Saturdays and Sundays only) to browse the 130 stalls selling everything from vintage luggage to books, clothing and paintings. If it's a sunny day, be sure to make a stop at the nearby Thai Park (officially Preussen Park) where vendors sell home-cooked Thai food on a green space - it's an unusual and superb sight in the city. To soak up some peace and tranquillity in Berlin, head for the most luxurious beach bar in town, Ku'damm Beach, with its white loungers on floating wooden walkways overlooking the Halensee Lake. It is also worth cycling through the residential streets of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf to get a feel for life as a wealthy Berliner - but be warned, it will give you house envy!
Having Ku'damm as your base affords you the opportunity to shop until you drop in one of the best shopping areas of Berlin. KaDeWe is a shopper's paradise as the largest department store in Europe, having survived the turmoil of 20th century Germany unscathed and with all the best-loved brands from Adidas to Gucci, as well as an impressive food court as its highlight. For something completely different, cutting-edge and cool, visit Bikini Berlin, just a short walk from Swissotel Berlin opposite the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, to experience the world's first concept shopping mall. Located directly adjacent to the Zoological Garden, the mall offers three storeys of fashion, lifestyle, restaurants and pop-up shops run by some of Berlin's greatest young designers. Green rooftop terrace the Bikini Berlin Shopping Garden, which is based on New York's High Line, provides spectacular views into the zoo's monkey enclosures and is a must-see.
Eating out in Berlin is an exciting experience and with a multitude of restaurants serving local specialities, international cuisine from Thai to Greek and haute cuisine from top chefs at affordable prices, there is plenty to choose from. At Swissotel Berlin, Restaurant 44 focuses on authentic flavours, seasonal produce and modern comfort food inspired by Swiss cuisine. Outside the hotel there are some fabulous restaurants in Charlottenburg. Cafe im Literaturhaus is a delightful 19th-century villa with a garden filled with flowers and plants, a bookshop and a cafe-restaurant. Boasting a wonderful atmosphere, the classy restaurant is perfect for a lazy lunch and offers tasty favourites including steak and chips and apple strudel, which are wonderful washed down with fresh lemonade or a glass of wine.
Lutter & Wegner is an excellent spot for dinner, with its cosy atmosphere, legendary wine list and superb German and Viennese dishes - the Schnitzel is praised by locals as the best outside Vienna. After dark, head for Monkey Bar at the top of hotel 25Hours, which is part of the Bikini Haus building, for creative cocktails, panoramic views of the city and regular DJ nights. Popular among Berliners and tourists, this stylish night spot is a great place to hang out when night falls. The cocktail list features great classics along with creative concoctions.
Book it: Classic rooms at Swissotel Berlin start from £120 per night on a room-only basis.
Get there: British Airways has launched a new route from London City to Berlin, with hand baggage only fares available from £49 each way.