By Miriam Alston, MSN Contributor

Top tips from a local in Berlin

Join artist and writer Miriam as she takes us on a tour of Berlin fit for any culture vulture

Now that you've got a peak into one particular neighborhood in my video above, I put together a list of other cool spots from all walks of life and different parts of town in pursuit of capturing Berlin's diversity.

With good public transport it's easy to get around the German capital home to 3.5 million people. Depending on the length of your stay it might be worthwhile to get a week's pass at one of the many BVG (public transport) posts.


Berlin's history after World War Two is impressively captured with the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park, designed by Russian architect Jakow S. Belopolski.

Treptower Park

Experience the grandeur of Treptower Park

The 120,000sq yard expanse gives you a good sense of former communist grandeur in the German Democratic Republic. It is monumental and you'll have it all to yourself, unless on Victory Day May 9th.

If this taste of Ostalgia (nostalgia for aspects of life in Eastern Germany) interests you get a feel of what it was like to live in a typical 'Platte' in the former German Democratic Republic visit the only sample apartment kept in it's original state in Hellersdorf.

For contemporary architecture you could visit the crematory in Treptow. Axel Schultes Architects, who also built the German Chancellery, left an impressive mark there.

For more architecture don't miss my all-time favourite, The New National Gallery, the "temple of light and glass" designed by Mies van der Rohe.

Another classic sight is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Try to get a peek into the chapel northeast of the old

The New National Gallery

The New National Gallery - A temple of glass and light

tower, designed by Egon Eierman but hardly ever mentioned in guides.

A smooth transition from architecture to art; here is another favourite of mine: the International Forum For Visual Dialogue or C/O Berlin, where I have seen Nan Goldin or Robert Mapplethorpe, is located in the former imperial post office, which was built between 1876- 1881.

Further two notable galleries on hand: Cologne Gallerist Daniel Buchholz (who discovered Turner price winning photographer Wolfgang Tillmanns and represents the exceptional Isa Genzken) and the überhip L.A. based Perez Projects.

As a busy traveler you might want to recharge your batteries. You can at the Tempelhofer Airfield, an open source project where you can bike, skate, play tennis, kite, tan or simply enjoy the endless space and view of the old airport building.

Ladies if you fancy some pampering visit the Hamam, the Turkish bathhouse, located in a former Chocolate factory in Kreuzberg. Treat yourself to Kese + Sabunlama, a traditional soap and rub treatment. You will leave spick'n span with a gorgeous glow.

Eating and drinking

After all that culture it's time to look after your appetite. Try German food another day and tuck into delicious food from around the world. Try Vietnamese at Monsieur Wong and Hamy or Sen Viet. Amazing Middle Eastern delicatessen at Knofi.

Jamaican home cooking with a cool artistic vibe and happiest service: Rosa Caleta in Kreuzberg. Plus, the latest buzz in town: Fusion cooking in an industrial environment at Tausend.

For an unusual gathering stop by Preußenpark, where Asians (mostly Vietnames and Thai) gather on weekends and sometimes during the week for massive cook outs. They sell their treats and you can sit on blankets and be part of an interesting crowd.


There are plenty of shopping opportunities in Berlin. For gifts don't even think about going to Checkpoint Charlie, Kurfürstendamm or Potsdamer Platz. You don't want to be seen in one of those Berlin Bear or Ampelmännchen T-shirts nor do you want your best friend wearing a fake Russian soldier's hat.

The perfect place to score a Modernist souvenir is the gift shop at the Bauhaus Archive, the Museum Building is a late work of Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. Stop by Intershop 2000 in Friedrichshain, where you can find original GDR design.

If you miss your Polaroid like I do, then you will be in heaven at the Sofortbild Shop in Mitte. The store offers a selection of vintage Polaroid cameras, films and single Polaroids are for sale.

Discover some treasures in the Flowmarkt

Discover some treasures in the Flowmarkt

For sartorialists only one name comes to mind: Andreas Murkudis. His minimalist industrial design concept store is divine.

If you're a lover of flea markets visit Nowkölln's Flowmarkt. It is the coolest market, taking place in different locations but Maybachufer (again) is a guaranteed success.

The best time to come

Don't visit Berlin in winter because it can be depressing and people tend to be especially rude! By far the best time to visit is summer. The city is lush and greener than you might expect.

And do not hesitate to bring your kids, as Brangelina already knows, Berlin offers 'funtastic' possibilities for the next generation. In summer Berlin struts it's best avant-garde street couture get up with a hint of sophistication.

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