Along the Spree River.
Photo: Maremagnum/Getty Images
It’s commonly understood that the best way to explore a new place is to go straight to the locals. Each week in the Urbanist, we take that wisdom one step further by seeking out not just locals, but local experts — those who are especially well-versed in their cities’ newest and most noteworthy scenes — to give us insider tips. This week, we asked Andreya Casablanca and Laura Lee Jenkins, of Berlin-based punk and garage band Gurr, for their recommendations in Germany’s capital.
“Berlin has a certain spirit to it, that makes people want to come back again and again: It feels urban and historical but also young, fresh and arts driven. Berlin certainly isn’t classic ‘German’ — I know a lot of expats who come here and didn’t learn any German in the nine years they’ve been here. It’s very international and you often cross paths with people you could also meet in New York, London, or Paris. If you want to experience Berlin like a local, take a stroll in the closest park in your area (like Tempelhofer Flugfeld, Hasenheide, Volkspark Friedrichshain, or wherever you are), eat a peanut-sauce Falafel Sandwich at Sahara or Nil (Grünberger Str. 52), and get a drink in Neukölln or Kreuzberg. And definitely get a beer or Club Mate at a Späti (which is what we call the little bodegas that are open here all day and night). Oh also, if you dare, buy a ‘Sternburger’ Beer, which is the cheapest but also kind of popular beer in Berlin — it gives you an amazing headache the next day! The best time to visit is definitely in the summer. I wouldn’t suggest coming here in the winter or (even worse) on New Year’s Eve. Many people living in Berlin try to leave town around that time and leave the city to the tourists … it’s a bit like Paris in August where all the locals are on the Coast.”
Teufelssee Lake in Grunewald.
Photo: Schöning/ullstein bild via Getty Images
“If you are in the city in the summer, you should go to a lake once. A very reachable and beautiful one is Teufelssee Lake — you can also go nude swimming there if you like, which is a custom coming from the old East-Germany. If you are going to Teufelssee and are in the Grunewald area, you can go and visit the Velvet Underground singer Nico’s grave. She is buried in the Friedhof Grunewald-Forst (Schildhornweg 33), which also was called the ‘suicide cemetery’ in the 19th century. The river Havel has a shore near the cemetery, where a lot of people who drowned as an act of suicide were stranded and then buried there. If you go in the summer, be prepared to have an intense experience, as there are usually a lot of mosquitoes and the whole atmosphere is a little eerie. If you want to go for a little sail or walk around a not so crowded lake, visit Tegeler See. If you get off the S-Bahn at Treptower Park, there are one or two kayak rentals along the shore in the park.”