Or the neighborhood on fashion in Europe I might add. This is Berlin’s contribution to this large family of “cool” neighborhoods that are so fashionable in the world. Any city that wants to be in the tourists’ radar needs more than historical monuments and excellent museums, people want a neighborhood:
- Full of restaurants and cafes of all types and prices, from the most expensive and refined, to the most seedy but authentic, looking for a retro, vintage and alternative style that people like nowadays. And if they have terrace on the street, better.
- Full of shops, silly stuff if possible, and cute. No matter what they sell.
- Full of quality graffiti.
- Full of people dressed as if they were bohemian hipsters riding bicycles, although half of them have an audi in the garage and pay two mortgages.
And Mitte is, in my opinion, the most successful neighborhood of all I have visited in Europe, and one of the best in the world. People travel to Berlin for the history of the 20th century, to see the wall, its museums and the dome of the Parliament, but they repeat Berlin because of Mitte, a neighborhood that sums up the essence of this city, has a special appeal, a positive vibration of which Mitte is its epicenter.
Needless to say, but just to be clear: this is the best area to stay in the city.
A LITTLE OF RECENT HISTORY
Probably its secret lies in authenticity:
- When the wall fell down, this extremely central area but hit by communism, became a very desirable place to live or set up a business; it had a privileged location with very cheap prices, since most owners were needy people due to the communist policy in East Germany, reason why they sold their flats and premises to the first one that offered a price for them acceptable, believing in addition that they could not ask much given the state of conservation of its buildings.
- The upper-class Germans were initially reluctant to buy in an area that, even without a wall in the middle, was far more disadvantaged than any in West Berlin. This meant that middle-low class people from West Germany were the ones who hoarded Mitte, mostly young people, with money to rent or buy, but not to make many reforms.
That’s why the neighborhood is not really vintage or retro, but authentic. And if the parts without charm can get better with some painting and restore what you can not fix, it becomes what it is today.
By the way, many of the major attractions are within their boundaries.
Mitte means in German “medium”, refers to its location. We do not refer to the district, but to the district, which is a subdivision of the district of the same name. The area is comprised of:
- To the west the limit is the Potsdamer Platz, the Tiergarten and the Reichstag building.
- East to several blocks further east of Alexanderplatz.
- To the south comes to another of the emblematic points, the Check Point Charlie.
- And north till the Berlin Wall Memorial.
Therefore, almost all of Berlin’s best is on Mitte’s border, or within it: the Memorial of the Assassinated Jews, the Topography of Terror, the Museum Island or the Cathedral. The only distant first class attraction is the East Side Gallery. For information on all these places, see the post BERLIN IN 24 HOURS.
RESTAURANTS AND CAFETERIAS
But as I say, we came to Mitte because of its culture and history, and we stayed for its leisure offer and good atmosphere. Most restaurants and cafes are located immediately north and north-west of Alexanderplatz in the area known as Hackescher Markt, where you can find the characteristic courtyards of interconnected buildings called Hackeschen Höfe and Rosenhöfe, which have been equipped to house restaurants. From there they expand radially, with less and less establishments, although not worse, the further we move away.
The truth is that I do not remember the names of the places where I have been, but I do remember what they were like:
- Street stalls of showarmas, I think the best I’ve ever tried, and cost between € 1 and € 2.
- One day I went to eat sushi until I had enough and I paid 12 €.
- Another day I went to a typical German bar and paid just less than € 15 for a huge amount of food and beer … although the waiter was a jerk who refused to speak English, now that I remember.
- And another day we went to a minimalist thai and paid € 20 PAX for a pad thai which was nothing to write home about.
With this I mean that you’ll find everything and at all prices. Precisely, since it is a pleasant neighborhood itself, looking for where to take something is part of the experience.
There are many more appealing places than you can cover unless you live in the city, or you are my friends Manolo and Elma who go almost every year, true addicts to the good Berlin vibe.
There are hundreds, from small and pretty shops that sell their own soap or organic products, to large and ugly glazed shopping centers in the Potsdamer and Alexanderplatz squares. Special mention for Quartier 206, an exclusive shopping center but worth visiting for its internal architecture.