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Kreuzberg: The culturally diverse neighbourhood where you can explore the alternative side of Berlin

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 13/05/2018 Sade Beckley-Lines

a river running through a city: Explore an iconic area in Berlin with this insider's guide © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Explore an iconic area in Berlin with this insider's guide For many people, Kreuzberg is Berlin; an independently spirited, multicultural district with an attitude, counterculture and atmosphere all of its own. Beyond punk bars and Turkish restaurants, Kreuzberg is also home to some excellent museums and architectural landmarks. You can stroll through lovely parks, stop at beer gardens, explore historic market halls that lead the way in Berlin’s foodie revolution. Or just take a canal-bank walk to rival anything Amsterdam or Venice has to offer. No wonder David Bowie spent so much time here during his Berlin years.

How to get there and around

If you’re heading to Kreuzberg from the UK, you’ll find good public transport links to the neighbourhood from both of Berlin’s main airports. If you are arriving at Schönefeld, take the S-Bahn to Warschauer Straße and then the U-Bahn across the river. From Tegel, buses link the airport with the U8 and U7 lines of the U-Bahn network, both of which have a number of stops in Kreuzberg.

For orientation, you can divide Kreuzberg into three areas. The north west, bordering Mitte, is home to many interesting museums and cultural institutions. South of here is the leafy Bergmannkiez, packed with cafés and independent shops. The eastern half of Kreuzberg is the old SO36 – the post code once home to West Berlin’s counterculture and still a vibrant corner of the city today. All the parts of Kreuzberg are linked by good U-Bahn connections, or you can do what the locals do and rent a bike.

Where to stay

It is quite a statement to open a luxury design hotel in the heart of SO36, but that’s what the folks at the Hotel Orania Berlin have done, renovating a beautiful historic building right on Oranienplatz. As well as the stylish rooms, the Orania Berlin has a restaurant and bar where they host regular concerts from Berlin-based musicians, including singer-songwriters and jazz and classical performers. Close to the Jewish Museum and the other cultural attractions of Kreuzberg, The Yard is a boutique hotel with 55 minimalist rooms, a bistro and gardens, with a spa with sauna and treatments as well as swimming pools.

a living room filled with furniture and a large window: Hotel Orania Berlin is an excellent choice when staying in Kreuzberg © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Hotel Orania Berlin is an excellent choice when staying in Kreuzberg

With only 33 rooms, the Hotel Johann is a small and friendly three-star hotel on a quiet Kreuzberg side street, not far from the Landwehr Canal. On sunny days, you can have breakfast in the garden, then rent a bike from reception and peddle off on a Berlin adventure.

For a design-inspired hotel at a reasonable price, the Motel One chain has built its popularity on stylish comfort and good service, and despite the name, the Motel One Berlin Mitte is in Prinzenstraße, right in the centre of Kreuzberg and within walking distance of all the main attractions of the neighbourhood.

a living room: The Yard is just an 8-minute walk from the Jewish Museum © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The Yard is just an 8-minute walk from the Jewish Museum

If you’re on a budget, you can also find one of Berlin’s best-rated hostels in Kreuzberg, overlooking the Landwehr Canal. The award-winning Grand Hostel Berlin has private rooms as well as dorms, a lively bar where you can meet your fellow travellers, rent-a-bike service and walking tours leaving from the hostel reception.

What to see and do

A great way to start your exploration of the neighbourhood is to follow the Landwehr Canal, which flows through Kreuzberg. Follow the embankment from the U-Bahn station at Mendelssohn-Bartholdy-Park to where the canal meets the River Spree at the three-way border with the neighbouring districts of Friedrichshain and Treptow. There, right in the middle of the river, you’ll see the three giant figures known as the Molecule Men, rising up above the water.

The main concentration of museums and other cultural institutions in Kreuzberg are in the north of the district, close to the border with Mitte. There you can learn about the Cold War history on a walk along the Berlin Wall Trail or a visit to Checkpoint Charlie where there are museums and other exhibitions exploring the division of the city. On nearby Niederkirchnerstraße is the Topography of Terror. Once the site of the Nazi security services, it’s now an outdoor and indoor museum and place of remembrance.

While you’re in the area, visit Martin-Gropius-Bau, a museum of fine arts with a changing programme of exhibitions and events, or the Jewish Museum, which explores two-thousand years of German-Jewish history in a stunning building designed by Daniel Libeskind. Germany’s long history of innovation is told through the huge exhibition halls of the German Technical Museum on the banks of the Landwehr Canal, and the neighbouring Park am Gleisdreieck is a wonderful green space to take a break after a long day exploring all that Kreuzberg has to offer.

The hill that gives the district its name is in Viktoriapark, a good starting point for exploring the pleasant neighbourhood of Bergmannkiez. This is not so much a place for sightseeing as somewhere to soak up the distinctive city atmosphere, with great cafés and independent shops to explore, as well as the bustling Marheinecke Markthalle, one of Berlin’s original market halls.

Head to eastern Kreuzberg and you’ll come to SO36, the place where the district developed its reputation during the long years of division as West Berlin’s capital of counterculture, home to radical students, punks and protestors of every stripe, as well as what is now the city’s longest-established Turkish community. The main places to head to feel the authentic SO36 atmosphere are the bars and cafés of Oranienstraße, the streets around Kottbusser Tor and Görlitzer Park – especially on a hot, sunny day, when it feels like the whole neighbourhood is here, lounging on the grass.

a boat sitting on top of a building: The Oberbaum Bridge that connects Friedrichshain to Kreuzberg is a landmark in the city © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The Oberbaum Bridge that connects Friedrichshain to Kreuzberg is a landmark in the city

Where to eat and drink

There are plenty of bakeries in Kreuzberg where you can get a coffee and a bite to eat before you start your explorations of the neighbourhood, but for something a little more special, head to Ora on Oranienplatz. This café in a former chemist does one of the best breakfasts in the area. If you fancy sleeping in, you could get a classic Berlin Frühstück of cold meats, cheeses and crusty rolls at Ankerklause, overlooking the canal, which is open from 1000.

For a lunch or a snack at any time of the day or night, the place to be is Mehringdamm. Join the queues outside Curry 36 for classic currywurst and chips, or at Mustafa’s Gemüsekebab – Kreuzberg’s most popular kebab stand – you’ll be glad you did. Other great places to grab a bite are the market halls. As well as the Marheineke Markthalle in the Bergmannkiez, check out Markthalle Neun close to Görlitzer Park, open daily 1200–1800 and later for special events.

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