Former mayor Klaus Wowereit once famously dubbed Berlin “poor but sexy.” Thanks to its booming startup scene and undisputed status as one of Europe’s creative capitals, Berlin is a whole lot less poor, but remains as effortlessly cool as ever. Techno clubs still thunder through the weekends and artists still flock to studio spaces in gritty warehouses, but these days the city also has a host of bold restaurants and upscale hotels to rival any European city.
For years, Thai food in Berlin was synonymous with greasy, lackluster pad thai and soulless curries stripped of chilies. Now the cuisine is finally getting the respect it deserves, thanks to restaurants like Kin Dee in Schöneberg. Launched by chef Dalad Khambu, a former model from Thailand, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, the son of a Thai diplomat born in Buenos Aires, the stylish eatery offers inspired small plates in a minimalist, light-filled space. Rather than adhere strictly to tradition, Khambu incorporates local ingredients into her dishes in unconventional, utterly delicious ways—think kohlrabi in place of green papaya in a fiery som tum salad lashed with fish sauce, palm sugar, bird’s eye chilies, and lime.
Famed for its brutalist architecture decked out in murals by renowned masters such as BLU, MTO, Victor Ash, and JR, Berlin is a living, open-air street art exhibition space. It only seems fitting then that the world’s largest museum dedicated to the medium should open here. As if it weren’t enough that the sprawling five-story Urban Nation Museum for Contemporary Urban Art features works by more than 100 artists including Shepard Fairey, it’s also completely free. An eye-popping mural painted on 8,000 square feet of movable panels covers the facade.
Started by a team with Syrian, Iraqi, Kurdish, Palestinian, and German roots, this multipurpose space delivers a message of hope and tolerance in the heart of Mitte. The group first came together at the height of the refugee crisis to form FREEARTUS, a nonprofit offering local creatives the chance to help new arrivals. Lawrence includes a contemporary art gallery, an open studio, and a coworking space. Best of all is the restaurant and café serving authentic Syrian and other Middle Eastern fare.
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Natural wines are having a moment in Berlin, thanks to the success of places like Wild Things, a shabby-chic bar on nightlife hub Weserstrasse, and Cordobar, a refined watering hole in Mitte. While jaja may not be the biggest or the flashiest of the bunch, this Neukölln charmer boasts more than 300 bottles free from sulfites and other additives. For first-timers wary of funkier vintages, the friendly staff are more than happy to recommend something from their rotating selection of wines by the glass. Savory small plates like roasted heirloom carrots with goat cheese are the perfect accompaniment.
Situated in Kreuzberg, not far from the Jewish Museum and the East Side Gallery, this slick urban haven features a mod, Milanese-inspired design courtesy of architect Peter Külby. Tastefully understated rooms accented with blonde wood and minimalist furnishings get plenty of sunlight. Guests can grab a light bite at the Hotel The Yard’s on-site bistro or unwind at the Finnish sauna in the soothing wellness center.
After bagging two Michelin stars, landing a spot on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, starring in an episode of the Netflix show Chef’s Table, and serving politicians from Barack Obama to Angela Merkel, Tim Raue is Berlin’s reigning celebrity chef champ. Having already displayed his mastery of Asian fusion at his eponymous eatery, the West Berliner turned to the French culinary canon for his fifth restaurant in the city, Brasserie Collette. The menu offers a welcome mix of classics, such as the textbook boeuf bourguignon, and more innovative creations like a beef tartare with duck liver ice cream and truffle vinaigrette.
It doesn’t get much sexier than this sophisticated member of Design Hotels, which brings a touch of vintage glam to Kurfürstendamm. Channeling the city’s hedonistic heydey in the Roaring Twenties, Provocateur Hotel Berlin’s 58 rooms and suites kitted out in velvet and dark wood furnishings ooze irresistible decadence. Whether or not you’re spending the night, be sure to stop for a bite of French-Chinese fusion by star chef Duc Ngo at the Golden Phoenix, preferably followed by a sultry tipple at The Provocateur Bar.
A few days simply isn’t enough to enjoy all that this buzzy capital has to offer, which is why the extended accommodations at the new Capri by Fraser Berlin are so tempting. Guests stay in airy, spacious studio and one-bedrooms apartments. With lightning-fast Wi-Fi, fully equipped kitchenettes, a 24/7 gym, and a dead central location a stone’s throw from the Spree, there’s a lot to like about this sharp newcomer.
Good luck snagging one of the coveted seats at ernst, the long-awaited showcase for Dylan Watson-Brawn, a Canadian chef who cut his teeth at the Michelin triple-starred Nihonryori RyuGin in Tokyo. Although the restaurant’s spartan interior and cerebral approach are reminiscent of Japan’s fine dining temples, the menu draws inspiration from all over the globe. Over the course of roughly three hours, diners nibble on more than two dozen dishes consisting of rigorously sourced, seasonal produce.