Here, we’ll focus mainly on fashion/style. The most exciting fashion action is concentrated in former East Berlin, in Mitte and southern Prenzlauer Berg, where exciting small boutiques, cafes, and galleries (all decorated with Hoxton-esque street art and stickers) jostle for space on the streets around Kastanienalle and Zionkirchstrasse, then in the area south of Torstrasse and west of Karl-Liebknechtstrasse. Around here you get a more interesting atmosphere than in other parts of Berlin with more character to the streets and better people watching. It would be pointless to go through every shop we visited (and there are loads: because rents are so cheap in Berlin compared to London anyone with a cool retail idea can set up shop), but a few are extra-worthy of mention.
The Apartment on Memhardstrasse is something increasingly rare (in London, anyway) which is a unique retail concept. When you go in you find a big white empty space, until you descend the small spiral stairs in the corner into the small black basement where staff (who were amazingly friendly) preside over a well-edited range of edgy high fashion (Raf Simons, Martin Margiela, Rick Owens..), smaller brands like Victim Fashion Street, and more affordable stuff like Cheap Monday. It was also the first place I’ve seen WKND by Cheap Monday – think interesting graphic photo t-shirts – whose website we were stalking last week.
Star Styling on Mulackstrasse sell their own designs (below) which are like Gareth Pugh meets holographic fabric transfers – well worth a look, and we rather love them for making some new strand of ‘nu rave’ still seem exciting. On the same street there’s also an A.P.C boutique which we sadly lack in London, and a Bless (hip Berlin brand) store, which is also worth a visit.
This post is just a very small taster of what there is in these areas (there are probably other exciting areas too that we didn’t have time to visit, and we haven’t even mentioned places to eat and drink, design shops etc.)
There’s also a branch of Parisian department store Galeries Lafayette, while the native department store Ka De We may be dull fashion wise but it’s a rather spectacular shop overall, especially in the toy and food departments which are so bright and well-stocked your practically guaranteed to get a twinge of that giddy pre-Christmas childhood excitement again, despite it only being October.
Some other random things we did: marvelled at a huge giraffe made out of Lego near Potsdamer Platz, queued up to go up the iconic Fernsehturm TV tower, felt sad that a Jeff Koons exhibition was set to open a few days after we left (but still admired the Mies van der Rohe architecture of the Neue Nationalgalerie), felt happy surrounded by good design in the Bauhaus Arciv, took touristy photos of the Brandenburg Gate and Berlin Wall, and enjoyed seeing a giant panda eating half a watermelon in the zoo.
Wrap up extra warm against the cold and go to Berlin now... go, go!