Trust us: it’s the perfect time of year to take a mini-break to Berlin. This dynamic, one-of-a-kind and incredibly cheap city has a somewhat over-egged reputation for drizzly weather – and yes, of all months, June is the usually the wettest. But that’s only part of the story.
This European metropolis typically enjoys beautiful summers, with temperatures averaging 24°C; what’s more, last year was Germany’s hottest ever – and on 5 July this year, the country beat its own historic record, hitting 40.3 degrees.
Berlin truly comes alive during summer: parks, such as the sprawling, abandoned Tempelhof Airport, become populated with half naked sunbathers; dining and nightlife spill out onto the street, and sun-hungry locals hotfoot it to one of the many nearby lakes for a spot of wild swimming, such as Lake Tegel. Here, we ramble around Germany’s biggest city (population 3.42 million) on the hunt for cheap eats, stunning sights and unforgettable nights.
Where should I party?
Dancing the night away at iconic super-club Berghain is a Berlin rite of passage – as is the experience of queuing up for hours to get in, while obsessively debating the infamously tricky door policy in a state of thinly-veiled panic.
During our visit, we also had a brilliantly fun night starting with beers at the cruisey-but-friendly gay saloons Hafen and TOM’s Bar, before heading to SchwuZ, a sprawling, cavernous dance party with a joyously mixed, non-judgmental crowd, where you’ll find pumping house playing in one room and Stevie Nicks’ Edge Of Seventeen in another.
We finished up in the hip after-hours bar Roses Bar, where Madonna was played on a loop and the walls are covered in pink fluff, making you feel cushioned inside a lady garden. Welcome to Berlin!
What should I see?
If you’re on a budget, jump on a bike and survey some of Berlin’s bizarre, brutalist architecture (the Czech Embassy, The Bierpinsel, above); book yourself on a walking tour for a manageable introduction to its dense history (original walking tours also has a ‘queer walk’). The extensive art collection of the Boros Collection, housed in a converted bunker also comes highly recommended, but booking is essential. For an essential photo op, visit the Brandenburg Gate.
Where should I eat?
Der Goldene Hahn is an excellent Italian boasting fine ingredients but a relaxed, informal vibe typical of Berlin eateries. Eating at the Asian fusion-focused Long March Canteen feels like more of an event. It boasts gold star service, Oriental ambiance, reasonably-priced dim sum, exceptionally fresh fish and wasabi so hot it it send a pregnant member of our party into labor (we’re serious).
For a cheaper eat, grab a burger to go at Burgermeister, where the epic concoctions are succulent and satisfying while being shockingly cheap.
Where should I shop?
Our favorite store in Berlin is easily Voo. As chain stores of its hipster ilk around the world become increasingly over-packed, pedestrian and unbearable, Voo is an oasis of calm, carefully-hand-picked style. There are few enough items on sale that you can rifle through just about everything before losing the will to live. Jumpers adorned with the glamorous face of Ursula from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, anyone?
Where should I stay?
For ‘hetero-friendly’ boutique chic, head to Axel Hotel Berlin in Schöneberg; for upscale luxury and a central location, try the Hilton Berlin.
Gay Star News flew to Berlin from London with Ryanair. Fares from 24.99 for travel in September and October. Bookings available into July 2016. Ryanair offers three daily flights from Stansted to Berlin.