I have two great loves, food and tango.
So when students visit for our Annual Seminar, or just to study at StudioBerlin, I want to share everything I love about Berlin.
I love the delicious bits of travel and I hate the frustrating, heavy bits. I know that considering your trip to Berlin tickles you in both ways, so I’ve written this guide to try to reduce the frustrating bits and draw your attention to the delicious opportunities that can enrich your visit.
If you stay in our dormitory or nearby to us in this sweet section of Mitte, you’ll have great food and easy transportation to/from all arrival ports and to/from milongas. You can walk to milongas and museums.
Just around the corner from the Studio (two right turns, don’t cross any streets) is the Alpenstück Bäckerei at Schröderstraße 1. It’s a super high quality bakery making traditional German breads, fruit tortes, and really good, fresh éclairs (large €2.50, mini €1.20), mercifully open every day of the week. Their food is like California German Cuisine, meaning that they take German traditional dishes and make them lighter and healthier. It’s comfortable, quiet, and serene, a great getaway. If you fall in love with them, you can go fine dining in their restaurant.
If you think this idea of Cal-Deutsch Cuisine is hilarious, you’ll want to have a currywurst or burger or something else for lunch or dinner from Friedel Richter‘s changing slow food-regional menu (presented on an old airline departure board programmed from a man-sized computer you’ll see on your way to the bathroom). Turn right and don’t cross Torstraße until you find a restaurant/hydroponic greenhouse combination. Of course, they accept bitcoin. 2 blocks west at 199 Torstraße. Never crowded. Closed Sundays.
If you need to feel like you’ve meditated, but you’re too hungry for that (and you’re a gourmet to0), walk 4 blocks to the breathtaking minimalist Kanteen in Architect David Chipperfield’s office complex at Joachimstraße 11. There is no sign from the street. Enter the modern grey concrete building through the seafoam green doors (note that they match the facing building’s). Open Monday-Friday 8:30-18:30 for chefmade breakfast and lunch.
If you care more about coffee than pastry, turn left and head to Ackerstraße 173 for my favorite coffee roasted in Berlin by Röststätte. Use the free wifi from purple velvet benches or sit outside on a quiet street and dump your espresso over some good ice cream from next door. They actually have a small selection of very nice sandwiches and pastries as well. Open every day until 18:00.
If you’re a real coffee gastronome, you’ll just get up and continue down Ackerstraße past the park another block to The Barn, where you can have an entirely different selection of pastries with an Australia/New Zealand style of coffee.
If you want great coffee and a great breakfast in a lively hip scene, take two lefts out of the door so you’re headed north of Torstraße up Bergstraße to District at #68, which has the prettiest café food I’ve ever seen.
If you want simple, low key classic south German lunch (inkl Maultaschen), go to Ribo at Ackerstraße 157. The lunch café at Alpenstuck does a renovated version.
If you’re looking to buy some food, take any Northbound street (including Ackerstraße) to Invalidenstraße. At #155, within 5 minutes of the Studio, you can have access to some of the best charcuterie and cheese available in Berlin at Vom Einfachen das Gute, where you can also buy wine, craft beer, and a few other carefully selected slow-food items from Germany, Italy, and Spain.
Half a block away at Invalidenstraße 153 is an independent natural food shop, called the BioDeli which covers any gourmet item you may need that goes beyond Vom Einfachen’s range, as well as every natural food and beauty product you might need, along with as much local produce and product as they can get their hands on.
If what you found missing at Von Einfachen is a bigger selection of wine, stop in at the Weinhandlung at #158, for the wealth of Europe in bottles piled high.
In case like me, what you want to eat when you’re tired is a STEAK (Yes you can cook at the dorm!) , the owners of Weinhandlung have opened one of the nicest raw meat shops you’ve ever been in, the Fleischandlung, just down at #149.
If you’d rather someone else cook your meat, get a burger at #160, Tommi’s Burger Joint. They do the Berlin thing, which is to serve sweet potato fries with the burger which is like, well, almost better than the burger.
If you don’t like burgers, well, that’s no problem. Mitte and Prenzlauerburg are full of restaurants, but here’s my thrifty and superpickyfoodie guide to which ones to try:
Good! Mexican Tacos (and burritos) at Neta, Weinbergsweg 5, just 1/2 block from Rosenthaler Platz. Tortillas cooked to order, good fillings, properly inadaquate taco stand seating. If you want more equally good, but quite different, tacos, jump on the tram M1 in front of Neta (or from the Studio walk to Nordbahnhof for the tram M10) and go to the next neighborhood north, Prenzlauerberg, to Maria Bonita at Danziger Straße 33 (much less seating).
After Maria Bonita, you’ll need an ice cream. Walk through one of Berlin’s loveliest neighborhoods to Hokey Pokey Ice Cream at Stargarder Straße 73 (open until 22:00), then jump back on the M1 at Milastraße to come home.
If you don’t like tacos, but you do like fish, you’ll want to reverse the journey, taking the M1 to Milastraße in the first place for “the best fish n chips in Europe!” at Der Fischladen, Schönhauser Allee 128. Then proceed to Ice Cream as directed above. If you like fish but you want German preparations and you also like wine and want to taste a lot of it during dinner, turn a few corners to Weinschenke Weinstein, at Lychener Straße 33 where the regional menu has the names of the people who choose the cheese and catch the fish.
Berlin has lots of Asian food… Having come from Sydney I’m, er, not so impressed, but there are a few places I like. One of which is yet another good preamble to Hokey Pokey Ice Cream, is the Vietnamese Van Hoa, at Stargarder Straße 79. They have a very small and inexpensive menu focused on coconut peanut curry sauce which I usually lick from the plate.
My vegan friend can’t stop talking about a Vegan Vietnamese place, Cat Tuong, in the Studio’s kiez at Kastanienallee 89, which in the same block as Café Morgenrot‘s vegan breakfast buffet. To get to these from the Studio, you’ll want to walk through the hills and rose gardens of the Volkspark am Weinsbergweg, and then on the way back through the dizzyingly peaceful and historic Zionskirchplatz. Of course you can also jump on Tram M12 for two stops to get back to the studio even faster. If you need an ice cream or vegan sorbet, you’ll have to choose between German style (poppyseed, kirsche, etc.) at Süsse Sünde, Weinbergsweg 21, and Italian style across the street at Giorgio Lombardi, Weinsbergsweg 5.
If you’re a superfood fan, you won’t want the ice cream but you’ll want to spend some time on the same block of Weinsbergsweg comparing breakfasts and lunches from Daluma at #3 with Superfoods at #23 and Fechtner, just across the big Rosenthalerplatz intersection at Torstraße 114.
If you’re still tasting things at Von Einfachen das Gute, preferring slow food to superfood, then you’ll want to do the Slow Food tour. For very smelly cheese, you’ll need to visit Peppikäse in Neukölln at Weichselstraße 65. To get there, take the U8 from Rosenthaler Platz to Hermannplatz. If you don’t need it smelly, but you need it more French, you don’t need to go so far, just head North with the M1 or M10 (same hood as Maria Bonita, Hokey Pokey, FischLaden and Van Hoa) to La Käserie at Lychener Straße 6. And if you’re superserious about cheese, you’ll need to spend an afternoon looking at Potsdam castles to justify your trip to meet some stupendous and rare German cheeses at In Vino Feinkost, Gutenbergstraße 23.
If you’re only moderately superserious rather than fanatically superserious, and you want to meet some authentic, small-batch German cheese, then you (and everybody else) will want to visit Markthalle IX, host of Street-Food Thursdays (pefectly timed for the worst milonga night in Berlin), the Markthalle is an incubator for up and coming food enterprises like Alte Milch which sells only about 5 carefully chosen German cheeses at any one time, Tuesday and Thursday-Sunday. I go there to eat the best barbecue I’ve ever had from Big Stuff Smoked Barbecue with champagne, in a glass. And to buy unbelievably delicious focaccia from Sironi to bring home and eat with *anything*. To get to the Markthalle’s closest station, Görlitzer Banhof, I avoid changing trains at the just-a-little-too-much-Berlin Kottbusser Torr, and instead take the U6 from Oranienburger Torr. changing to the U1 at Hallesches Torr. It’s 30 minutes door-t0-door, not a great trip, but definitely worth it.
If you’d rather take a walk for food, cross Torstraße and wander through Berlin’s Soho, the art gallery district. For the best Arabic fast food in Berlin (lamb schwarma, falafel, perfect eggplant) in a sandwich or plate, turn right on Linienstraße to Dada Falafel at #132 (just next to U6-Oranienburger Torr.) You can sit in the restaurant for slow service, or stand in line at the walk-up for surprisingly fast service. Best €4.50 lunch you’ll ever eat.
For croissants, American airport style cinnamon rolls, Vietnamese street food and coffee, or Berlin’s #2 ice cream, turn left for 15 minutes until you arrive to the longitude of Rosa Luxemburg Platz. Turn right on Alte Schönhauser Allee to Ziet für Brot at #4, for the best croissants and laugencroissant (croissant with pretzel glaze), and a whole menu of different flavors based on fluffy cinnamon rolls. Or continue one more block to Max-Beer Straße and turn right to #23, Qua Phe Vietnamese (open daily 0900-21:00, fridays and saturdays until 22:00, which is just next to the spectacular Cuore di Vetro ice cream at #33, open daily until 23:00.
If you don’t want to walk more than a block and you want to have a really great luxurious meal, it just happens that you are at ground zero of Berlin’s hautecuisine niche. Downstairs in our building is a seafoam-green-velvet and 70s-chandelier number with a chef so famous that they don’t even need to have a sign. East a few doors is Bandol, a creative and delightful version of slate table bistro molecular gastronomy that you will not regret €1 of what you spend. That’s next to the rather more traditional restaurant of the same ownership, 3 Minutes sur Mer, at which the food on plate looks, er, perfect. In between is Noto, well reviewed, and lower key. If you leave the building and cross Torstraße and continue for one short block, you’ll be on the doorstop of Lokal (Linienstraße 160, there’s no sign). I ate at their restaurant in Bremen (on a friend’s expense account) and it was firmly memorable. If you want something edgy, try turning right a few doors to Themeroc at #183, which has a surrealist poem (I think) instead of a menu. Mixed reviews, but very Berlin. In those same two blocks are two mid-priced Asian-fusion joints, Toca Rouge and Royals&Rice (serves hamburgers), if you’re into that sort of thing. If you want a white tablecloth, Pauly Saul is next to Clärchens Ballhaus.
If you want to have a very special food experience in the expensive but sub-luxury market €35 fixed per person, my very top recommendation is Zagreus. My friend Ulrich Kraus is an artist and chef. During his life he kept moving back and forth between working as a chef (not time for art) and being an artist (no money for food). Then he brought his two vocations together by opening a gallery. He works with each exhibiting artist to create a meal interpreting the art. He serves this meal for 6-8 dinners during each 2-3 month exhibition so you need to be lucky with timing. Check the website for dates. I’ve been several times, loved every bite of food, delighted in the presentation and storytelling, and was happy with the expenditure. It’s €35 fixed per person with generous and optional €25 wine pairing.
There is just one restaurant out of the neighborhood that I think is worth the (unsightly) trip to get to. That is Ora. I think it’s rather famous for cocktails at night, but it’s stately serenity with spectacular café food, not overpriced, at lunch. Worth the trip in every way. Don’t miss the salted chocolate torte with chocolate crust. Open daily from 12:00; weekends from 0930. Thanks to my go-to Berlin food blog, stilinberlin, for this one.
So where is Berlin’s #1 ice cream? … In my old Kiez, Schöneberg, which is well worth a trip for a non-touristic and gourmet walk. Take the S1 from Oranienburger Straße to Julius Lieber-Brucke and then make your way to Akazienstraße, three blocks of food heaven. Cheese, charcuterie, and wine are at Südwind, #7 (and they’ll make you a plateful if you want it right away) . Cross the street to worship at the origin of Berlin’s coffee scene, Double Eye, at #22. Don’t be alarmed by the line, these people know what they’re doing. Just order to the right, then get out of the way and wait to the left.) After your coffee, stop in next door at Estrella’s Schockoladerie where the chocolate is made from scratch and not high-priced. Be sure to get past the truffles to explore the Chinese medicine cabinet at the back in which each drawer offers a different flavor. Continue west on Akazienstraße, crossing Eisenacher Straße, at which point Akazienstraße for some unknown reason becomes Goltzstraße. Stop in at the Apfelgalerie at #3, to SMELL the apples. I’m not kidding, this is the best thing I know of in Berlin. All the produce is from the owner’s family farm and a few nearby farms in the Brandenberg Region. The prices are shockingly lower than the supermarket, the flavor is shockingly good. (I actually didn’t even like apples until I started shopping here and having moved to another part of town I now make a weekly pilgrimage!) Load up on local appel and pear brandy, pure cherry juice, and whatever is in season, along with “alte sorte” (old varieties) of apples.
Ok, now you get the ice cream… Next door to Apfelgalerie, also at #3 is Jones Ice Cream. Your wafflecone was being made just while you were apple-smelling… Enough said. Get a triple. Don’t mind the children walking across your feet.
While you’re in Schöneberg, if you’re hungry you may want to wander down Goltzstraße to visit a delicious and fascinating Korean restaurant called Ixthys at Pallasstraße 21, open Monday to Saturday 12:00-21:00. If it’s Saturday you may also want to visit the Winterfeldtplatz outdoor markt, which is one of Berlin’s nicer ones, which also starts at the end of Goltzstraße. You can make your way back to Mitte in at least four ways from U-Nollendorfplatz. Just pass the markt and continue one more block to the UBahn Station Nollendorfplatz.
And if you just want to have an organic Japanese-Brooklyn comfort food brunch between 0900 and 1700 any day of the week, wander 10 minutes down Tucholskystraße across Oranienburgerstraße to Johanisstraße and turn right 1/2 a long block to the aptly named House of Small Wonder at #20 Johanisstraße.
Housing in Mitte
The best thing to do is put our address in google. Then click on the hotels that appear around. Here are three, all located super close and on quiet streets:
Located at the corner of Torstraße and Gartenstraße, Studio TangoForge Berlin is superconvenient at any time of day or night!
Every transport ticket covers every kind of transportation: The two “subway” systems, U-Bahn and S-Bahn, the regional RER trains, as well as trams, and buses.
Unless you plan to go outside the city, you’ll only need an ticket for geographical zone AB. Potsdam and Schönefeld airport is in the C zone.
A “single”/einzel ticket gets you several hours and transfers. To get a ticket first find a ticket vending machine. After buying the ticket, if it’s a single-ride ticket you need to stick the ticket in the day/time stamping machine. (Week and month tickets don’t need to be stamped like this.) Once you are riding you can be stopped by “the control” anytime and asked to show your ticket. If you have a single ticket and you didn’t stamp it they will give you a €60 fine, the same as if you have no ticket.
You may already know that the Berlin U/S-Bahn trains run all night on Friday/Saturday and Saturday/Sunday. On the other nights they stop running between 00:30 and 01:30, depending exactly where you are and where you’re trying to go. To get home, night buses replaces all the UBahn lines running the same route. Everything with an M on it runs all night (trams and buses). There are additional night buses, but that’s a bit confusing.
If you are staying 3 weeks in Berlin, note the monthly 10 am tickets. You save a lot of money with this ticket, specially designed for tango dancers. 😉
Here is a great offline transit map which includes subways, metros, and night buses.
Arriving to Berlin and getting to the Studio. Don’t waste money on a taxi, it’s easy on the public transport
From Tegel Airport, you have door-to-door service. There are two arrival levels. If you are outside and you don’t see lots of buses, you’re on the lower level. Go upstairs (staying outside) and look for buses. Use the machines to buy a week AB transport ticket if you want, or just a single one. Take the bus marked TXL from the airport door to Invalidenpark, then change to bus 142. Get off at Tucholskystraße, cross the street and walk one minute to the studio.
From Schönefeld airport follow signs to the S-bahn. It’s about a 5 minute walk. You may see long lines at the ticket vending machines. Pass by those lines and go all the way to the train platform where are there machines with no lines… Buy a one way ABC ticket for this trip (you’ll only need AB for the rest of your time here). The nicest and fastest way to travel is to take the RE7 or RB14 (regional train) to Hauptbahnhof, then Bus 142 for about 5 minutes to Tucholskystraße. Get off at Tucholskystraße, cross the street and walk one minute to the studio. If it’s late at night or weekend and there’s there’s no RE7/RB14 coming soon, then take the S47 to Hermannstrasse and then transfer to the U8 to Rosenthaler Platz. Walk 5 minutes west on Torstraße to the studio. A third option, which takes longer, but is easy is to take the S9 to Bornholmer Straße and then change to the S1/2/25 (any of those will do) to Nordbahnhof. From Nordbahnhof walk South on Gartenstraße to Torstraße.
If you arrive by train at the Hauptbahnhof (Central Train Station), get Bus 142 to Tucholskystraße, cross the street and walk one minute to the studio. (You can buy ticket from driver onboard the bus.) It’s about 7 minutes. If it’s the middle of the night, take the M12 or M8 tram to Nordbhnhof, then walk about 6 minutes down Gartenstraße to the house. (You can buy ticket from machine onboard the tram.)
If you arrive by bus, see if you can book an arrival at Alexanderplatz. Then you are only 2 stops on the U8 from Rosenthaler Platz, and a 5 minute walk down Torstraße to the Studio.
If you arrive by bus at the ZOB (main central bus station) please follow our directions and not Google’s, whose routes take you to stations with difficult transfers and more walking than needed. When you have alighted from your bus, do not cross any streets. Make your way North one very long block on the street Messedam to the U-bahn station Kaiserdamm. Take the U2 toward Pankow about 30 minutes to Rosa-Luxembourg Platz. Then change to the bus 142 going toward the Hauptbahnhof (stop is on the Northwest corner of the intersection) and take it 2 stops to Tucholskystraße stop which is right at the front door of the studio.
Getting to and from the Contemporary Tango Festival, 22-27 August
The Contemporary Tango Festival is held in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof Central Train Station. We have a door-to-door bus, #142. When the bus stops running at 01:00 we have two trams from the Hauptbahnhof, M8 and M12. I prefer to walk from Pappelplatz, but you can also get off at Nordbahnhof. If you feel like walking, it’s 25 minutes.
Getting to and from Berlin milongas
Because we are so centrally located it is a quick trip to any milonga in Berlin. To get home Sunday-Thursday after the S/U close, we have two night buses, the N6 and N8 which follow the U6 and U8 subway lines exactly. The N8 is a major transport route and runs every 10 minutes all night when the train is not running. This gets us home with ease from Kreuzberg (Villa Kreuzberg, Mambita, Milonga Popular, Intimacy, Walzerlinksgestricht Max & Moritz). The N6 gets us home from Tangoloft, but it’s also possible to walk (30 minutes direct route, Tangoloft and TangoForge are on the same street! – the name changes from Gerichtstraße to Gartenstraße). The N42 will get you home from Mala Junta.
Below is a summer guide. You might also want to read my irreverant review of Berlin milongas. Do be sure to bring your miniskirt if you have great legs as that’s the main criterion men use for deciding who to dance with.
On Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons when the weather is good, the spot for dancing is the free outdoor milonga at Monbijoux, next to the river with a gorgeous view of Museum Island. This is a beautiful 10-minute walk from the Studio. There’s a bar, and pizza, but bring tough old shoes because the plywood-composite will destroy your them. A shoe with a fairly hard (more plastic than rubber) sole is perfect on this surface. Also bring something to bind or lock your bag to the furniture as it’s a public area.
On Sundays you may also want to visit Tangoloft, “the most beautiful milonga in the world” according to Eugenia Parrilla. Between the Monbijoux and the Studio is S-Bahn station Oranienburger Strasse. Grab a falafel at Dada and then head directly to Tangoloft, or dash home to change first, as you wish. Just two stops north is S-Humboldthain, a short walk from Tangoloft.
Tangoloft is also open on Saturdays, sometimes in the elegant new Lotusloft room, but you may prefer to visit the milonga of revered DJ Michael Rühl at the Walzerlinksgestricht. Jump on the U6 at Oranienburger Torr to U-Platz der Luftbrücke.
On Fridays you can walk to milonga at Tango Nou on Chausseestraße or take the U8 to Kottbusser Torr to switch back and forth between the sweet milonga at Art.13 and the dressier Tango Tanzen Macht Schön.
Thursdays we take the night off from dancing and go instead to Street Food Thursday at Markthalle IX, but if you’re not too full, you could move on from there directly to the villa Kreuzberg via the 140 bus from Wrangelstraße which is pretty much a table-to-pista delivery service. If you don’t like the Villa, wander over to Mambita, which is one of Berlin’s die hard 100% alertango milongas.
If the weather is bad on Wednesday, you might want to try Mala Junta (train ride) or if you’re feeling like keeping your feet on the floor you’re welcome at El Ocaso, which you can walk to, it’s near the fish and french cheese. (Roter Salon is closed for the summer.) Once a month is the milonga Intimacy at the KitKat club (bring your swimsuit…), U8 just a few stops to the the doorstep at Heinrich-Heine Straße. You won’t come home until morning.
Tuesdays we walk to the classic Clärchens Ballhaus, just 5 minutes from the studio.
Mondays there’s a 50/50 thing at Tango Nou if you feel like an early and relaxed evening with a comfortable chair and a glass of wine. The other option is the very seriously named “Milonga Popular” at Mehringdamm 61 (not listed, no advertising, definitely happening). This is an active experiment with making a milonga feel like a real party, with free drinks at 01:00, plenty of non-tango music intended for free dancing, all sorts of performances (sometimes tango), an altertango room early in the evening, and more and more party atmo until everybody is very sleepy and the trains are running at 04:15. Don’t miss it. Learn more in my interview with the organizers.
If you don’t feel like going indoors, but you need to learn something (other than tango technique) walk up Gartenstraße to the free outdoor Museum of the Wall. It’s brilliant.
If you feel like going indoors where it’s cool, wander down Tucholskystraße to the five tremendous museums of Museum Insel. You can have the whole island for a day for €18 or 34 Berlin museums for 3 days for €29. More info on these offers is here.
If that feels overwhelming but you want to feel you learned something while you were here (and you want to go indoors), take a tour of the Synagogue whose golden dome you’ve been admiring from the Studio (5 minutes walk from here, €5) or check out the free “Museum of Contemporary German History” in the Kulturbrauerei (30 minute walk through the hoods with all our favorite restaurants, Torstraße to Weinbergsweg/Kastanienallee and then into Prenzlauerberg tacos/fish/french cheese/ice cream zone). It includes a permanent museum of every day life in East Germany and it’s a superinteresting dip, and also rotating exhibits. Open 1000-18 every day except Monday, and until 20:00 on Thursday.
Another sort of museum is the famous Mauerpark. It’s a living museum of what Berlin means to people, expressively, all at once. To gear up for the cacophony, or possibly to recover from the karaoke and mohitos, have a very serious coffee at Bonanza at #35 on the beautiful Oderbergerstrasse.
For an art quickie, stop in at my favorite gallery in Berlin, Janine Bean Gallery at 154 Torstraße. She has great taste in painters.
I’m not much of a shopper in Berlin, but I have a few hot tips.
Vintage sparkle collected by Rosemarie, a retired ballerina with a good eye, Rose of Fame at Kolonnenstraße 2 in Schöneberg. Monday-Saturday 13:-00-19:00. Be sure to ask for what you want; a lot of the good stuff is hidden under the counter.
Gorgeous, useful gifts in the productivity category (special notebooks, handmade laptop cases, high quality pens) at Schoene Schreibwaren, Weinsbergsweg 21.
If you’re into sneakers, Mitte is the place. Every other shop is a hot sneaker store.
For pants for women which actually fit and flatter, you must meet Zenhle von Langsdorf at Fürbringerstraße 28.
Cute hippy/goth (yes they do overlap) stuff all over the city at Chapati Design stores.
If you’re in Schöneberg or you need something specific (I don’t really know how that works, but it does), visit the no-name, no-sign, not too much stuff, just great taste, super-cheap used shop at Goltzstraße 32, just around the corner from Ixthys Korean.
1920s-60s German lamps at Trouvé, open Wednesday-Saturday. Very. Serious. Vintage furniture at Transatlantica at Veteranenstraße 17…
Fascinating clothing and leathergear at Ombre, Gipsstraße 5. CLOSED. The owner, my friend Kichero, now has a new indy designer streetwear shop at Johanisstraße 5.