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.
You might also want to read my irreverant review of Berlin milongas.
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. There’s a bar, and pizza, but bring tough old shoes because the plywood-composite will destroy eat your good ones. 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. B
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.
We are thrilled that Berlin’s oldest milonga, Michael Rühl’s Roter Salon, is open again several Wednesdays per month at the Volksbuhn in Rosa-Luxemburg Platz.
Tuesdays is the not-to-miss classic Clärchens Ballhaus in the Spiegelsaal. This is a very, very special building and room. Don’t miss it!
On Fridays the sweet milonga at Art.13 has mixed music and when it dies down, you can switch to Tango Tanzen Macht Schön just a couple of blocks away, which gets fun only quite late in the evening.
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. There’s a Latin-Dance Party including a tango floor at Soda Club and a much-loved Queer Practica.
Also on Wednesdays if you’re feeling like keeping your feet on the floor you’re welcome to do so at El Ocaso.
Berlin is also special for having milongas in sex clubs, monthly at the Insomnia, and less often at the KitKat Club (bring your swimsuit…).
Mondays is the night for Berlin’s most important (if not most comfortable) milonga, 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.
I have two great loves, food and tango.
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 need to feel like you’ve meditated, but you’re too hungry for that (and you’re a gourmet too), lunch at 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, 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 gorgeous breakfast in a lively hip scene, go to District at Bergstraße 68. It’s the prettiest café food I’ve ever seen, and just as tasty.
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, 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 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, 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. BUT the best burger of my (and your) life is at Kumpel & Keule Wednesday-Saturday in Markthalle IX until 18:00 and afterward at their nearby restaurant, Spiesewirtschaft.
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:
For the best Arabic fast food in Berlin (lamb schwarma, falafel, perfect eggplant) go to Dada Falafel at Linienstraße 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, head to Rosa Luxemburg Platz. On Alte Schönhauser Allee you’ll find 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.
Mitte is also ground zero of Berlin’s hautecuisine niche. West a few blocks is Eunsunternull, a regionally committed chef’s menu only restaurant. Lokal (Linienstraße 160, there’s no sign) is one of the pioneers of regional cuisine. If you want something edgy and noisy but tiny, turn right a few doors to Themeroc at #183, which has a surrealist poem (I think) instead of a menu. If you want a white tablecloth with your Michelin Stars, 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.
My vegan friend can’t stop talking about a Vegan Vietnamese place, Cat Tuong, in Mitte at Kastanienallee 89, which in the same block as Café Morgenrot‘s vegan breakfast buffet. 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. Another new Vegan entry is FREA on Torstaße.
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.
And if you just want to have an organic Japanese-Brooklyn comfort food brunch between 0900 and 1700 any day of the week your spot is the aptly named House of Small Wonder at #20 Johanisstraße.
This is the next neighborhood north, where you can get GOOD Mexican tacos at Maria Bonita at Danziger Straße 33.
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 can try “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.
Kreuzberg & Schöneberg
If 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*. Also don’t miss the Best Burger of Your Life, from Kumpel & Keule.
Kreuzberg also has 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 on 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.
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 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, visit 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 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.
Affordable antiques at Kunst-A-Bunt near the Kollwitzplatz.
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.
High fashion is on Mulackstraße and at Darklands.
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.
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.