There is no wrong way to tackle heady Berlin as a flyby admirer. A vibrant playground for the hobby historian and a hatchery for creative pursuits of all forms, Berlin is, above all, one of the true cultural capitals of the West. But it’s the city’s capacity for unabashed, unbounded indulgence that stole our hearts, lathered them in truffle butter and fanned them with a crisp palm leaf.
With Hainan Airlines now offering a direct service between Beijing and Berlin, all you need is a handful of days and an appetite for excess to eat, sleep, rave and repeat in Germany’s sultry capital. Here’s how to suck the marrow from Europe’s most decadent metropolis.
Lutter & wegner
German gastronomy might not have penetrated global stereotypes as much as, say, German efficiency, but with a unique blend of foreign and local cuisines and unbeatable price points across the board, this is changing quickly. For higher-end local fare in a refined-but-relaxed setting, check out Lutter & Wegner. In operation since 1811, the restaurant’s off-the-plate rendition of the Wiener schnitzel and its prize-winning sauerbraten are hearty, enormous and best paired with a big splash o’ red in the charming bistro-style 'Weinhandlung' (wine shop). Bottle-lined wooden walls and old-world service justify what, for Berlin, is a comparatively pretty penny spent.
56 Chalottenstraße, Mitte.
If you’re the type of hedonist that likes their decadence served as a smutty goulash in an actual butcher, then we implore you to get down to butcher-cum-restaurant Fleisherei Domke. Tuck into a metric f**kpile of goulash, potato salad and red cabbage for five measly euros. Upgrade with a frosty glass of Plesser Pils and pick up a roast on the way out for just a few more. Crying out for a Michelin visit.
64 Warschauerstraße, Friedrichshain.
Berlin’s culinary diversity is no better observed than in and around international eats-hub Boxhanger Platz. Smack dab in the middle of twentysomething-Mecca Friedrichshain, Lebanese ten-seater Ali Baba is about as good as it gets. Dominated by a starburst cabinet of salads, dips and Middle Eastern-treats, this atmospheric hole-in-the- wall peddles cuddly falafel teller (platters) for 'one' – they’re almost big enough for three – for just 5.5 euros (42RMB).
17 Krossenerstraße, Friedrichshain.
Hotel de Rome
Berlin doesn’t want for luxe accommodation. In and around the central suburb of Mitte you’ll find more caj-chic boutique hotels than at which you might poke a knackwurst
. But for artful comfort on a tasteful scale, Hotel de Rome
is a standout. The former headquarters of Dresdner Bank, the 130-year-old building boasts a remarkable rooftop terrace, offering the some of the city’s most glamorous views. Double-storey ceilings set things sophisticated and impeccable service from an intuitive hospitality team lends you a grander impression of yourself than you perhaps deserve. You do deserve it, though.
37 Behrenstraße, Mitte. Roccofortehotels.com. Rooms from 1,930RMB.
Hotel Adlon Kempinski
When straight luxury matters, however, there can be no other choice than Hotel Adlon Kempinski
. An institution in Berlin – nay, the world – Hotel Adlon Kempinski is somehow both opulent in the extreme and as comforting as kin. Located mere metres from the iconic Brandenburg Gate, Europe’s first ‘Grand Hotel’ has played host to an extraordinary guest list in its 110 years, including Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Charlie Chaplin, Rockefellers, Roosevelts, Clintons, Obamas and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson to name but a few. From its fountain-endowed marble lobby to its three bulletproof presidential suites (including the Michael Jackson baby- dangle one) and its two- Michelin-starred restaurant Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer, Hotel Adlon Kempinski is simply breathtaking.
77 Unter den Linden, Mitte. Rooms from 2,080RMB; Presidential Suites from 169,450RMB.
Scholars are yet to publish conclusive advice on what exactly is required to get into Berghain
, arguably the world’s most- famous underground club. Impossibly cool doorman and tastemaker Sven Marquardt’s 'face control' entry policy is well-documented, but if you manage to pass him and his crew, a world of free-spirited indulgence awaits. Housed in a former power plant, the 1,500-capacity club has been described as the 'current world capital of techno', and is a breeding ground for the world’s most sought-after selectors. Hot tip: Berghain’s Sunday afternoons – 'mass', as is local parlance – are particularly lit, and it can be tricky passing the gatekeeper at this time. For best results, line up on Saturday night when things are a tad quieter, get your stamp and preserve wrist in an oxygen chamber until you’re ready to worship the world-class sound system the following day.
Am Wriezener Bahnhof.
Carnal debauchery has a new name. Pornceptual
is a semi-regular sex-positive rave staged in a former East Berlin mint, and that might just be the coolest thing we’ve ever written. Borne of a 'photographic study of unusual pornography', Pornceptual’s definitively explicit parties reframe pornography as an inclusive and diverse celebration of all things sex; primal-yet- respectful, but above all, euphoric. The parties run every other month and feature four main dancefloors that are supported by a labyrinthine smattering of 'dark rooms' – think subterranean concrete hedge maze with a couple of a key differences we might let you Google in your own time (NSFW). The door charge is calibrated by nakedness and, like Berghain, there is a strict no-camera policy inside, though there is one dedicated photographer for those who promised mum a souvenir for the fridge. Make no mistake: Pornceptual is wild. There is a lot of live, before-your-very-eyes sexy business happening here. But the self-regulated code of conduct – consent and respect are paramount – is upheld such that, if you’re open of mind, you can scarcely go wrong. Not for the faint of heart but boy oh boy, what a thrill.
Direct flights from Beijing to Berlin on Hainan Airlines start at 4,250RMB return.