Recommended Berlin restaurants
Cultural highlights in Berlin
An excellent example of the way Germany deals with bridging the gap between state-subsidized high culture and its underground performance scene. Hebbel am Ufer is actually a fusion of three different theatres in Kreuzberg, providing a space for younger, more experimental work ranging from drama, music, dance, talks and a strong cultural outreach programme. It provides facilities of international standards to travelling artists who in other cities might otherwise have to make do in low budget surroundings, and is testament to Germany’s extremely generous dedication to arts funding at all levels. Popular global projects like the Complaints Choir, which brings together a city’s local residents to vocalize their irks, find their home here, as well as concerts by indie tastemakers like Destroyer and Zola Jesus. Other locations: HAU1, Stresemannstrasse 29; HAU3, Tempelhofer Ufer 10.
Contemporary Fine Arts
One of Berlin’s best-known spaces, Contemporary Fine Arts has been presenting idiosyncratic art from around the world since 1992. Run by Bruno Brunnet, Nicole Hackert and Philipp Haverkampf, CFA’s programme blends the outré and fresh with eminences, in their light, airy Chipperfield-designed building near Museum Island. The diversity of the roster means that at any one time, you are likely to see works by anyone from Berlin’s infamous Jonathan Meese to Georg Baselitz, Marc Brandenburg, the late Norbert Schwontowski, Gert and Uwe Tobias, Daniel Richter and Katja Strunz to Brit stars such as Sarah Lucas, Peter Doig and Chris Ofili.
KW Institute for Contemporary Art
Housed in a former margarine factory and sporting a social event-friendly courtyard designed by Dan Graham, Kunst Werke has been a major non-profit showcase since the early 1990s. Recently, the institution embarked upon a new phase in its 20-odd year history with a new Chief Curator Ellen Blumenstein, who took over in 2012. Incidentally Blumenstein, along with Klaus Biesenbach, was one of the curators behind KW’s controversial ‘Regarding Terror: RAF Exhibition’ in 1995, which caused such a public stink with its references to the 1970s German terrorist group that government funding was withdrawn. Today, Blumenstein promises more emollient, audience-friendly programmes, insisting that the institution move back from the realms of the (occasionally) utterly esoteric and baffling and return to engaging with the public. Always a lightning rod for the local art scene, the new, open approach sees KW engaging with other galleries and organized projects around town, from the recent ‘Berlin Art Week’ initiative, which saw the space co-host the multi-part ‘About Painting’ exhibition to hosting the annual and cheerfully never-less-than-controversial Berlin Biennale. A lively programme of exhibitions, film screenings, talks and presentations means that twenty years on, KW remains implacably at the heart of Berlin’s cultural agenda. The proximity to the Jüdischen Mädchenschule across the street has of late become another reason for making at least one trip to Auguststrasse absolutely essen
One of the only original Weimar revue theatres left in Berlin, Admiralspalast was home to the GDR Berlin State Opera during the post-war years. It was also popular with the Nazi government during WWII, it attempted to set the record straight in 2009 by becoming the first venue in Germany to stage Mel Brook’s Nazi-lampooning 'The Producers'. After being threatened with demolition in the late 1990s, it was restored and reopened in 2006 and when it isn’t hosting theatre or cabaret, the Admiralspalst has sell-out gigs by the likes of PJ Harvey and James Blake. You’ll find it right next to Friedrichstrasse station, the classy-but-cool venue of choice for big names who want to keep an atmospheric vibe and good acoustic.
Berlin bars and nightlife
Housed in what was formerly the main central-heating power station for East Berlin, the colossal location is breathtaking, and since only a tiny portion of its 28,000sq m (300,000sq ft) is in use, there's plenty of room for future development in what is intended to be not just a club, but a huge centre of alternative art and culture. The basement floor is an experience you'll not forget; a black hole occasionally punctuated by flashing strobes with some of the loudest, hardest techno you are likely to hear.