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Berlin, du bist so wunderbar: what to see and do while at WAF

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Here’s some tips and trips around the Hauptstadt if you are WAF-ing it this week, courtesy of AJ architecture editor and ex-Berliner Rob Wilson

With Berlin sitting in a forested, thinly populated part of Brandenburg known as the Empty Quarter, it’s always been a bit of an island, made more so during the Cold War: a world unto itself. So during the World Architecture Festival, take a break out into the alternative universe that is Berlin.

Here’s a few suggestions: for drinking, eating, dancing, shopping and doing culture around the city, if you have half a day or an evening to head out. Some well-known and some off-piste reasons to explore a city that wears its history on its sleeve, while living for the moment. U-Bahn / S-Bahn / tram / bus stops in brackets

Möchten Sie…

  • Trinken? Try Klunkerkranich, Neukölln-cool up on a multi-storey car park (U7, Rathaus Neukölln); old West Berlin-style at the Schwarzes cafe (S-Bahn Savigny Platz)… or for camp-industrial chic, try Le Croco Bleu (M2, Prenzlauer Allee/Metzer Strasse)
  • Essen? If you’re looking for a Mittel-Europa tip, head to Schlesisch Blau – home-cooked style Silesian cooking in Kreuzberg (U1, Schlesisches Tor), Austria for table-sized schnizels (U7, Gneisenaustraße), or Die Engelbecken (U2, Sophie-Charlotte-Platz) for good Swabian cooking. 
  • Tanzen? Assuming you are not on for a lost weekend at Berghain, for a bit of pre-war dancing charm check out the Clärchens Ballhaus (U8, Rosenthaler Platz) or head for Kotti and the Möbel-Olfe for a bit of impromptu pole-dancing above the bar (U1, Kottbusser Tor). 
  • Einkaufen? For design, visit Stilwerk on Kantstrasse (S-Bahn, Savignyplatz) or the mini department store that is Manufactum, or if browsing, the best architecture bookshops are Bücherbogen or Pro qm (U2, Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz).
  • Kunst? View some art in interesting architecture: Mies van der Rohe Haus (M5, Oberseestraße) – or Kunsthaus Dahlem, a recently opened art space in what was the Nazi State-built atelier of sculptor Arno Breker, designed by Hans Freese on the edge of the Grunewald forest (115 Bus, Finkenstraße).
  • …oder Architektur? Here’s a trio of tower-like structures to visit that are not the Alex. John Hejduk’s fantastic, slightly anthropomorphic housing block ’The Kreuzberg Tower’ on Besselstraße is a bit of an architectural highlight (U6, Kochstraße) or head out west to the slightly spooky remains of an American listening station on the Teufelsberg (Devil’s mountain) (S-Bahn, Heerstraße) or further west to one of the few Expressionist buildings ever built: the Einstein Tower by Eric Mendelsohn (S-Bahn, Potsdam Hbf).

And why not stream a bit of Berlin nostalgia – aside from Bowie, Leonard Cohen’s First we take Manhattan gets you in the mood, or lose your luggage with Marlene Dietrich’s Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin. For as Kaiserbase’s 2003 track says: Berlin, du bist so wunderbar.  

The World Architecture Festival is at Arena Berlin until 17 November. Keep up with all the latest news from WAF – or watch it live – on the AJ blog

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