MITTE AND PRENZLAUERBERG
Navigating Berlin's vast neighborhoods, stretching from former East to West, is no easy task with just a few days to spare. In this first installment of our travels through Berlin, Refinery29 begins in Mitte (meaning Middle), the physical heart of the city. Located in the former East, Mitte spans an incredible distance from the famous Brandenburg Gate along Unter den Linden (Berlin's Champs-d'Elysee), past posh Friedrichsstrasse, home to many luxury designer stores, and all the way east to the area around the Hackeschen Höfe. A walk through the beautifully restored courtyards of the Hackeschen Höfe, erected early on in the last century by Berlin's Jewish artisan community, will give you a good feel for the history of the area. This is Berlin's real center of gravity with loads of pedestrians (locals and visitors alike) and many of the city's coolest restaurant and bars as well as a dense shopping area. But few unique shopping options lie in this trendy center, which is why we decided to stick close to the perimeters of Mitte where we uncovered the real gems. Further north and bordering on Mitte, the neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg offers a reprieve from the crowds. The area is more residential (read: there are few tourists here) and you'll get to experience the weathered but always charming feel of Berlin's faded faÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â§ades. Above all, you'll be happy to find some of Berlin's best local designers.
Here is a roundup of our favorite shops:
• Fabric 5, Krausnickstrasse 6, +49 (30) 24 62 82 98
This workshop/leathergoods store produces handsome, handmade goods on the premises. Walking in, you'll likely be confronted by the whirr of sewing machines and leather bits lying (and flying) about. You have to have an appointment at Fabric 5, if only to lavish each customer with personalized attention (they will make customized accessories on request). Don't expect trendy wares here: Bags, wallets, and briefcases are classic utilitarian and promise to hold up in style for a lifetime.
• Apartment Berlin, Memhardstrasse 8, +49 (30) 280 42 253, www.apartmentberlin.de
On the edge of Alexanderplatz, the center of former East Berlin, and a stark reminder of Communist architecture in Berlin, and housed in a concrete block of apartments, the storefront of Apartment Berlin looks as though the store has recently relocated. The space is completely barren, but if you walk in and descend the spiral staircase, you will find one of Berlin's most on-point designer stores operating in full swing. Stocking hard-to-find wares by the likes Raf Simons, Surface to Air, Rick Owns, and German great Bernhard Wilhelm, Apartment Berlin has done a first-rate job at curating the best of the best of some obscure but covetable labels. Make sure to check out shoes by hard-to-find Belgian designer N.D.C.
• P van b Wallpapers, Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse 15, +49 (30) 44 35 61 05,
Find wild, conceptual takes on traditional baroque wallpapers at P van b Andrea Pössnicker's provocative boutique at the edge of Mitte. Wall coverings, home goods, stationery, and a new line of clothing are all emblazoned with bold prints, from a slightly pornographic toile in hot pink, taupe, and black to a graphic beaded curtain print in black, gold, and fluorescent pink. With names like Rich Bitch, Wowhaus Neon, and Dutch Pomp, these samples are unlike anything you might find elsewhere. Stay tuned for an expanded apparel line that takes its inspiration from P van b wallpapers designs in the coming year.
• Cache Coeur Berlin, Schoenhauser Allee 174, +49 (30) 40 50 50 51
Thrifting is as much a part of Berlin culture as Currywurst (the local late-night snack of choice), and Cache Coeur brings together all the best elements from East and West, spanning a range of decades. Located on the wide expanse of Schoenhauserallee, the major thoroughfare connecting Mitte to Prenzlauerberg, Cache Coeur stocks a vast array of East German paraphernalia, 1960s German furniture, party dresses, even go-go boots.
• Anuschka Hoevener, Kastanienallee 47, +49 (30) 44 31 92 99
This plain little storefront on Kastanienallee is really a hidden treasure. Local designer Anuschka Hoevener plays with contrasts in her collections, mixing hard and soft elements, cotton with wool, and muted tones accented with acid brights. The clothes here feel very German—serious, even austere at times—but with a cool and somewhat edgy hand. Beautifully constructed knits are a highlight, and everything is highly wearable, including the knit high heels.
• 103 Bar & Restaurant, Kastanienallee 103 , +49 (30) 48 49 26 51
The place to be in Prenzlauerberg for hearty modern German fare. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks, this spot is always busy. A warm interior lit by 1960s globe-light fixtures illuminates a lively crowd (and stellar people watching).
• Halitor Café, 26 Schwedter Strasse, +49 (30) 54 71 33 11
Located in a run-down building, this is the perfect place to while away a gray winter day. Just off Kastanienallee, Halitor Café will give you an idea of what it's like to live in Berlin: Order a coffee, open your book, and settle in.
• Ho Vang, Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse 17, +49 (30) 30 87 54 59
Over the last five years, Berlin has been witness to an incredible influx of Asian restaurants: Thai, Indian, Vietnamese. Many of these are average, but Ho Vang is by far the best Vietnamese in the city and the place for hip Berliners.
• White Trash Fast Food, 6-7 Schoenhauser Allee
With a faÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â§ade that evokes a mix of Irish bar and Chinese restaurant (if you imagine such a thing), this bizarre find is a must on your next visit. When you walk in, you may feel as though you've entered the worst bar on earth, but give it a moment and you'll find that the crowd is fun and from around the world, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to settle into with your German beer. Most importantly, you'll find most of Berlin's scensters converging here on any given night.
Refinery29 uncovers Berlin's best haunts and designers on the fringes of Mitte, the bustling neighborhood at the heart of this every-changing city.