Achtung baby

Move over London, New York and Paris. With its burgeoning social, cultural and culinary life, the new guardian of hipness is Berlin. We take a look at what’s hot in this glittering city in 2008.

Bibek Bhattacharya        Print Edition: February 10, 2008

A love parade
A love parade
Berlin has reinvented itself as the hip young capital of a united Germany, two decades after the fall of the Wall, that grim monument of the Cold War. Today, it is a glittering mix of the old and the contemporary; of the Brandenburg Gate and the Telecafe restaurant at 1,200 feet. It lies in the heart of modern Europe and is surprisingly affordable.

That’s not all. Berlin is buzzing—be it the nightlife, the music, art exhibitions and Michelin star restaurants. The city is now getting ahead of NYC and London as the place to be in. These are, indeed, the best of times for a city that was last cool in the late seventies when bohemian rockers like David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop had made it their home.

The cultural hub

Where else in the world can you find 770 opera performances every year? No, not even in Rome. Berlin has a total of 175 museums, three opera houses, seven professional symphony orchestras and over a 100 theatres to choose from. Then, there’s Berlin’s status as one of the major centres for cinema. In February 2008, the city will play host to the 58th Berlin International Film Festival where over 350 films (including several world premieres) will be shown. Look up: http://www.berlinale.de/

The Berlin calendar

Here’s a ready reckoner to the main events in 2008.

 From Event/ Organiser
 

February 7-17

Berlinale: The 58th International Film Festival in Berlin
Where: Theater am, Potsdamer Platz and others, Internationale Filmfestspiele
Look up:http://www.berlinale.de/
March 15-24Festtage 2008: With Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, a new production of Sergei Prokofiev’s opera The Gambler, and concerts Where: Philharmonic Hall Look up:http://www.staatsoper-berlin.org/
April 5-June 155th Berlin biennial for contemporary art:Where: At KW Institute for Contemporary Art and other locations, KW Institute for Contemporary Art
Look up: http://www.berlinbiennale.de/
April-MayInauguration of the Scharf-Gerstenberg Museum with the permanent exhibition “Surreal Worlds”
Where: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Look up:http://www.smb.spk-berlin.de/
May 9-12Carnival of cultures: Street Parade in Kreuzberg, four-day street fair
Look up: http://www.werkstatt-der-kulturen.de/
May 27-June 1International Air & Space Exhibition
Where: Berlin-Schönefeld airport
Look up:http://www.messe-berlin.de/
June 26-Oct. 5Exhibition: Babylon: In cooperation with the Musée du Louvre/RMN, Paris, and the British Museum, London, this exhibition will present the close link between the intellectual history of Europe and West Asia through the example of Babylon
Where: Pergamon Museum
Look up:http://www.smb.spk-berlin.de/
June 28CSD: Christopher Street Day. Gay and lesbian parade through the city
Look up: http://www.csd-berlin.de/
August 30Extended Museum Night: Concerts, theatre and readings in 70 museums
Look up: http://www.kulturprojekte-berlin.de/
September 4-21

Musikfest Berlin: The biggest music festival in Europe
Where: Philharmonic Hall
Look up:http://www.berlinerfestspiele.de/

September 2835th real Berlin Marathon: 40,000 athletes will be taking part this year
Look up: http://www.scc-events.com/

October 31, 2008 to Jan. 2009

The Universe of Klee: The Cult of the Artist exhibition in the New National Gallery at the to Jan. 2009 Kulturforum (Culture Forum) Look up:http://www.smb.spk-berlin.de/

November 6-11

JazzFest Berlin: The much talked about jazz festival will take place across Berlin
Look up: http://www.berlinerfestspiele.de/

December 31

New Year’s Eve Party at the Brandenburg Gate
Look up: http://www.silvester-in-berlin.de/



Carnival capital

Whether it be the famous Love Parade or the Pentecost Weekend in May, Berlin attracts millions of tourists who want to experience its multicultural milieu. This year, from May 9 to 12, the Kreuzberg district of Berlin will come alive with major acts from the world music scene (over 900 artists are set to play) as well as magic shows, parades and tightrope walkers to enliven the scene. Look up: http://www.karnevalderkulturen.de/

Museums

The Egyptian Museum
Brandenburg Gate
The Egyptian Museum, featuring such classics as the busts of Akhenaten and Nefertiti and the poignant Wall Museum, a memorial to the Cold War which divided the city, are just two of the 175-odd museums you can visit here. In fact, there are interesting concepts like the Extended Museum Night that you can avail of. On August 30, most of the museums and galleries in the city (totalling a combined floor space of over 400 sq. km) will keep their doors open till after midnight, with shuttle buses connecting all the institutions. Look up: http://www.kulturprojekte-berlin.de/

Jazzfest 2008

JazzFest Berlin is an important European jazz festival and a high point in the city’s musical calendar. This year’s annual festival from November 6 to 9 will feature a homage to icons like the late pianist Oscar Peterson and will have performances from The Hadouk Trio, The Erik Truffaz Quartet, Django Bates and others. Look up: http://www.berliner-festspiele.de/

Food

Culinary scene in Berlin
Food in Berlin
The culinary scene in Berlin is exploding with some of the best chefs and restaurants. Confirmation of this was provided once again earlier this year by the latest edition of the Michelin Hotel and Restaurant Guide. Two stars, the honour for “outstanding cuisine”, was awarded to Christian Lohse of Fischers Fritz in the Regent Hotel at Gendarmenmarkt, the first such distinction for a Berlin chef in more than 10 years. Fischers Fritz focusses mainly on maritime specialties.

Another chef with reasons to celebrate is Matthias Buchholz at “First Floor” of the Hotel Palace. He is the longest-serving of the star-honoured chefs in Berlin; this year he receives the distinction of the Michelin Guide for his classic French gourmet cuisine for the 12th time.

Where to stay

Staying in Europe is expensive, but Berlin is cheaper than most European capitals. Here’s a look at some of the best hotels at affordable rates.

1. Hotel Gates
This four-star hotel is conveniently located near most tourist sites. It’s a classic modern structure.
Tariffs: From m97 per night.
Address: Knesebeckstraße 8-9, 10623 Berlin

2. Park Inn Berlin-Alexander Plaza
Situated in the heart of historical Berlin, it is 5 minutes away from the main central station.
Tariffs: From m129 per night.
Address: Berlin, Alexanderplatz 8

3. Hotel Bleibtreau
Plenty of restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars are right around the corner from this hotel.
Tariffs: From m143 per night.
Address: Berlin, Bleibtreustraße 31

The best places to eat

Kurfurstendamm
Kurfurstendamm
Bieberbau, Durlacher Str. 15, http://www.bieberbau-berlin.de/

Facil in The Mandala Hotel, Potsdamer Str. 3, http://www.facil.de/

First Floor in the Hotel Palace Berlin, Budapester Str. 45, http://www.firstfloor.palace.de/

Fischers Fritz in The Regent Berlin, Charlottenstr. 49, http://www.fischersfritzberlin.com/

Rutz, Chauseestr. 8, http://www.rutz-weinbar.de/

San Nicci, Friedrichstr. 101, http://www.san-nicci.de/

Shopping

Berlin has some great shopping options and what’s more, it is tax-free.

If you are a non-EU resident, then you are entitled to a refund of any state tax paid on your purchases. Kurfurstendamm and Tauestzienstrasse boulevards near the Europa-Center and its sidestreets are the most famous shopping destinations in Berlin.

Check out the massive Harrod’s-style department store KaDeWe in Kurfurstendamm. Browse to your heart’s content.

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