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Rediscovering Berlin’s Cultural Cool

Helen Anne Travis - February 24, 2016

Helen Anne Travis is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Tampa, FL. A former reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, Helen Anne enjoys uncovering the stories behind a destination's food, drink and culture. You can find her work in publications like CNN, The Guardian and The Globe and Mail, to name a few. She's a sucker for good beer, quirky museums, and the occasional ghost story.

In the 1970s, Berlin’s artists and musicians sipped absinthe with David Bowie and Iggy Pop at Paris Bar, an art cafe near the city’s zoo. At today’s Paris Bar, you’re more likely to find well-heeled Berliners nibbling on expensive escargot than struggling painters sipping hallucinogenic drinks. But two neighborhoods are picking up the slack, offering Berlin’s bohemians—as well as travelers in the know—a place to drink, dance and discourse.
X-Berg, as the locals call it, is Berlin’s hub for fine dining, gourmet coffee, and all-night dance parties. Here the city’s LGBTQ crowd waits in line with Berlin’s hipsters for some of the country’s best doner kebab, and high-end wine shops share sidewalk space with galleries specializing in the counter culture.

Check out: Neu West Berlin, a gallery where you just might share a drink with one of the artists whose work is on display. Like Paris Bar did in its heyday, Neu West pays its exhibitors in bar tabs.

Locals are trying hard to keep this area a secret. Neukölln’s galleries announce their exhibitions—think experimental soundscapes and massive site-specific installations—exclusively on social media. And it’s up to food bloggers to keep the neighborhood’s residents—a mix of progressive young professionals, students and street artists—in the know on the latest restaurant openings.

Check out: Art und Weise, home to basement gramophone concerts and biweekly foosball tournaments. Instead of Paris Bar’s absinthe, local musicians sip H.E.R.B, a house specialty made from fruit and coca leaves.