Guide to Berlin: Kathryn’s Best of Charlottenburg

In this Berlin city guide series, friends of Archer Relocation share what they love most about the part of the city they call home. In our second instalment, Kathryn shares the best of Berlin-Charlottenburg. 

Who: Kathryn Gorman, an author and freelance writer

Berlin Neighbourhood: Charlottenburg

Moved to Berlin: December, 2019

 

What do you love about Berlin?

Everything! Berlin is my Heart Home. The first time I came here I felt completely at home, and realised I’d never felt this before, not anywhere I’d been or lived in the world.

I love the creative vibe, it’s so cutting-edge and eclectic: the fashion, the art, the music. You walk around a corner and there’s a sculpture or statue or graffiti, just waiting for people to admire it. I also love the diversity of people here. You meet people from all corners of the globe, all walks of life, all professions. It’s exciting and creatively stimulating. And when I see someone new, I never know what language will come out of their mouth! I totally love this. In Berlin, I always expect the unexpected–in the best way. It’s an adventure every time I walk out of my home.

I also enjoy the weather. Coming from a warm part of Australia, where I lived near the beach, the temperature didn’t vary much. In Berlin, the seasons are clear and each has their appeal. I really enjoy wrapping up warmly and going for a run or playing in the snow. Every season here is a new adventure for me!

Where in Berlin do you live?

I live in Charlottenburg, near the Deutsche Oper. It’s in the west part of Berlin, only five kilometres from Mitte (city centre) but it has a slower, more relaxed vibe. In Sydney (Australia), where I grew up, you’d have to live at least twenty-five kilometres from the city to have that same feel.

What do you like about your neighbourhood of Charlottenburg?

The trees. The parks. The greenery. The excellent mix of architecture, from Alt-Bau to modern. Great public transport–I don’t have a car and don’t need one. I can hire a bike or electric scooter–right off the street. Order an Uber, or hail a taxi. The U-Bahn is less than one hundred metres from my apartment door. I’m right near Bismarckstraβe, one of the main streets of Charlottenburg. Yet it’s surprisingly quiet at night and a very peaceful neighbourhood.

Charlottenburg contains an interesting mix of native Germans and immigrants from all over the world, so it has a fascinating array of restaurants and culture. I also feel really safe here, even travelling home on the U-Bahn late at night. As a female, I’d never experienced this before in a big city. I also love the many restaurants and cafes, with a multitude of cuisines.

Berlin does have some great restaurants! What are some of your favourite’s in Charlottenburg?

My absolute favourite restaurant in Charlottenburg is Minakami on Kantstraβe–known as Berlin’s Chinatown. It’s my go-to place for birthdays and special occasions. It’s an excellent dining experience of Japanese Fusion with super cool decor. I’ve been there about eight times, and every time I’ve tried something new (crocodile sashimi, anyone?) Delicious! Minakami has warm service, beautifully presented food, and super cool décor, it’s a feast for all the senses. And they have outdoor dining, most of the year round.

Across the road from Minakami is another of my favourites, Saigon Cuisine. They serve diverse Vietnamese cuisine. Their Cha Gio Tom, crispy spring rolls filled with shrimp and vegetables, are completely divine, and the Pho (traditional soup) is always hearty and fragrant, so satisfying in colder weather. Their service is warm and friendly, and meals are usually delivered quickly. It’s perfect for a quick lunch between meetings, or a relaxed dinner. Come to think of it, I’ve even taken a few dates here!

If I’m in the mood for traditional German cuisine, I take a short stroll down to the corner of Krumme Straβe and Pestalozzistraβe to my local Kneipe (pub). Thomas Eck has been there since the 1930’s and serves all the German favourites. My usual choice is schnitzel, crispy pommes (fries), and a beer from their extensive Bier Bar. And Mama’s Apple Strudel for dessert. It’s only one of two desserts on the menu, and it is sehr lecker (very yummy). (P.S. This question is making me hungry.)

And can I have a fourth favourite restaurant? I have to have a fourth favourite! Is that okay? At the ground floor of my apartment building is a tiny Italian restaurant: Ristorante Verbano. Run by a beautiful Italian family, with warmth, welcome and excellent Essen, their perfect pasta is only matched by their pizza perfetto. It feels as if you’re eating in someone’s home, and Nonna’s going to come out of the kitchen to serve you her renowned gnocchi. My favourite here is Pizza Salmone, with salmon, rocket and cherry tomatoes. And Funghi Ripieni, mushrooms stuffed with spinach and gorgonzola. And their Bruschetta pomodoro. And…okay, I’ll stop now.

Most of the restaurants are kid-friendly, and I enjoy taking my friends’ children out for a spontaneous feast. “Do you think you can possibly eat ALL of that schnitzel by yourself, Noah?”

 

What’s your favourite place to go out for a drink in Charlottenburg?

Um, lots! You know my absolute favourite drink is sparkling mineral water. I was so excited to discover Mineral Wasser mit Kohlensäure is such a big thing here, and it’s available at every café and restaurant.

But by drinks, you meant alcohol, right? Last summer, I had an excellent evening celebrating with friends until the early morning hours at Gainsbourg near Savignyplatz. Tucked in a little alleyway, it’s a vibrant cocktail bar with both indoor and outdoor areas. They also wisely serve tapas to soak up all those very fine cocktails. It’s temporarily closed but I’m looking forward to visiting there again.

Another good option nearby is Hefner Bar on the corner of Kantstraβe and Savignypl. They serve classic and creative cocktails in a stylish, cool, low-key atmosphere.

I also enjoy many drinks with friends at Queen Kati’s Bar aka from my apartment balcony. When there’s an event on at the Deutsche Oper–which my building looks over–it’s an exciting vibe and makes for excellent people-watching. During summer and autumn they host outdoor performances, including Opera and Jazz, which I can’t see but can definitely hear! It’s so typically Berlin, always a cool vibe to soak up.

Where can you find the best coffee in Charlottenburg?

I rarely do take-away coffee. If I want a coffee when I’m out, I like to sit and enjoy the atmosphere. Black Fox Coffee on Wilmersdorfer Straβe is one of my favourites. Their quirky branding and cool vibe on the mall section of the street is a great place to recuperate after a shopping trip. I enjoy my coffee dark and strong–doppelter espresso–and their coffee is one of the best I’ve tasted anywhere in the world. They also have delicious fresh juices and smoothies, cakes, and other tasty snacks.

If I want a writing space, I head to Exclusive Coffee on Bismarckstraβe. Indoors there’s a light, bright, green space with large, shared tables for spreading work out on, as well as cosy lounges. There’s outdoor seating as well. Their service is always friendly and warm. Plus, it’s open until 8pm, so if I’m on a roll, I can keep on writing.

When I’m shopping on the famous Kufürstendamm, or I’ve seen an English-speaking movie at Delphi Lux, I stop off at ZooBa, next door to Zoo Palast cinemas and opposite the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche. They do quality coffee, drinks, and excellent pizza. Also, it’s another fun place to people-watch.

Sounds like Charlottenburg has a lot of good restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Is it a good neighbourhood for kids?

It seems to be. I don’t have children, but I do see lots of kids around Charlottenburg. There are many schools in the area, and a high-school and Kita right near me, and I enjoy hearing the chatter of happy children. Sometimes they play in the Deutsche Oper forecourt-in the summer it’s in the water fountains, in winter it’s in the snow. I usually hear them first, before I see them. It’s fun to watch happy kids playing-it reminds me to play more myself.

An iconic sight on weekdays is seeing small groups of children walking hand-in-hand, accompanied by very patient adults, adventuring out from their Kindergarten or Kita to explore the area. The smaller kids are usually pushed along in Kinderwagons. (That’s my word for it-I must find out what they are called!) In the cold weather, you see five or six little ones wrapped up in their snow-onesies, scarves, mittens and Mütze (woollen caps). It makes me smile every time I see them. When I hear them chattering away in their baby Deutsche–which is sometimes better than my German–it always makes me giggle. They are sooo cute!

There are many playgrounds in Charlottenburg, which are usually filled to the brim with kids – playing, creating, laughing. My favourite to walk by is the Pippi Longstocking themed one on Zillestraβe. Many of the playgrounds in Berlin have themes. It makes me wish I’d grown up here! The gardens at Charlottenburg Schloss and also Villa Oppenheim, near Schlossstraβe contain lots of space for children (and dogs) to run around.

How’s the grocery shopping in your part of Charlottenburg?

Excellent, which is handy because I love good food! There’s a Rewe on my opposite corner, and a few blocks along in Wilmersdorfer Straβe there’s an Aldi, Penny, Lidl, Hit, and a small Asian supermarket. There’s also Nazar Market, a Turkish supermarket where I stock up on weinblatten, flatbreads, and olives, and buy fresh lemons, tomatoes and gorgeous bunches of parsley to make my renowned tabouleh.

On Kaiserdamm, towards Westend, there’s LPG Biomarkt with a bakery which sells the most delicious vegan slices. I can’t walk past without going in for a treat…or three. It’s a total organic foodie’s paradise!

I don’t have a car so it’s convenient to have all of this within short walking distance.

If I’m in the mood to treat myself, I visit Rogacki and Lindner, both on Wilmersdorfer. Rogacki is a Charlottenburg institution since 1928, a total foodie’s paradise, with cheeses and meats and seafood galore. At last count, I saw eleven options for fresh salmon alone. They also have a bakery, a restaurant section (where you stand up to eat around long thin tables, European style), a poultry section (chicken, turkey, quail, goose), and of course, because we’re in Germany, a section dedicated to Wurst (sausage). If I need a delicacy or special ingredient, I’ve found it there.  Lindner is my go-to for bread, bread rolls and cakes temptingly displayed in their front window. I also adore their Garnelen (prawn) salad laced with caviar, and their rucola salad. (I’m getting hungry again.)

Is there a good Wochenmarkt (Farmer’s Market) in the area?

On Saturdays at Karl-August Platz, there’s a Wochenmarkt with market stalls around the Trinitatis church. I learned recently it’s been there since 1894, which blows my Australian mind. It’s offers a delicious array of food: cheese, meat, sausage, fish, fruit, vegetables, bread, fresh pasta, cakes and pastries, spices, honey, lavender, antipasti such as olives, Turkish spreads, and breads to accompany them. This market is also there on Wednesdays.

There are also stalls with handmade clothing, jewellery, oils, cut flowers, and I recently discovered super healthy potted herbs and flowers (geraniums, lavender) to display on my balcony. There’s also snack bars with Bratwurst, fish, shawarma, juices, and a mobile espresso bar. It’s worth getting up early for!

Can you share your favourite shops in Charlottenburg?

The most famous shopping near me is on the Kurfürstendamm – colloquially known as Ku’damm. The popular Netflix series Ku-damm 56 is based on this street. Historically it was a nightlife and entertainment street, but it’s now the most popular shopping boulevard in Berlin. All the high-end designers such as Dior, Gucci, Valentino, and even Cartier and Rolex have shops there. The window displays are incredible and inspiring.

One of my favourite clothing shops on the Ku’damm  is COS, where I usually find a few modern, elegant pieces to add to my wardrobe. I also pop into Roeckel as winter approaches. It’s a Munich-based company who’ve been making gloves and other accessories since 1839. When I found my first pair of Roeckel gloves I felt like an elegant lady from an earlier lifetime. Oh, the softness of the leather…and the smell…ahhh.

For pampering myself, I absolutely adore Rituals cosmetics and visit when I pass (there’s two in my area) to stock up on their exquisite candles or find a present for a special person.

Further along the Kurfürstendamm is the Harrod’s-like Berlin department store: KaDaWe (Kaufhaus Des Westins). It is extremely high-end (read: expensive) but it’s lovely for a wander as the new season clothing comes in. I also like to take a little peek into Peek & Cloppenburg which sells many of the top labels.

If you’re not so into labels, which I’m not, along the side streets of  Kurfürstendamm towards Savignplatz there are many beautiful boutiques. They’re not as obvious as the Ku-Damm, but you can discover quality unique clothing and quirky accessories for excellent value.

Just down the road from my apartment is Krumme 58 a small unpretentious shop which makes woollen accessories (hats, scarves) onsite. You can even watch the person weaving the wool! If you want something in a different colour or size, they will make it to order. They also sell leather goods: handbags, wallets, satchels, backpacks. I’ve bought quite a few bags and Mützen (woollen caps) for myself and friends, as I like to support local industry. And for a quality, handmade, local product, they are exceptional value.

What do you do for fun and exercise in Charlottenburg?

This summer I discovered QBeachBerlin (formerly Ku’damm Beach Club). It’s at the Halensee end of Kurfürstendamm right on the lake and it’s an oasis of green leafiness and calm. There’s a non-swimmers pool for the littlies and a ladder for those who want to swim in the lake. Entry is 6.50EUR and you can stay for hours. There’s a restaurant upstairs and a beach bar for drinks and snacks. Even if I only spend a few hours here, I feel as if I’ve been on a resort holiday.

My most regular outdoor exercise is a run or walk through the magnificent Schlossgarten Charlottenburg. There’s acres and acres of greenery, trees, secret paths, and hidden benches if you need to stop for a rest. If I’m feeling extremely energetic there’s also the option of continuing along the River Spree, checking out the community gardens.

 

I’m an avid movie lover, so I enjoy visiting Delphi Lux where they screen Original English movies, with German subtitles. It’s a chance for me to hear my mother tongue and also practise my German, whilst chilling out in a lovely cinema close to home. Over the summer Charlottenburg Schloss hosted Sommer Kino (Summer Cinema) so I saw a few of those films. It makes me feel super fancy to watch a movie in the grounds of a palace!

What else do you enjoy about Charlottenburg?

Schlossgarten Charlottenburg is my favourite place in the whole of Berlin. It’s my Happy Place and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve visited, in all weather and all seasons.

But there’s so many things I love about the area of Charlottenburg. There are many tourist attractions such as the palace – Charlottenburg Schloss and  Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche and of course having the Deutsche Oper on my doorstep is amazing for opera and ballet. There are museums within walking distance from me, including Villa Oppenheim, and Berggruen with it’s amazing collection of works by Picasso. And I do take friends to these places when they come to visit.

But I also enjoy wandering the area, choosing to walk along a street I haven’t been, finding something new: a huge wall mural on the side of a building, a sculpture tucked away in an alley, a grand doorway, and always I’m looking out for the Stolperstein – the gold memorial stones scattered all over the city.

For me, Charlottenburg is a unique combination of old-world wealth and culture living alongside the new – with all it’s grunginess, quirkiness and cutting-edge creativity.

 

Do you have any tips for someone moving to Berlin?

Firstly, before you move here, I highly recommend you find an expert who can help you navigate the registrations and systems.  There is a lot of paperwork and you want to make sure you’re doing it correctly. Your team at Archer Relocation were so professional at supporting me in my move here. Otherwise, I most probably would have been crying in the corner, surrounded by paperwork! So that’s an important tip.

Secondly, as Berlin is so amazing, it’s easy to stay within your Kiez (neighbourhood). This is because there is so much on offer.  But it’s a huge city and worth exploring, especially now that Covid restrictions have lifted.

I use the different seasons to explore–so in summer I’ll make a point of visiting a lake or Biergarten on the other side of the city. In colder weather, I’ll explore museums, galleries, or restaurants in a part of town I’ve never been. Sometimes I’ll pick a cultural event and go somewhere new.

My overall tip would be to ENJOY YOURSELF. Look up, look down, and all around. Breathe the city in. Listen to her music. Speak to people. Engage. Learn to speak German-even a few words. Join groups. Make a new friend… even if you’re a shy introvert like me.

Berlin is such an extraordinary place to be, and I feel so lucky to live here. Thanks for asking me these questions. It’s reminded me how much in love with Berlin I am. Ich bin verliebt in Berlin.

P.S I’m going to eat now. I’m hungry after all those questions about food.

Thank you, Kathryn! Our office is also in Charlottenburg, so we’ve found this extremely fascinating.

You can follow Kathryn’s adventures in Berlin and her writing on Instagram @KathrynGormanAuthor

(All images courtesy of Kathryn Gorman.)

 

Archer Relocation has been providing relocation services to families, individuals and companies in Berlin since early 2015.  Managing Director, Emily Archer, founded the company desiring to use her first-hand experience as an expat to make the relocation process as smooth as possible for others moving to Berlin.  Read other useful information about moving to and living in Berlin, such as ‘How to Find a Berlin Apartment’, on our Berlin Blog.  

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