The best places to live in Berlin
Berlin is a dynamic city in constant flux, and no other metropolis in Germany can match its storied history. Once divided into East and West Berlin, both halves had to reconnect after the fall of the Berlin Wall. As a result, elegant boulevards alternate with trendy and bohemian neighbourhoods. The futuristic architecture in the government district and at the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin-Mitte contrasts quite dramatically with the Wilhelminian-style architecture seen in Charlottenburg.
Accommodation options differ vastly in each of the city’s twelve districts, each of which consists of several neighbourhoods.
Certain districts are more popular than others. Expats will need to consider their priorities carefully before choosing an appropriate area of the city in which to settle, but whatever the demands, Berlin leaves no wish unfulfilled. In this multifaceted city, there will be something to suit every taste.
Popular districts in Berlin
Berlin-Mitte is a worldly district; an eclectic mix of cultures and nations intersecting and co-existing. Residents live between world-famous sights, government quarters and cultural temples. Nowhere in the capital is reunification more evident than in Mitte. Here beats the heart of Berlin, and desired addresses abound, including Friedrich-Wilhelm-Stadt, Spandauer Vorstadt, Rosenthaler Vorstadt and the historic Nikolaiviertel.
The district also consists of the neighbourhoods of Tiergarten and Wedding, which are, in contrast to the exquisite Mitte, multicultural and perhaps less fashionable. Nevertheless, these districts attract plenty of expats. The Tiergarten in Berlin is what Hyde Park is to London and Central Park is to New York. This park, located in the Tiergarten district, is Berlin's largest and most beautiful and lifts the area's image accordingly. Even Wedding, despite its low-brow reputation, reveals its handsome side with imposing architectural facades.
Expats who choose to live in Mitte will quickly find that parking can be a problem. Spaces are rare, and the traffic can be nerve-wracking. That said, Berlin has an excellent public transport system by which one can reach almost any point in the city.
For expats who prefer the quiet life, the district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf is a perfect choice. Residents are typically cosmopolitan, tradition-conscious and ambitious.
In addition to the upmarket neighbourhoods of Grunewald and Schmargendorf, Charlottenburg stands out for its solid middle-class respectability. Unlike in the student districts of Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg, this neighbourhood is generally home to the affluent and those who value a certain quality of life.
Wilmersdorf is a cosy area to the west of the city. Also normally thought of as somwhat bourgeois, wealthy and conservative, the neighbourhood is evolving slightly thanks to the return of a younger, more vibrant crowd. Wilmersdorf offers an environment with lots of green space and a wide choice of schools, making it popular with families.
Although Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf is not a very trendy area overall, Savignyplatz, with its countless restaurants and bars, is one neighbourhood that’s become a magnet for the younger generation.
The main attraction in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf is the Kurfurstendamm, Berlin's most popular boulevard and shopping mile. In the immediate vicinity lies the Zoological Garden, a must-see and the best-stocked zoo in the world. In the heart of this area lies the magnificent Schloss Charlottenburg, affectionately known as 'Little Versailles'. The famous Olympic Stadium built during the Third Reich is also worth a visit.
Young expats who want to live in amongst the action, as opposed to just nearby, should seek housing in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. Though this area used to be a predominately working-class district, it has evolved into a fashionable area that captures the attention of young international expats, students and artists.
Both Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg are among Berlin’s trendiest neighbourhoods; countless bars, clubs and pubs can be found on every corner. Because of the cheap rent and lively nightlife, Friedrichshain has become the student quarter of the city. Expats will find a buzzing scene around Simon-Dach Strasse and Boxhagener Strasse, in particular.
In Kreuzberg, a great diversity of cultures coexist, and residents have an easy-going approach to everyday life. Kreuzberg, together with Wedding, is home to the largest contingent of Turkish residents in the city.
The Berlin Wall used to run between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, and though the feeling of division is still present in many minds, residents add a lighter spin to the location by organising a water fight each year at the Oberbaumbrücke, which connects the two parts of the district. Other attractions in this quarter include the East Side Gallery, with remnants of the Berlin Wall, and the former prestige boulevard of the East, the Karl-Marx-Allee.
Pankow - Prenzlauer Berg
Expats with more refined tastes may want to move into the densely populated and trendy Prenzlauer Berg. In addition to actors, designers and artists, this area also attracts foreign academics and a large contingency of families, hence its nickname, 'Pregnant Hill'.
With its countless bars, clubs, theatres and clothing stores, Prenzlauer Berg is one of the most modern districts of Berlin. It is also home to the famous Kulturbrauerei, a former brewery.