Berlin real estate has been booming since the wall came down. Some neighbourhoods have reached their peak, but luckily there are other areas that haven’t been tapped into yet.
Let us take you on a tour of Berlin’s hidden gems.
With a colourful history that mirrors the fortunes of Berlin, Kreuzberg is now home to much of the city’s art and cultural scene. Sitting on the south bank of the river Spree it was once enclosed by the Berlin Wall on three sides. A small, impoverished West Berlin neighbourhood, it was only accessible from West Germany by a narrow rail/road corridor. Despite this it became home to Berlin’s punk movement and was regularly visited by David Bowie and Iggy Pop.
So when the wall came down in 1989 Kreuzberg embraced its rightful position at the cultural heart of the city. The area is now full of cafes, restaurants and artists’ workshops. Traditionally Kreuzberg had low rents that have always attracted students and artists. Now a creative business industry and handsome, although rundown, 19th century housing stock is doing the same job and Kreuzberg has become the most densely populated area in Germany.
On the north side of the river Spree – connected to Kreuzberg by the impressive Oberbaum Bridge – a symbol of the reunification of Berlin, is Friedrichshain. It was one of the most damaged areas during the war. However, like much of Berlin, it has been on an upward trajectory ever since the wall came down. It’s actually home to a big chunk of it which serves as the world’s largest open-air art gallery, the East Side Gallery. It’s over a kilometre of wall painted by artists in 1990, capturing the optimism and anxiety of the times.
Now Friedrichshain is full of pubs, clubs, cafes and bars. Numerous design companies are based there. And whole areas are being regenerated such as the Karl-Marx-Allee, a famous street with wedding cake style buildings built in the Soviet era as ‘worker palaces’, which have been redeveloped and are now highly sought-after residential properties.
This area’s rough edges mean that rumours of its emergence as the latest Berlin real estate hotspot have often been met with disbelief. However the Unesco-protected architecture of the Schillerpark Settlement, elegant 19th century apartments and great location are making up for the area’s perceived shabbiness and finally Wedding is on the up.
In fact that shabbiness is being celebrated. Old warehouses and factories are being used as blank canvases for street art. Stattbad, a turn-of-the-century municipal swimming pool which reopened in 2009 as an exhibition space, is credited for kickstarting Wedding’s cultural renaissance. Fire regulations mean it has since closed down, but other cultural highlights have taken the baton.
Historically Wedding is a working class area because its original location on the edge of Berlin meant it became home to farm workers migrating to the city. In fact it’s still a home to migrants and 30% of its population is foreign. The cheap rent means it also attracts students and artists who are creating a heady mix of restaurants, cafes and microbreweries, which will give fashionable neighbouring Mitte a run for its money.
Home to Marlene Dietrich, David Bowie, Christopher Isherwood and Albert Einstein, Schoneberg has always attracted the smart set. Maybe it’s the wide boulevards, the street markets or the open-air plazas. It’s been Berlin’s gay quarter since the early 1920s when gay and lesbian bars and nightclubs flourished. Cabaret, the film based on Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin diaries, was set here.
Schoneberg is one of the best preserved neighbourhoods in Berlin as it suffered little damage during the war. It contains beautiful five-storey apartments dating from 1890-1920 and its huge sandstone Town Hall, on the steps of which J F Kennedy declared Ich bin ein berliner, dates from 1911. It also has lots of green spaces. The old Tempelhof airport is perhaps the most impressive of these. The 300-hectare airfield is now a community recreational area and is a popular place for local residents to go jogging, kite flying and rollerblading. To give you an idea of the size of the place, the entire principality of Monaco is only 200 hectares!
Popular with expat professionals, this district in the north of Berlin is really booming. It’s the second largest borough in Berlin, with the highest birth rate. Although it doesn’t have a trainline the area is well served by trams, which makes getting around the city really simple.
It’s a diverse borough containing everything from buzzing inner city neighbourhoods such as Penzlauer Berg, with its grand 19th century architecture and lively nightlife, to the rural delights of Weissensee, named after the lake at the centre of it; and Niederschonhausen which has four parks as well as Schloss Schönhausen. This Rococo extravagance was built in 1740 to be the King of Prussia’s summer residence. It’s been an important historical location ever since, and was where the reunification talks were held in 1990.