A recent explosion in edgy fashion, art, design and music has cemented Berlin as the European capital of cultural cool. Nowadays, hipsters from far and wide descend on the Deutsch city to compare haircuts over a coffee and indulge in electro-fuelled hedonism.

But there’s more to Berlin than donning a vintage blazer and a pair of skinnies and striking a pose. In the 21 years since the wall came down, Berlin has been re-energised to the extent that it is now one of the most sought-after city breaks in Europe. Here, we’ll tell you why.

Headline attraction
While Berlin has moved on, the city’s Cold War history is too important to ignore. There are some remnants of the wall around town. The East Side Gallery is a stretch which has been transformed by street artists. Checkpoint Charlie, once a gateway between East and West, is now home to a fascinating museum (mauermuseum.de) documenting the attempts of East Berliners to escape to the West.

To appreciate the full horror of the Soviet-occupied German Democratic Republic’s repressive Ministry for State Security (the Stasi), check out the Stasi Museum, or visit the Stasi Prison.

Best of the rest
Try the Museum of Contemporary Art in the former Hamburger Bahnhof. For an overview of Jewish life in Germany check out the Juedisches Museum, and visit the moving Holocaust Memorial. For something a bit different, take a tour in a Trabant – the famously unreliable East German car that has won an ironic place in people’s hearts; a symbol for the failure of communist East Germany (trabi-safari.de).

Alternative Berlin
Make sure you don’t miss the free Alternative Berlin tour. Your guide will take you to artist squats, multi- cultural neighbourhoods, and cultural landmarks such as the Eastside gallery. The tour departs daily from Alexanderplatz TV tower.

Long night of museums
The best time to get your culture vulture on is the annual Long Night of Museums, this year taking place on January 28. More than 100 museums and institutions in the city open their doors from 6pm until 2am, adding an edge to your culturally curious wanderings, and including concerts, readings, theatrics and parties (berlin.de).

Snap happy
Get clicking at the Reichstag, home to the German Parliament with its stunning modern glass cupola, or dome. The equally photogenic Brandenburg Gate is within walking distance.

Dare to be square
Two vast squares, Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz, provide a good way of getting your bearings. The former was the centre of the East German sector and is home to the TV Tower built to celebrate the glories of communism. Potsdamer Platz
is now the modern centre of Berlin.

Foodie finds
German food is good winter-warming fare – pork knuckle with potato dumplings and sauerkraut has to be sampled, and is best paired with a local brew. Also try Berlin’s famous currywurst, a plump sausage served with curry. All porked out? The city’s multiculturalism ensures you’ll also be able to eat your fill of Turkish, Vietnamese and Lebanese dishes.

On the town
Those with a boho bent should head to the funky clubs of the former East Berlin suburb of Friedrichshain. Closely associated with the squat scene of 1989-90, its former squats now offer up everything from cool cafes and cheap bars to trendy book clubs and underground parties. See stressfaktor.squat.net. The Turkish suburb of Kreuzberg is also home to some edgy nightlife. Like your scene a bit racier? Often touted as the world’s best club, Berghain is a fetish-techno club set in a former power plant behind the Berlin Ostbahnhof railway station (berghain.de).

Getting There

Berlin’s main international airport is Tegel, but most low-cost airlines fly into Schönefeld.

When to go: Any time, but be warned that it’s very cold from November to February.
Currency: £1 = €1.16
Accomodation: For quirky-cool, try Ostel: The GDR Design Hostel (ostel.eu); dorm beds from around £13pn. If you’re after a party hostel, A&O Berlin am Zoo (aohostels.com) should do the trick; dorm beds from £10pn.
Getting around: With a choice of S-bahn (train), U-Bahn (underground), trams and buses, you won’t need to walk far.
See: berlin.de


Image: Getty