Insider's Guide to Off-Duty Berlin

2012-05 FEA Berlin Mitte Neighborhood H

Says Dieter Kosslick: "Well, I'm a bit old for that sort of thing, but anyone who heads to [Berlin neighborhoods] Mitte (pictured) and Prenz-lauer Berg and can't find a hot club with a great DJ is even older than I am."

Dieter Kosslick, the goofy genius who runs the Berlinale, offers the latest scoop on where to eat, shop and let it all hang out in the German capital.


"For something quick, the CENTOLIRE (Leipziger Str. 128). It's fast, very good, freshly made Italian food. The bill is less than you'd pay to park for a half-hour in Paris."

"But the place to eat at in Berlin this year will be at the JUDISCHE MADCHENSCHULE (Auguststr. 11-13).  It's an old Jewish girls school that's been converted by the people behind [Berlin's hottest restaurant] Grill Royal. It's opening Feb. 9, just in time for the Berlinale. Both Kosher food and not. And on the second floor is an incredible art gallery. It's something to see."


"The cafe MEIEREI (Kollwitzstr. 42) has the best cheese, butter and bread in town. It's Alpine cuisine, the only spot in Berlin where you can get the best of Bavaria."


"The VICTORIA BAR (Postdamer Str. 102). Very cool, extremely good drinks and truly Berlin."


"SOHO HOUSE (Torstr. 1) is the film hangout in Berlin. A fantastic location in Mitte, whether you stay the night or just stop in for one of the fantastic drinks at the bar."


"The GEMALDEGALERIE (Stauffenbergstr. 40) has an incredible gallery of European masters (including Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian and Botticelli) and most people who come don't even know it's there. And check out the C/O GALLERY (Oranienburger Str. 35/36), a truly world-class gallery of photographic art. It's supposed to be shut down, so go while it's still there."


"All the hotels on Potsdamer Platz -- the RITZ-CARLTON, the MANDALA, the HYATT -- have their wellness spas, but if you want something a bit more meditative, go to the ST. MATTHAUS CHURCH (Matthaikirchplatz). It's just a few minutes away from the heart of the festival and a real oasis. It was designed by [19th century architect] Friedrich August Stuler and is a thing to behold."


"Take a tram or tube to Moritzplatz -- it's closer than you think -- and go to the AUFBAU HAUS (Prinzenenstr. 85). It has an incredible bookstore, PLANET MODULOR, and a design shop you can lose yourself in. For chefs, try COLEDAMPF, a cooking supplies store, and KOCHLUST, a bookstore filled with cookbooks."


"Well, I'm a bit old for that sort of thing, but anyone who heads to [Berlin neighborhoods] Mitte and Prenz-lauer Berg and can't find a hot club with a great DJ is even older than I am."



It's All About the Suds

Forget your Appletini or that cool glass of Mosel white; Berlin is a beer town. The city's range and variety of fine brews is legendary, and each sends a subtle signal about its quaffer's tastes and pretensions. The Berliner Pilsner is a safe choice: Beloved by both the masses and the discerning critics, it's the Meryl Streep of beers. If you want to impress your uber-hip Berlin friends, order a Rothaus Tannenzaepfle -- with its herb flavor and retro label, this Black Forest beverage (the name means "pine cone") is the brew of choice among the city's cyber chic. Just avoid the hefeweizen; no self-respecting Berliner would be caught tipping back one of these southern German wheat beers.

Don't Forget the Three Ringers Rule

Getting this wrong is what got Michael Fassbender shot in Inglourious Basterds. Remember: Germans start counting with the thumb, not the index finger. So it's a thumbs-up for one beer, a thumb and two fingers for three. If the offer for your hot title is too low, tap your index finger on your temple (meaning "you're crazy"). Just don't give your Berlin buyer the "OK" sign. In Germany, that gesture means "A-hole."

Don't Be Polite

Berlin is the New York of Germany. Locals take pride in their in-your-face frankness. Don't be shy: Tell your waiter the wine's corked and the soup is too cold. Tell the German sales exec that, actually, his film sucks. And when someone asks, "How are you doing?" be honest.

Remember Your Man-Scarf

Berlin's punishing winters have allowed the city's male population to turn the battle against the elements into a fashion statement. The wool scarf is a must, whether knotted jauntily about the throat or piled high in a makeshift muff. Its prominent models include Klaus Peter Kofler of pop-up restaurant Pret a Diner and, most famously, Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick.