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Things to do in Berlin:Restaurants | Nightlife | Shopping | Sightseeing | Key Areas | Day Trips | Airport Information
View the Gallery Reichstag
Affordable treat (â¬15 - â¬35) (71)
Boy, Korean food is good. Especially the refined, modern takes of it you find at this stylishly minimal restaurant in the city's central Mitte district. Start with silky, Black Angus tartar (Korean... read more
Fancy night out (â¬35 - â¬60) (8)
Trust Google maps when it leads you round the back of a line of shops. You'll be rewarded with a red carpeted entrance, that leads to a glass lift, that leads to Berlin's most happening... read more
Berlin's first craft beer bar takes the golden stuff seriously: it has 22 well-cared for, daily-rotating options of the stuff on tap, after all. Served in a purposely run-down venue with peeling... read more
A mismatch of rooms, from a relaxed, tatty bar area with illustrative art on the walls and a sexy low-lit red zone, to a large, concert hall with a stage, forms Badehaus, a place that's serious... read more
This Month in Berlin:By Vicky Lane
Do: Vabali Spa:Â It's very easy to forget you're in the middle of a busy metropolis in this sprawling, Balinese-style oasis of hot and cold pools, saunas and steam rooms. While the central, open pool won't get as much use this time of year, the cosy lounge areas in front of roaring fires certainly will. Be aware that while not strictly enforced, bathing costumes are not encouraged (Germans consider it unhygienic to wear them in the sauna). So be prepared to bare all, and trust us when we say it's actually very liberating.Â vabali.de
Key areas: TheÂ Agora CollectiveÂ is a bustling, creative pot well-suited to its Berlin home. Part co-working hub, part art platform, part events space and part cafÃ© (because even the most dedicated world-changers need a coffee break), the space spread over five floors is never short on thought-provoking exhibitions, workshops and panel discussions. Check the website for the site's current programme. Â agoracollective.org Â
Berlin News & Gossip
1. THE A-LIST ARE GOING HERE
This summer, the stars are heading for southern Italy and Sicily. âWe've seen a lot of high-profile people wanting Italian escapes,â says Gemma Fitchett, of Quintessentially Travel, a luxury concierge service that specialises in VIP experiences. âOne of our favourite places to send guests is the Sikelia resort on Pantelleria. It's all gorgeous Arabic-style whitewashed villas and arches, on a remote island between Sicily and Africa, with natural hot springs and mud baths overlooking the sea - bliss!â
Back on the mainland, she recommends the Matera province, between the toe and heel on Italy's southern tip. âPartly due to Francis Ford Coppola's hotel Palazzo Margherita, in the hilltop town of Bernalda, Matera has become a real favourite for actors and film directors, with Mel Gibson making the pilgrimage recently. The hotel offers authentic local food and wine in the communal kitchen, and guests can choose from 100 classic Italian films to watch in the screening room. The Coppola family have a long history with the place and there's a real romance about it all.â
Elsewehere, Fitchett says the Greek islands are becoming too hot. âMykonos, Ios and Santorini are getting so popular that we're recommending people stay on the mainland, where there's more privacy,â she says. âWe love the Danai Beach Resort, a gorgeous property near Thessaloniki, and - further afield - the Amanzoe hotel, an A-lister favourite.â
Her final tip is Comporta village, a 90-minute drive south of Lisbon. âIt's like St Tropez was in the good old days, before the hype: lazy beach days, dolphin watching and fresh-caught seafood, all surrounded by sand dunes and rice fields. We always recommend people stay at the Sublime Comporta, a beautiful minimalist design hotel that's simple, but so elegant.â
2.MICRONATIONS ARE NO JOKE
From UÅ¾upis, in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, to Elleore, an island ânation' founded by a group of Danish teachers, Europe has more than its share of micronations - self-proclaimed states that often boast their own coins, flags, passports, postage stamps, customs and constitutions (âMan has the right to have no rights,' reads the UÅ¾upis lawbook).
While many are little more than elaborate practical jokes, others are altogether more serious. In the Principality of Seborga, close to the Franco-Italian border, Prince Marcello Menegatto (pictured, right) is attempting to turn his 14km2 principality into a magnet for tourism and business. âWe're trying to create an alternative to Monaco,â says the prince, a former speedboat-racing champion who grew up in Switzerland and Monte Carlo and moved to Seborga in 2007 to build a ranch for his horses. He became mayor in 2010, after the death of Giorgio Carbone, the founding prince, who had been in the post since 1963.
âI said I'd bring new business and life,â he says of the pretty hilltop town and its surrounds - an area with a population of around 320. Today, plans are afoot for an international hotel chain to open a spa hotel and golf club, while house prices have tripled since Menegatto took charge. The principality has its own clothing line and 25 representative offices around the world, from Armenia to the USA, and Menegatto claims to be close to securing official recognition from a few nation states.
âWe take this seriously,â says Menegatto, who is genuinely pushing for independence, with plans to lower taxes to attract new business. His project has been helped by a recent election victory - Menegatto saw off the leadership challenge of Mark Dezzani, a British-born DJ who campaigned to introduce more pageantry, revive the luigino (Seborga's medieval currency) and legalise marijuana. âI welcome the peoples' verdict,â says the prince. âAnd I want to finish what I started.â
3.IF YOU ADD UP ALL THE EURO CURRENCY*, IT COMES TO â¬888.88
*One of every denomination of note and coin.
4. YOU CAN SLEEP IN FRANCE AND SWITZERLAND
At least you can if you stay at Hotel Arbez, in the tiny village of La Cure, north of Geneva, which is cut in two by the French-Swiss border. First built in 1862 as a grocery store on the Swiss side and a bar on the French side, it's been a traditional Alpine-style hotel since 1921, when the building was bought by Jules-Jean Arbeze.
According to local folklore, Jews and Allied forces hid in the (neutral) Swiss part of the building during World War II, while Nazis ate in the French dining room. Today, the bed in the honeymoon suite is perfectly dissected by the border. Presumably, the only territorial disputes involve bedsheets.
5.EUROPE'S BEST HOTEL IS IN BUDAPEST
According to TripAdvisor's Travellers' Choice awards, which named the Aria Hotel the best luxury hotel in Europe this year. If you think the musical theme sounds naff - yes, there's a Michael Jackson room - then also consider the spa, the excellent service and the rooftop bar overlooking St Stephen's Basilica in the heart of Budapest's District V. Added to which, the 634 Excellent TripAdvisor reviews out of 664 tell their own story.
6.EUROPE HAS ITS OWN CARIBBEAN
Galicia's CÃes archipelago, off the coast of Pontevadra, has been dubbed âthe Galician Caribbean' for its white sandy beaches on the calmer mainland-facing shores. Reachable by boat from Vigo, it's been a nature reserve since 1980, meaning no hotels and just a tiny shop and restaurant - but you can camp and have the stunning beaches to yourself, including Praia de Rodas, rated Europe's best by The Telegraph.
7.THIS GUY IS BIGGER THAN BONO...
â¦In Germany that is. Herbert GrÃ¶nemeyer is the country's bestselling recording artist, with total album sales of 13 million. Also an actor, humanitarian and former war correspondent, GrÃ¶nemeyer has the first- and third-best-selling albums ever in Germany. The second? Phil Collins.
8. PORTUGAL IS THE WORLD'S ONLY TRI-CONTINENTAL COUNTRY
Or, at least, it has land on three continental plates. The Portuguese island of Madeira is on the African tectonic plate and two of the Azorean islands are on the North American one.
9.SWISS AIR COSTS â¬50 A JAR
Swiss air may be some of the cleanest in Europe, butâ¦ â¬50 a jar?! That's the proposition from entrepreneur John Green, an English expat who has lived in Basel for 20 years and is selling the âbest air in the worldâ from a secret location (a mountainside canyon, apparently) in glass jars, with 25% going to the World Vision charity.
âIt is expensive, but, hey, this is Switzerland,â says Green, who sells his air for US$57 for half a litre or US$77/litre (prices were even higher when he launched), and throws in some Swiss chocolates plus a copy of his book, 8 Life Hacks for Men Over 45. Is it all a slightly cruel postmodern joke? âMaybe a little,â he says. âBut the ideas behind it - about healthy living and creating a fun way to give to charity - are real.â
10.SARDINIANS LIVE A VERY LONG TIME
The Bloomberg Global Health Index recently rated Italy the healthiest country on Earth - and nowhere is healthier than Ogliastra and Nuoro, two provinces in central Sardinia that have been designated Blue Zones for their remarkable number of centenarians (50 times more people reach 100 than in the UK or the US). Researchers have identified a gene in locals' Y chromosomes that limits heart attacks and strokes, while fresh food and wine, close-knit communities and active jobs also help. Giovanni Loi (pictured) is 99, but only gave up his job as a winemaker three years ago. After all, he's relatively young in Jerzu, a tiny village with seven centenarians.
11.THE FERRY TO AFRICA IS FAST
Algeciras, around the bay from Gibraltar, is just two hours away - one by ferry, one by bus - from Tangier, in Morocco. Tangier is thriving, with a rocking Casbah and some great hotels, like the Nord-Pinus Tanger riad, with a rooftop overlooking the Medina.
12.THIS MAN IS STILL BUILDING HIS OWN CATHEDRAL
You really have to hand it to Don Justo Gallego, a former monk who has been building a cathedral outside Madrid with his bare hands since 1963. Gallego works from 8am to 8pm most days to create his epic structure, which is inspired in part by St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and in part by the White House in Washington.
âI've never once thought about giving up,â says Gallego of the 50m long, 40m tall structure in the town of Mejorado del Campo, around 20km from Madrid. While endorsement and sponsorship deals help fund the building, the man himself lives on a â¬500-a-month state pension and consumes little more than a cup of coffee, a slice of cheese and a piece of bread for breakfast. âI want to tell everyone to live simply and cultivate your virtues, not your vices,â he says.
Still, the whole endeavour was initially born of despair. As a young man, he'd been a monk at a monastery in the province of Soria, north-central Spain, but was forced to leave after contracting tuberculosis. âI was depressed and spent weeks praying to the Virgin Mary,â he recalls. âWhen this idea came, nothing could stop me.â
Now 92, he's still going, despite a painful swelling in his left leg (âI treat it as a penanceâ), aided by Angel Lopez, a construction worker who's been helping for the last 20 years. Once the cathedral is finished, it's due to be taken over by the AlcalÃ¡ de Henares diocese. âIt would be wonderful to finish,â says Gallego, âbut whether I'm there to see it completed or not, I'm satisfied with what I've done.â
13.YOU NEED TO GET YOURSELF TO POROS
At least, according to TV and Independent travel expert Simon Calder: âMy secret Greek island isn't a mystery to the Athenians,â he says. âIt's a one-hour hydrofoil journey from the capital to this petite and pretty isle, with a cluster of cottages rising steeply from the quayside, great beaches, and fresh fish and good wine by the water. Get an early flight from Gatwick and you can be there for a late lunch.â
14.THE DONER IST EIN BERLINER
The dOner kebab is everyone's favourite greasy late-night Turkish snack, right? Only it's not entirely Turkish. The doner as we know it is widely regarded to have been invented in Berlin, when Turkish immigrant Kadir Nurman set up a West Berlin stall in 1972, selling kebab meat inside a flat bread so that people could eat on the go.
Germany is now the world's biggest consumer of doner kebabs, with more than 1,000 vendors in Berlin alone. Today, the most famous kebab stall in the city is Mustafas GemÃ¼se Kebab, a cult kiosk in Kreuzberg that draws epic queues for its tender chicken and vegetable doners with Mustafa's signature secret sauce, all for less than â¬3.
15.BRUSSELS AIRPORT SELLS MORE CHOCOLATE THAN ANYWHERE ON THE PLANET
Each year, Brussels Airport sells roughly 730 tonnes of chocolate. That equates to 1.5kg a minute. Get yours from Jean Neuhaus, the brand that created the world's first filled pralines in 1912.
16.THE WORLD'S LONGEST ART GALLERY IS IN STOCKHOLM
The world's longest art gallery stretches 110km and has trains running through it. Since the 1950s, more than 150 artists have decorated 90 of Stockholm's 100 underground stations - from Thorildsplan station, full of pixellated video-game mosaics, to KungstrÃ¤dgÃ¥rden, known by locals as the âAlice in Wonderland station' for its harlequin-inspired roof, strange sculptures and water installations. Stockholm isn't the only subway system to jazz up its stations - see Paris's Jules Verne-inspired Arts et MÃ©tiers station, the purple fairyland Toledo station in Naples or Munich's evocative, blue-lit Westfriedhof station - but nowhere else has used as many artists on as many stops.
17.IT'S â¬1.50 A BEER IN BRATISLAVA
According to a 2016 survey of global cities by travel comparison site GoEuro, Bratislava is home to the world's cheapest beer, beating Kiev (â¬1.51), Krakow (â¬1.70), Cape Town (â¬1.87) and Mexico City (â¬1.94)*. Na zdravÃ! (Cheers!)
18.THE CROATIAN FESTIVAL CRAZE BEGAN IN ZADAR
Former birmingham club promoter Nick Colgan first visited Croatia's Dalmatian coast in 2003. He fell in love with the country and, 10 days after landing, bought a bar in Zadar. âIt was the garden to an old hotel - totally derelict, but the location was perfect,â says Nick. âAt first, the locals didn't get the concept of lying down on beds to drink cocktails. We had to use staff and friends to lead the wayâ¦â
Back then, Croatia was hardly a hot tourist destination, but Colgan knew he couldn't keep the secret to himself. âShortly after opening, we decided to spread the word to our friends and family in the UK, and that the best way would be to organise an event and invite everyoneâ¦â
So Garden Festival was born. However, in that first year it didn't run as smoothly as events since. âIt was June 2006 and the bura [north wind] was blowing, so it was bloody cold,â laughs Colgan. âThere were only 400 people, but the sun came out on the Sunday, the vibe came together and everyone went home with big smiles on their faces.â
The first festival was held in Petrcane, 10km north of Zadar, but by 2012 Colgan and his team had moved the Garden Festival to a private bay in Tisno, an hour south of Zadar, now affectionately referred to as The Garden Resort. Seven different festivals will be held there this summer, including a brand-new collaboration between Colgan and actor/DJ Craig Charles called Beats, Beer and Boogaloo (13-17 July) - even if the original Garden Festival has been off the roster since 2015.
âI'm still a partner in some events, but take more of a back seat,â says Colgan. âWe've still got the Garden bar in Zadar and our outdoor club Barberella's [in Tisno]. Besides, I think we've done our bit to create the dream holiday of dancing on the beach in Croatia.â
20.THE WORLD'S BEST FEMALE CHEF IS SLOVENIAN
Ana RoÅ¡ was taken aback when she was crowned the World's Best Female Chef at this year's 50 Best Restaurants awards for her HiÅ¡a Franko restaurant in Slovenia's remote SoÄa Valley. âNot many people know about Slovenian cuisine, but we have these amazing local ingredients, like SoÄa River marble trout.â
21.THIS ISN'T IN SOME FAR OFF JUNGLE
The KravicA Waterfall looks like it's in the Amazon, but is actually to be found in the south-west of Bosnia, just a few hours from either Split or Dubrovnik in Croatia. You can go for a picnic and a (chilly) swim, watching the TrebiÅ¾at River flow over the 25m-high cliffs. There's also a little cafÃ© and a rope swing into the river for added fun. Bonus fact: Bosnia's Sutjeska National Park, a few hours east, is home to one of Europe's last primeval rainforests, which includes the 75m-high Skakavac waterfall.
22.WARSAW'S NEWEST HOTEL HAS A LOT OF HISTORY
It's big news that the prestigious Raffles hotel chain is opening its third European hotel in the Polish capital later this summer - more so when you consider that the location is the iconic Hotel Europejski. First opened in 1857, it was one of the most luxurious hotels in the Russian Empire. Having hosted German soldiers during World War II, it was virtually destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising. The Orbis Hotel chain took it over in 1959 and gave it one of Warsaw's most recognisable neon signs. Now, after being closed for four years, it's ready to welcome new guests to stay in its 103 stylish suites.
23.EUROPE HAS SOME VERY CURIOUS LAWS
For example, it's illegal to sell E.T. dolls in France (dolls must have human faces), pee in the sea in Portugal or bemoan the lack of sun during Sweden's winter. Though apparently it's an urban myth that Scrabble is illegal in Romania.
24.THE SEA IS GOOD FOR WINE
At Edivo Winery, north of Dubrovnik, the wine spends two years under the sea in clay urns. The urns give the wine a pinewood aroma and the water not only cools, but also insulates against vibrations.
25.BELGIUM BOASTS MORE COMIC-MAKERS THAN ANYWHERE ELSE
Besides beer and chocolate, Belgium has another, lesser-known claim to fame: it has more comic-strip artists per square kilometre than any other country in the world.
According to the Belgian Comic Strip Center - a Brussels institution that houses permanent exhibitions on Tintin's creator, HergÃ©, as well as a comic-book library - there are more than 700 cartoonists resident in the country. The so-called âninth art' is celebrated every September during the capital's Comic Book Festival and visitors can take part in tours of the âcomic book route' - more than 40 city-centre murals commemorating favourite Belgian characters, including Olivier Rameau, Ric Hochet and Gaston Lagaffe.
Marnix Verduyn, aka cartoonist Nix, was recently invited to add a mural to the route. Kinky & Cosy - his darkly funny series about weird twin sisters - is so popular here there's even a street renamed after them. Nix says les bande dessinÃ©e are an integral part of Belgian life. âAll Belgian children grow up reading comic books. It used to be Tintin, The Smurfs and Gaston Lagaffe, now it's Urbanus, Game Over or Cowboy Henk. Comics are an important part of our culture.â Many Belgian universities offer degree courses in graphic storytelling and most national newspapers print comics. âWe're a small country, but we're strong in humour.â