In the last few years, Berlin has become a magnet for people who want to start a new life and a new career. Now more than ever before, people from all over the world are moving here to try their luck. In the beginning it was mostly people who had already been here before and were somehow in the know about the infrastructure of the city. But things have changed. The city has evolved and the type of people who come here have changed, too.
With iHeartBerlin, we have always tried to give a bit of guidance both for those who live here, but also for those who are new in town or are planning to come here, either for having a good time, or for starting a new job or university program. While we are mostly giving advice in terms of places and events, what’s been missing here is some general guidance to the process of moving here, including choosing the right district, finding an apartment, getting the basic stuff for the house and how to get around town. These are all important parts of your own Berlin story and today we would like to contribute to that.
After the jump we will give you some basic advice about moving to Berlin.
1) Choose Your District
Depending on your personal preferences and the location of your job or university, the choice of district is quite an essential one. Every area has certain qualities that might be appealing to one person but annoying for another, so we want to give you a little overview. We’ll focus on the more central districts that are within the S-Bahn Ring (the circular line of trains that go around the city center).
Neukölln, photo: Sascha Kohlmann
For the majority of our younger readers, the districts of Neukölln and Kreuzberg are probably the most interesting. These districts are hubs for youth culture, nightlife and creativity and they already host a large community of foreigners living there. The infrastructure of both districts is amazing, especially for foreigners, but it can get very busy and loud, especially the areas of Oranienstraße, Schlesisches Tor and Weserstraße. These are magnets for party tourism. If you like to be surrounded by a lot of bars, vintage shops, hip cafes and urban hang outs, these are definitely your kind of places.
The contrasting districts are Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg. Apart from the really touristic and commercial areas in the West and South of Mitte, there is still really nice residential areas in the North of Mitte around Rosenthaler Platz that attracts a maybe more commercially established yet creative kind of crowd. They have some of the best restaurants and shops in town there. Prenzlauer Berg can be considered the more tranquil and family-oriented version of this.
Mitte, Rosenthaler Platz
The districts of Gesundbrunnen, Wedding and Moabit are a little bit like the Northern counterpart to Neukölln. It’s a bit old-style Berlin meets Little Turkey and depending on the area, this can be more or less urban. Wedding in particular has been coined as the next trending area, but due to lack of centralized infrastructure this hasn’t fully happened yet, which might be a good thing, because it’s way less gentrified compared to Neukölln, and yet there is still an interesting scene of young, international and local creatives spread out over the district.
Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf are the big central districts of former West Berlin. They have a lot of the main tourist sights and shopping areas right in the middle of them, but they also have a couple of interesting more residential areas that are fancier and more glamorous than the hip districts on the other side of the city. It’s a little bit more of a grown-up world over there, but this is a good thing if you want to be away from all the fuzz.
Charlottenburg, photo: Alicia Kassebohm
Schöneberg is a little two-faced as it has some more fancy areas such as Winterfeldtplatz and Akazienstraße on the one end and the very artsy and more urban Potsdamer Straße on the other. The latter area especially has become a hub for the Berlin art scene.
Last but not least is Friedrichshain, the most Eastern district of the center. A lot of clubs and nightlife hubs are located here in a very condensed area, giving the district a very pulsating vibe, especially at night. It’s a quite gentrified area; I know a lot of people who either love or hate it. I think it has an amazing infrastructure and if you can overlook (or simply enjoy) the strong party tourism, this is a great option too.
Friedrichshain, Urban Spree Galerie
Of course all districts have different areas inside of them that can be more of this and less of that; I’m speaking more in general terms here to give you an impression.
2) Find a House
Finding a nice apartment used to be such a breeze in Berlin. I remember a time around 2005 or ’06 when a landlord would basically charm me to get me to sign the lease and even give into my demands of making changes to the contract. Well, let’s just say times have changed since then… Now the best chances of getting a great house is through friends. Apart from that, the most usual channels would be using real estate websites such as ImmoScout or WG Gesucht to find apartments or rooms. But be prepared to be standing with shitloads of other applicants at the visit or interview. If you want it more easy, you can also go through agencies or websites that arrange for long-term subleases.
One quite new example in this field is nestpick. They offer apartments and rooms for long term rent in many European cities, including Berlin. Their website comes in 6 European languages, which makes this sensitive task more easy for foreigners. You’ll find homes in all the major districts of Berlin and the process of booking them is easy.
3) Make Yourself at Home
Once you’ve found your new nest and settled in, it’s time to make it your home. Berlin has a lot of options in different price ranges in terms of interior design and home accessories. We want to give you a few examples of where you can get original and nice stuff for you new house.
If you are looking for stuff for your kitchen, you should head over to the Küchenliebe shop in Friedrichshain or to their booth at Markthalle 9 in Kreuzberg. They have all the kitchen equipment and ceramics that you could need.
New house, new bed, new sheets! The small Berlin-based label bermuda has super-original bed sheets and pillows and they also have shower curtains. You can get their charming products at the pop-up store in Neukölln at Reuterstr. 53, which will be open until the end of September 2015.
To decorate your walls, we recommend the brand new shop Schee, which offers a big variety of unique fine art prints (framed and unframed) as well as other decorative home accessories. Your walls and shelves will definitely feel more alive with some of these lovely things.
4) Getting Around
Berlin is quite efficient when it comes to transportation. The public transport network is one of the best in the world – you will be able to get almost anywhere with no problem with trains, trams and buses. For some things like going out to the lakes, a car would come in handy, and if you don’t own one, there are lots of cheap options to rent one over the weekend or use one of the many care-sharing services.
But if you want to be a real Berliner, you will need a bike. Berlin is quite flat and the traffic is quite moderate, which make it the perfect city for riding a bike. And especially in the Spring and Summer – everybody does. There are many options for bikes: you can go the fancy way and buy a beautiful fixie (but you better take good care of it and buy super-safe locks for these) or you go the easy way and buy a used bike at one of the many bike shops or at the flea markets.
A little advice: In Germany the police can be quite strict with cyclists. So make sure you have functioning lights on your bike, don’t ride on the sidewalk and don’t run red traffic lights. In other countries, you might never get into trouble for this, but here in Germany you might get fined or even lose your drivers license!
5) Start your Story in Berlin
Now that you are settled in, it’s time to start your own story in Berlin! Go out and discover the city. In the summer, there are plenty of lakes, parks, open air cinemas, outdoor locations and activities to enjoy. The number of great restaurants and cafes will never leave you hungry. There are heaps of galleries and museums to visit and there is always something going on at night, so you have no chance to ever get bored.
When it comes to education and career, Berlin also has a lot to offer. If you don’t already speak the language, you should check out some of the schools where you can learn German – this will really come in handy in the long term (and it might become necessary for any formalities or business matters). Germans also love to learn other languages, so if you want a more personal language experience, you will easily find a tandem partner with whom you can teach each other the respective language.
In the few past years, Berlin has developed into a hub for the start-up scene. There are a lot of good resources and opportunities here that range from support programs from the government to accelerators of big companies that support young businesses. There is lots of office space, people from all over the world with different languages and skills, and an audience eager to try out new things. It’s the perfect playground for ideas of any kind. It’s all up to you what you make of it 😉
We hope this little guide was a good introduction for you. Of course there is so much more to say on the topic and we will make sure to cover more of this soon, so stay tuned!
Thanks for the support by nestpick