Where to stay in Berlin: A guide to Berlin's neighbourhoods

Where to stay in Berlin: A guide to Berlin's neighbourhoods

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Whether you seek cafe culture, vibrant nightlife, arts, green neighbourhoods or cheaper-than-normal rent, this guide explains where to stay in Berlin's various eclectic neighbourhoods.

Where are the best areas to stay in Berlin? Whether you're looking for hotels or homes to rent in Berlin, you'll find plenty of choice, price ranges and distinct neighbourhood atmospheres. Immense urban renewal projects have thrown up enormous buildings alongside gentrification of public areas, irrevocably altering old neighbourhoods to become trendy and popular neighbourhoods to live in Berlin.

Yet many of the city's districts and suburbs still retain their distinctive character and charm. Although it's been over 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell, you can still see the marks of four decades of division on the city's architecture and infrastructures of the city.

Historically, renting in Berlin has always had lower house prices than other major European capital cities, although this depends on which Berlin neighbourhoods you choose. Prices have been rising recently in certain Berlin neighbourhoods but you may be surprised by what you can afford if you're coming from popular capital cities such as London or Amsterdam. You can also consider where to stay in Berlin's outlying suburbs if more space, tranquility or cheaper prices are important.

Below is a guide to the top Berlin neighbourhoods and where to stay in Berlin.

Where to stay in Berlin: Neighbourhoods great for nightlife and culture

Mitte

This neighbourhood is at the centre of Berlin, and the area home to the city's most famous landmarks, several major embassies and the seat of the German government. The Berlin Metropolitan School, the Berlin Cosmopolitan School and the Berlin Kids International School are all based here, giving both families and young professionals a reason to love having a centrally located property. It is also a happening neighbourhood with trendy cafes, shopping streets and art galleries.

Guide to Mitte neighbourhood:

  • Location: the geographical centre of Berlin.
  • Housing costs: expensive, typically EUR 700–1,500 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
  • Commuting options: extensive bus, train and metro services. Cycling is also possible. Driving is not recommended.
  • Cars: Parking is limited and typically expensive. Few offices or homes will have parking. Traffic is typically dense.
  • Recreation: All of Berlin is at your feet, with restaurants, theatres, music venues and more within a kilometre or two. The Tiergarten, a large city park, hosts many events as well as being a pleasant place to meet or exercise.
  • Shopping: Shops of all kinds with a large shopping centre at Alexanderplatz. Food shopping is limited to smaller supermarkets and specialist stores.
  • Neighbourhood: dense urban neighbourhood and housing primarily apartments, many made up of old town houses and without an elevator.

Rent in Mitte, Berlin

Pankow

As housing quality and rents go up, the students and artists who once dominated this district have been moving farther out, replaced primarily by young, urban professionals. Pankow has a bit of everything, from a vintage and second-hand market to museums to trendy bars and clubs. It's also home to the Isaac Newton International School.

Guide to Pankow neighbourhood:

  • Location: stretches from Prenzlauer Berg, adjacent to Mitte, to Berlin's north-east city limits.
  • Housing costs: more expensive closer to Mitte, from EUR 300–1,500 for a two-bedroom apartment.
  • Commuting options: buses, trains and metro are common. Cycling is popular and driving is possible.
  • Cars: Farther from Mitte parking is easier. Main roads funnel workers to the city centre, but traffic is typically congested.
  • Recreation: something for everyone from outdoor activities in the Naturpark Barnim to the north through to nightclubs and bars closer to Berlin Mitte.
  • Shopping: a mix of practical shops, small supermarkets and quirky, independent stores.
  • Neighbourhood: working-class area being gentrified, with many buildings under renovation and prices rising.


Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

These two neighbourhoods have been joined to make one district. Formerly part of East Berlin, artistic Friedrichshain is now joined with working-class West Berlin's Kreuzberg and both are going through regeneration. Much of the old housing stock is crumbling but increasingly being bought and redeveloped. Although the area is in transition, it retains its independent, artistic vibe.

Guide to Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg neighbourhood:

  • Location: directly south and east of Berlin Mitte.
  • Housing costs: varies enormously depending on the age of building and location. Typically EUR 600–1,000 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
  • Commuting options: buses, metro and cycling are popular, and there are some trains. Driving is typically difficult.
  • Cars: Parking is limited and expensive. Few buildings have dedicated parking.
  • Recreation: quirky cafes, art galleries, including the Berlin Wall art park Mauerpark, and music venues add to the bohemian atmosphere. Spreewaldplatz is a taste of the outdoors in an otherwise very urban area.
  • Shopping: primarily small, independent shops and low-budget chain stores.
  • Neighbourhood: in transition and much development underway; large foreign communities.

Where to live in Berlin: Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

Where to stay in Berlin: Great for families

Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf

An upmarket district in former West Berlin, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf has been popular with English-speaking expats since the end of World War II. It's home to the British School, and its pleasant streets and numerous parks make it a popular choice for families.

Guide to Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf neighbourhood:

  • Location: directly west of Berlin Mitte.
  • Housing costs: more expensive, typically EUR 800–1,400 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
  • Commuting options: numerous bus and metro services, and some trains. Cycling or walking are also possible.
  • Cars: Parking is generally difficult and expensive. Few homes or businesses have dedicated parking. Traffic is often congested.
  • Recreation: five-star restaurants and concerts at Charlottenburg Castle mix with mainstream cinemas and take-aways. The extensive Teufelsfenn park provides outdoor recreation.
  • Shopping: designer clothing boutiques and specialist food stores dominate, especially around Kurfürstendamm.
  • Neighbourhood: large townhouses and apartments, typically good housing stock. It's a very walkable neighbourhood.


Tempelhof-Schöneberg

Home to the Berlin and Alexander von Humboldt International Schools, and with easy access to the Berlin Brandenburg International School (BBIS) in Potsdam, Tempelhof-Schöneberg is a great choice for expat families. The area is suburban and surrounded by countryside, making it easy to get out and play. Tempelhof Airport is now a public park, with children's activities and safe areas to play, cycle and skate.

Guide to Tempelhof-Schöneberg neighbourhood:

  • Location: between Berlin Mitte and Potsdam, in south-west Berlin.
  • Housing costs: moderate, around EUR 1,000 per month for a three-bedroom house.
  • Commuting options: Metro, bus and train routes connect this suburb to the city centre. Driving and cycling are also popular.
  • Cars: Many houses have on-street parking or a driveway. Traffic is often congested at peak periods.
  • Recreation: easy access to the cultural centres of Berlin and Potsdam.
  • Shopping: mainly chain stores and shopping malls, with some clusters of independent shops.
  • Neighbourhood: largely residential, with a mix of apartment buildings and houses with gardens.

Where to live in Berlin: Tempelhof-Schöneberg

Spandau

A historic quarter, Spandau has a mix of highly ornamental historic buildings, converted 19th-century housing and more modern apartments. The old town is a popular tourist destination, while the surrounding areas are full of charming and quiet residential streets. It is also home to the Villa Amelienhof English-language school.

Guide to Spandau neighbourhood:

  • Location: north-west Berlin.
  • Housing costs: moderate, around EUR 1,000 per month for a three-bedroom house.
  • Commuting options: Bus, train and metro lines run through the area. Cycling and driving are also common.
  • Cars: Many houses have parking as do newer apartment blocks. Driving is generally simpler than in the centre.
  • Recreation: Cultural events and concerts happen in the centre. There are also many sport and leisure areas, including the running, biking and hiking trails in Spandauer forest.
  • Shopping: traditional shopping in the old town, with the largest pedestrian area in Berlin and more than 160 shops.
  • Neighbourhood: Residential and industrial areas are largely separate, with idyllic streets an easy commute from several major businesses.


Great for students and tight budgets

Lichtenberg

Primarily a residential district in former East Berlin, Lichtenberg neighbourhoods tend to be quiet and cheap. As a result, they're often home to immigrants and working-class Germans. Farther from the centre, living space expands and there are more houses with gardens. The traffic eases as well, making it ideal if your work is outside the city but you still want access to the centre.

Guide to Lichtenberg neighbourhood:

  • Location: a long (north-south), narrow district in eastern Berlin.
  • Housing costs: affordable, cheaper farther from Mitte, typically EUR 300–800 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
  • Commuting options: Buses and the metro connect the area to the rest of Berlin. The train station has international trains, primarily to eastern Europe.
  • Cars: Houses often have on-street parking and businesses tend to have some parking for workers and customers.
  • Recreation: There are many small parks and river walks, independent restaurants and one of Europe's largest zoos, the Tierpark.
  • Shopping: Chain stores and supermarkets are common, with several large shopping malls scattered around.
  • Neighbourhood: primarily residential, often low-density. Single-family houses are more common in this part of Berlin.

Where to live in Berlin: Lichtenberg

Neukölln

Part of the former American sector, Neukölln still has a high population of foreigners and a strong Turkish community. The neighbourhood has gone dramatically up-market since the closing of Tempelhof Airport. The empty runways are now a public park, and the ideal place to roller-skate, cycle or skateboard.

Guide to Neukölln neighbourhood:

  • Location: south-east Berlin.
  • Housing costs: moderate, typically EUR 400–800 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
  • Commuting options: Buses and metro connect the area to the rest of Berlin. Cycling is also popular.
  • Cars: Few buildings have dedicated parking, and streets are often narrow and congested.
  • Recreation: Tempelhof is a centre for outdoor pursuits, as well as concerts and more. Small galleries, theatres and nightclubs dot the area.
  • Shopping: independent designers, vintage fairs and farmer's markets, alongside small supermarkets and chain stores.
  • Neighbourhood: formerly a rough neighbourhood undergoing gentrification.


Where to stay in Berlin: Great for peace and quiet

Reinickendorf

Formerly an industrial area, Reinickendorf is still home to a number of large businesses. The district is largely residential, with housing for workers at all levels, from low-cost housing to large homes with big gardens. Some areas can be rough, so it's best to visit in the evening as well to get a real feel for the atmosphere of a street. Nearby residents can wander around Lake Tegel, the second largest lake in Berlin.

Guide to Reinickendorf neighbourhood:

  • Location: north-west Berlin.
  • Housing costs: moderate, typically around EUR 1,000–1,500 per month for a three-bedroom house.
  • Commuting options: Bikes, buses and the metro take you to the centre. Driving is popular for workers in the nearby factories.
  • Cars: Most houses have on-street parking or driveways. Rush hour can cause severe congestion.
  • Recreation: a quiet neighbourhood with some good restaurants and scattered entertainments including cinemas, with extensive forest and lake areas nearby.
  • Shopping: primarily chain stores and supermarkets.
  • Neighbourhood: mainly residential, with clusters of large, detached houses and dense housing estates.

Where to live in Berlin: Reinickendorf

Treptow-Köpenick

Looking at a map, this district seems to be half forest. It's a leafy, almost rural setting while still being part of Berlin, and only a 30-minute commute from the city centre. Numerous streams, rivers and lakes run through the area. The district is divided into smaller communities, many very quiet and peaceful, others with a bit more vibrancy.

Guide to Treptow-Köpenick neighbourhood:

  • Location: south-east Berlin.
  • Housing costs: low, typically EUR 800–1,000 per month for a three-bedroom house.
  • Commuting options: Train, bus and metro lines serve the area, but many communities are somewhat isolated. A car or bike can be useful.
  • Cars: Parking is typically easy and free, and traffic is usually low.
  • Recreation: The FEZ leisure park has activities for children and adults. There are also numerous beaches and forest areas, so it's easy to get in touch with nature.
  • Shopping: primarily large shopping malls, with some small-town style shopping streets.
  • Neighbourhood: almost rural, with many homes with large gardens set back from the road, with some areas of denser neighbourhoods.


Where to stay in Berlin: Great for being active

Marzahn-Hellersdorf

A working-class neighbourhood in former East Berlin, Marzahn-Hellersdorf retains a significant proportion of Soviet-era architecture. The area is scattered with parks, canals and rivers, and is edged by farmland and forest to the east. Although this is still very much part of Berlin, it's easy to get outdoors. Golf, rock climbing, hiking and other sports facilities are available.

Guide to Marzahn-Hellersdorf neighbourhood:

  • Location: at the eastern edge of Berlin.
  • Housing costs: affordable, typically EUR 300–600 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
  • Commuting options: Metro, bus and train lines take you to the city centre. Driving is possible.
  • Cars: Many houses have on-street or driveway parking. Driving typically smooth outside rush hour.
  • Recreation: numerous parks, as well as charming family-run restaurants, cinemas and the odd theatre or music venue.
  • Shopping: primarily chain stores, malls and supermarkets, with clusters of small, independent shops.
  • Neighbourhood: largely residential and typically quiet, with a mix of Soviet-era high-rise apartments and village-style houses.

Where to live in Berlin: Marzahn-Hellersdorf

Steglitz-Zehlendorf

Within easy reach of the capital, many homes in Steglitz-Zehlendorf are nestled among lakes and forests. The area is large and varied, including industrial areas, outlet malls and surprisingly wild areas in its catchment. It's a great area to investigate if you love the outdoors, perhaps want to keep animals, but also value being within 30-40 minutes of both Berlin and Potsdam.

Guide to Steglitz-Zehlendorf neighbourhood:

  • Location: south-west Berlin, near Potsdam.
  • Housing costs: moderate, typically around EUR 1,000–1,500 per month for a three-bedroom house.
  • Commuting options: Buses, metro and trains serve the area, but may require a car or bike to reach the station.
  • Cars: Most homes have parking and driving is common.
  • Recreation: watersports, from sailing to sunbathing, on the lakes and rivers as well as golf, horse riding and more in the forests, with some cinemas and leisure centres.
  • Shopping: scattered supermarkets, malls and big box stores, and some small-town style shopping areas.
  • Neighbourhood: ranges from clusters of apartments to mansions in the forest.


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Photo credits: sfreimark (Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg), Oh-Berlin.com (Tempelhof-Schöneberg, Lichtenberg, Reinickendorf, Marzahn-Hellersdorf), Böhm/Stadtmuseum Berlin via Wikimedia Commons (Mitte), BenBuschfeld via Wikimedia Commons (thumbnail).

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