My name is Caitlin Collins, and I am living in the fascinating city of Berlin. After graduating from the University of Texas at Dallas with a degree in Business Entrepreneurship, I embarked on a five-month backpacking trip across Europe. It was here that I fell in love with photography. I loved getting to share photos with friends and family back home, with the hope of inspiring their wanderlust within. I love exploring new places and cultures along with learning new photography techniques. I’m happiest when I’m in nature and exploring the never-ending wonders of the world. In the meantime, I’m trying to inspire my 50.000 followers on Instagram.
After living in Berlin for 2 years now, I still feel like I’m on a never-ending holiday. There is an almost overwhelming amount of things to see or do. Even if the weather is grey and raining there is still never a shortage of exciting things to experience. The culturally and historically rich city is thriving with art galleries, street art, artisan cafes, lakes, parks, rivers, and anything your heart desires.
Nature in Berlin
Berlin is one of the greenest cities in the world and has some great bike lines — I cycle and walk pretty much everywhere. When you are landing in Berlin you can see the vast green forest and lakes that surround the city from above. From almost any direction in the city you can be at a lake within 30 minutes.
This fall I am rocking my new KEEN Terradora waterproof boots. The best part about having a sturdy boot is that you can go a lot further without having to worry about your feet hurting. The waterproof part is also a must, considering I live in a sometimes very rainy city like Berlin. They’re casual enough to walk around the city in but supportive enough to go on those lake hikes outside of town.
Berlin is the perfect city to implement KEEN’s TrailFit movement that is empowering women to push themselves to greater challenges and pursue a healthy and active lifestyle, whether it be in a big city or out in nature itself. I love just setting out in Berlin without a plan, to wander and explore new districts. My first favorite TrailFit activity is jumping on the S Bahn to head down to Potsdam. The charming village is right outside of Berlin and has gorgeous green parks, giant palaces, and adorable German architecture. After exploring the enchanting town and nature, you can bike to Wannsee which even has a sandy lake front beach where you can take a dip. On your way back to Berlin you can bike through thick forest-lined bike trails to Teufelsberg, a former radar station dating back to the Cold War. It is covered in brilliant street art and has panoramic views over Berlin.
If you’re looking for a nice place to jog around or have a picnic, Berlin has never ending options. Another #TrailFit option is exploring Berlin’s Tiergarten which is a massive park with forest, fields to lounge in, delightful gardens and canals, along with one of my favorite Biergartens, Café am Neuen See. This is the perfect spot to grab a beer or a traditional candle lit German meal. You can also take out red paddle boats to explore the pond. On the other side of town is Volksspark Friedrichshain, where I frequently jog. The sprawling park has several hills and never-ending stairs —a great place to get a workout in. It’s also a popular place for birthday parties and BBQs. In the warmer months, the Berliners flock to this park to lay out in hopes of getting some Vitamin D.
Restaurants and Cafés in Berlin
As a food photographer in Berlin, I could go on and on about the endlessly brilliant gastronomy scene in Berlin. Two of my favorite spots to take friends when we all want something different is the Turkish Market in Kreuzkölln or Markthalle 9, which is filled with pop-up food stands, flower shops, bakeries, and fresh produce. Both places are super close to the canal, which is one of my favorite spots for an afternoon jog. From the trails around the canal you can watch people kayak, fish, and even swim in the warmer months. A favorite newbie on the Berlin food scene is Selig, a gorgeous cafe connected to an old church in Neukölln. It’s super close to Tempelhofer Feld, no longer an airport but now a massive place for people to bike, kite, and have a BBQ. Warschauer Straße in Friedrichshain is a booming neighborhood to try trendy restaurants.
Khwan serves regional Thai flavors and welcomes you to eat with your hands. They have a wood-fired pit that makes you drool from miles away. The authentic experience isn’t to be missed. Down the street is another favorite, Santa Cantina. The Mexican Fusion restaurant puts a creative twist on the cuisine using things like hibiscus flowers and strawberries. On Mondays they have a Laksa night where they serve spicy Malaysian soup and delectable cocktails. From Warschauer I always love taking my bike around the Spree. There is an incredible mixture of old meets new architecture, and it’s the perfect place to ride around and get to know the city.
The coffee culture in Berlin is world acclaimed. Coffee lovers from all over the world move here to take their shot in opening a hip coffee shop. THE BARN Café is well known for its dedication to the coffee where they roast in-house from sustainably farmed beans. Don’t bother ordering a cup of coffee with milk here. They want you to taste the flavors uncompromised. Bonanza Coffee near the famous Mauer Park is another great stop for a remarkable cup of coffee. Not to mention, if you’re a bit of a coffee newbie like myself, it is fascinating to go in and admire all of the equipment used and sold for coffee production.
From here you can cross the street and walk all around Mauer Park (the best day to go is Sunday) and listen to live karaoke, eat all kinds of hip food at the food trucks, or browse the massive flea market for antique finds. Father Carpenter Coffee, located inside a stunning courtyard in Mitte, serves coffee along with delectable and hearty brunch plates. Another favorite is Roamers, tucked away in a neighborhood near Hermannplatz in Neukölln. The cafe has a rustic farmhouse feel, plays good ole’ American bluegrass and country jams, and is filled with Californian plants and succulents. It’s a tiny cafe but it’s worth the wait.
Berlin doesn’t have a shortage of places to get a drink with some epic views. Klunkerkranich is mysteriously found on the top of the Arkaden mall in Neukölln. You’ll be wandering up the parking garage thinking, there is no way there is a bar up here. Then you’ll get to the top and see some of the best views of Berlin. The compound feeling bar typically has DJs or live music, along with plenty of lounge area and the best views of the city. I love to go around sunset when the sky illuminates and the city starts to sparkle. Monkey Bar, found at the top of Berlin’s 25 Hours Hotel, is a swanky bar with fancy cocktails and views over the Zoo and City West. There is usually a DJ and no entry fee to get in. If you want to impress your guests, here’s your shot. I typically love to take them on a long walk through the Tiergarten before heading up to the bar. That way you feel like you’ve worked hard for your cocktails. Last but not least, SKYBAR, at the top of Vienna House Andel’s Berlin Hotel. With a straight shot of the TV Tower, you’re 65 meters high about the city. The retro and colorful furniture design makes you feel like you’re back in a futuristic version of the ‘60s, and the drinks take a funky twist on mixology.
Shopping in Berlin
Berlin has all of your typical big malls and chain stores, but what true Berliners love about the city are all the thrift shops and vintage finds. The neighborhood of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg are filled with incredible shops to browse. If you’re looking for something a bit fancier you can head over to Bikini Berlin, a mall which is the world’s first concept shopping mall. It is carefully curated with small boutiques, pop ups, and told of young local designers. Another place my friends and I frequent on Sundays is Mauerpark. They have a giant flea market where you can find all sorts of antique furniture, clothing stands, jewelry, or vintage art and maps. In the back there are tons of local food trucks, and next door is the giant park with karaoke, spontaneous Berlin techno music, and the best place in the city to people watch.
Berlin’s Movies and Museums
Berlin is filled with tiny quaint movie theaters and packed with endless museums and art galleries. Don’t worry, there are also loads of places to see movies in English. My all-time favorite theatre in the city is Hackesche Höfe Kino. It’s an old vintage theatre that looks like it hasn’t changed since the ‘20s. It’s at the top of a building in the most gorgeous courtyard in the city. I also love going to Potsdamer Platz for a flick (and salty popcorn, a rarity in Germany). The massive courtyard is brilliantly designed, and you could stand in awe of the architecture for hours. For another authentic experience you can wander down to Karl-Marx-Straße in Neukölln to the Passage Kino. The tiny (but comfortable) room looks like they are about to draw back the red curtains for a play. It’s a lovely experience.
Museum Island is one of my most beloved places in Berlin. I love jogging around there in the evenings as the sun sets while a regular to the bridge plays her accordion that echoes along the river. This little island is packed with all kinds of museums along the Spree and a great place to spend a rainy day. I also love to be a tourist sometimes in my own city and take the Museum Island river cruise around to admire the architecture. Outside of here, I always take people to the Berlin Wall Memorial. It is a beautiful stroll through Mitte where you can view giant old black and white images from 1961 when the wall was built followed by interesting text along your walk. Once you get to the end of the pathway you can see an old part of the wall along with one of the only 3 watch towers left. Across the street is where you’ll find the museum (free entrance) and can watch videos of the era and learn more about the history. I’ve gone about 10 times and still find it fascinating.