How to Get Your Arts and Culture Fix in Berlin

April 25, 2016

Georgina Sykes brings us on a tour of Berlin's vibrant arts scene with five top theatre, gallery and street art recommendations.

A city full of creativity, inspiration and originality, Berlin boasts more than 100 art galleries as well as a thriving fringe theatre and arthouse cinema scene. From experimental live performances to countless corners of street art, Berlin can provide your arts fix, whatever your passion or budget. Make sure you squeeze at least one of these into your Berlin city break.

Volksbühne Berlin

People watching a show on the stage.

A five minute hop from Alexanderplatz on the U-Bahn leaves the commercial Mitte behind, and starts to creep into the hip Prenzlauer Berg. Right next to Rosa Luxemberg Platz, on a street dotted with artisan beer bars, an ultra-modern design store, and a few restaurants and cafés, is the imposing and incredibly impressive Volksbühne. Originally built in 1913, the Volksbühne, or ‘peoples theatre’, was set to make theatre ticket prices affordable to the common worker. Now, the theatre described as ‘the most exciting stage in Germany’ is home to an incredible programme of contemporary European work. Follow the gaggle of hipsters, arts enthusiasts and academics, and enjoy an excellent evening of experimental performance, which may or may not include sitting on gigantic beanbags and being handed free shots of Sambuca. Check out what’s on beforehand, and expect the shows to come without English subtitles. The box office has quite limited opening hours, from 12 to 6 p.m., so make sure you book your tickets in advance. Tickets cost around 18 euros for an adult, with discounted rates for students.

Kunst Werke Institute for Contemporary Art

Contemporary art museum and gallery.

Down an unassuming Mitte street, just a seven-minute walk from Oranienburger Tor U-Bahn, is contemporary art institution the Kunst Werke. Originally an old margarine factory, the institution was founded by a bunch of artists and students in the 1990s. The institution, contrary to tradition, hosts a changing programme of exciting contemporary art exhibitions. Expect a warren of rooms, spaces, staircases and curtains over five floors, including film, installation and sculpture to name a few. You can easily enjoy a couple of hours taking in the myriad of sights and sounds, but if you need refreshments the impressive glass Café Bravo is within the gallery courtyard. Tickets cost 6 euros, and the gallery is open from 12 to 7 p.m. Wednesday to Monday, and 12 to 9 p.m. on Thursday.

East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery along the banks of the River Spree in Friedrichshain.

Along the banks of the River Spree in Friedrichshain is the incredibly iconic East Side Gallery. Known as an international memorial for freedom, the 1.3 kilometre stretch of the Berlin Wall, originally dividing the East of the city from the West, is now home to 101 images. Take a stroll along what is thought to be the world’s largest open air gallery. It’s incredible and it’s free.

Bauhaus Archive

The Bauhaus Archive  in Berlin.

Design, design, design. If design is your thing, then the Bauhaus Archive is totally for you. Just a ten minute bus ride on the M29 from Checkpoint Charlie heads towards the west of the city and stops right opposite the Bauhaus. Stop for lunch in the reasonably priced Bauhaus Café on site, before taking time wandering around the collection. Bauhaus, founded in Germany in 1919, was a hugely influential school of art, architecture and design that combined crafts with fine art. Wander around the exhibition and take in inspiring geometric designs from sculpture, to print, to furniture. Feel inspired in the shop and try not to blow your whole holiday budget on some stunning geometric salad bowls. The Bauhaus Archive and Café are open Wednesday to Monday, from 10 to 5 p.m.

Kreuzberg Street Art

view across the water and of the Molecule Men statue.

Ahh Kreuzberg, the hipster capital of Berlin. You can easily spend a whole day here checking out the coffee shops, renting a bike, brunching or updating your wardrobe. But no trip to Kreuzberg is complete without a full on fix of street art. After hitting the East Side Gallery, cross the river and wander down Falckensteinstrasse for some great examples, take a photo with The Cosmonaut of Marianennstrasse and work out the political influence behind the famous mural by artist Blu on the corner of Curvystrasse and Schlesische Strasse.

Georgina Sykes
After a year living in Hong Kong, Georgie is now writing from the UK with an ever-increasing bucket list of European destinations to visit. Next up is Croatia, Italy and Austria... so many places, so little time! Follow her on Twitter @ggeorgiesykes