Berlin: Europe’s coolest city
By Gavin Jewkes, 14 August 2014
Berlin has worked hard to earn its reputation as a nefarious playground filled with leather-clad techno kids chomping down currywurst and the occasional schnitzel. But, as anyone who’s been there can tell you, there is so much more to the German capital than hedonistic nightlife, underground sex clubs and, of course, a rich cultural and political history. In fact, those are just a few of the reasons it deserves your attention and air miles.
Here’s your cheat sheet to everything a sartorially aware chap like yourself needs to know about Europe’s coolest city, and why it’s the place to see out your summer in style.
Berlin may not have the pulling power of London, New York, Paris and Milan in terms of attracting top designers to show at its biannual fashion weeks. But it’s where Karl Lagerfeld, creative director at Chanel, and menswear favourite Jil Sander cut their teeth, so naturally the place is hardwired with style. Berlin also happens to have the best shopping in mainland Europe, boasting the continent’s biggest department store, KaDeWe. And for more intrepid shoppers, the bohemian neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain offer the kind of designer and independent boutiques you might find in London. Just that bit cooler.
Fashion draws influence from a variety of cultural touchpoints; for instance, ASOS Menswear’s latest trend is inspired by Berlin’s modernist architecture, specifically the buildings of the Bauhaus movement. Now, you won’t necessarily see Berliners marching the streets dressed as utopian 20s apartment blocks. But you should be able to recognise how the structures that have risen from the city’s streets have been translated into a range of graphic prints, neoprene bombers and oversized coats for you to load up your wardrobe with.
You don’t have to scratch too far beneath Berlin’s graffiti-covered surface to unearth über-cool places to explore and get drunk in. Not only is it home to loads of awesome city parks (some of which have a refreshingly welcoming approach to nudism), it has also wicked nightlife. Head to the legendary Berghain if a night of pounding techno, expensive drinks and supremely hard-to-please bouncers is up your strasse. Otherwise, there’s loads of hip places to hang out in Kreuzburg, Charlottenburg and Friedrichshain. The most civilised way to enjoy a sunny summer’s evening in Berlin, however, is probably to pitch up at one of its bankside bars, overlooking the river Spree – where great views, people-watching and food come as standard.