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Kreuzberg: Berlin´s Iconic and Cool Neighborhood

I am a Norwegian writer with careers within art, design, history, tourism and journalism. My second home is in a small village in Spain.

Facades with beautifully decorated friezes along the upper part of the walls, climbing green plants and graffiti. Kreuzberg is packed with small unique shops, cafes, restaurants and galleries.

Facades with beautifully decorated friezes along the upper part of the walls, climbing green plants and graffiti. Kreuzberg is packed with small unique shops, cafes, restaurants and galleries.

One of Europe’s most hipster neighborhoods

As one of Europe´s most hipster neighborhoods, Kreuzberg is Berlin´s zone of tolerance with its mecca of alternative pubs, street art, small shops, galleries, markets and always some upcoming concerts. A cool and rebellious neighborhood which seems to never sleep.

 The Spree River and the Rundfunk tower seen from Schilligbrücke which connect the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district located south of Mitte.

The Spree River and the Rundfunk tower seen from Schilligbrücke which connect the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district located south of Mitte.

Berlin: a multicultural metropolis

Berlin is an enormously large city. Not only in extent, but also in content. Geographically the city is nine times bigger than Paris. The city dates back to the 13th century, and culturally it has an infinite mixture of what was, is and is predicted to come.

The city is divided into 12 different administrative districts with Mitte as its central and most urban looking neighborhood. Many tourists do not leave this area as it is packed with must-see sights as the Reichstag, Brandenburger Tor and a lot of shops and restaurants.

But do not loose the experience of the other areas' lovely uniqueness and personality, whether they border the Grunewald Forest or the banks of The River Spree. Leave your high-heeled shoes at home if you want to get to know the city. The distances are large, so use the well-functioning metro system, or jump on a double-decker when walking feels too overwhelming.

In this article I head for Kreuzberg and its vibrating uniqueness and lively atmosphere.

The slogan "High without drugs" on the left captures the attention of those who come to Kreuzberg via Schilligbrücke. In the middle St. Thomas Church. On the right the characteristic water tubes in blue or pink which criss-cross parts of the city.

The slogan "High without drugs" on the left captures the attention of those who come to Kreuzberg via Schilligbrücke. In the middle St. Thomas Church. On the right the characteristic water tubes in blue or pink which criss-cross parts of the city.

Lausitzer Platz on a nice sunny day. It is the Day of Music and people are listening to a small orchestra among several from the area. The square is frequently used for markets and street festivals.

Lausitzer Platz on a nice sunny day. It is the Day of Music and people are listening to a small orchestra among several from the area. The square is frequently used for markets and street festivals.

People  come together at Lausitzer Platz   for a pleasant time in the shade of green lush trees.

People come together at Lausitzer Platz for a pleasant time in the shade of green lush trees.

A cornucopia of cultural events

After the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and the German reunification i 1990, Kreuzberg became a hotspot for counterculture. Today you will find all kinds of people; hipsters, influencers, students, artists, poor and rich. The area reflects the inhabitants as a melting pot for differences and tolerance. And a lot of this comes out as creative freedom. Countless of galleries and museums are to be found in between trendy cafés, restaurants, bars, clubs and shops.

Kreuzberg is the district that never sleeps. Here you can feel the pulse and heartbeat of music and art all year round. Whether it is at an exhibition, wandering along the street surrounded by colorful graffiti, or at an outdoor or indoor concert. Or perhaps listening to experimental electronic music in a church?

Time for concert in St.Thomas Church. This was the biggest church in Berlin before the inauguration of the Berliner Dom in 1905. Friedrich Adler designed and built the church between 1865 and 1869. It is constructed in a classicist style.

Time for concert in St.Thomas Church. This was the biggest church in Berlin before the inauguration of the Berliner Dom in 1905. Friedrich Adler designed and built the church between 1865 and 1869. It is constructed in a classicist style.

From "The Black Dog"; a photo exhibition at Bethanien Art Quarter at Mariannenplatz 2 in Kreuzberg.

From "The Black Dog"; a photo exhibition at Bethanien Art Quarter at Mariannenplatz 2 in Kreuzberg.

Bethanien is a place for artistic, cultural and social institutions and self-organized initiatives. It dates from the 19th century and is placed under monument protection. Until 1970 it was a deaconess hospital.

Bethanien is a place for artistic, cultural and social institutions and self-organized initiatives. It dates from the 19th century and is placed under monument protection. Until 1970 it was a deaconess hospital.

Inside Bethaninen you will find arches and columns, painted friezes with lovely colors and motifs, masonry, glass, wood and iron structures.

Inside Bethaninen you will find arches and columns, painted friezes with lovely colors and motifs, masonry, glass, wood and iron structures.

Detail of painted frieze in Bethanien's entrance.

Detail of painted frieze in Bethanien's entrance.

A look into a small gallery at Heinrichplatz.

A look into a small gallery at Heinrichplatz.

The East Side Gallery iconsists of a series of political comments  painted directly on the longest remaining part of the Berlin Wall. It is situated near Oberbaum bridge in  Mühlenstrasse.

The East Side Gallery iconsists of a series of political comments painted directly on the longest remaining part of the Berlin Wall. It is situated near Oberbaum bridge in Mühlenstrasse.

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36Boys and "Maxim"

Kreuzberg is known for its large percentage of immigrants and descendants of immigrants, especially of Turkish origin.

One of the first hip-hop activists in Berlin, Attila Murat Aydin (1970-2003) was of Turkish descent and lived his last years in Kreuzberg. Also known as "Maxim", he was as a rapper, breakdancer, beatboxer and a graffiti artist who played first and foremost an important role in shaping the hip-hop culture in Berlin.

After he was tragically murdered on his 33rd birthday, he became a legend and hero among his followers. And although he is no longer here, both his memory, music and spirit continue to live on.

Attila also founded the name of the 36Boys, a gang of primarily Turkish immigrants from the Kreuzberg district who were active and involved in crime until the 1990s. But Attila was strong against violence and was regarded as an integration figure.

From a large house wall in the heart of Kreuzberg, Attila stares at us with a fixed gaze and open arms. The large graffiti work honors Berlin´s and the neighborhood's great innovative graffiti and hip-hop artist.

From a large house wall in the heart of Kreuzberg, Attila stares at us with a fixed gaze and open arms. The large graffiti work honors Berlin´s and the neighborhood's great innovative graffiti and hip-hop artist.

Oranienstrasse: Kreuzberg´s heart

Oranienstrasse is Kreuzberg´s vibrtaing nerve and beating heart capturing the essence of the area. The two kilometer "must see street" runs from Moritzplatz via Oranienplatz to Heinrichplatz which is not fare from Görlitzer Bahnhof. The street, and partly the neighboring streets, offers a lot of small boutiques with new and vintage clothes, shoos, books and records, yarn for knitting, colors for art painting, wall papers, retro furniture, bike and skate shops, bags with a picture of Frida Kahlo's face, fine exclusive chocolate and colorful flowers. Oranienstrasse is the place for everybody who are seeking new alternative shopping experiences.

In the same street and in the surrounding area, you will find small distinctive cafés, snack bars and restaurants with a variety of international food.

Among clubs is the legendary former punk and new wave club SO36 still a place for concerts and parties in the night.

Yarn shop with a good selection of colorful yarn for knitting and crochet enthusiasts.

Yarn shop with a good selection of colorful yarn for knitting and crochet enthusiasts.

Happy with colors.

Happy with colors.

Chili, strawberry or Spanish chocolate? The selection is so much bigger.

Chili, strawberry or Spanish chocolate? The selection is so much bigger.

Hemp is a versatile raw material, and has been allowed to grow in Germany since 1996 under certain restrictions. When the toxins have been removed, textiles, bags, cosmetics and food are made, among other things.

Hemp is a versatile raw material, and has been allowed to grow in Germany since 1996 under certain restrictions. When the toxins have been removed, textiles, bags, cosmetics and food are made, among other things.

The bookshop "Dante Connection" in Oranienstrasse specialises in classic and contemporary Italian literature, with hundreds of works available in German, English and Italian. A treasure of a bookstore for those who love Italian culture.

The bookshop "Dante Connection" in Oranienstrasse specialises in classic and contemporary Italian literature, with hundreds of works available in German, English and Italian. A treasure of a bookstore for those who love Italian culture.

Pick your favorite flowers and have them put together into a lovely bouquet.

Pick your favorite flowers and have them put together into a lovely bouquet.

The Schokofabrik; Turkish bath and Women´s Centre

The Schokofabrik does not produce chocolate like the name indicates, but helps to empower women from different cultural backgrounds. With its long history in feminist Berlin, it has a history as the biggest women´s centre in Europe as well.

The women centre opened back in 1988 and could then offer the first Turkish bath in Germany. The beautifully designed Hamam and sauna is also popular among many lesbians.

In addition to beauty care and wellness, it is also a place for networking.

Cultural and political events are also organized and among the many possibilities are courses in self-defence.

Entering the area on the ground floor is the Bar Marianne which opens its doors in the evenings.

A piece of Berlin for  women with Germany's first Turkish bath and Europe's largest women's centre.

A piece of Berlin for women with Germany's first Turkish bath and Europe's largest women's centre.

Color pigments for artistic souls. Small shop in Pücklerstrasse 30 close to Lausitzer Platz.

Color pigments for artistic souls. Small shop in Pücklerstrasse 30 close to Lausitzer Platz.

At "Olmo" you will find Italian specialties for connoisseurs. They are also known for their exquisite coffee and caffè Latte. Mariannestrasse 12.

At "Olmo" you will find Italian specialties for connoisseurs. They are also known for their exquisite coffee and caffè Latte. Mariannestrasse 12.

The elegant restaurant "Gorgonzola Club" offers authentic and delicious italian food. Calm atmosphere and perfect for a romantic dinner. Located near Oranien Platz. Open in the evening.

The elegant restaurant "Gorgonzola Club" offers authentic and delicious italian food. Calm atmosphere and perfect for a romantic dinner. Located near Oranien Platz. Open in the evening.

Delicious antipasti and pizza at "Gorgonzola Club".

Delicious antipasti and pizza at "Gorgonzola Club".

There are many restaurants along the sidewalks. This is a Spanish restaurant with excellent food from Galicia. Located near Görlitzer Park.

There are many restaurants along the sidewalks. This is a Spanish restaurant with excellent food from Galicia. Located near Görlitzer Park.

The entrance to SO36 is today quite anonymous, but the club was once one of the best new wave venues in the world. Situaded in Oranienstrasse near Heinrichplatz.

The entrance to SO36 is today quite anonymous, but the club was once one of the best new wave venues in the world. Situaded in Oranienstrasse near Heinrichplatz.

SO36; punk, crossover and visual art

The SO36 music club is well known for its music environment far beyond Germany's borders. The club took its name from the historic postcode of Kreuzberg area, SO36. The club focused originally on punk and new wave music, and in the 1970s it was often frequented by musicians such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop.

New York became another hot spot for new-wave music at this time, and SO36 competed with CBGB in NY about being the best new wave venue in the world.

The club is still a gathering place for innovators and music fans, and concerts are organized regularly.

The multicultural Kreuzberg buzzes with life throughout the evening and night. Here from a cafe at Heinrichplatz. Layer upon layer of graffiti also characterizes the street scene here.

The multicultural Kreuzberg buzzes with life throughout the evening and night. Here from a cafe at Heinrichplatz. Layer upon layer of graffiti also characterizes the street scene here.

A bar that honors the memory of Amy Winehouse and Michal Jackson.

A bar that honors the memory of Amy Winehouse and Michal Jackson.

Public transport, bike or walking

U-Bahn underground trains or S-Bahn regional elevated trains are the fastest and best way to get around Berlin. If the distance you are going to travel is not that long, a bus can be an alternative. A seat on the second floor of a double-decker gives you a good view and is good for getting to know the city.

Cycling is also a viable option as the city has a flat location and it is relatively easy to get around. Avoid the busiest streets and choose less busy streets instead.

In Kreuzberg, many people cycle, but the traffic is intense, for example in Oranienstrasse. So it's best to be careful. Sometimes I am surprised by the lack of helmet use.

Getting to know the city by walking is best of all, but choosing small areas at a time. It is far between the blocks and there is much to explore along the way.

So make sure to wear good shoes.

And don't forget to look up.

Görlitzer Bahnhof is served by lines U1 and U3. The mosque on the left.

Görlitzer Bahnhof is served by lines U1 and U3. The mosque on the left.

Bikes on Lausitzer Platz.

Bikes on Lausitzer Platz.

The U-Bahn on rails above the car traffic at Oberbaum bridge.

The U-Bahn on rails above the car traffic at Oberbaum bridge.

Görlitzer Bahnhof underground station opened in 1902. It is a station on the Berlin underground network, the U-Bahn.   The U-Bahn partly runs on rails over the street network.

Görlitzer Bahnhof underground station opened in 1902. It is a station on the Berlin underground network, the U-Bahn. The U-Bahn partly runs on rails over the street network.

Oranienstrasse in the evening.

Oranienstrasse in the evening.

The Spree River seen from Oberbaum bridge towards Treptow. The bridge opened in 1896.

The Spree River seen from Oberbaum bridge towards Treptow. The bridge opened in 1896.

Sunset in Naunynstrasse.

Sunset in Naunynstrasse.

© 2022 Gro Kristina Slaatto

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