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Takeoff. Landing. As we touched down on a chilly March morning, it hit me: I was going to be living in Berlin for six months.
It had been a long time since I’d stayed in one city for so long, but I’d engineered it so I could spend my final quarter of Stanford abroad…and receive financial aid at the same time. I’d heard nothing but great things about Berlin, and when Stanford offered me a paid summer internship, meaning I’d be living scot free in the city, I couldn’t say no.
Within weeks of arriving, I understood why Berlin had received so much praise—the only other city I’ve ever seen as revered is Buenos Aires. Let me tell you now exactly why you should log on to kayak.com and buy a ticket to Berlin, Germany.
1) Incredibly cheap cost of living for a European capital
I was blown away when I saw the prices in Berlin. Living expenses are as cheap, or cheaper, than most cities in South America! (Buenos Aires included). I could afford dinners an the nightlife—Berlin is by FAR the cheapest capital city in Western Europe. Here are some examples of my costs (everything is converted into dollars at 1 € = $1.50)
- My rent (huge room with a host family): $225/mo
- Entrance to excellent bars and clubs: $0-4 on average, top clubs $15
- Average expenses at a grocery story/week (compared to my USA expenses of $60): $40
- Cost of a used bicycle on Craigslist – $40
- Beer from a bar: $4
- Beer from a kiosk (you can drink legally on the street or on the subway): $0.90
[Side note: one time I only had 1EUR on me, and I entered a gas station to buy water. Water cost € 1.25. Beer cost € 0.60. Needless to say, my decision was made for me]
As you can see, prices are incredibly reasonable…especially for a city as awesome as Berlin.
2) Berlin has an amazing startup culture
Berlin is also home to the fabled Betahaus, an open startup coworking space, where you can rent a spot to work for dollars a day (or work in the cafe for free). I co-founded the weekly 4 Hour Workweek meetup, which continues to meet at Betahaus every week. You can also access their workshop that offers unlimited access to tools and wood to build anything. I used this space to construct our famous Mobile Disco.
3) Incredible music scene and nightlife
The nightlife in Berlin starts late and never ends: Berghain, for example, starts around 1am on Friday night and doesn’t end till the middle of the day on Sunday.
I generally went out 4-5 nights a week, and there was always something to do–Monday included. Europe’s most famous clubs are located in Berlin – Berghain, Watergate, Cookies, Bar 25, and Club Der Visionaire. If you’re looking for a hardcorse, thumping, music part scene, check out Berghain or Watergate. For a chiller, more relaxed scene, go to Luzia’s bar or (my personal favorite) Club Der Visionaire.
If you like electronic music, Berlin will be your Mecca. Minimal house and techno reigns supreme, but you can find whatever you’re looking for. I loved it so much that I began DJing and producing. You can check out my music at http://soundcloud.com/maneesh.
You’ll find people of all types out every night, eager to meet new people. Germans, tourists, expats–you name it, you’ll find them in hordes. And everyone speaks English, if languge learning isn’t your thing (and it should be!)
4) Beautiful nature, lakes, canals, and parks
Berlin is famous for being ‘Europe’s greenest city,’ and residents will let you know instantly that there are more canals in Berlin than any other city in the world, including Amsterdam or Venice. Make a friend with a boat or take a canal cruise—either way you’ll love to see how connected the city is via water.
You can swim in most of the major lakes in spring and early summer. The city is incredibly flat, so it is easy to get around by bike. There are beautiful parks every few hundred meters. What’s not to love?
5) The awesome history, abandoned buildings, and street art (and relaxed police)
There are amazing abandoned buildings all over Berlin. Berlin’s population was twice as large during World War II (explaining the cheap housing prices) so many of the buildings have been left abandoned and open to exploration. Check out the Abandoned Building Twilight Tour where you get to explore the abandoned buildings by night.
I remember playing hide and go seek in an abandoned beer factory, and I threw my most memorable DJ gig on an abandoned boat offshore in a canal. The cops shut us down at 5am, shouing “Please stop the music after this song! We like this song!”
And check out some photos of the amazing street art below.Graffiti on a remnant of the Berlin Wall The park next to my club where I ended up every night
6) Berlin’s central location makes it easy to travel around Europe
Berlin is placed squarely in the center of Europe, so it’s super easy to get around. I used a car sharing web site, www.mitfahrgelegenheit.de, to get to Amsterdam for just 30EUR. You’re only a few hours away by train from Prague, Budapest, and Munich, and dozens of other cities. And budget airlines fly out of the city’s two airports–I flew roundtrip to Oslo for just €12!
7) The amazing, delicious döner kebabs
Berlin is home to the world’s biggest collection of Turkish residents outside of Istanbul. One of Turkish cuisine’s most prevalent dishes–the Döner Kebab—was actually invented in Berlin. You’ll find Kebab shops open 24 hours, serving delicious spinning meat and veggies in a special type of bread. Usually, they cost less than $4. Perfect after a night out.A Döner from Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab, the most famous kebab in Berlin
Writing this article has already made me research tickets for going back. You can fly there for just $578 R/T from NYC if you leave this week
I hope you love Berlin as much as I did! Just beware the winter: it gets pretty cold.