FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

A Freewheeling Spirit Lures Visitors and Startups to Germany’s Hip Trendsetter

by Irene Rawlings

Dec 13, 2022

PHOTO: © MARC PINTER | DREAMSTIME.COM

December 2022

PHOTO: © CLAIRE SLINGERLAND | DREAMSTIME.

A sprawling city of 3.57 million, Berlin covers 60 square miles and comprises 12 official districts. Berliners — even those born after the fall of the Wall in 1989 — still orient themselves (and give directions) using the former Wall. In the middle, explore mod and arty Mitte, home to some of the capital’s most fascinating museums and historical architecture. Trendy family neighborhood Prenzlauer Berg, dotted with children’s shops, playgrounds and kid-friendly cafés, lies to the east. Still-gritty-around-the edges Friedrichshain (a formerly decrepit East Berlin neighborhood) is newly cool, with bars and clubs and East Side Gallery, a preserved section of the Wall. On the west side: the ever-chic Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and the lately gentrified Kreuzberg, home to the Jüdisches (Jewish) Museum and the infamous Checkpoint Charlie.

According to Startup Heatmap Report, Berlin ranks as one of the world’s top locations for fintech (financial technology). Start-ups (now global brands) like Delivery Hero and SoundCloud had their origins in Berlin. Silicon Allee is one of the many tech communities in Berlin that facilitates the tech startup scene in a way the U.S. Silicon Valley does by conceptualizing ideas and connecting the community. Every month, Silicon Allee hosts a meetup to bring techies together to talk about their companies and pitch ideas to each other. It should be noted 44 percent of all new entrepreneurs in Berlin are non-German. High-profile global brands like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Deloitte, IBM, Accenture, BASF, Apple and Oracle maintain a big presence here, with a total of 10,000-plus employees. Tesla recently announced its investment of $11 billion in a new Berlin-Brandenburg Gigafactory.

CHECKING IN WITH BURKHARD KIEKER
CEO, visitBerlin

PHOTO: ©VISITBERLIN, PHOTO: DAGMAR SCHWELLEv

What would you suggest business travelers — especially first-time visitors — see and do in Berlin to get a sense of the city’s culture and diversity?
Visitors come to Berlin for the culture, the authentic history and our lifestyle. After exploring some of the major highlights — such as Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the new Humboldt Forum and sites pertaining to our city’s history — I suggest visiting some of our major museums. The five museums on Museum Island are world-renowned for their collections.

Berlin’s welcoming culture is reflected in the diversity of our population. There is a reason Berlin is called the “City of Freedom”; it’s a place where everyone is welcome to be and express who they are. The diversity is best experienced by exploring our 12 neighborhoods, each presenting different faces and distinct stories.

How have Berlin and Germany become leaders in sustainability, especially sustainable tourism?
Sustainability is a core theme for Berlin, and as the city’s destination marketing and management organization, visitBerlin takes an active role in the development of positive, responsible and sustainable tourism. We work closely with our partners in the tourism and congress industry to integrate sustainability criteria in their product development and to secure city- and population-friendly tourism. VisitBerlin is a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and currently holds the fifth place among the international metropolises in the Global Destination Sustainability Index.

Please speak to Berlin as a wellness and health destination.
Berlin welcomes some 17,000–21,000 international patients each year who come for the excellent medical care and high-end medical services. Many of our state-of-the-art hospitals are specifically equipped to cater to the needs of international patients. Berlin is also one of the world’s leading destinations for medical congresses, which make up about 14 percent of all conventions in the German capital. Teaming up with Health Capital Berlin Brandenburg, visitBerlin supplies initial information on medical services, hospitals, clinics and specialists especially focused on providing health care for international patients.

What is the outlook for business and investment opportunities in Berlin?
Berlin is a creative metropolis, a startup hub and an innovative technology and science location — and among Germany’s most dynamic economic regions. We offer business and technology support for companies, investors and scientific institutions in this internationally attractive location. This is managed by our sister organization, Berlin Partner. It supports, among others, companies and scientific institutions with expertise, provides information on funding opportunities and advises on the search for suitable locations and highly qualified staff. Beyond that, we work with a wide alliance of business institutions for more international flight connections to Berlin. The initiative aims to persuade foreign airlines to take up non- stop, long-haul routes to the German capital.

DIVERSIONS

In summer, Berliners’ pastimes include strolling, cycling (390 miles of bike paths) and lingering in outdoor cafés. In winter, enjoy the city’s non-stop nightlife and countless world-class festivals like Berlinale International Film Festival.

© ZOYA RUDASHEVSKAYA | DREAMSTIME .COM

Berlin also boasts more than 180 museums. Stop in the Gemäldegalerie to see more than a dozen Rembrandts; the Ägyptisches Museum to view the sublime, 3,000-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti; and the 4,200-foot-long East Side Gallery, an open-air gallery with mural- and graffiti-decorated remains of the Berlin Wall. Neue Nationalgalerie, designed by the legendary Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and dedicated to early 20th-century art, recently reopened after an extensive refresh.

Book a three-hour boat tour on the Spree River to down a local brew while admiring the amazing city views. The Reichstag, topped by a monumental glass dome, is worth a visit. Make dinner reservations at the rooftop restaurant for spectacular vistas of Berlin at night. Berlin has more than 7,000 restaurants (23 with Michelin stars) and the highest number of plant-based and sustainable restaurants in Europe. Cafés are a religion in Berlin. There’s one on nearly every corner and inside museums, hotels and cinemas — from the simple stehcafé where you literally stand for a quick snack to stylish joints where Berliners sit, working on their laptops.

Dip into high-end retail stores and exclusive boutiques on Kurfürstendamm (called Ku’damm by locals), widely regarded as Berlin’s Champs-Élysées.

Ballroom dancing is a thing. Clärchens Ballhaus, a still-glam 100-year-old grande dame is a favorite of both hip young scenesters and 80-something seniors. Don’t leave Berlin without taking in a cabaret show at Tipi am Kanzlermat with its original mirrored marquee from the 1920s.

LODGING

Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin
The historic 382-room hotel located by the landmark Brandenburg Gate offers spacious and luxurious accommodations with Ferragamo amenities, 5-star service, a vast breakfast buffet and caviar bar. Kempinski FIT rooms include in-room sessions with a private trainer.
Unter den Linden 77
$$$$$

Regent Berlin
Featuring 156 rooms and 39 suites with marble-clad baths and private French balconies, Regent Berlin invites guests to indulge in elegant splendor. Enjoy white linen dining under crystal chandeliers and the health club’s full-body treatments and Finnish sauna.
Charlottenstrasse 49
$$$$

SO/Berlin Das Stue
The 78 design-forward rooms and suites in a landmark building (the 1930s Royal Danish Embassy) and a newer annex overlook the leafy Tiergarten. Linger in the original three-story library or a modern spa influenced by traditional Chinese therapies.
Drakestrasse 1 $$$$

DINING

12seasons
A micro-seasonal concept of rising-star chef Kamel Haddad features a new four-, six- and eight-course menu each month, paired with wines from small, family-owned German vineyards. A seat at the chef’s table is highly recommended.
Giesebrechtstrasse 3
$$$$$

Lovis
Sophia Rudolph, one of Berlin’s most esteemed chefs, uses only local, seasonal and sustainable meat and produce in her contemporary German cuisine, including four- or six-course vegetarian menus. Hidden in lush gardens within the just- opened Hotel Wilmina.
Hotel Wilmina, Kantstrasse 79
$$$$

Wilhelm Alexander Restaurant & Brasserie
Fabian Fiedler, one of Germany’s top 10 chefs, over- sees this French-German restaurant in the Humboldt Forum, a reproduction of a 16th-century palace. Savor historically inspired fine dining, indoors or outdoors with river views.
Humbolt Forum, Schlossplatz
$$$$

JUST THE FACTS

Time zone: GMT+2
Phone code: Country code: 49 City code: 30
Currency: Euro
Key industries: Life sciences, transportation, information and communication technologies, media and music, advertising and design, biotechnology, environmental services, construction, e-commerce and medical engineering

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE
German, but English is widely spoken.

COMING AND GOING
U.S. citizens must have a passport valid for at least three months beyond the intended date of departure from Germany. Those who wish to enter Germany for purposes other than tourism, business or airport transit may require an additional visa.

INFO TO GO

Berlin Brandenburg Airport, opened in 2020, lies about 17 miles from city center. Trains run several times per hour; the journey from the airport to Berlin’s central railway station takes about 30 minutes. Fares start at €6.80 (about $6.70). A taxi ride to city center takes about 45 minutes and costs about €49 (about $48). Sixt Ride offers personal chauffeur-driven cars from your hotel to the airport, from €75 (about $74).

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