Artists and independents from all over the world have been lured to Berlin since the end of the Cold War, tempted by the open spaces, low rents and the tolerant attitude of a city once described as poor but sexy. This influx has steadily swelled into the thriving alternative cultural scene Berlin is becoming known for.

The heart of Berlin’s alternative cultural scene.

This modern-romantic subculture is strongest represented near the East Side Gallery, in the dilapidated, crumbling walls of the Künsthaus Tacheles on Oranienburger Strasse. This former department store-come-Nazi administration office-come-squat-come-art centre still bears heavy wounds from the war, but this is all part of its charm, even if it does seem somewhat unsteady. This is the heart of Berlin’s alternative cultural scene.

Through the arched entrance, sand underfoot, you will come across a beer garden bringing to mind a hippy commune invading a sculpture garden. On a sunny day, this area is swarming with artists, refugees from the night before and locals recharging their street cred. Inside the building you will find exhibition spaces for diverse contemporary art, venues for concerts and performing arts and more bars and cafes. At night the cafes transform into music venues, providing a legendary nightlife for those in the know. Many international performers and artists stage their works here.

Unfortunately, like many of Berlin’s squat turned artistic outposts, Tacheles is under threat by glitzy developers wishing to tear it down so get in quick before they have their way with her.

In the surrounding arteries that feed from Tacheles is Kreuzberg, Berlin’s Turkish quarter. Here you will find plenty of trendy galleries, studios, cafes and bars saturated in street art and colours, a stark contrast to Berlin’s concrete landscape. Wandering through this part of town is fascinating in itself. Take note of the atmosphere, the progressive ‘live and let live’ attitude of Berliner’s seems to seep out of the pavements.

Another dwelling favoured by Berlin’s alternative scene is Cassiopeia located in the middle of the Friedrichshain. Deceivingly subdued from the outside, this former factory is an urban playground by day and thumping club by night. In the daylight hours, the inside is taken up with bars, a skate park and a climbing wall open to a leafy beer garden, popular with Berlin’s bohemia. When the sun goes down, DJ’s, light shows and live music concerts transform the two floors of the cavernous club into a dance haven. Those wishing to keep a nocturnal slow pace can chill in the beer garden and catch an art-house film on the outdoor cinema.

Getting there

If seeking out Berlin’s alternative scene by yourself is a little daunting, Alternative Berlin Walking Tours can guide you with a local perspective. With regular scheduled flights to Berlin from most UK and European destinations, a weekend discovery of Berlin’s alternative cultural guts is not only for backpacking pilgrims and globetrotting artists. Berlin is a welcoming, multi-cultural city inviting people from all over the world to come and fuel it’s growing subculture.