Berlin is a European capital like no other, with a turbulent history that fascinates, shocks and enthralls visitors from around the world. Post-WWII, the city was split between the democratic West and the communist East by the iconic Berlin wall.

The contrast between East/West Berlin was nothing but stark. The harsh and cold East Berlin lacked money, food, and housing – while the West was a place of liberation.

In fact, West Berlin became somewhat of a hotspot for artists and musicians with its wild, free, emerging underground scene. People lived almost excessively in the area – curfews didn’t exist and the night was limitless, famously described by Kennedy “an island of freedom in a communist sea”.

Fast forward to today and visiting other European hotspots like Paris, Rome or Venice leaves you feeling steeped in ancient history. Berlin’s history, however, is far more recent – the infamous division was recent enough for it to be palpable even today.

Check out these locations and take a nostalgic trip through glamorous and sophisticated 1908’s West Berlin:


The middle-class Friedenau district of West Berlin was the home of numerous famed writers such as Uwe Johnson and Günter Grass. With its vibrant creative scene, there’s no surprise that theatres such as the Schaubuhnestarted to pop-up, sharing experimental performances and developing an alternative approach to stage production.


In the 70’s and 80’s, thousands moved to West Berlin in a bid to free their stuffy, cramped lives in West Germany. An idealistic group of young entrepreneurs set up ufaFabrik, which quickly became a model of how to live a socially responsible lifestyle. It was like an oasis of culture, with lifestyles which would have been unthinkable anywhere else in the country – and is still open today.


West Berlin’s incredible music subculture and scene is famous around the world today. This stems from the 1980’s, when residents partied the nights away in the area’s iconic clubs – Dschungel, Risiko, Shizzo, Penny Lane and the like – whilst the rest of the country settled to sleep following their curfews.

Sadly, few are open for you to visit today – except an old club which goes by the name of SO36. Back in the day, it was frequented by stars Iggy Pop and David Bowie and played host to bands such as the Dead Kennedys and The Cramps.

As for bars, head to Diener Tattersall– an old-fashioned watering hole which has been open since the days of the Kaiser. It became a real hub for artists in the 1980’s, whose portraits still adorn the walls of the pub today.


No nostalgic tour of West Berlin is complete without a visit to the diverse Kreuzberg region. It was formerly a working-class area, but the stereotypical alternative ‘West Berlin’ lifestyles flourished here after the Berlin wall was built.

Kreuzberg adopted the nickname ‘Little Istanbul’ after thousands of Turkish migrants moved there – and it later became a magnet for artists and a young, ‘hip’ crowd looking for an unconventional lifestyle. It’s still bursting with culture, artistic flair and creativity to this day – well worth a visit.


The best-known crosspoint between East and West, Checkpoint Charlie, was once laced with barbed wire and fiercely guarded by East German troops. An estimated 1,300 East Berliners died trying to cross over to the West – in fact, the guards were instructed to shoot anyonewho tried to cross illegally.

Don’t miss a visit to both the historic site and the museum as part of your nostalgic trip – but try and head there early in the morning or early evening as it tends to get extremely crowded.


This special art space is home to the amazing art collection of German artist Kathe Kollwitz. She was a sculptor and graphic artist who was prominent in the 1980’s and lived and worked in Berlin for most of her life. Her collection focuses on the fight against war and social inequality. We’d call it one of the most moving art houses in Berlin.

Are you thinking about visiting the Europe, Germany and/or Berlin anytime soon? United Europe is one of South Africa’s established Travel Companies that specialises in travel to Europe – we know what we are doing.

Please do not hesitate to contact us and we can assist you with options and travel itineraries to help you plan for the occasion!

October 2018

Mark Buck is the Managing Director of United Europe Travel Services (Pty) Ltd, an online and offline travel services company based in South Africa

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