Located in Berlin’s trendy Mitte district in the centre of the city, Linienstrasse is a two-kilometre-long hive of colour and activity. The street has – like Auguststrasse and Torstrasse, which run parallel to it – benefitted from investment and development in recent years, and the decision to turn it into a bicycle-only street in 2008 has only added to its charms. It’s a glorious mix of old and new, with striking architecture, an eclectic range of attractions and a strong sense of identity. For those in search of authentic travel experiences, Linienstrasse and the surrounding streets offer a fascinating insight into the real Berlin.
Vintage shops are big news in Berlin, and nowhere more so than on Linienstrasse. Garments is one of Berlin’s – indeed, Germany’s – best-loved specialists, offering a diverting mix of high-end gems and unique bargains. Colourful rails line the walls, while leather and accessories take centre stage. Townes is not to be missed; focusing on well-known designers, it has an impressive menswear collection. It is also worth popping into Sommerladen, owned by former stylist Johanna Mattner. Many of the items are sourced from her extensive range of contacts in the fashion world, making it a great spot to get a barely used piece by a top designer.
Berlin locals rave about Firmament, a store with a youthful appeal, which features collections – and limited editions – from a carefully chosen selection of international labels, including Stone Island, G-Shock, Vans Vault, Mission Workshop and Bianca Chandon. Another store not to be missed is Soto, a men’s concept store split over two neighbouring buildings on Torstrasse, with a stylishly curated range of brands from Acne, Kenzo and Nike to Barbour, Dries Van Noten and Baxter of California.
Head to local designer Isabel Vollrath’s Linienstrasse atelier and store for bold, beautiful pieces – structured dresses, flowing trousers suits and high-impact gowns – that, she says, celebrate ‘strong women’. Rike Feurstein, whose store is just off Linienstrasse on Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse, is another Berlin-born creative, whose irresistible hat designs incorporate felt, feather, wool, straw and seagrass, and are a playful take on traditional millinery.
For a final retail stop, check out The Amazing Crocodile Design Store, also on Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse. A high-end interiors concept store with a subversive, whimsical approach to design, it offers anything from inside-out lampshades to animal-shaped footstools.
If cultural diversions are your thing, then start with Galerie Kicken, devoted to the art of photography from its earliest days to the present. It has been on Linienstrasse since 2000 – though its history goes back 26 years further – and prides itself on the diversity of its exhibitions. Jarvis Dooney also specialises in photography and photo media, mainly contemporary pieces by Antipodean artists. At the IFA (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations), the focus is on promoting artistic exchange worldwide, exploring art as a medium which transcends divides of culture and language.
One of the best options for lunch or dinner on Linienstrasse has to be Das Lokal. Well-known in Berlin and always busy, the restaurant has pared-back décor, furniture handmade using wood from nearby forests, and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. The focus is on local, seasonal produce, used to create a menu of distinctly German dishes, with an added gastronomic flourish in the evenings.
Just off Linienstrasse on Tucholskystrasse is Schwarzwaldstuben, a proud member of the Slow Food movement, which specialises in Swabian cuisine. It, too, prides itself on the sourcing of its ingredients, which are used to great effect in its daily changing menu. There are more amazing flavours at Kopps, a chic vegan restaurant with an imaginative offering of beautifully presented food. Finally, for classic fine dining, Pauly Saal on Auguststrasse is an elegant Michelin-starred wonder, with an enclosed terrace and a trendy lounge bar.
Drinking and dancing
For a quick break, Kaschk is a perfect choice. Offering an impressive range of Nordic and German craft beers, top-quality coffee, and shuffleboard – a tabletop game similar to bowls, played with disks instead of balls – it has a friendly, cosy feel. And don’t miss Cordobar on Grosse Hamburger Strasse: a fantastic wine bar with an impressive list of Austrian and German vintages by the glass.
Finally, finish your night with a dance or two at the wonderfully evocative Clärchens Ballhaus on Auguststrasse. Saved from dereliction 10 years ago, this incredible venue is more than a century old – and the sense of history is palpable. It has a beer garden and two ballrooms, one of which offers faded grandeur at its most appealing: think twinkling chandeliers, baroque detailing and huge mirrors everywhere. The Ballhaus now plays host to cabaret acts, concerts and dance classes, and is popular with locals of all ages and tastes.