Berlin really is the 'everything city' of Germany. With a vibrant techno scene, plenty of green spaces, an abundance of vegan cafes and the scars of history lurking on every corner, there is nothing that this city can’t offer.
But there is so much more to Berlin than meets the eye. The capital, which is also one of Germany’s 16 Bundesländer, is divided into 12 districts or Bezirke. Each neighbourhood flaunts its very own culture, identity and atmosphere, whilst also contributing to the character of the city as a whole.
This series is all about getting to know Berlin on a far deeper and more intimate level. Each article will take you on a virtual tour of one of Berlin’s unique districts, introducing you to its history, reputation and attractions. Our first stop on this tour is Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.
The centrally located district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg has existed for only two decades, when the separate boroughs of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg were merged in 2001.
Despite being a relatively new borough, it is a central part of the city and a testament to Berlin’s extensive history. Whilst Friedrichshain belongs to the former East, Kreuzberg is located in West Berlin. Both areas are connected by the Oberbaumbrücke, which was once a border crossing for pedestrians before the fall of the wall.
The merging of the two quarters is celebrated by an annual vegetable fight on the bridge, bringing the two districts together whilst also strengthening the sense of competition that exists between them. According to Get Lost Magazine, “it’s probably worth knowing that the Friedrichshain fruit-throwers are the usual champs, while Kreuzberg’s carrot-lobbing record sucks.”
Kreuzberg cannot be fully understood without reference to its “multikulti” scene. Its counterculture tradition and clear embrace of liberal values has led to a plurality of votes for the Green Party. Canan Bayram, the district’s local MP, is the only Green politician directly elected to the German Bundestag. When combined with Friedrichshain, the district really does become something of a political melting pot, with the CDU, SPD, AfD, the Greens and the Left all having represented the Bezirk in the recent past.
Although officially united, there are some notable differences between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. The latter has attracted a very high number of immigrants over the decades, whereas the share of non-German citizens in Friedrichshain is much lower. Kreuzberg also typically attracts younger citizens (imagine the yoga-loving hippies, young entrepreneurs and artistic free spirits that characterise the city), whereas Friedrichshain’s average age is higher.
The district’s reputation isn’t all good. It is well-known for having an issue with gentrification, as wealthier citizens move into the area, rent inevitably rises and the district’s original character is changed.
Things to do:
Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg is home to some of Berlin’s most popular tourist spots, as well as a few hidden gems that can only be found through personal exploration. The East Side Gallery is an absolute must for any traveller and is in close proximity to the Oberbaumbrücke and the offices of Universal Music. The wall opens up to the Spree River, where musicians can often be found performing their music to local Berliners and tourists.
Opened in 2001 and designed by the architect Daniel Libeskind, Berlin’s Jewish Museum provides an interactive and moving experience through Germany’s horrific Nazi past. The museum also documents the wider history of Jewish people and culture, starting in the Middle Ages.
Volkspark Friedrichshain is the perfect sport for a Sunday morning stroll in autumn or for a picnic with friends in the summer. Cafes, rock climbing, an open-air cinema, barbeques and roller blading… This isn’t a case of either-or; everything is possible in Volkspark Friedrichshain.
And that was your brief introduction to the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg! Our next stop will be Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf…