Thanks to a large Turkish community and more hippies, anarchists and alternative folks than you can shake a bong at, Kreuzberg feels neither east nor west. It was the black sheep of West Berlin, literally cornered up against the death strip and left alone to play loud music and draw on the walls. By now, the protesting students of 1968 have grown grey alongside the Turkish immigrants. Every year since 1987, Kreuzberg relives its 15 minutes of fame during the traditional May Day political demonstrations, which invariably turn into a long night of stone-throwing and burning cars.Otherwise, Kreuzberg is a perfectly safe district to wander through, and it's all about backgammon at the men’s clubs, café-sitting along Landwehrkanal, and ambling down the popular Oranienstraße and Bergmannstraße drags.
This chapter also covers areas south of Kreuzberg: leafy Treptow west along the river Spree, the Tempelhof airport-turned-park which attracts thousands of visitors in summer, and the upcoming Neukölln district. Here, the Kreuzkölln area around Reuterstraße is increasingly attracting hipsters, artists, artsy boutiques and weird nightlife spots.
The Bergmannstraße area is best reached from Friedrichstraße station on the U6; get off at Mehringdamm, or at Platz der Luftbrücke for the Viktoriapark. For the gritty end of Kreuzberg hop on the U8 from Alexanderplatz and pop up at Kottbusser Tor. The Kreuzkölln bars are within pubcrawling distance of Schönleinstraße and Hermannplatz stations, on the same line.
Pocket Walk: Kreuzberg
Kreuzberg is best explored in two parts. From Platz der Luftbrücke station walk west to Viktoriapark and climb the Kreuzberg for views north over the city. Descend eastwards and walk along genteel Bergmannstraße, perhaps visiting a café or the market hall, before walking south to Columbiadamm for access to the the former Tempelhof airport, now a wonderful park.
Start a tour of the fascinating eastern end of Kreuzberg at Kottbusser Tor U-Bahn station; wander north through 'little Istanbul' to Oranienplatz and follow the park to the Engelbecken pond where you can follow the former Wall along Bethaniendamm to Mariannenplatz, a centre of Berlin subculture. Stroll down Waldemarstraße to café-lined Lausitzerplatz and cross under the U-Bahn line to lively Görlitzer Park. From here, go north into Falckensteinstraße to discover more of Kreuzberg's street art, or head south along Ohlauer Straße and across Landwehrkanal into the trendy 'Kreuzkölln' district for cupcakes and cocktails.