So, you’re heading to Berlin and want to find the coolest spots to see some art. The problem is, Berlin changes so quickly that once you know it’s cool, it’s not cool anymore. Still, some established places with interesting art are still around and are worth seeking out. If they aren’t edgy enough for you, just look up at the buildings and down at the sidewalks as you walk through the city—street art abounds in Berlin, and you’re guaranteed to see something unique, especially in the street art-laden multicultural Kreuzberg neighborhood.
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Mitte Galleries, around Auguststrasse and Linienstrasse
Though Mitte is now fully gentrified (and some may say too gentrified), this neighborhood in the former East Berlin was the site of the first Berlin post-Wall galleries, and it’s still a great place to check out both local artists and established names. Some of the biggies on this street include me Collectors Room and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, current center of the Berlin Biennale, running until July 1.
Insider’s Tip: Most galleries are closed on Sundays and Mondays. One exception is the KW Institute, open Sundays from noon to 7pm.
This artists’ collective on Oranienburger Strasse 54 in Mitte looks like what you’d imagine the pre-gentrified Berlin to be, with colorful murals and street art painted on every imaginable service inside and out. Frequently threatened with eviction of its tenants or demolition, Tacheles is worth visiting for a look at Berlin’s art past that may not be its future.
Insider’s Tip: Try to schedule your visit around a performance or exhibition; find events listed at on the Tacheles website.
East Side Gallery
Within months after the Berlin Wall fell, 118 artists created works of art on one of its longest stretches, on the border of Friedrichshain on the Spree Canal, now called the East Side Gallery. The art has since been cleaned up and revitalized, making it less edgy but still interesting to visit on a nice day’s stroll.
Insider’s Tip: Combine a walk along the East Side Gallery with a stroll across the Warschauer Strasse bridge into Kreuzberg, where you’re sure to see more improvised—and frequently changing—street art.
Even the building of one of the largest modern art museums in Berlin is cool; it’s in a former railway station with a neon light installation by artist Dan Flavin outside. Hamburger Bahnhof houses more than 2,000 pieces of art, including notable artworks from Andy Warhol (a huge painting of Mao), Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly.
Insider’s Tip: Don’t miss the current exhibit by New York-based artist Anthony McCall—fantastic interactive light projections entitled "Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture" that feel like you’re walking into a cloud. The exhibit runs until August 12.
Kreuzberg and Schöneberg Galleries
You’ll find more galleries off the beaten path in the Kreuzberg and Schöneberg neighborhoods, especially around the Kurfürstenstrasse and Mehringdamm U-Bahn stations. To see them all, visit Berlin at the end of April for the annual Gallery Weekend, three days of parties, events, and special opening hours at galleries across the city.
Insider’s Tip: Check out Berlin Art Link for the latest gallery events, in English.
Thinking of a trip to Berlin?
For up-to-the-minute hotel and restaurant recommendations, as well as the best planning advice, check out our Berlin Travel Guide.
Liz Humphreys is a food, travel, wine, and lifestyle writer and editor formerly based in New York City and currently residing in Amsterdam. She’s a former editor of Luckymag.com, iVillage, and WebMD, NYC Guide writer for USAToday.com, and eater in chief of the blog winederlust.com. Follow her on Twitter at @winederlust.
Photo Credits: East Side Gallery: Liz Humphreys; Hamburger Bahnhof: Liz Humphreys; Kreuzberg street art: Liz Humphreys.