It has all the trappings of a global hotspot. Glitzy Guggenheim by star-architect? Check. Thought-provoking national monuments by Norman Foster and Daniel Libeskind? Check. Burgeoning arts scene with three civic operas and state theaters? Check. Adopted home of Brad and Angelina complete with motorcycle sightings in the city's most-thriving neighborhood? Check.

We saw the cranes and thumbed through the glossy pictorials, but Berlin went from the wobbling of reunification to cutting-edge arts center faster than anyone could expect. No longer the misfit of European society and architecture, the city is awash in a new generation of hotels, restaurants and galleries that are making it the hottest city in Europe.


Finding Your Base

You'll be tempted to stay in the middle of it all, at a hotel like The Mandala Hotel or Ritz Carlton on Potsdamer Platz. But what seems like the city center is actually an overgrown mall and business park full of chain restaurants and movie theaters.

Look further east for something groovier. Lux 11 , located in Berlin-Mitte, is amongst the hottest boutiques and art galleries in the city. All-white décor and apartment-style accommodations offer a mix of loft ambiance and aloof service. Nearby residents like Brad and Angie also make it Berlin's most star-studded neighborhood.

Glam addicts should consider Schlosshotel Grunewald , decorated by Karl Lagerfeld, located in a former palace in one of the city's haughtiest suburbs. For something more central, skip the stuffy Adlon Hotel (where Michael Jackson dangled his baby from a balcony) in lieu of Rocco Forte's new Hotel de Rome adjacent to Humboldt University on Unter den Linden.

Hotel de Rome
Photo: Rocco Forte Hotels

Get Outdoors, Then Shop

Large parks and plenty of green areas make Berlin a great city for exploring by foot. Opposite the Reichstag (German Capital) with its Norman Foster Glass dome, the Tiergarten (Berlin's version of Central Park) is teeming with runners and bicyclists throughout the year. Be careful navigating your way through the park, as the bicyclists mean business with their bells.

After a potent Einstein's (Starbuck's of Germany) Coffee break, head to nearby Friedrich Strasse for shopping. While West Berlin's Kurfurstendamm was the hub of Cold War retail therapy, a reunified Berlin returned to Friedrich Strasse near the intersection of Unter den Linden. Along with posh boutiques Boss and Prada, high-end retailers Departmentstore Quartier 206 and Paris' Galeries Lafayette are located in redeveloped Soviet-era arcades once reserved for the elite members of the Communist Party.

New Gallery Circuit

An emerging generation of struggling artists is leaving pricey Paris and London, instead flocking to more affordable cities like Berlin. With the artists, new galleries and dealers are setting up shop in the German capital.

Head toward Checkpoint Charlie and its Rem Koolhaas-designed museum where German-transplant galleries like Buchmann Galerie and Julius Werner are opening with hot emerging artists.

Further away in Kreuzberg, formerly Berlin's roughest neighborhood, roam amongst the edgy side streets where Jablonka Galerie and an outpost of Düsseldorf's Konrad Fischer Galerie opened in 2007.

For the splashiest galleries, go to the Mitte -- preferably with a Christie's specialist. Hit the new Haunch of Venison , known for its avant-garde openings in London and Zurich. Wrap up the day with a visit to the Guggenheim, Pergamon Museum or Libeskind-designed Holocaust Museum.

Restaurant Hotspots

A 7 p.m. seating is a preferred reservation time and attire usually mandates jackets for the guys and dresses for the gals. Now you're ready for the best, which one finds at Margaux . The Michelin-star French eatery on Unter en Linden is trimmed in veiny black marble floors and well-spaced tabletops in an onyx-clad dining room.

Vau on Gendarmenmarkt offers a more traditional German kitchen with its own Michelin star. Located on the city's most famous square, it's surrounded by three landmark buildings, the Französicher Dom (cathedral), Deutscher Dom and Konzerthaus.

For something cooler and more relaxed, head toward the Mitte, where Berlin's trendiest restaurants are located. There, you'll find Nola's am Weinberg , a hip, Swiss-themed restaurant with lively beer garden and late-night menu.

Find Your Groove

Many people now visit the city without ever entering West Berlin. Overcrowded and plagued with unfixable '60s architecture, Ku'Damm (Kurfurstendamm Str.) is in need of a makeover but still worth a look. Hit Green Door in Schoenberg, a sleek bar that's a local favorite.

For those wishing to remain in the Mitte, head toward Greenwich or more-lively Reingold . It's where Marlene Dietrich could have been found singing the night away in the 30s -- but today men in tight, white dress shirts and gals in short skirts are there in her place.

Finish off the night at Bangaluu , Berlin's hottest dance club, which even boasts a recent Paris Hilton-spotting. In America one would assume a dance floor full of shirtless men dancing to techno would mean you were in a gay nightclub -- but not in Germany, where shirts seem to always come off in the waning morning hours.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.

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