The Creative Director Of Voo Store, Herbert Hofmann, Shows Us Around Kreuzberg.
Ask any young, creative person in the world where they’d like to go, and chances are, they will say ‘Berlin!’. The German capital has been a magnet for artists and musicians ever since the early 1980s, and is attracting young, international creatives and settled German middle-class couples alike. And then there are the well-documented party tourists known as the “Easyjet Set”, on the hunt for crazy parties, every day of the week.
There is so much to tell about this city and its diverse history, and there are so many places to see. Instead of rushing from one corner to the other, we will offer you several very different guides from Berlin, each with their own flavor. And to not get lost on the streets of Neukölln or Prenzlauer Berg, we enlisted the help of some very knowledgable Locals that each bring their own perspective.
Today, we are spending 12hrs in Berlin with Herbert Hofmann.
Herbert is the Creative Director of Voo Store, a favorite of the 12hrs team ever since it opened its doors in 2010. Previously, they worked his fashion PR magic at the Berlin branch of Agency V. And in what seems like another life, he studied Geography in Innsbruck and Stockholm. The Tyrolean lives and works in Kreuzberg, and this is where we are going to spend most of our 12hrs with him.
Formerly known only as a predominantly Turkish neighborhood, Kreuzberg has evolved into something different. Sure, you still find the great Turkish markets and the Döner restaurants, but there is also a refined nightlife scene, great shopping places and new developments on every corner. In spite of gentrification rearing its ugly head over the street corners, Kreuzberg remains one of the most loved and most diverse parts of Berlin. Come along, let’s explore it – and let’s spend 12hrs with Herbert in Berlin!
10AM : KAFFEBAR
Herbert’s 12hrs in Berlin start with breakfast in this nice café. Also known as ‘Kaffeebar jenseits des Kanals’ (Coffee bar beyond the canal), it’s a favorite for people from the neighborhood. The breakfast is great and very affordable, and they serve yummy cakes (and, obviously, coffee) throughout the day. The place is usually packed with people working on their laptops. A Berlin staple, since it feels like half of the city is ‘working on a project’ in some café.
After breakfast, walk over to Maybachufer, a beautiful street right next to a canal off the Spree river.
Kaffeebar // Gräfestr. 8 // Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat-Sun 9.30am-7pm // website
11AM : TURKISH MARKET
Kreuzberg is famous for its huge Turkish population. Every Tuesday and Friday, at the Turkish Market, you can experience that big aspect of Berlin city life. Along the shore of a canal, vendors are selling vegetables, fruits, and objects for daily use. Walking around all the different stalls is great for people watching.
If it’s neither Tuesday nor Friday, don’t be too sad. Every Saturday, there is a fabric and clothes market (‘Neuköllner Stoff’) nearby, and every other Sunday during summer it’s time for the ‘Nowkoelln Flowmarkt’, a big flea market with lots of food stands and live music.
Either way, stroll down the shore, soak up the atmosphere, and then walk up via Kottbusser Straße all the way to Moritzplatz to continue our tour.
Turkish Market // Maybachufer // Tue & Fri, 11am-6.30pm // website
Neuköllner Stoff //Maybachufer // Sat 11am-5pm // website
Nowkoelln Flowmarkt // Maybachufer, every second Sunday during Summer, check website for dates // website
11.45AM : MODULOR
Herbert’s boyfriend is architect and furniture designer Sigurd Larsen. It’s no wonder, then, that Herbert is taking us to Modulor. This giant store sells everything one might need when working on a creative project. From pens and paper to wood and plastic tubes in any size, and from mosaic tiles to accessories for binding books down the next aisle, it’s a treasure trove for anyone who ever wanted to build something.
Once again, this is also a great place for people watching. Modulor’s customers are just as varied as its products, ranging from starving artist-types to go-getting entrepreneurs.
Take your time to explore, and then walk just a few meters down the street to our next destination.
Modulor // Prinzenstr. 85 // Mon-Fri 9am-8pm, Sat 10am-6pm // website
12PM : PRINZESSINNENGARTEN
This area on Prinzenstraße started to bring urban gardening to the attention of Berliners. The group ‘Nomadisch Grün’ (‘Nomadic Green’) turned an urban wasteland that had been empty and full of garbage for over 60 years into a green oasis right in the middle of the city. With the help of neighbors, friends, and activists, they grow organic vegetables and herbs here.
By now, Prinzessinengarten teaches children and city folks about planting and gardening and offers workshops regularly.
You can just enter the garden through the main entrance and have a look around, it’s open to everybody. There’s also a café and the chance to buy the harvest.
Prinzessinnengarten am Moritzplatz //Prinzenstr. 35-38 // website
12.45 : MARKTHALLE IX
Time for lunch! Herbert takes us to Markthalle IX, and for that, we just walk along Oranienstraße to Görlitzer Bahnhof. This old market hall was recently reopened, and is now inhabited by small, local companies that sell their handmade products here.
Every Thursday night, ‘Street Food Thursday’ lets you taste a variety of foods from all over the world. The market itself is open every Friday and Saturday.
But even if you shouldn’t be there on one of these market days, our lunch destination, Kantine Neun, is open daily. The small restaurant and café inside the building serves tasty, organic lunch options at really low prices. A lot of the items on the menu are vegetarian, with vegan options available as well. They work with fresh, local products that are in season, lots of them sold under the Fair Trade label.
Main courses range from 7 Euro for locally produced Tofu with artichokes, potatoes and herb mayonnaise, to 14,50 Euro for a Wiener Schnitzel (made from veal) with aspargus, potatoes and hollandaise sauce.
Markthalle IX // Eisenbahnstr. 42/43, Street Food Thursday Thur 5pm-10pm // Farmer’s Market Fri/Sat 10am-6pm, website
Kantine Neun, inside Markthalle IX // Mon-Thu 12am-4pm, Fri-Sat 12am-6pm // website
1.30PM : VOO STORE
After lunch, a quick walk takes us back to Oranienstraße. Time to go to Voo Store! This concept store is where Herbert works. As creative director, he is responsible for selecting and buying every product that is sold here.
Located in a courtyard a few steps behind the sidewalk, Voo is situated in a former locksmith shop. The store is quite big, with long wooden tables full of beautiful things everywhere. In 2012, Voo Store won Farfetch.com‘s first Superstore award, earning it international recognition.
Ever since our first visit, Voo is one of our favorite shops in Berlin. It’s just as much the very relaxing atmosphere as it is the selection of products. They sell clothes for women and men from a lot of Scandinavian and French labels, among them Carven, Soulland, Acne and Kenzo. There is a small but great selection of sneakers and other shoes, great magazines, beautiful, affordable jewelry and lots of small items you never knew you wanted before you discovered them here.
Take your time, maybe even try on some things, and then, let’s have a coffee.
Voo Store // Oranienstr. 24 // Mon-Sat 11am-8pm // website
2.15PM : COMPANION COFFEE
When the owners of Voo, Yasin and Kaan, came up with the idea for the store, it was very important to them to establish it not only as a place to shop, but also as a place to just hang out and meet friends. Cue Companion Coffee!
In a corner near the entrance, up a few steps, is this great café. Baristas Shawn and Chris serve stellar brews and some sweet treats along with them. Naturally, Herbert drinks his coffee here almost every day. Who can blame him?
Afterwards, walk back to Kotbusser Tor and take the U1 subway train (direction: Uhlandstraße) all the way to Kurfürstenstraße, that’s 8 stops.
Companion Coffee // Oranienstr. 24 (inside Voo Store) // Mon-Sat 11am-7pm // website
For the next item on our itinerary, we are leaving Kreuzberg and head straight into Schöneberg and Mitte. This is a whole different part of Berlin. In Mitte, you’ll find the big tourist attractions, lots of hip stores and the whole ‘Neue Mitte’ crowd and their start-ups. Mitte is a destination for another 12hrs in Berlin guide, so today, we’ll just focus on two very specific locations here. Schöneberg, on the other hand, is quite the up and coming area of Berlin, still developing and finding its shape. Let’s go there first.
First off, Herbert sends us to Andreas Murkudis. This is another concept store, but a whole different experience than the one we just had at Voo. Everything is very, very expensive. But that also means that you’ll rarely find quality like this anywhere else, so have a look around, ignore the price tags, and instead admire all the work that went into the garments and objects on sale here. Don’t forget to look around the building, too. The interior itself is a piece of art. Andreas Murkudis is housed in a building formerly occupied by the newspaper Tagesspiegel and its printing presses and paper stock.
However, if you were planning on going crazy with your credit card and indulge in some serious shopping, now is the time to get that Céline or Givenchy piece you always dreamed about.
Andreas Murkudis // Potsdamer Str. 81E // Mon-Sat 10am-8pm // website
4PM : BOROS BUNKER
Walk back to the subway stop Kurfürstenstraße, take the U2 to Potsdamer Platz and switch to an S train there that takes you to Friedrichstraße (S1 and S26). From there, it’s a very short walk to Boros Bunker.
This bunker has a very interesting backstory, one of the reasons Herbert sends us there. It was built in 1942 as a bunker for the inhabitants of Berlin during World War II, occupied by the Red Army afterwards and used as a prison for prisoners of war, and then used for keeping fabrics inside. Starting in 1957, the government of the DDR used it to store tropical fruits from fellow communist country Cuba. This is where the Bunker got its name: Bananenbunker (Banana bunker). After the fall of the Berlin wall, the building belonged to the federal government. Crazy Techno parties started to take place, earning the place a reputation as the ‘hardest club in the world’.
In 2003, Christian Boros decided to buy the bunker and to use it to display his vast modern art collection there. He’s living on the top floor of the building in a breathtaking private penthouse, but the bunker itself and his amazing collection is available to the public.
You’ll see works by Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson, Marieta Chirulescu and many others, all mixed together with the great history of the place that is still visible in every corner.
It’s not a museum, so you need to register on the website and make a reservation to join a tour. It’s super easy, though, and well worth the two minutes it takes to reserve a spot. Book as early as you can, since there are always only 12 people allowed inside at once, and thus tours book out very quickly.
These guided tours take place every day from Thursday to Sunday, the ones at the top of the hour are in German, the ones on the half of the hour in English. Admission fee is 10 Euro.
Looking at art can be exhausting. After the one and a half hour tour, let’s go to our hotel and relax a bit!
Sammlung Boros // Reinhardtstr. 20 // guided tours by appointment only // website
Pictures (4): Noshe
6PM : MICHELBERGER HOTEL
When Herbert is asked for a hotel recommendation by visitors from out of town, he always sends people to Michelberger Hotel. This hotel at Warschauer Straße was opened by a group of friends around Nadine and Tom Michelberger. Herbert promises that is has the coziest lobby he has ever seen – basically a huge living room full of beautiful furniture and friendly faces.
Every once in a while, you’ll spot a famous face here. Because even though the rooms aren’t expensive at all (starting around 80 Euro per night), this place is popular with musicians and VIPs. They even have a ‘Band Room’ with four single beds.
Take a break here, maybe a shower or a change of clothes, before we head out into the Berlin night. When you’re ready, take the U1 again from Warschauer Straße back to Kottbusser Tor. From there, walk to Maybachufer where we started our 12hrs tour. On the other side of the water is Silberlöffel, where we’ll have dinner today.
Michelberger Hotel // Warschauer Str. 39-40 // website
Pictures: Michelberger Hotel
8PM : SILBERLÖFFEL
This restaurant is a secret favorite of Herbert’s. He loves to bring friends here, and it’s easy to see why. The focus is all on the food, leaving the interior simple and friendly. After a day full of design, art, and walking around, this makes you relaxed almost immediately.
The owners serve a tasty mix of German and Austrian cuisine, and Herbert, being the Tyrolean that he is, swears by their (heavy, but delicious) Käsepätzle. Again, there are always several vegetarian options on the menu.
Silberlöffel is still quite underrated, which is good for us. The chances to get a table here are very high, even without reservations.
Silberlöffel // Maybachufer 21 // 9am-Midnight // website
10PM : GOING OUT
Done with dinner? Then it’s time for the last leg of our 12hrs in Berlin. As is the case with most Berliners, Herbert has a bunch of tips for going out. Here are his recommendations:
Luzia: This bar and café is owned by the same folks that opened Voo, so naturally, it’s beautiful. A great open space with cozy second hand furniture that attracts a very mixed crowd. Perfect for pre-dancing drinks!
Paloma Bar: Super close to Möbel Olfe and with a great view over the subway stop Kottbusser Tor. It’s a bit tricky to find, but once you know that it’s located right above the local supermarket (‘Kaiser’s), you’ll be fine.
Panorama Bar: Still haven’t had enough even though by now, we should be well over our 12hrs timeframe? Well, there is always Berlin’s famous party monolith, Berghain. In it, Panorama Bar attracts the cool, music loving crowd. But beware: The door guys are as strict as everybody says!