During my first month at NYU Berlin, I found myself endlessly cranky, overwhelmed, and unwilling to interact with my surrounding cultures. “Berlin isn’t New York,” I told myself, “There’s nothing good here.”
As time progressed, however, I became more and more adjusted to my new environment. I made friends here, fixed my work schedule, and found places where I felt I could belong.
By my third month (e.g. November), I had not only one favorite place, but a number of them. As a result, I feel I can’t limit my “Great Good Place” to merely one location, but a whole list.
So! Here is a list of my favorite “Great Good Places” in Berlin:
The thing about my life is that it is heavily run by swing. Ever since I discovered the NYU Swing Dance Society back in Freshman year, I have been an active jazz, blues, and swing dancer, visiting venues weekly or bi-weekly as often as I can.
Another girl in my program is also a swing dancer, so we sometimes attend swing dancing events together. One of the venues we frequently visit is called “Clärchen’s Ballhouse.”
Swing events at Clärchen’s Ballhouse aren’t held in the common, traditional, 20’s-style settings. At night, multicolored lights line chords outside, and a disco ball hangs from a string above the door.
The inside of the venue is also unusual. Although the style involves a traditional DJ booth separated from the dance floor by a stage, the music played is not technically jazz. Most of the songs are typical “American” tracks, often from the 70’s or 80’s. It is not unusual to find dancers lindy hopping to Elvis Presley, or doing back flips to Queen. Sometimes, the DJ even plays 80’s music that is unique to Germany, which all the German leads know by heart.
In short, Clärchen’s Ballhouse is different from other swing dancing venues. It is filled with interesting music and friendly people. And, on Swing Dance Wednesdays, it can be quite the scene.
2. St. Oberholz
My roommate introduced St. Oberholz to me on a Sunday night, when I was trying to find a place to study. It is located on Torstraße, right next to the Rosenthaler Platz U8 U-Bahn stop. During the first half of the semester, I biked past this café almost every day on my way to class. Nowadays, I try to stop once and a while to visit the people inside.
St. Oberholz is a 2-story café, which is almost always filled with working student expats. People come from all over to study here, and it shows – most of the customers and staff speak English. They sit with their coffee and laptops for hours, in whatever seat they can find, just to get their work done.
As an expat myself, I sometimes like to stop by this spot on my way home from class. It has a relaxing atmosphere, and is a comfortable place to work.
Asphalt and Tresor are included here less out of personal preference, and more out of public interest. They are clubs, of sorts, that are popular within the NYU Berlin community. Asphalt is known for its hip-hop Thursdays, and Tresor is popular for its multiple dance rooms and loud, incessant techno music.
Out of the two, I have only been to Tresor once. My friend and I salsa danced to the beat as everyone else bobbed their heads and tried to seduce each other. It was quite entertaining.
4. T Berlin
This is a relatively new find, but it is certainly high on my list of favorites. T Berlin is basically a teahouse, which serves tea-based cocktails at night. It is a small venue, with only three or four wooden tables laid across the floor. Most non-tea drinks here are either named after a book or an implied magic spell. The venue also serves multiple flavors of unique gins, including one that is mint flavored and another that tastes “like dreams.”
The entire setting is so small and laidback, it is easy to feel at home. It is run by a sociable, close-knit group that speaks English so well, I can only assume they’re British. This is the only place in Berlin where only English books line the walls, and I have seen multiple groups of British expats socializing over tea. Although it is good and proper to expose myself to the German language (blah blah blah), it can be nice to hang out in a setting where magic is loved and the English language is default.
5. Santa Maria
Every Tuesday, Santa Maria changes its menu to include special prices: €4 Margharitas, €1 Tequila Shots, and €1 Tacos. This weekly event has earned it its name – Taco Tuesday – and has prompted students to show up every single week this semester.
To almost every member of NYU Berlin, the phrase “Taco Tuesday” has become a buzzword of sorts. People look forward to “Taco Tuesday” as a mood-lifter, and a promised source for socialization. NYU Berlin kids love Taco Tuesday, and (by extension) we love Santa Maria, as well.
These locations are my current favorites in Berlin. However, because of the mere size of the city, I am sure there are plenty more to find. The semester is half over, but a second half still remains – I can’t wait to see where I’ll end up next!