Berlin is cool – we know that. That’s why David Bowie chose to live there in the 1970s. With Iggy Pop. So, yeah. Pretty damn cool. Check it out for yourself! Here’s a little something to enjoy while you read. Press play und lesen…
More and more fans of the late rock legend are visiting Germany’s capital to pay homage to the Thin White Duke. We’ve saved you the hours of research and the worry of getting around with this pilgrimage plan. All you need to do is book your tickets. The sweet spot is around 12 weeks before you travel – that’s when train companies release tickets, so you’re most likely to get the best price.
Rather than wasting time while you’re away, we recommend you add your itinerary to your calendar in advance. Friendly alerts will pop up and remind you about your studio tour, dinner at Paris Bar, Bowie-inspired art gallery visits, and when you have to get the train to Potsdamer Platz. You can even put your Trainline journeys into your calendar from your booking confirmation. Less time bickering in bed about where to go; more time making awesome memories in Berlin.
Enjoy the journey
Listen to the Berlin trilogy on repeat: Low, Heroes and Lodger. These are the three albums that Bowie wrote in his time in this legendary city. For something wordier, try the podcast Year of the Bowie or this fantastic selection from the BBC. And if you prefer to look at the beauty of Ziggy, try the documentary Five Years, which is currently available on Netflix.
Your first change from London is in Brussels, the city that gave Bowie his own constellation. Add your favourite song of his to the constellation while you’re there. A quick change at Cologne after that to pick up some nice smellies and, hello Berlin!
Arriving in Berlin
First things first. It’s time to ch-ch-ch-check in (sorry!). If you’re doing this the right way, you’re staying at the historic Hotel Ellington. Built in the 1920s, it’s got quite a story to tell: it’s been the home of a Weimar-era nightclub, the 1940s Badewanne club where Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald played, and then Dschungel in the 1970s. Dschungel was Berlin’s answer to Studio 54, it was uber cool. The badass female bouncers were more than happy to turn away Sylvester Stallone. Oh, and some guy called David Bowie used to party there with his pal, Iggy Pop. Now it’s a gorgeous design hotel, but keeps its musical heritage alive with regular jazz nights in the bar. Another hotel option is the Michelberger. Not so literally Bowie-connected, but it’s reasonably priced, has a hipster boho vibe, plays The Big Lebowski on loop, and the bar staff know where’s hot to go that week.
Bowie’s place in Schoeneberg
Hauptstrasse 155 is where you need to go. There’s a commemorative plaque there now, saying he lived there from 1976 to 1978 and wrote the three albums which will go down in history as the Berlin Trilogy.
And just next door to their Schoeneberg pad is Neues Ufer (then known as Anderes Ufer), a legendary gay bar Messrs Bowie and Pop frequented. Well, it was literally next door – even they could manage that crawl home. Your task here is to tweet @trainline_eu a selfie with the Bowie portrait inside – maybe we’ll give you a cheeky RT.
Charlottenberg and Kreuzberg
It’s back on the train (finally some downtime) for the 15-minute hop from Berlin-Schöneberg to Berlin-Charlottenburg. You’ve saved by booking that journey in advance on Trainlin, so it’s time to splash the cash at Paris Bar in Charlottenberg. This is the eatery Bowie went to when he fancied treating himself to something a little more upmarket. We’d recommend booking in advance when you get those 💚 🚆 train tickets🚆 💚.
While you’re in Charlottenberg, you’d be foolish not to stop by Rock Steady Records, a vinyl-lovers paradise. It’s just two blocks from the Hotel Ellington and it’s the perfect place to get yourself some Bowie to remember your trip by – framed vinyl will never go out of style.
A quick 11 minutes train ride back into town and it’s time to head to the cool, cool east. In Kreuzberg, close to the East Side Gallery (unmissable, obviously), is SO36. Now it champions new artists, has quirky nights like Guitar Hero karaoke, but stays true to its punky past. Oh, and it’s where Bowie and Iggy used to come. If you’re interested.
Potsdamer Platz and Hansa Studios
Okay, time to get the serious stuff in. This historic square has been reborn since the fall of the wall and holds so many Bowie memories. The nearby Hansa Studios is where the first two of the Berlin Trilogy were produced. You can’t just wander into the oak-panelled room – it’s a working studio – but there’s an exclusive tour about once a month. Check for upcoming dates under the ticket tab on the official website.
Now, you must visit the Berlin Wall Memorial (closed Mondays). The wall moved Bowie and changed him. Heroes, which you’re listening to in German (scroll up and press play again if you need to), is about a couple who meet at the wall and was penned by Bowie in Hansa studios after seeing an illicit kiss between his producer and a lover. And he famously played it in June 1987 while thousands listened on the other side.
And there’s still so, so much more. The Bösebrücke in Bornholmerstr is mentioned by Bowie in 2016’s “Where Are We Now?”. And you could visit Neukölln, the area which gave its name to the Bowie/Eno instrumental track on Heroes. What else? Let your fellow Bowie pilgrims know in the comments.