Berlin is eight times the size of Paris, which gives an idea of just how overwhelming it can feel. But for instant access to the magic of the sprawling capital, head to Auguststrasse—a micro-neighborhood in Mitte, which has been the city’s cultural core for years. On these streets in the heart of former East Berlin, the city’s modern edge exists in perfect proportion to its decrepit charm. The bullet holes in the exteriors date back to World War II, but inside, you’ll find cutting-edge contemporary art, capsule collections from local designers and cuisine that recalls the city’s heady golden era. All this within a few short blocks.
The Neighborhood Hub: Judische Maedchenschule
This February, a five-story onetime Jewish girls’ school reopened—after more than a decade of decay and disuse—as a white-hot cultural center that’s become the beating heart of the neighborhood. CWC Gallery, spread out over four former classrooms, is the place to see what’s next in painting, sculpture and photography, while Michael Fuchs Galerie has shown everyone from Warhol to Frank Stella and Chuck Close. On the ground floor, Pauly Saal serves up a modern take on German cuisine of the 1920s and ’30s, which means smoked sturgeon or rotisserie pigeon in the airy dining room and on the terrace out back. Leave some time before your (recommended) reservation for a cocktail in the elegant, throwback Pauly Saal Bar. At Auguststrasse 11–13; maedchenschule.org.
Biergarten/Ballroom: Clarchen’s Ballhaus
This dance hall and outdoor beer garden has been a neighborhood fixture since 1913. It still offers waltzing and cha-cha in the evenings; the scene would look frozen in time if it weren’t for the increasingly young and hip crowd. $ At Auguststrasse 24; 49-30/282-9295.
Eat in Style: The Grand
The name is fitting: Sleek leather banquettes sit under antique exposed brick in the soaring two-story dining room; the steak tartare is enriched with smoked pike caviar. $ At Hirtenstrasse 4; the-grand-berlin.com.
Shop Local: Konk
This boutique is a monument to “Made in Berlin,” featuring avant-garde (and occasionally asymmetrical) clothes for men and women, all by up-and-coming local talent. At Kleine Hamburger Strasse 15; konk-berlin.de.
Private Art, Public Space: Me Collectors Room
Not a gallery, exactly, but a window into some of Europe’s most eccentric and carefully curated private art collections, which are displayed in constant rotation. From rare figurines and posters to street art, quality is the only constant. $ At Auguststrasse 68; me-berlin.com.
Where to Crash: Soho House Berlin
It’s not, technically, in Auguststrasse, but the new Soho House is blocks away. The restored Bauhaus building, which once held the Communist Party archives, has come a long way from its past; today, it’s a members-only club with 40 plush, industrial-chic rooms, a rooftop pool and a screening room. Rooms start at $245; Torstrasse 1; sohohouseberlin.de.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.