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The Design Lover's Guide to Explore Berlin

Whether you’re visiting for the beautiful architecture, rich art museums, or the trendy boutique stores, you’ll find plenty of excellent places to stay, sightsee, and shop


By Nadja Sayej, Architectural Digest

Berlin has a long history of design that dates back to the Bauhaus, but that’s not where it ends. Simply put, this city of three million is more than just a brutalist Instagrammer’s dream come true, in fact, there is a variety of architecture and design beyond its minimalist reputation. From art collections in war bunkers to museums inside of train stations, the independent boutiques and pop-up shopping malls prove that Berlin has many more layers to uncover than just its nightlife. Here are some must-see design hotspots when visiting the German capital anytime soon.



Sir Savigny Hotel

Sir Savigny is an eclectic luxury hotel built in 1893 that is filled with a mishmash of modern details and features rooms designed by Amsterdam designer Saar Zafrir. This designer hotel is in the heart of the Charlottenburg neighborhood, where David Bowie and Iggy Pop lived in the 1970s. The lobby is designed by the Tel Aviv firm Baranowitz + Kronenberg and contains a burger joint, a cozy cocktail bar, a library of art and design titles, and a private garden.



Tchoban Foundation Museum for Architectural Drawing

For architecture buffs, there is The Tchoban Foundation Museum for Architectural Drawing. While most people forget buildings were once drawings—often on the back of a napkin—this museum is a reminder of that. The founder of the museum, Russian architect Sergei Tchoban, proves architectural drawing is still alive, even in a time of digital drawing programs like AutoCAD. This is where the architectural drawings of Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, and David Chipperfield have been shown, alongside blueprints of famed 20th-century Parisian hotels.



The Store

Soho House Berlin is home to an ever-changing design boutique called The Store in its front lobby, which is open to the public. In addition to copies of Mousse Magazine, 032c, handcrafted wooden chairs, and indie sneaker designs, expect to find everything from Calvin Klein knitwear to colorful glassware by Massimo Lunardon.



Bauhaus Archives Museum

Founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius, best known for his architecture, the Bauhaus taught one simple principle: Form follows function. And a group of intellectuals harvested this school of thought until 1933, from Josef Albers to László Moholy-Nagy. This space-age looking museum features the furniture, photographs, architectural models, ceramics, and graphic design by the late, great design leaders of the Bauhaus design movement, from Johannes Itten to Mies van der Rohe. This museum is not where the former Bauhaus school of design was (that’s in Dessau, Germany), yet the government is funneling $31.8 million into this location for a new museum building at its present location and an expansion, which will reopen for the 100-year anniversary of the Bauhaus in 2019.



Hamburger Bahnhof

Set in the city’s former central train station, the Hamburger Bahnhof contemporary art museum showcases the art world’s greatest artists in a sprawling space. The museum is home to 1,500 modern artworks, most of which were donated by Berlin business mogul Erich Marx. A few highlights on permanent display include paintings by Cy Twombly and silkscreens by Andy Warhol. Out front, there is a blue and white wooden sculpture by George Baselitz, which looks a bit like a Smurf. The on-site Sarah Wiener restaurant serves great schnitzel.



Bikini Berlin

Right beside the historic Zoo Palast cinema, Bikini Berlin is a concept mall in the city’s west end. Instead of the same-old mall brands, this is where one can get Comme des Garçons cologne or the latest from Berlin designers in ever-changing pop-up “boxes,” wooden stalls designed by the Munich architecture firm Hild und K. Among the storefronts, this is where to find independent businesses, such as hair and beauty salons and shops that sells handmade ties, before taking an elevator up to the nearby Monkey Bar.



Boros Collection

This former bunker, set the central district of Mitte, was built in 1943 to shelter 3,000 people, before becoming a prison during the Second World War. After the Berlin Wall came down, it was a techno nightclub in the 1990s until German art collector Christian Boros bought the building and opened it to the public to house his modern art collection, which consists of artworks that were made in Berlin. With 120 rooms on five floors, it includes pieces by Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, British artist Sarah Lucas, and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. (Tip: It's open by appointment only; check their website).

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