A guide to Berlin through the eyes of an artist
Artist and Soho House Berlin member Esra Gülmen takes us on a curated tour through the German capital
Tuesday 21 March 2023 By Soho House Photography by Firat Gürgen and Mert Terliksiz
Berlin’s creative scene is legendary, so who better to take us inside the city than local Turkish artist, Esra Gülmen? She worked as a designer and creative director for more than 10 years before pursuing art full time (she’s represented by Pilevneli gallery in Istanbul), and her work plays with icons and typography to ask questions about how we feel inside, while shining a light on difficult topics – always with a sense of humour.
Gülmen’s work is full of contrast and contradictions – much like the city she now calls home. To illustrate her playful approach, her guide to Berlin includes two options: one more understated (‘low’); the other more upmarket (‘high’).
It’s a great introduction to both the artist and the city – and with Gallery Weekend Berlin coming up in April, she has a full list of recommendations to keep you busy.
Low: ‘My favourite Turkish place has to be Mercan. My order: köfte, with rice, salad and potatoes (always followed by tea – that’s very important).’
High: ‘Paris Bar is the most iconic place in the West. An institution, it’s perfect for sitting outside in summer for a brasserie feel. The inside is full of artwork and has a vibrant energy. Oysters and onion soup are top.’
Low: ‘A Kreuzberg classic, Würgeengel is where the vibe is very much cool artsy kids meets old literature guys meets people from the fashion world. It’s always fun and never gets old.’
High: ‘Natural wine bars are the big craze in Berlin at the moment (you’ll find many in Kreuzberg and Neukölln). But Rocket Wine in Mitte is a true gem with great service and excellent recommendations. It’s also good for small snacks or to pick up a bottle to take home.’
Low: ‘Yes, it’s Berghain. You’ve probably heard about it, but you have to try it for yourself; whatever I’ll tell you it might not be like that for you. Go and recharge with a juice from The Juicery the next day – you’ll most likely need it.’
High: ‘808 is a fun place, especially if you’re into music that isn’t techno. It has a different vibe than you would expect from Berlin. I’m a big fan of hip-hop music, and once I got to see Skepta here, which was super fun.’
Low: ‘Arkonaplatz flea market is a true flea market: affordable prices, unique finds and great snacks in between.’
High: ‘My go-to for last-minute presents or browsing through cool stuff is Voo Store. It’s very well curated – they even have a wine collaboration with Nature’s Calling – so there’s something for everyone. (P.S. Watch out for their sale...).’
‘I also recommend Modulor for artists’ supplies and more; Café Fleury for the best French cakes on a packed terrace – nothing beats sitting on Weinbergsweg in summer; and Aera, my favourite gluten-free bakery, which also happens to make the meanest grilled cheese sandwich in town.’
DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM
‘Berlin’s gallery scene is legendary, and while that makes it worth the visit any time, during Gallery Weekend (Friday 28 to Sunday 30 April) it’s at another level again. If you’re around, come and hang out with me at the following places.’
‘These galleries are all connected and great for contemporary ar