A post-lockdown guide to Berlin

With Germany on the quarantine-free travel list. We asked photographer and Berghain doorman Sven Marquardt to curate a coronavirus-friendly itinerary for your next trip to Berlin.

Since the first reported case was confirmed on 27th January, Germany has done a remarkable job of containing the coronavirus outbreak. The country entered its first phase of lockdown on 13th March, with schools closing and curfews imposed in some states shortly thereafter. But through an effective containment strategy, good public health care and an exemplary track and trace” testing system, the country was able to ease physical distancing measures on 17th April, less than six weeks after the first death was reported. In early May control of lifting the lockdown was handed to the 16 federal states.

The rate of death for those infected has stayed low, at roughly 103 deaths per million inhabitants. By comparison, France registered an equivalent rate of 430 deaths per million, with 579 per million for the UK.

With a gradual increase in infection rates in August indicating that a second wave may be on the horizon this winter. The population have been advised to remain wary, while the government has suggested that regional, rather than national, measures may be enforced if infection rates spike.

Sven Marquardt, doorman at Berghain

Next Up: Berlin, as curated by Sven Marquardt.

Easily spottable for his facial tattoos and piercings, Marquardt is best known as the formidable head bouncer of world-renowned techno palace Berghain, notorious for its ruthless entry policy that has left countless wannabe revellers wondering what went wrong over the years.

He is also a prolific photographer in his own right, having begun his career documenting east Berlin’s underground scene in the 80s. His work has been displayed in New York, Seoul, Tbilisi and Ibiza in recent years, with his latest exhibition opening at the Friedrichstadt-Palast in Berlin on 1st October.

With lockdown lifted, what is Berlin like for you at the moment?

I miss the travelling and the projects abroad, but this is a new time for everyone all over the world. Germany has protected its country well in this situation, I look at the news every day and most countries are suffering much more from the virus than Germany. It’s a big drama for the history of the world.

But it’s a new time, and every crisis brings something new. At the moment I’m working on some photographic projects for two big companies and places in Berlin. I will start new photography classes soon, and next week Berghain is opening with an exhibition of the work of something like 105 artists.

What safety precautions are being put in place?

You have to wear a mask on public transport, and a lot of things are already allowed again.

Where are the best outdoor spots for walks and boozy picnics?

I’ve lived in the neighbourhood of Prenzlauer Berg since I was a child. This district is my Berlin. Schönhauser Allee and Prenzlauer Allee are the two main streets that start in Pankow and end in Mitte. It’s a nice walk – I love Mitte for its diversity, the art and fashion, and the restaurants and coffee shops.

My favourite outdoor spaces are the old cemeteries in town because they are silent, dark and romantic. The Jewish cemetery, Weißensee cemetery at Herbert Baum Straße 45, and the very old St. Nicholas and St. Mary cemeteries are my favourites. They are on the opposite side of Prenzlauer Allee to Soho House Berlin.

And I love the Eastside, along the riverside on the Spree. Along the Köpenicker Chaussee are some Brutalist industrial buildings like the Klingenberg power station at Köpenicker Chaussee 42. And then The Spree Studios with Studio C from Cookies Events on the riverside is also a nice outdoor and indoor location with bars and restaurants that represent the new Berlin.

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List your favourite restaurants and coffee shops that are open for food and drink.

Orange Coffee at Prenzlauer Allee 171 is my favourite coffee shop since lockdown. The best coffee in town, fresh juices, vegan things, homemade cake and much more.

The Store Kitchen, at The Store X, Soho House Berlin is also one of my favourite addresses for fashion, books and magazines and for meeting people. The Soho House rooftop is a bit more posh but it’s the best view in town.

I love the countless small Asian restaurants along the Prenzlauer Allee on the way to Mitte.

My favourite is Asia Park at Prenzlauer Allee 43.2.

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How about fashion and retail shopping?

The Store X in Soho House Berlin is a concept store for high fashion brands, [alongside] Nike, Raf Simons, 032c and more. And Voostore at Oranienstraße 24 in Kreuzberg is another concept store in a district that has for many years been one of the most diverse in Berlin.

Apartment Berlin on Memhardstraße and nearby Esther Perbandt Design are both great places for people who love black. And then there is also Acne Studio on Weinmeisterstrasse, too.

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What about galleries and museums, any good exhibitions we should catch? 

STUDIO BERLIN in Berghain is curated with BOROS Sammlung with over 100 artists from all over the world living and working in Berlin.

Hamburger Bahnhof is a nice museum that always has different shows, and Galerie Deschler at Auguststrasse 61 features some great work by German artists Salomé, Rainer Fetting and Sven Marquardt!

C/​O Berlin Foundation on Hardenbergstraße 22 – 24 is the top address in Berlin and Germany for photography. They are curating an exhibition of my photos at the Friedrichstadt-Palast titled StageLess, which opens on 1st October and will run for two months. It’s a project from 2019, where the theme was photographing the dancers after a show. Nobody knew in that moment that the theatre would be closed one year ahead – but I want it to point to this new time, and to offer some hope.

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And what about nightlife, the clubs and the music venues?

Sorry, in 2020 there is no time for party in my life! The club situation today in Berlin, for the clubs and for the people – it’s a big drama.

The clubs are still closed, so people are taking the party outside instead. It is a good situation for open air events and bars post-lockdown, because it’s the summer, but I don’t know about autumn and winter.

I was at Berghain a few days ago because I was helping to prepare the exhibition which opens next week. But it will be very different from the nightlife. It’s not the first time for Berghain to incorporate art and theatre and opera, but now the situation is that the club is closed and open only for art.

What about films and cinema instead, then?

Film is a big interest of mine, one of my first inspirations – especially the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. I created my own film, Isolation, during lockdown, to share with people around the world.

The cinema situation is also a big drama at the moment. Three weeks ago I went to the cinema for the first time again in the Kulturbrauerei at Schönhauser Allee 36, but my favourite cinema, the Colosseum, at Schönhauser Allee 123, is now closed forever.

Kokon is a very new film set in Berlin, about two girls in love, and diversity. It was the first film I saw in the cinema post-lockdown, and I loved it.


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